Anyway, the first site to pop out from the blogosphere was Stephanie's blog announcing a Pizza Party. Just perfect I thought. And then, almost simultaneously - what exactly is a pizza? I mean I know what a pizza is, I have eaten it often enough, I bake it at home quite frequently - and yet - what is a pizza?? Quite simply, a pizza as we know it today is an Italian open pie usually made of thin bread dough spread with a spiced mixture of a.k.a tomato sauce and cheese. According to the Smithsonian, the pizza could be said to be a descendant of the focaccia or bread rounds covered with herbs and spice which made their debut in Naples around 1000 years ago. Essentially a peasant food, it was a way of recycling leftovers by placing them over thin crusts of dough and the baking them. Indeed there was no tomato on the earliest pizzas as Europeans came to know of this beautiful fruit sometime in the 16th century, and it was added to the pizza only subsequently.
The world's first pizzeria Port'Alba opened in 1830 pizza. The pizzas there were cooked in ovens lined with lava from Mount Vesuvius. Talk about gourmet! The first truly modern pizza was the Margherita Pizza. Named to honour when Queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni, the consort to the Italian King in 1889, it featured fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese (used for the very first time on a pizza), and basil - ingredients that reflected the colors red, white and green for the Italian flag. Pizza was brought to the USA by the Italian immigrants. The first pizzeria in the USA was called Pizzeria Neapolitan and opened in 1905 in New York City. It however gained currency only towards the end of WW II when American servicemen returning from Europe popularised it in the States. More recently, Ike Sewell invented the deep-dish pizza. You can still find it at the Pizzeria Uno in Chicago.
Fun facts about Pizza:
- Americans eat almost 350 slices of pizza each second! With 3 billion pizzas being sold annually, it is no wonder that pizza is a $30 billion industry today.
- Close to 40 per cent of all pizzas sold are pepperoni pizzas. Other popular toppings include onions, extra cheese, and green pepper. The least popular topping is - you guessed it - anchovies.
- Some intriguing topping that one might be tempted to sample include oysters, dandelions, and peanut butter and jelly!!!!
- While Americans prefer meat toppings, a popular pizza topping in Japan is squid and tofu. In India tandoori chicken and chilli paneer are favourites. Brazilians enjoy green peas on a pizza while Russians top it with mockba - a mix of sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon and onions.
- The original Italian pizza was made with green peppers and mozzarella cheese. The original Greek pizza was simply crust and vegetables - no cheese!!
- And you might be interested to note that October is National Pizza Month.
Ready prepared pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
1 can tomato paste
1 red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp Italian herbs
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 large tomatoes, sliced fine
1 large Spanish onion, sliced fine
1 large green pepper, sliced fine
1 Jalapeno pepper, sliced fine
1/2 cup black olives, halved
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- First, prepare the pizza sauce. Pour the oil into a saucepan. When warm, add the crushed garlic, and then after a minute the minced red onion. Fry until transparent. Now add the tomato puree, a cup of water, the Italian herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10-15 minutes until you get a sauce of medium thick consistency. Set aside to cool.
- Roll out the pizza dough as per instructions on a large cookie sheet. Set the oven at 350F.
- Pour the sauce over the dough and spread evenly. Layer the vegetables over the sauce starting with half the cheese and green peppers. Next place the tomatoes, onions, Jalapeno peppers and olives. Lastly sprinkle remaining cheese over the pizza.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust begins to turn golden and crispy.
- Slice and serve your dreamy vegetarian pizza hot with your choice of condiments!!