Monday, August 3, 2009

Frozen Pizza That Doesn't Suck

I have had a difficult time accepting what Californians refer to as "pizza." It can be a very tasty food, but it's not pizza. The crust is wrong, the sauce is wrong, and more than anything else, the toppings are wrong. Figs and goat cheese? Please. Like I said: very tasty... but not pizza.

Once I accepted that I would never, ever get a decent slice from any so-called pizzeria anywhere in the Golden State, I began exploring options.

First I tried making my own. I had some success, but the results were never like the Star Tavern (Orange NJ) or Pete and Elda's (Neptune City NJ). And really, what could be? Those two joints are as close as I've ever come to pizza heaven.

Despondent at thelukewarm results of my efforts, I did the unthinkable. I started sampling frozen pizza. And predictably enough, most of it was awful. Even with added toppings (which are mandatory), the vast majority of these flabby pies were getting a D+ at best.

Then, on a whim (read: on sale for $3.99) I tried Safeway Select Ultra Thin Crust pizza. And it was actually pretty good. The Garlic Chicken version (while not what I would call pizza) was good enough to eat with only a scattering of grated parm as an add-on. But the real workhorse of this product family is the Margherita: just crust, cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a shred of basil. It's a great base for whatever you want to throw on it. Top it with pepperoni and a shake of parm. Or saute up some fresh mushrooms with basil and garlic for a veggie option. Grated Asiago and sun-dried tomatoes. Etc.

I'm pretty sure the Safeway Select pizzas are simply California Pizza Kitchen pies, repackaged. So if you don't have a Safeway in the neighborhood, look for the yellow CPK box in the freezer (even though it'll set you back eight bucks instead of four).

Sausage and Raab Pizza

  • One Safeway Select Ultra Thin Crust Margherita Pizza
  • 2 links of Italian sausage
  • 1/2 a bunch of broccoli raab
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or water)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450. Chop the garlic. Chop the raab.

Coat a saute pan or wok with cooking spray or a light film of olive oil. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the casings and saute over high heat, crumbling with a wooden spoon until it's just slightly browned. Drain on a paper towel.

Take the pie out of its packaging and slide it into the oven (directly on the rack, not on a pan) for about 7 minutes, which is as long as it will take you to cook the raab, as follows:

Pour most of the fat out of the pan, leaving a tablespoon or so. Add the garlic and saute over medium heat for one minute. Add the chopped raab and the broth, turn the heat to high, cover, and let it steam down for 5 minutes. Drain on a paper towel.

Pull the pizza out of the oven. Scatter the crumbled sausage and sauteed raab over the top. Sprinkle with the grated parm. Put the pie back in the oven (still directly on the rack) and dial the heat down to 400. Bake for about 8 -10 more minutes, or until the parm is golden.

One sausage and raab pizza will feed two people (or one teenage boy). Half a pie is about 700 calories - even so, it's a caloric steal compared to, say, a Round Table Italian Garlic Supreme (medium) at 1200 calories for the same serving size.

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