The following is excerpted from an article I wrote for the Yale Herald:
Here in America, we have three main pizza categories: you can get your pizza on thin crust if you’re into the Atkins diet; normal crust, which actually varies across the country between a base with pita-thickness and one nearly twice as bready (think 10 year old birthday parties and Pizza Hut); and deep-dish, which is Chicago’s original attempt to thwart (or support) Jenny Craig. Once you’ve figured out what kind of crust you want, you get to choose between the old-school red sauce and white sauce, which is usually made with parmesan, garlic, and olive oil. Then your mind becomes overwhelmed with topping combinations and you spew them out in a disorderly fashion and hope that what you’ve made isn’t going to end up uneaten, stale, and wasted.
The original Neopolitan pizza, on the other hand, was nowhere as complex. Though the first pizzas were fired in the ovens of humble folk, they quickly became part of a stubborn Italian culinary tradition. The Japanese might have their so-called “Sushi Police,” but the Neapolitans have their equivalent pizza brigade at the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana,” or the “True Neopolitan Pizza Association,” founded in 1984 in response to worldwide degradation of the original pizzas. Officially, these pizza fanatics only recognize two varieties as authentic. The first, margherita, made with tomato sauce, basil, and a small bit of mozzarella, has become an American favorite. The second, marinara, is nothing more than really good bread with an amazing tomato sauce on top. Here in the United States, where food is ridiculously plentiful year-round, we rarely have the stomach for Naples’ pizza pretension.
This week marks the Jewish holiday of Passover, and with it, I’ve come up with a variation on my recipe for rebellion against the pizza mafia: matzo pizza. I might not be Jewish, but I love the versatility of the unflavored cracker. It’s a welcome treat amongst the endless isles of salted, sugared, and buttered crackers. Because matzo is bland, it can be dressed up in countless ways. The original matzo pizza that I came up with is your go-to LBD, nothing fancy. It requires just a little tomato sauce, some shredded or fresh mozzarella, and an oven or microwave.
This year, I decided to go all out. I bought some goat cheese at the Wooster Square farmer’s market this past weekend, and brought it to Commons with me. I had a delectable experiment in mind. Goat cheese tastes great with something sweet like honey or fruit to undercut its tanginess, so I was set on grilling pears for this matzo pizza. I know, you’re thinking, pears on a pizza? Just trust me on this. If you’ve ever had crostini, you know what I’m talking about. Cheese, fruit, and carbs make a magical combination. First, I had to check to see whether I could use a panini press or George Foreman-type contraption to grill my pears. A simple Google sesh revealed that those machines can grill anything from fruit to flesh. Perfect. As the pears were grilling, I drizzled a little olive oil on the matzo. No sauce. I layered some tomatoes on top, lightly salted them and crumbled an ounce of goat cheese on top. I then added my grilled pears on top and crumbled the remaining ounce of goat cheese onto the pizza. Ideally, I would have stuck it in an oven for a few minutes, but the closest thing Commons has to that is a microwave, so I nuked it for about a minute. I also happen to like heat, so I sprinkled a smattering of crushed red pepper on top before I cut into it.
As I bit into my creation, I couldn’t help but think that I’d successfully made my point. Food is an art, and pizza is no exception. Tradition is beautiful, but variation is what makes tradition special in the first place. So really, I guess the Associazione actually see eye-to-eye. Of course, using matzo in place of pizza bread is somewhat outlandish and in many ways fruit on a pizza is an act of sacrilege as offensive as not kissing the Pope’s ring, but Signore, I swear I mean no disrespect.
To make One Fancy Shmancy Matzo Pizza:
1 matzo cracker
1 pear sliced
2 oz. soft goat cheese
4 slices tomato
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
1. Grill the sliced pear on your college panini press. If you don’t have one, go to a dining hall that does, like Commons, Davenport, Pierson, or Trumbull. Should take about 5 minutes.
2. While the pears are working, drizzle a tsp of olive oil on the matzo. Layer the tomatoes on top and season them with that pinch of salt. Crumble 1 oz of goat cheese on top.
3. Retrieve the pears, layer them on top of the cheese and tomatoes, and then crumble the remaining cheese onto the pizza. Add some red pepper or freshly ground pepper, if you so like.
4. Microwave it for about 45 seconds, or eat it raw if you’re against microwaving. It tastes great either way.
*Note: if using oven, preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10 minutes