Meatless Mondays: the Pizza Bar
This is an especially kid-friendly installment of the Meatless Monday series. (Equally kid-friendly on a meaty non-Monday, too.) Inspired by a conversation I had Saturday with a college student who’d read the sleepover party post, who alerted me that some of the kid-friendly stuff I post is young-single-person-college-student-friendly as well–and it occurred to me after that conversation that if I’d known about this 20 years ago, I would have eaten a lot less bad pizza and had more money in my pocket at the end of the month.
Bottom line, to summarize all that follows: flat grain product + sauce + cheese + whatever else you’ve got=pizza.
If the “whatever else you’ve got” involves a large number of fresh or leftover veggies, so much the better. If you can restrain yourself and just give it enough cheese to hold it together, rather than a quarter inch of goo, better still. Total control over your ingredients, you can make as much as you want or need and don’t have to worry about preservatives or other added weirdness–it’s all good here.
We rely on this pretty much weekly at our house–we either buy naan (Indian flatbread) or pita breads–you can use french bread, english muffins, bagels, even ordinary bread if you toast it first–and spread them with sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and add whatever toppings you want. For my kids, that’s pretty much nothing. My husband and I put all kinds of stuff on there–shrooms (They’re better cooked first, so they don’t give too much liquid off, but if you don’t use too many it’s not necessary), onions, peppers, zucchini, caponata, hey, whatever you want. We usually sprinkle a little garlic powder and oregano on top before baking; gives it just a little extra zing. And kids can help make these–they can sprinkle cheese or spread pepperoni (er…not on Meatless Monday, though) with the best of ’em. And they love it.
Best of all, everyone can have it Exactly The Way They Like It, even spouses where one knows that the toppings are supposed to go on top of the cheese, and the other comes from some bizarre universe where they go under the cheese. (How the heck do you know what’s on your pizza if it’s all under the cheese? It’s a Chicago thing, isn’t it? I bet it’s a Chicago thing.) Everyone is happy.
If you have a pizza stone, that’s perfect, preheat the oven with the stone in there and you end up with nice crispy “crust”–if not, foil on a baking sheet is fine, or if your “crust” is solid enough and you’re sure no cheese will fall onto the oven floor, they can go directly onto the rack. You can use a regular oven at maybe 400 degrees, or a toaster oven at slightly lower heat than “toast.” I can’t give exact directions for how to bake it, because it depends on what you like–if you don’t have many cold veggies on there and you like the cheese a little browned, just put it under the broiler for a few minutes. If you like softer crust and meltier cheese, just bake normally at 400 or so. Futz with it, and see what works for you.