Welcome to pre-summer and easy cooking. As the temperature soars into the 80s, the last thing I want to do is bake in the kitchen. It’s a time for picnic-type, outdoorsy sandwiches — hot or cold — fresh ones made with a bit of flair and in the comfort of your home. Instead of calling the pizza guy, why not try your hands at creating a pizza recipe that will wow you and yours?
Meet the veggie baguette pizza. I’m not talking ready-made pizza crusts, nor ones you quickly grab from the freezer. It’s about getting a baguette (like French bread, sort of) and getting creative with sauce and toppings.
More than a decade ago, when I made the “Grapes of Wrath” move from the Bay Area to South Shore, home-cooking wasn’t on my agenda. The first night away from my home, instead of baking amid boxes and confusion, I ordered a pizza and thought it would hit the spot. Not so much. After two calls tracking the pie to the first bite, I called up the now-long-gone chain the third time and said, “I’m not happy. The cheese is rubbery. The vegetables are overcooked. Where’s the sauce?” I got a credit and ended up going to the store and buying a frozen pizza that was nondescript.
This week, rather than ordering a pizza (I know where to go now), or going out to eat, I made the call to put together a baguette pizza all by myself. The cool thing is, it’s fresh, fast, hot, and there are no upsets. This recipe is 110 percent fail-proof.
1 fresh French bread baguette
1/2 cup all-natural, tomato-and-basil pasta sauce
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup pepperoni, sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Cut baguette into two halves (6 inches each) and place on baking pan. Spread with sauce, cheese and vegetables. Add seasoning. Bake at 400 degrees F till cheese melts and bread is toasted. Serves two.
This was the very first time I tried this quick-and-healthful recipe. I was pleasantly surprised. There’s something exciting about smelling oven-baked fresh bread, cheese and veggies of your choice, not to forget tasting the first crunch of a hot — really hot — baguette pizza. No phone calls needed. I teamed it with a DIY iced coffee and realized I’d changed my eating habits since my first summer living at Tahoe.
Motto: Rather than following the normal route to getting pizza, it can be a spiritual experience to do it yourself for the taste of it.
— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is www.calorey.com.