Every time I watch Giada de Laurentiis make something on her show that requires pizza dough, she says (Food Network chefs are notoriously repetitive), "Use your favorite pizza dough recipe, or do what I do—go down to your favorite local pizzeria and just ask for some dough."
Is that strange? It seems more than a little odd to me. I'm not going to go to my local hamburger joint and ask if they can just give me a few patties for tonight's dinner.
The problem with pizza dough, though, is that it requires all the chemistry and grace of baking, PLUS yeast, which, of course is my nemesis. I don't know how it's supposed to work, because it never has for me. And then there's all that proofing, the put-it-in-a-warm-place-to-rise business that's far too demanding yet inexact for me. The Woodside heat is set firmly at 60, there is no warm place to be found.
What I have discovered, much to my intense delight, is that my Publix bakery makes kick-ass pizza dough. They sell it in bags, in the bakery section, with only the directive to let it sit out for an hour before you do anything with it.
Now THAT I can do. I have been an expert sitter for my whole life.
I created this recipe as an homage to the tostada pizza at California Pizza Kitchen (TwinFin, amirite?), where I first discovered that pizza didn't know what it was until it met salad. The CPK version is vegetarian, but because I'm often feeding devout carnivores, I add rotisserie chicken. All of the ingredients here are incredibly flexible; this is pizza, after all. I know a certain someone who'd go nuts for a version with Italian meats, provolone cheese, banana peppers, and a salad with red wine vinaigrette. A Cobb salad pizza has promise, too, or a Caesar version. Go nuts!
If there's Mexican food in the house, or anything with a Spanish accent, there's probably going to be K's Trashy Queso, too. I am fully, passionately devoted to Queso-Melt brand, after many years of research. (Most other brands, when combined with anything else, tend to separate. Shudder.) The fact that it's made from prepared melted cheese is what makes this trashy, but what makes it mine is the ratio—40% cheese to 60% everything else. That means lots and lots and lots of tomato and red onion and fresh jalapeño. You can stir in anything else you love, too, chorizo or beans or ground beef, but this is the trio I love. I use the jalapeño-flavored queso, because I always think hotter is better, but the regular variety works just as well for a milder flavor. Hot buckets of deliciousness, people.
K's Trashy Queso
1 (10-ounce) container Queso-Melt jalapeño-flavored cheese dip
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh jalapeño, minced
1 red onion, diced
Stir together first 4 ingredients over medium heat until melted and bubbling. Serve with tortilla chips. Makes 1 serving. (BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Nope, not sharing.) OK, Makes 5 servings.
Mexican Salad Pizza
1 portion prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium black beans
½ cup jarred salsa
¼ cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 romaine heart, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
Lite ranch dressing, to taste
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
2 chicken breasts from prepared rotisserie chicken, chopped
½ cup frozen whole-kernel corn
Lime-flavored tortilla chips (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400. Stretch or roll out pizza dough onto a lightly greased baking sheet or pizza pan; bake 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, mash beans and salsa in a medium bowl. Mash avocado in a small bowl, and stir in sour cream. Stir together romaine, tomatoes, and ranch dressing in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. Top baked pizza dough with cheese, and bake 5 more minutes. Spread with black bean mixture, top with chicken and corn, and bake 5 more minutes.
4. Spread avocado mixture over pizza, and top with reserved salad. Sprinkle with crushed tortilla chips and additional ranch dressing, if desired. Serve with lime wedges. Makes 6 to 8 servings.