Pizza with Pizzazz

Instead of going out with friends for dinner, this Saturday night, I decided to host a pizza party at home. It wasn’t your typical order delivery and drink beer, rather a more mature and sophisticated pizza party for refined adults.

I bought fresh ingredients including pizza dough and toppings to make two different kinds of pizzas. The guests got a hands-on lesson in pizza making and were in the kitchen making pizza. We talked and cooking over a bottle of Chianti, making the evening more enjoyable and relaxed.

The first one we made was an eggplant goat cheese and pesto pizza. First, we sliced 1 medium eggplant into ¼ inch slices and lightly fried them in olive oil, until brown on both sides. Meanwhile, we finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic and rolled out our pizza dough onto a pizza stone. We first coated the sides of the pizza dough with olive oil, and then sprinkled the chopped garlic on top. The fried eggplant slices were arranged in a circle so that the entire surface was covered. This went in a 375F oven for 15 minutes. While we waited, we made a quick pesto using Knorr pesto sauce mix. Just followed the directions on the package. We then sprinkled the sauce over the pizza and added about 3 oz crumbled goat cheese. Now it was time to let it bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the crust was golden brown.

The second pizza was relatively simple as you didn’t need to cook the toppings. We used multi-grain dough to make the base. This time we used Knorr’s four cheese sauce mix and spread it evenly on the rolled out dough. We first baked the pizza throughout for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on the edges. For the toppings, we sprinkles ½ cups finely chopped purple onions, 2 tablespoon capers and 6 oz sliced smoked salmon. (You could even add fresh arugula leaves to it if you like.) This was our smoked salmon pizza.

Both pizzas were significantly different from each other and what you traditionally eat at pizzerias, but were delicious! The guests enjoyed it, learned something new and had a memorable dinner experience. It’s another example of how you can makeover a regular family meal into something with more pizzazz.

How to do a family meal makeover

More and more families are choosing to cook at home due to health and cost factors. It is no surprise that home cooked food is comparatively healthier because you know exactly what you put in it (hopefully not preserved and canned items.) Also, it’s much cheaper than ordering in, especially for 2+ people households. The challenge families’ face is how to keep the same homemade recipes interesting and appealing to the entire family, young and old.

Here are some simple recommendations to make a typical family meal makeover –Duck and sour cherries pizza

1. Make it healthier by using substitutes like olive oil instead of butter or vegetable oil, wheat flour instead of white, low fat cheeses, etc. Always use fresh herbs, garlic and spices to make the dish more flavorful. Avoid recipes that are deep fried. You know what’s not food for you!

2. Create the interest by blending flavors across cuisines. Grab a starch from one country and add a sauce from another. Try a thai red curry with penne pasta, then add shrimp or chicken depending on what your family prefers. Top chicken tikka masala on a flat bread or pizza. Serve a gazpacho with shells or macaroni pasta for a delicious & healthy meal. Read more on fusion cooking.

3. Presentation is key. We tend to judge a book by its cover and perceive the flavor of the food by its looks. Try to plate the food like you would see in an expensive restaurant. It doesn’t take much, just a garnish of cheese or parsley for most dishes would do. You can also control the portions your family is eating by pre plating them.

The way you go about doing this each night is by being conscious and creative. Try to diversity with what you know rather than trying new complicated recipes. For example, you need not serve the same old spaghetti with marinara. Add some fresh tomatoes, green onions, olives, feta and make your own instant sauce. Have the kids pitch in while cooking and make something using some of the ingredients they prefer to eat. These are simple makeovers to do and the whole family can enjoy the process.