Pizza. It’s a staple in our home. I’m pretty sure my husband could eat it every day, even though he used to work at a pizza restaurant and was elbow deep in flour and cheese most of the time. It’s just a meal that we don’t ever get bored of eating- probably because we never make two pizzas that are exactly the same. The hot, melty cheese doesn’t deter us either. Pizza is one of those canvases that allows you to clear out your fridge- piling on toppings of all manner- veggies, meat, fruits, sauces. You name it, and I bet we’ve put it on a pizza. Well, maybe not octopus.
One of the many talented people I met at the Grant Park Farmer’s Market is Nazifa.
She has a bakery in Decatur and pumps out huge amounts of her amazing naan flatbread to sell at local markets and stores like Sevananda in Little Five Points. I’ve told you about her before, yes. Why revisit this brave entrepreneur? Because I’ve been sharing her organic whole wheat flatbread with my clients- so they can follow my recipes to build their own pizzas, or enjoy a pizza that I’ve prepared for them. And the feedback I’ve been receiving is absolutely remarkable.
“Just wanted you to know that was the best pizza I’ve ever had!! Kudos to you.” MB
“No special requests… But I did LOVE the pizza from a couple of weeks ago. Maybe that would be food for dinner tomorrow?” TM
“Wouldn’t be mad if you made us that pizza again…” RG
“I don’t think we will be able to go out for pizza again. It was delicious with the turkey you bought.” KB
Maybe my favorite response from a client with regard to naan pizza– I went to his door to deliver more goodies the day after I had dropped off his pizza. He said to me, “Sorry, I have pizza breath. I just can’t stop eating that stuff!!!”
With all of that positive feedback, I figured, I better share the magic with you! The beauty of using naan as the dough is that there is no need to mix flour, yeast, and water,
no waiting for the dough to proof,
and no worries about stretching the dough,
or throwing it up in the air and hoping for the best.
Instead, you just preheat your oven to 450 degrees, take out your naan- which freezes beautifully and defrosts in no time- and prepare your ingredients.
For this protein stacked vegetarian pie, I sliced one large red onion in half and then into strips. I added the onion to a pan with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. I sprinkled the onion with a pinch of salt and sugar. Then, I set the heat to low and allowed the onion to soften slowly, tossing occasionally, to achieve a sweet, caramelized quality. I just sauteed the sliced baby portobello mushrooms in olive oil, a clove of pressed garlic, and salt and pepper until they were tender. As for the tofu, I opened a package of extra firm tofu, drained the liquid and cut the tofu into rectangular planks. Then, I placed those planks on a clean kitchen towel and folded the towel over them tightly. Next, I pressed on the towel and let it sit while my veggies cooked. I cut the dried tofu into small squares and heated a pan with about an inch of canola oil to medium heat. I fried the tofu cubes in two batches, stirring them almost constantly, crisping the little cubes to a light golden brown. I removed them to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkled them immediately with dried Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
Frying the tofu lightly like this adds texture to the pizza. With all of my layers of flavors ready to go, it was time to commence building.
You can spread pesto sauce onto your pie, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, etc., etc. Or, you can just mince a few cloves of garlic and brush them onto your crust with olive oil.
I find that three cloves of pressed garlic covers Nazifa’s bread perfectly. Next, I placed my thinly sliced local tomato in a layer
and sprinkled them with Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. I followed the tomatoes with the beautiful onions and mushrooms.
Next, I scattered the tofu –
and this is when I began to worry about the mountainous pizza I was building. It became clear to me that I could have split these ingredients between two naan rounds…but I had faith that the thin bread would still crisp up, and that my mound of veggies would indeed become one awesome pie.
Lastly, I added spinach, part-skim mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil
and drizzled the top with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I set my sheet pan in the oven and waited about ten minutes. Then, I turned my oven to broil and browned that cheese for just a minute.
Ecco! (Italian version of Voila!) Beautiful, delicious pizza was served. Want to know how I can be sure it was so delicious? I delivered that pizza to my clients and proceeded to watch it disappear, piece by piece, into the husband’s belly, until there were only two slices left. And I was only there for about fifteen minutes. I call that a success!
I’ll share one more similarly constructed version of naan pizza, just to give you an example of how pizza can be a fabulous “secondary recipe” for your weekly menu. One day, I was craving crispy chicken with a fierceness. I HAD to make panko and parmesan crusted chicken breast. After dinner, and my initial craving was satiated, there was one full breast of chicken leftover, so the following night, I sliced it up and gathered other ingredients to build our pie.
This time, no sauteing involved. Just preheat, layer, and cook. Talk about simple.
Yellow and red tomatoes and organic baby spinach leaves paved the way for the chicken.
We added a mixture of Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, drizzled with oil, and our job was done.
We cooked her in the oven for about ten minutes.
Again, I sprinkled fresh basil over the top, but parsley or chives would work well here too. The pizza cooked so quickly that the chicken was able to retain its moist, tender goodness. And as you can see, the cheese was bubbly perfection. I love the way the tomatoes and garlic team up to make a delicious foundation for every bite.
Last week, we combined roasted cubes of butternut squash with blanched tuscan kale and goat cheese on a pie- and I’m pretty sure we converted one self-proclaimed “veggie-hater” into a veggie-lover. He took two slices with him to enjoy for lunch the next day. The other pizza we made that night had barbecue sauce, Granny Smith apples, smoky pork from our leftover barbecued ribs, cheddar cheese, and scallions. Oh, and a little bacon. Sweet, savory, and spicy with that lovely combination of apples and cheddar.
Do yourself a favor. Swing by Sevananda or by Nazifa’s shop and grab yourself some naan. Build you and yours a colorful, healthful pizza that will have you saying, “I’ll never go out for pizza again.” Try different kinds of salami, sausages- including chicken and turkey, quick wilting greens and vegetables, and a variety of cheeses. Play with different cultures- make a Thai style pizza using ginger and lemongrass, or make a Mexican pizza using cilantro pesto as your sauce. Serve it up with a little fresh salad and a light vinaigrette. Make extra pizza so you will have slices to take to work the following day and be amazed how well it reheats. Play with your food and enjoy!!
Happy cooking and eating to you.