Snowed In? Play in the Pantry!

Clam Pizza

Photo by Lorelle S Del Matto

Forced to hunker down when a snowstorm hit the Seattle area recently, I probed my pantry for dinner fixings.   The most creative kitchen-fun is when one is challenged to be inventive with what is “on hand.” A light bulb came on when I found a couple of cans of clams in the pantry. I could have made clam pasta of course, but I wanted to warm up the kitchen by lighting the oven. 

I nabbed pizza dough (whole wheat from Trader Joe’s) from the freezer and green onions, parsley and fresh lemon in the refrigerator.  Also in the freezer was a knob of mozzarella (See Yes-You Can Freeze Cheese below). 

I’ve made pizza with scrubbed fresh clams, placing raw closed clams, in the shells, on a pizza dough to open up and cook in a very hot oven – but canned clams are already cooked so they need more gentle handling or will be too toothsome (tough).  The work-around is to precook the dough covered with a thin slick of garlic-oil.   Add the well-drained clams and toppings to the crust and return to the oven for a few minutes, just until the clams are hot and the cheese melts.  Personalize the pizza with your own favorites – but don’t go overboard with a pile of toppings.  Slivers of prosciutto or thinly sliced fresh tomato or bell peppers would work but seafood pizzas should be light, in the style of the pizzas you get in Italy rather than those from the neighborhood pizza joint.  

Regarding favorite “staples,” I try to keep pizza dough, tomato sauce, various herb pestos and lean sausages in the freezer.  In the refrigerator I can usually find a couple of types of cheese, various olives, sun-dried tomatoes and the aforementioned fresh items – green onions, lemons and parsley.  In the pantry I keep a selection of rice and grains (whole grains go in the fridge or freezer) such as wild, arborio, basmati and jasmine rices, quinoa, bulgur, farro, and barley.  Lentils, pasta, beans round out the dry selection. Canned goods include tomatoes, chicken broth (I buy the boxes of the reduced-sodium broth.) anchovies,  chipotle peppers in adobo, salmon, smoked oysters and clams. With fresh garlic, red and yellow onions, a good meal is always within arm’s reach.

Mastering homemade pizza has benefits beyond being a creative, entertaining activity.  The quality and nutrition can be improved over the average purchased pizza.  A few pizza shops make extraordinary pies but too many use cheap, ordinary cheese and poor-quality, ultra-greasy meats. When you’re in charge you can select top-quality cheeses and other ingredients.  Use a light touch with toppings and include healthful ingredients like fresh vegetables, raw or sautéed, and nuts. 

You’ll likely save money, too, using up the bits of cheese, olives and other goodies in the fridge.  Got picky eaters?  Give them a ball of dough and let them create their own.  Need a party idea?  Make it pizza.  If your idea of topping starts and stops with pepperoni, expand your perspective.  Start by thinking of the best sauce combinations you had on pasta– many translate well to a pizza crust.  Stay in touch for more ideas.  It’s an understatement to say I make a lot of pizza.

Yes! You Can Freeze Cheese:  I wouldn’t freeze a hand-crafted, $20- a-pound artisan cheese, or a fresh, water-packed whole milk mozzarella, but I will freeze “every-day cheese” such as the part-skim mozzarella used here. Semi-hard and hard cheeses with less moisture freeze the best, however the texture changes, so plan to use thawed cheeses for cooking only.  Before freezing, cut cheese into smaller chunks that you can easily thaw in your refrigerator when needed.  Then wrap each chunk in wax or parchment paper and place them in a plastic freezer bag with as much air removed as possible.  It helps to label your bag. 

Clam Pizza

To prevent a soggy pizza, drain the clams in a small sieve and press firmly with the back of a spoon or pat dry on paper towels to release as much liquid as possible.  The crust is pre-baked so that the pizza won’t be soggy and the clams and herbs don’t over-cook and get tough. 

1 pound pizza dough, preferable whole grain

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 canned, drained anchovies

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

2 cans (6.5 ounces each) whole or chopped clams, drained well

6 tablespoons chopped mixed parsley and green onion

Zest of 1 lemon, optional

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or oregano leaves (or 2 teaspoons crumbled dry)

1/4 cup fresh shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Wedges of fresh lemon, optional

Preheat oven to 425°.  Roll or press pizza dough to fit an oiled 14-inch pizza pan.  In small skillet combine oil, garlic anchovies and crushed red pepper.  Warm over low heat and, using back of a fork, crush anchovies and mix with garlic and pepper.  In under a minute the anchovies will melt into a paste.  Remove from heat and brush or spread over dough.  Bake for 8 to10 minutes, till edges and bottom of crust are golden brown.  Remove from oven and sprinkle crust with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Top with clams.  Combine, parsley, green onion, lemon zest and thyme.  Sprinkle herb mixture evenly evenly over dough followed by remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and all of Parmesan cheese.  Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until cheese melts and clams are hot.  Makes 1 (14-inch) pizza.

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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