Throw like a Girl!

The past couple columns have had starch and cheese in common. It seems like pizza is the obvious next step in rounding out the core football food trilogy of nachos, lasagna, and pizza. Probably not nacho pizza though, which is all too common on the internet (here, here, and here). Or mexican pizza lasanga. Or chocolate nacho pizza. Ugh. Who makes these things? A lot of it looks just disgusting, and the rest pointless.

But pizza itself is a perfect football food. Everyone likes it, unless they have been hit by the increasingly popular gluten and/or lactose intolerant bug. Toppings can vary person to person, so people don’t have to fully agree on what things taste good. It doesn’t require silverware. You don’t really even have to look at it while you eat, so football can have full focus. See, all these people in this stock photo are quite successful at eating without paying attention. And they are clearly enjoying themselves.

Other advantages of pizza for football – you can have it all ready to go in advance and eat throughout. Or you can have everything ready to go but let people throw on toppings at half time and the food will be done before the end of half time. It’s also good as it gets to room temperature, so it’s okay if people are slow. Finally, it’s fun to watch people try to toss the dough. It’s actually even fun to watch people put toppings on their uncooked pizza. It’s amazing how many people find even that intimidating, even if the dough is made and the toppings are prepped and on display in matching bowls.

Let’s go through this layer by layer:

The dough:

  • Some people buy their dough from the supermarket. The pizza place across the street from my apartment also sells dough, in case that’s convenient for you. But it’s better to make your own dough. I make one recipe, recommended by my friend Nick. He came over to my house once when I had nothing around and he decided to make a delicous apple pie. Another time and another similarly bare cupboard led to turkey stroganoff. These experiences have led me to trust his cooking judgement, and it’s certainly served me well for dough. The recipe is Peter Reinhart’s Napoleon Pizza Dough. I amend according to Nick’s comment: “Contrary to the directions, I activate the yeast in a little bit of warm water then add this mixture together with cold water to the dry ingredients. I let the dough rise once for 45 minutes to an hour and a half (after covering the dough with a little olive oil).” Thank you Nick.

The sauce:

  • One of the things that I have learned by cooking on my own is that all tomato sauce from a store is a rip off. (How much sauce is worth $1,000?). Just let a few ingredients simmer for a while on a stove and you’re all set:
    • tomato paste + water OR diced tomatoes OR your favorite type of boxed/canned tomatoes
    • olive oil
    • fresh basil if available, some dried basil if not
    • minced garlic
    • crushed red pepper

    Always yummy. Works as pasta sauce too, just don’t let it get quite as thick and add some oregano or other fresh herbs.

The toppings:

  • You shouldn’t need help here. What do you like on pizza? Lots of cheese, ricotta is great. Caramelized onions (see the original column to see how to do this). Pine nuts are yummy. Eggplant can be great. I haven’t made but have eaten pizza with butternut squash on it and it was scrumptious. There’s always the classic mushrooms or bell peppers. The main thing really is too not put too many toppings on a single pizza, tempting as it may be. Listen to the LA Times, especially because they listen to Peter Reinhart and we’ve already established he knows his pizza stuff.

Bring it all together:

  • Combine it so it looks like pizza, put it on a cookie sheet (I assume if you have a pizza stone you haven’t bothered to read this far) with a bunch of cornmeal, and cook it at 450 for about 10 minutes. Or if you want a recipe, let’s think fancy (!). Just like there’s lasagna without red sauce, there’s pizza without tomato sauce. White pizza comes in lots of forms, but this is a go to in my house: Potato Pizza.


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