Thursday, March 8, 2012

Caprese Pizza from Pampered Chef (Meat-Free for Lenten Fridays)

In case you didn't know, The Pampered Chef has a variety of absolutely awesome cookbooks.  A cousin of mine had a Pampered Chef party back in November, and I bought their "29 Minutes or Less" cookbook.  I've tried several recipes, and plan to try several more, because the fact that I can eat these meals within a half hour of starting to prepare them is very attractive during the work week.

The Caprese pizza recipe has proven to be one of the "old reliable" recipes of the ones I've tried so far.  With the onset of the Lenten season, and thus the need for meatless Friday meals, I jumped all over this particular pizza last week because, lets face it, you can only stand pasta with marinara sauce or frozen fish chunks for so long.

I do deviate from the original recipe a bit, but not much.  Here's what I do.

The original recipe from the book calls for using refrigerated pizza dough (the kind that comes in the tube), but I didn't care for how that turned out.  I've also made it with my homemade wheat pizza crust, which was amazing, but not so conducive to the quick meal thing.  So I split the difference with frozen pizza dough from the grocery store.  I just tossed it in the fridge the night before to defrost, then set it on the counter for a couple hours before I started cooking so the dough could come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone or another large baking stone, it's definitely a plus.  The recipe says to make the pizza right on the stone, but I've found I like pizza crust better when I leave the stone in the oven during the preheat.

Slice three or four good sized ripe tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. (You may end up with extra slices, but it's a lot easier to come up with a use for the extras than to stop in the middle of things to wash and slice more.)  Spread the slices over a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with about a teaspoon of salt.  Let them sit for fifteen minutes.

Next, stretch the pizza dough out into a rectangle, either directly on a baking stone brushed with olive oil or on a sheet of aluminum foil brushed with olive oil.  Combine a tablespoon of olive oil and two cloves of crushed garlic (or 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder) in a bowl.  Brush the mixture over the top of the dough and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Bake for about eleven minutes until the crust is golden.

While the crust is baking, prepare the rest of the toppings.  Coarsely chop about two tablespoons of fresh basil.  The Pampered Chef recipe book gives a great method for this, which I truly wish I'd known years ago.  Basically, stack all the basil leaves on top of each other and roll them up into a cigar shape.  Then slice ribbons.  You can then turn the knife crosswise and cut the ribbons into smaller pieces.  Put the basil into a small bowl with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil.

When the pizza crust is ready, remove it carefully from the oven.  Place the tomatoes over the crust in rows, leaving some space between.  Brush with the basil and olive oil mixture and sprinkle lightly with black pepper.  Then sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese between the tomatoes, allowing some to overlap.

An alternative method is to take a large ball of mozzarella and slice it thinly, overlapping the cheese slices with the tomato slices.  I found this method didn't distribute the cheesiness enough.  I prefer the shredded cheese.

Return the pizza to the oven for about five minutes more, until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the tomatoes have heated through.

Cut into six rectangles. You can serve a side salad with this for dinner, or just enjoy it on its own for lunch.  One sixth of the pizza is only about 260 calories.  So not only is this meatless, it's a pretty light meal.

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