Pizza inspires creativity


A whiff of pizza baking in the oven promises good food and good times. One of the best things about making your own pizza is the freedom to create break-out-of-the-box combinations that redefine good pizza. A case in point is something you'll probably not find at the supermarket or local pizzeria: a vibrant vegetarian spinoff of Chicago-style pizza.

Wilted escarole adds color and flavor to a meatless pizza topping that's as visually appealing as it is good-tasting, while cornmeal gives the crust extra crunch.

Deep-Dish (Chicago-Style) Vegetarian Pizza

Serves 4 to 6

1 large head garlic

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast (1 package)

1/2 cup cornmeal

3/4 cup warm (105 to 110 degrees) water

1 teaspoon salt

about 1 1/2 cups flour

1 bunch escarole or spinach

6 ounces reduced-fat mozzarella cheese

2 ounces dry Monterey jack cheese

1 green bell pepper

1 cup tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice about 1/2 inch from top of garlic head. Remove some of the papery covering from garlic but leave the cloves intact. Place the garlic in a small baking dish and pour 2 tablespoons of the oil over it. Bake until garlic is tender (50 to 60 minutes). Cool slightly. Squeeze garlic from papery shell and reserve for pizza topping.

In large mixing bowl, stir yeast and cornmeal into the warm water. Stir in salt, the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and flour to form soft dough. Knead dough on flour-dusted work surface for 5 to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat evenly. Cover with plastic film to prevent dough from drying out. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

Separate leaves of escarole and wash thoroughly to remove any sand or grit. Drain well; chop coarsely and steam-saute in skillet over medium-high heat until wilted. Remove and reserve. Grate cheeses. Slice bell pepper.

Increase oven temperature to 475 degrees. Punch down dough and let rest 10 minutes. Roll into a circle about 1/2 inch thick and about 15 inches in diameter. Transfer dough to pizza pan, easing to fit. Bake for 5 minutes.

Spoon toasted garlic over partially baked crust; add escarole, bell pepper slices, tomato sauce and mozzarella and jack cheeses. Bake until cheeses are melted and crust is lightly browned (15 to 20 minutes). To serve, cut in wedges.

Pub Date: 06/27/99

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