He Said, She Said Pizza

Recipes can be a lot like the innocent childhood game of telephone. You know the game that subtly reveals the imminent destruction behind gossip. This is how it works: You whisper something like, “George has a big head” into the ear of the kid beside you, and they whisper it to the kid beside them and so on, until it has passed through the ear and out the mouth of every kid in the circle. By the time it has reached the last kid, it usually turns into something like “George ate a pig named Fred” or “The poor mice are dead.” You get the point. Anyhow, as recipes pass through the hands of others, they are often modified, be it accidentally or in order to suit the tastes of the receiving party—like this recipe, which came from my friend Marisa, who got it from her friend Allie, who got it from who knows where. The point is, as recipes are passed down, they are slightly altered, which is the beauty of recipes though not so much gossip.

This recipe may seem rather odd to those of you accustomed to “traditional” pizza, but I assure you if you step out of your comfort zone for one moment or bite, you will (hopefully) not be disappointed. The base of this pizza is not the normal, red tomato sauce, but a fresher, greener and flavor-enhancing pesto. Italian for “pounded,” pesto is an uncooked sauce traditionally made by crushing or blending together fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and olive oil.

For this recipe, you can use store-bought pesto, which can be procured at most supermarkets, depending on where you live. I say this because my Mom has told me on several occasions that they don’t carry certain things in the grocery store establishments in the booming metropolis of Kershaw. She finally found couscous, which she calls “coo coo” or “coosh coosh,” depending on which tickles her fancy on that particular day. My dad calls it “poo poo” because, well, he doesn’t like it so much. Oh well, I try. However, I have gotten him to try hummus, which he said he liked. Speaking of the puréed chickpea delight, hummus, if your supermarket carries hummus, the packaged, refrigerated pesto should be nearby. Also, this recipe calls for Romano cheese, which can be found in the same vicinity of the supermarket or wherever specialty cheeses are located. While it can be easily replaced with extra mozzarella, Romano does add a nice, sharp tang, similar to that of Parmesan.

Once you’ve wrap your head around using a vibrant green sauce on your pizza, you’re next going to have to talk yourself into putting grapes on it. Hear me out, because grapes are what make the pizza. Well, specifically this pizza with pesto as a base. It’s just enough sweet to pair with the earthy pesto, savory chicken, and salty cheese accents. As far as the chicken is concerned, you can use leftover grilled chicken or buy a package of cooked chicken, such as rotisserie or grilled strips. However, I would recommend avoiding flavored chicken (i.e. Southwestern or Italian-style). As for the crust, you can buy refrigerated pizza dough, a precooked crust, or make your own. The green onions are rather optional, but they do add color and a nice, mild onion flavor.

The amounts for the individual ingredients are really irrelevant. Basically, put as much of whatever you like on it. The general idea is pizza crust, pesto, grapes, chicken and cheese, or whatever addition or substitution of ingredients tantalizes your taste buds. And the next time Janet calls you up to talk about Bambi’s awful perm, redirect the conversation to this or another recipe. Besides, recipes are a far more constructive topic of conversation, and feelings are less likely to get hurt, unless you’re discussing Great Aunt Verta’s horrible ham and mayo casserole.

SIDENOTE: Although pesto is made with high-calorie ingredients, it’s actually considered a healthful spread. One tablespoon supplies a reasonable 60 calories and approximately five grams of good-for-you unsaturated fat. So, what do you do with pesto? Most often pesto is tossed with pasta, but here are some other ideas for pesto:

  • atop grilled chicken, steak or fish
  • tossed with beans for a pesto bean salad
  • spread over crusty bread
  • garnish for tomato soup
  • spread over pizza as an alternative sauce

You can also make your own pesto, but it can become a rather pricey endeavor when purchasing the needed surplus of basil, which happens to be around two to four cups. I say make your own pesto if you have an herb garden with basil or if you know someone who can provide you with a nice supply. Pesto can also be made with other herb ingredients, such as cilantro, mint and parsley.

This blog is brought to you by—photographs of hideous faces with a serene seascape as a backdrop, polka dots, and Marcel the Shell (http://vimeo.com/14190306 )

Chicken and Grape Pesto Pizza

1 (11-ounce) can refrigerated thin-crust pizza dough

Cooking spray

½ cup refrigerated pesto

1 ½ cups seedless red grapes, halved

1 (6-ounce) package grilled chicken breast strips

¼ cup sliced green onions

1 ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated Romano cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 425°.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, pat dough into a 12-inch circle; gently place dough on a pizza pan coated with cooking spray. Spread pesto evenly over dough, leaving a ½-inch border around edges. Arrange grapes evenly over dough; top evenly with chicken and green onions. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Romano.
  3. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cut into 12 wedges. Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 3 wedges)
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