Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Pizza that Changed My Life

OK, maybe that is exaggerating a bit... But then again, since going corn-, gluten-, semi-dairy-, oat- (and a whole bunch of other things) free, I haven't had a slice of pizza. None at all. It was once my 3am, post night-out-on-the-town, pre-bed go-to. Now it's rice cakes. And believe me, there is no real comfort or greasy satisfaction there.

So you'd imagine my delight, the former pizza-lover I was, when I discovered some thin crust, gluten AND corn free pizza crusts from Venice Bakery in CA. I was skeptical at first... I mean, how could these taste good? And there is no cornstarch - an evil ingredient, still sadly eponymous in many a GF food - in them?!! Hard to beat. Still doubtful that these were edible, the information I had was further compounded by the fact that these were vacuum-sealed and shelf stable for a week or so at least (I'd rather not test this; mine are in my fridge as the freezer is just too full).

Nevertheless, I trotted on with visions of pizza in my head, and the taste of homemade pesto and caramelized onions in my mouth. I just hoped with all my might that these would not disappoint. And I'll stop keeping you in suspension there. They were OUT OF THIS WORLD. Super crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and strong enough to withstand even my super-loaded curry version. Plus not too big that you would fill up with more bread than goodies. Don't get me wrong - it's not Lucali, Roberta's, Al Forno, or Zero Otto Nove - but it's gluten free, and delicious. DELICIOUS!

For starters, don't nibble on these unbaked (well, un-reheated, as they come cooked already). Kind of bland and dense, but it wasn't any surprise. Baked is better, isn't it? While my pizza stone heated to a blazing 450 degrees, I slathered some pizza sauce, and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses (See, semi-dairy free. Nothing replaces cheese on pizza, and this was worth the splurge), on one half of the pie. A garnish of sun-dried tomatoes, and dollops of my homemade pesto, and I was halfway there.

On the other side, I got crazy. With visions of this Thai Carrot Pizza from Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles, CA on my mind, I was thinking of Kashmiri Curry flavors, plus caramelized onions, bacon, avocado, cilantro, toasted walnuts, and some swiss cheese for good measure. An insane combination, but take it from me, IT WORKED. The once-dense crust crisped up nicely, absorbed a bit of the oil let off by the cheese and pesto, and I even baked it until overly golden, which I usually don't like when it comes to normal pizza crusts (because they burn to dust), but suited these babies oh-so-well.

With three more crusts tucked in the fridge, and plenty of pesto, tomato sauce, and cheese on hand, there is plenty more experimenting to be had. Pesto, raisin, and toasted pine nut is a favorite. Perhaps a breakfast pizza, with scrambled eggs and bacon on top. Or, as the crust has a slightly sweet flavor, what about a dessert pizza, toasted with browned butter, topped with nutella, and a sprinkling of caramelized banana slices or something even more indulgent?

What are your favorite pizza topping combinations?

Last Light

It's been a while since I've written last. Why? Taking time to watch the snow fall, the clouds drift, the grass grow, and the lilacs bloom. Taking some time away from writing and food to be, and to certainly unearth new sources of inspiration (one of which is the below).

Going forward, I may appear infrequently here - I'll be juggling going back to graduate school with a much-needed return to the VT "wilderness" (hey, it's more wild than RI, CT, or NYC...) and I'm thrilled. And nervous.

While this isn't my last light, please do check out how inspiring and absolutely spectacular the glow is here in Glacier Bay, Alaska.