Sunday, March 21, 2010

Pizza Poser

I wonder what the Italians think of all the different forms of "pizza" we seem to have invented in the United States.  Remember English Muffin pizzas?  The name alone is almost blasphemous - an English pizza?  I used to make these a lot as a kid, because they were a tasty snack I could make myself out of items we always seemed to have in the kitchen, even when we were out of food.  An English muffin, a jar of sauce, some shredded mozzarella (this was before fresh mozzarella was common and readily available in the grocery stores and we had to settle for that gummy, yellow stuff.  It was tough growing up in the 80s).  There was also the French bread pizza (now French pizza?!).  French bread was also something we always seemed to have in the freezer, before the low-carb diet craze made my mother afraid for bread.  Then of course, there was the California pizza phenomenon, popularized by Wolfgang Puck and brought to the masses by California Pizza Kitchen, which used ingredients never before imagined on a pizza, like smoked salmon and barbecued chicken.

One of my favorite pizzas served at CPK is the shrimp scampi pizza.  There's no red sauce and its super garlicky.  I decided to try out my own version of the recipe using yet another unusual dough replacement - store-bought Naan (Indian pizza!). Now I firmly believe that nothing is better than good, homemade pizza dough, but sometimes I just don't have the time or energy for the kneading, rising, flouring and stretching that it requires.  I've found that packages of Naan are a great easy replacement.  They're perfectly portioned, thin, and much closer to what pizza dough should be than an English muffin or big hunk of bread.  But let's not call them pizza - how about flatbread?
A note about shrimp - harvesting of shrimp can cause huge environmental damage.  Huge nets trawl the oceans and bays for shrimp.  They scoop up whatever lies in their path, and anything that is picked up besides shrimp (fish, turtles and other marine life) is thrown back into the ocean dead.  It causes great disruption to the delicate underwater ecosystem.  Farmed shrimp - particularly in Asian countries - produces huge amounts of waste and fertilizers that run back into the waterways, so its really not a better option.  Your best bet?  Wild pink shrimp from Oregon, where they use bycatch reduction devices to limit what they pick up.  Hard to find, but worth it.  And if its impossible for you to find, the next best choice is U.S. farmed shrimp.  Most U.S. shrimp is farmed inland in closed tanks, so it reduces the waste going back into the oceans.  Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch for more information on sustainable seafood.
Shrimp Scampi Flatbread
serves 2
2 pieces packaged Naan (I used whole wheat)
3 oz. fresh mozzarella (preferably buffalo), thinly sliced
2 Tbl olive oil
1 large shallot, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz. shrimp, peeled, deveined, and patted dry
juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper
1/2 Tbl unsalted butter

  • Preheat oven to 500┬║
  • In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium-low heat.  Add shallots and cook, stirring occaisionally, until lightly golden and carmelized, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, spread mozzarella evenly over each Naan.  Place on baking sheet and cook in oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  • When shallots are carmelized, add garlic to pan and turn heat up to medium.  Saute another minute.
  • Add shrimp and cook about a minute until shrimp just starts to turn pink.  Add lemon juice and white wine, and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer until liquid is mostly reduced.
  • Add butter to pan and stir until melted, then remove from heat.
  • Divide shrimp mixture evenly over each Naan.  Return to oven and heat another 2 - 3 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand a few minutes before cutting into quarters.
For a light Saturday supper, serve with a mixed green salad tossed with a vinaigrette made from lemon juice, dijon mustard and olive oil.

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