July 1, 2016

Partly sunny

Pack pizza with pizzazz — Mediterranean-style

Common Sense Kitchen

Welcome to the Common Sense Kitchen. It’s time to reach for your walking shoes, passport and appetite. Today we’re exploring flavors that will add Mediterranean zing to our makeover recipe, Mediterranean pizza. So let’s choose some toppings known for their delicious, fresh and satisfying flavors. After all, the people living in these seaside countries are some of the healthiest on earth.

Mediterranean foods

It’s time to stroll the outdoor produce markets for your favorite ingredients to top a Mediterranean pizza.

Mediterranean-style foods are those we think about when we cook with European, Asian or African ingredients. Typically we imagine fresh vegetables and fruits, like vine-ripe Italian tomatoes and other Sicilian citrus fruits. Fruity olives and olive oils. Libyan lamb and fresh basil, rosemary or mint. Maybe some Spanish onions. And crusty French breads.
But guess what? We can find all these ingredients at our local farm market and grocer’s produce section.

A classic Mediterranean pizza may include basil or pesto, tomatoes, artichokes and olives. But the region is vast and abundant in foods. I’ve chosen to top our recipe with fresh, sweet tomatoes, a blend of creamy cheeses and a splash of olive oil. Plus a few extra toppings. Let’s get started.

Mediterranean pizza
(serves 1 or 2)

1 7-inch pizza crust or slice of favorite crusty bread
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons tomato sauce
1 medium tomato, 5 slices
5 pieces roasted red pepper
½ cup grilled mushrooms & onions*
2 tablespoons shredded cheese (we used a blend of mozzarella, provolone, Romano, Asiago and parmesan)

Grilled mushrooms and onions *
1 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 button mushroom, sliced
¼ cup sweet onion, diced

Place a teaspoon of olive oil (or use vegetable spray) in a small frying pan and heat on medium. Add mushrooms and onions. Sauté until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Adding just a pinch of garlic powder, black pepper and ground red pepper (or pepper flakes) will give a little zing.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (or follow pizza bread instructions). If using special crusty Italian or French bread, watch carefully to keep crust from burning. Prepare mushroom and onions; put aside. Layer and spread all ingredients onto pizza bread using ingredient order: olive oil, tomato paste, tomato sauce, red pepper and mushrooms and onions. Top with cheese and bake 10 minutes. Cut in half for two servings.

Nutrition information for one slice Mediterranean Pizza: Calories 243, Total fat 8 g, Cholesterol 5 mg, Sodium 388 mg
Nutrition information for one slice popular fast-food pizza: Calories 405, Total fat 18 g, Cholesterol 32, Sodium 972

Build a new food pyramid

According to the American Heart Association, the Mediterranean diet follows a general pattern of food intake even though food types can vary greatly because of the vast cultural regions of the Mediterranean. The AHA believes people who consume a Mediterranean-style food plan may eat less saturated fat compared to those who eat an American diet. Some skeptics think more studies are needed in order to analyze how lifestyles (exercise and social systems) factor into the picture.

Daily foods: Fresh fruits; vegetables; yogurt; cheese; legumes; beans and nuts; whole grains (breads, rice, couscous, polenta and potatoes); olives and olive oil; six glasses of water; and wine in moderation.

Weekly foods: Fish; poultry; eggs; and some sweets.

Monthly foods: Red meats.

— Adapted from the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the National Agricultural Library and the American Heart Association

Barnett is a nutritionist and freelance writer from Westfield Center.