Forget immigration marches and outrage over “The Wall.” The president of Iceland created a firestorm over pizza that knocked our commander-in-chief off the hot seat. Answering questions from high school students a couple of weeks ago about his views on pizza, Gudni Th. Jóhannesson said he was “fundamentally opposed” to pineapple as a topping. His words made headlines around the world and dominated Twitter, where the hashtag #pineappleonpizza trended faster than President Trump’s latest tweets.
I mention this international incident for a couple of reasons. First, with a name like Gudni, you can’t blame the president for being irritable. But seriously, it’s noteworthy that pizza is a food that knows no boundaries; it’s a guilty pleasure around the globe.
Second, it’s obvious people have very strong attachments to specific pizza toppings. But in reality, we all have our preferences when it comes to pizza.
I’ve loved pepperoni on a thin crust ever since I tasted my first “restaurant” pie at the Pizza Hut on Highway 49 in Hattiesburg when I was in high school. In defense of pineapple pizza, I remember sampling a friend’s Canadian bacon pizza highlighted with little pieces of, you guessed it, pineapple. It didn’t surpass pepperoni, but I wasn’t as repulsed as Gudni obviously is by the fruity topping.
Since my high school days, I’ve sampled hundreds of pizzas at restaurants slightly more upscale than Pizza Hut. I’ve heard some of the best pizza this side of New York City’s Little Italy can be found on the Gulf Coast at The Sicilian II in Biloxi. It’s on my pizza bucket list the next time I visit the area.
I enjoy restaurant and even takeout pizza, but consider it a special treat due to the high fat, calorie and sodium count of a single slice. And, naturally, I’m not content with just one slice. So, in order to indulge in pizza on a more frequent basis, I make my own at home, where I can control the ingredients, including substituting high-fat cheese with lower-fat versions and applying pepperoni with a lighter hand.
If you’re not already doing it, I encourage you to purchase an inexpensive pizza stone, stock up on a few pizza ingredients, and begin making your own.
First, many are intimidated by the thought of making homemade pizza dough, but that’s the easiest part. Many easy-to-follow pizza dough recipes can be whipped up before the deliveryman can reach your door. But is time if short, look no further than the freezer case of the supermarket.
Frozen bread dough can be thawed, rolled out, and pressed into the bottom of a pizza pan. Next to canned biscuits, you’ll find pizza dough already sized and ready for the pan. Or, you can purchase prebaked pizza shells. Most of these are lacking in taste, so I “doctor” mine with a brush of olive oil and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning before filling with ingredients.
Whichever route you choose, homemade or store-bought, a large round shell will make enough pizza for a family meal or, if dining solo, a meal with enough leftover slices for following days. Smaller rounds yield 2-4 slices, a perfect meal for one or two.
Many who’ve never made homemade pizza are surprised by how easy it is to create a towering masterpiece that rivals restaurant versions or, at the very least, tastes better than some frozen varieties that are lacking in taste and nutritional value.
First, coat the pizza shell with tomato sauce or jarred pizza sauce sold in the supermarket. Top the sauce with a variety of cheeses (low-fat if you’re counting calories), followed by your choice of meat, including ground beef or pork crumbles, pepperoni rounds, Canadian bacon pieces, or thin pieces of smoked ham or turkey. Don’t forget the vegetables – chopped red onions, bell pepper rings, thinly-sliced Roma tomatoes, Kalamata olives, spinach pieces - the list is endless.
Last, another covering of grated cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan and Italian seasoning and the pizza is ready to be popped into the oven until the crust is golden brown, all ingredients have melded together, and the cheese is melted.
The beauty of a homemade pizza – besides its ability to reduce fat, calories, and sodium without sacrificing flavor and the knowledge that you’ve likely saved a few dollars along the way – is that you really can’t mess it up. No matter how haphazardly you throw on the ingredients, everything will cook together beautifully and the results will be delicious. After all, cheese and a generous dose of pepperoni cover a multitude of sins.
My favorite homemade pizza is a recipe I shared in previous columns. It’s my version of California Pizza Kitchen’s barbecue chicken and red onion pizza. If you’re buying frozen pizza, you can’t go wrong with this one. However, you can easily make your own and it’s every bit as delicious.
Last week I was craving a bacon cheeseburger and a pizza. I combined the two cravings and the result was more than satisfactory. The liberal dose of homemade dill pickle-laced dressing made it unforgettable.
So, get in the kitchen and make your own pizzas. If you decide to use this recipe, take my advice: don’t forget the pickle juice.
Bacon Cheeseburger and Pickle Juice Pizza
12-ounce prebaked pizza crust
1/2 pound ground chuck or pork (your choice)
6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled or 1/2 cup real bacon bits
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups shredded lettuce
1/2 cup chopped dill pickle
1/2 cup chopped Roma tomatoes (1-2 small ones)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup of your favorite cheeseburger topping (ranch dressing, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce)
2 to 3 tablespoons dill pickle juice
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large skillet, cook and crumble ground chuck or pork over medium heat until totally browned, about 3-4 minutes; drain. In the same skillet, fry bacon until crisp; drain and crumble.
Place crust on an ungreased baking sheet or pizza stone. Mix ketchup and mustard; spread over crust. Add ground meat and bake 5 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon crumbles and cheese; bake until cheese is bubbly and crust is lightly browned, 8-10 minutes more.
Top with lettuce, tomatoes, chopped pickles and onions. Whisk your favorite topping (ranch dressing, mayo or barbecue sauce) and enough pickle juice to create a lighter dressing; drizzle over pizza.
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