Going Crackers

The Sane Alternative for Crispier, Healthier Pizzas


For a quick change that can bring big new year health benefits, the next time you think of pizza, don't necessarily set your sights toward New York, Chicago or even Sicily. Make St. Louis the destination of your focus.

Renowned for its famous arch, the Midwest locale is lesser known for its pies outside of its city limits than the aforementioned pizza hot spots. However, for those desiring an easy touch that will cut calories and carbohydrates without sacrificing flavor, consider the town more noticed for its ribs.

St. Louis-style pizza sports a crust that's more like a cracker. It's crispy and flat, making the pies perfect for either appetizers or entrees. Imo's is one of the city's favorite pizza parlor chains (it's also shipped frozen and half-baked via websites like http://stlouisstylepizza.stores.yahoo.net).
Others have noted the benefits and followed suit. Kashi, the natural foods cereal maker, started making thin frozen crust pizzas from its famous whole-grain blends. One third of a margherita-flavored pizza has just 260 calories, four grams of saturated fat and 29 carbohydrates, yet it has four grams of dietary fiber and 14 grams of protein. DiGiorno and Freschetta have also started making crispy flatbread pizzas. However, just one-eighth of a regular crust fresh or frozen pizza has about the same amount of calories, fat and carbs as the larger portion of cracker-crust or flatbread pizza and only about half of the dietary fiber and protein.

The specialty at longtime celebrity hangout Vitello's in Studio City, Calif., (often named the best Italian restaurant in the Los Angeles area) is the must-try Pizzetti, which almost tastes like it's made on a matzo cracker crust. Like Imo's and the aforementioned frozen brands, Vitello's proves with its varieties (margherita, garlic and pesto) how good a foundation the crust is for flavor.

In snobby pizza city New York, the rage for body-conscious socialites is now Revd Up Pi, a 170-calorie-per-slice parlor invention with a 16-grain crispy thin crust of which Max Gross of the New York Post wrote, "When this pizza pie hits your thighs -- that's amore."

Cracker crust-style pizza is not just a healthful alternative for takeout, but it's also a quick and easy shortcut to prepare homemade pizza. If you make it from scratch, be sure to use high-gluten flour that contains at least 12 percent protein (like King Arthur Sir Lancelot brand) to ensure crispiness, notes the expert website www.pizzamaking.com. Other aficionados quickly prepare it on regular or whole-wheat slabs of matzo slipped under the broiler until the cheese bubbles.

Supermarket-bought pizza dough is also wonderful. And in these instances, it's simply rolled especially thin, like between 1/8- and º-inch thick.
Try the crispy-crust example from Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis, which is topped with gorgonzola and basil and shaped into small appetizer-size portions. Both recipes are a delicious way to pizza this year!

Gorgonzola Basil Thin N Crispy Pizza Bites


8 ounces store-bought pizza dough
3 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled
3 ounces cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
º cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Yields 6 servings.

Preheat oven to 475? F.

Roll out the pizza dough to º-inch thick. Using a 2 to 2 Ω-inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out 18 circles from the dough. Arrange the circles on a heavy large baking sheet. Sprinkle the gorgonzola cheese over the circles. Top with the tomatoes, pressing them gently into the dough.

Bake until the pizza bites ("pizzettes") are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drizzle the pizzettes with oil. Sprinkle the basil over the pizzettes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the pizzettes on a platter and serve immediately.

- Giada De Laurentiis' "Everyday Italian"/www.FoodNetwork.com      


Olive and Artichoke Flatbread Pizza

1 (24-by-9-inch) soft Armenian lavash bread, halved crosswise, or 2 (6-inch-diameter) whole-wheat pita breads, cut horizontally in half

1 (6.5-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained, marinade reserved, large pieces halved

1 (5-ounce) container sun-dried tomato- and basil-flavored feta cheese spread or 1Ω cups crumbled flavored feta cheese

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, drained well

1 cup pitted kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons dried oregano

Yields 2 servings.

Preheat oven to 450? F. Place breads on two baking sheets. Brush breads with some of artichoke marinade. Bake until just beginning to color, about 3 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes.

Spread breads almost to edges with feta spread or sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. Top with tomatoes, olives, oregano, and artichokes. Drizzle with remaining artichoke marinade.

Bake pizzas until heated through, about 4 minutes. Cut into wedges. Serve immediately.

- Bon Appetit magazine at www.Epicurious.com


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