Friday, March 21, 2008

Pita Pizza and Salad

One of my secret pleasures is figuring out what to do with the odds and ends left in my fridge from various, more focused meals. Today, I'm writing a final exam (my poor students) and didn't want to spend much time cooking lunch, so I opted for one of the best creations of the modern world: the pita pizza.

For those uninitiated into the realm of the pita pizza, you're missing out on some major time-saving nutrition. A whole wheat pita typically has at least 6 grams of fiber (1/4 of our daily goal) and it gets a nice chewy-crispy texture in the oven (with no half-baked goo underneath the sauce-a major downfall of many pizza deliveries). For what it is, delivery pizza is very over-priced: white bread dough (bleached, vitamin-less), gobs and gobs of low-quality cheese (though if you like cheese, that can be seen as a plus every once in awhile) and hardly any selection of vegetables. If you're vegan, getting a delivery pizza often results in some baked white bread with a thin smear of sauce topped with a loose smattering of veggies. That is not worth $12 (or even $10 or $5 in my book).

So the pita pizza satisfies two of my major personality traits: my need for control and my cheapness. I like what I like and I can usually make it at home better, for less money. So there.

I keep at least one package of whole-wheat pitas in my freezer at all times. My cupboard is also always armed with Don Pepino's Pizza Sauce. Today, my fridge contained an interesting mix of vegetables, pickles, some left-over artichoke spread (recipe below), a 1/4 cup of chickpeas, and at least 3 varieties of olives. So from that I created some rather nice exam-writing fuel.

I've only recently come to truly appreciate artichoke hearts. I'm not yet certain if I appreciate the whole vegetable. Give it time. I've discovered that a puree of artichoke hearts (not marinated, just in brine) some garlic powder and a little olive oil can be a nice spread for various occasions.

Basic Artichoke Spread:

1 can of artichoke hearts in brine
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil

1. Drain the artichoke hearts.
2. Pop them in a food processor with the oil and garlic powder and puree until spreadable.
3. Doesn't get much easier than that.

Mushroom-olive-artichoke-chickpea Pita Pizza

1 Whole-wheat pita
Pizza sauce (my favorite is Don Pepino's)
1/4 cup of artichoke spread
1/4 cup of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and mashed with a fork
1/2 cup of white mushrooms chopped
5 or 6 kalamata olives

1. Thaw the pita, if frozen (I often put it in the toaster oven for a few minutes at 350F).
2. Put as much sauce as you like. I generally only like a 1/4 inch slather or less.
3. Top first with mashed chickpeas.
4. Top next with artichoke spread.
5. Cram on as many mushroom/olive bits as possible
6. Stick in a toaster oven at 425F for 12 minutes. I have a convection toaster oven, so times may vary with different equipment.


Today I had some left over greens from a bag-o-salad that I mixed with some more chopped mushroom, a few chickpeas, the chopped butt-end of a red bell pepper and some of my homemade pickled purple cabbage. I threw this together while the pizza was baking.

So it only took 15 minutes for a very healthy and satisfying meal. If you calculate how much time it would take to find the take-out menu, figure out what you want, and explain at least 4 times that you really want NO cheese and possibly have to send the kid back with the pizza because his colleagues think "Hey, it's just got Romano", I've saved a lot of time and money for something I actually like.

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