A New Approach to Pizza

February 6th, 2010

One of my favorite food writers is Mark Bittman. The New York Times columnist and author of the bestselling books How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, has just come out with a new book called Food Matters; A Guide to Conscious Eating. As a nation, we have all become aware of changes in our health and the increasing obesity of our population. Diabetes is epidemic and heart disease is effecting more and more people. Our food supply, in my opinion, has become questionable. Have you noticed that the whole chicken you buy from the Supermarket has a strong chemical smell when you open it from it’s plastic wrap? And what is going on with the inhumane treatment of beef cattle just so we can enjoy a good steak at a reasonable price? There are very few family farms left where chickens scratch in the barnyard and cows munch grass in the pasture. Agribusiness has taken over and it is not a pretty sight. But what can we do about it? In his book Food Matters, Mark Bittman lays out the statistical facts about what is happening to our food supply and offers alternatives on how to eat better and save the planet. His premise is to eat less meat and only from reputable sources, avoid refined carbohydrates like white flour, rice and bread, and avoid junk foods at all cost. We should be eating more fruits and vegetables and visiting our farmers markets to support our local farmers. I have discovered that there are alternatives in our meat supply too. You can find organic free range chickens and beef that has been raised in the pasture. You may have to pay a little more, but it is worth it.

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. The great thing about pizza is that it is adaptable. You can make it very unhealthy if you load it up with fatty pepperoni, sausages and lots of cheese on a white flour crust or you can modify it to a healthier alternative. Let’s start with Mark Bittman’s easy whole grain flatbread. He states ” The simplest bread is nothing more than water and flour”. In this case he uses whole wheat flour and water. He oils the pizza pan, scatters onions and rosemary over the pan, heats it and then pours the flour and water mixture over the hot pan and bakes it until done.

It comes out of the oven crusty around the edges with a few charred onions peaking out from the sides. To make it pizza you can add a smear of tomato sauce, lots of sauteed vegetables, a little cooked meat and a light sprinkling of cheese. Put it back into the oven on broil just to melt the cheese. Here are the details.
A 12″ rimmed pizza pan (Mine was 14″ so I increased the flour and water)
1 cup whole wheat flour ( I used 1 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups water ( I used a scant 2 cups )
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (optional)
Put the flour into a bowl; add salt; then slowly add 1 1/2 cups water, whisking to eliminate lumps. Cover with a towel, and let sit while oven heats, or as long as 12 hours. The batter should be about the consistency of thin pancake batter.
When ready to bake, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put the oil in a 12-inch rimmed pizza pan or skillet (along with the onion and rosemary if you’re using them) and put in the heated oven. Wait a couple of minutes for the oil to get hot, but not smoking; the oil is ready when you just start to smell it. Carefully remove the pan (give the onions a stir); then pour in the batter, and return the pan to the oven. Bake 30 to 40 minutes,* or until the flatbread is well browned, firm and crisp around the edges. (It will release easily from the pan when it’s done.) Let it rest for a couple minutes before cutting it into wedges or squares.
Easy Whole Grain Pizza: When the bread is done, top as you would pizza, using a relatively light hand. Smear a thin layer of tomato sauce on first if you like, then add a sprinkling or crumble of cheese and thinly slice sauteed vegetables, cooked meat, olives, onions – whatever. Turn on the broiler and put the pan under the heat until the ingredients are hot and bubbly. Let rest, then cut and serve.
* My flatbread cooked very quickly. It was ready in 30 minutes and I turned the oven down to about 425 degrees F.

You can use any ingredients you wish for your toppings. I used tomato sauce with a sprinkling of oregano and hot pepper flakes, sauteed red and green peppers and onions, a leftover cooked chicken breast, shredded and a sprinkling of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. This is definitely a new approach to pizza and I loved it.

Printable recipe

19 responses to “A New Approach to Pizza”

  1. That sounds great Penny! I am going to look into that book.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  2. Susan says:

    Very interesting approach to pizza crust. I will try this. Looks great, Penny!!

  3. Ah, a woman after my own heart, Penny! Here, I’ll move over a bit on my soapbox. There’s plenty of room! There… Welcome!

  4. Lyla says:

    Penny, thanks for the interesting and healthy way to cook pizza. On your recommendation, I ordered the book for my husband’s birthday at the end of the month. We could both stand a healthier approach to eating.

  5. Penny, I have to ask ~ “Do you deliver?”

    Not only is your flat-bread crust incredible, I like the variety of on-hand ingredients that you used. I am now thinking pizza-Penny’s-way for lunch… many thanks for the idea.

  6. greta says:

    Thank you for the great recipe – it’s a keeper. I started slowly 5 years ago on organic, carbs, refined sugars, you name it and I feel better than I ever have. I am glad I found your blog with this pizza recipe because I love pizza and a good healthy alternative was hard to find. Thank you

  7. Kat says:

    Nice change. I think I would like this dough. It looks nice and crisp, the way I like it. Pizza rules! (especially if you load it with some good, healthy stuff!)

  8. Sook says:

    What an interesting way to make crust! Yum!

  9. katiez says:

    Wow, this is Great! And uses less flour than my regular dough which will make it easier to work into mon mari’s diet….

  10. Barbara says:

    Looks like a delicious, healthy and quite simple pizza dough to make. I bet it’s hearty tasting too. Nice post, Penny!

  11. A great way to make pizza – delicious!

  12. Katy ~ says:

    This is certainly an interesting and healthier way to make pizza, and certainly worth doing.

    Thinking of chicken, I was at the grocery store the other day and noticed a new brand of chicken. On the label they stated all the things they don’t do, no hormones, no genetic engineering, grain fed only (some chickens are fed, well you don’t want to know), humane treatment. You’re right. It cost a bit more, but I felt a whole lot better about eating it.

  13. Oh my goodness, this pizza looks so divine and yummy!. I can even smell it. What a wonderful way to make pizza and I do love pizza.
    Take care and enjoy your day,

  14. Great pizza and wonderful sentiment… Next time you are renting movies, hunt down FOOD, INC. Will change the way you shop

  15. Robin Sue says:

    Oh wow that is a nice flat bread. And with us snowed in I should make some pizza!

  16. Very interesting! Are you going to try this one over the fire? We make a lot of pizza here. We’ll try it out!

  17. Toni says:

    I guess I’m not the only one on this soap box, and that’s the great news. The movie “Food Inc.” certainly brought up the issues you’ve raised about our food supply. Between that and Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable Miracle”, I hardly buy anything anymore that isn’t organic, and preferably raised locally.

    And I LOVE the way you made that pizza! I’m sooo IN!

  18. Karen says:

    Interesting! Crispy crust pizza lovers would go for this one!

  19. I don’t know how I missed this post Penny. I love all of Bittman’s books and this one will go on my Amazon wish list. Your pizza looks incredible.

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