Monday, February 27, 2012

A New Healthy White House Recipe: Executive Chef Cris Comerford's Garden Vegetable Pizza

Cook with your kids, the White House advises...
Known for his love of cheeseburgers earlier in his Administration, President Obama has now switched his comfort food affection to pizza. Last December, the Eater in Chief visited Del Ray Pizzeria and left with three large sausage and pepperoni pies from the locally beloved Virginia joint. In January, during a Las Vegas fundraising junket, the President ordered a dozen cheese, sausage and pepperoni pizzas from the world-famous Dom DeMarco's Pizzeria & Bar. A few weeks ago during another West Coast fundraising jaunt, Seattle's Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria delivered forty pies to Air Force One as it sat on the tarmac at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. Yes, those are the pizza chefs chillin' on the steps of the President's ride. (At top: The President with his Del Ray pizzas)

With all the Presidential focus on pizza, is it any wonder that the White House now has two vegetable pizza recipes for First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign? Executive Chef Cris Comerford created both, and they're inspired, of course, by Mrs. Obama's Kitchen Garden. The first, Grilled Garden Pizza, was unveiled during the 2011 Fall Harvest. Today's recipe, Garden Vegetable Pizza, is what Mrs. Obama served to Jay Leno during her debut as First Lady on the Tonight Show in January, according to the East Wing. The family-size recipe includes instructions for home-made whole wheat dough. The pies are savory, low fat, and healthy, with about 310 calories per slice.

Before her visit to the Tonight Show, Mrs. Obama challenged Leno on Twitter to break his decades-old personal embargo on eating fresh produce. Operating under the idea that vegetable pizza is the gateway drug to healthy eating, Mrs. Obama plied the veggie-hating comic with slices topped with eggplant, green peppers and zucchini. (Above: Mrs. Obama watches Leno with his pizza)

"This a good way for people of your ilk, who don't like vegetables, to incorporate them," Mrs. Obama told Leno.

Leno's tastes are more Presidential: "It would be better with sausage and pepperoni," he quipped, after taking a bite.

The First Lady is encouraging parents to cook with their kids, in order to boost their nutrition education, and Chef Comerford said the pizzas are a good project. The recipe is a large one, enough for three pies.

"Making dough is fun for kids, and creates great quality time with your family," Comerford said when she demo'd the new recipe on ABC chat show The Chew. “This could be a fun weekend project--make three pizzas and freeze the other two for the rest of the week."

A blender or food processor is called for to puree the sauce. The vegetables listed in the recipe below are mostly advisory, and can be swapped.

"You can use whatever is seasonal or your kids’ favorites," Comerford said. "Try taking your kids grocery shopping and letting them pick out any three veggies they want—they’ll be even more invested in the experience and may be open to trying new things.”

For those interested in making just one pizza for immediate eating, cut the vegetable portion to 1/3rd. There's a time-lag mid-cooking: The dough must rise for an hour. More tips are below.
Kids can now eat like the President! Or...like the President would eat if he didn't love his meat toppings so much.

White House Garden Vegetable Pizza

Dough Ingredients

1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) active dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

½ cup semolina flour

1 2/3–2 cups whole wheat white flour

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sauce Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil

8 cloves garlic, chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 sprig thyme

1 can (28 oz) peeled whole tomatoes in puree

2 Tbsp tomato paste

1 bay leaf

Vegetable Toppings
3/4 cup thinly sliced zucchini (about 1 small or 5 oz)

3/4 cup thinly sliced yellow squash (1 small or 5 oz)

1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper (1 small or 6 oz)

1 cup thinly sliced fennel (1/2 small bulb)

1 cup thinly sliced eggplant (about 6 oz)

½ cup thinly sliced small mushrooms (about 6)

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 tsp freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme

2 packages, 8 oz each, shredded part-skim mozzarella (4 cups)

1 cup sliced mixed cherry or grape tomatoes (about 12)

6 Tbsp shredded Parmesan

Method
1. Prepare dough: Mix yeast and sugar into 1 cup lukewarm water in small bowl. Let bloom for a few minutes.

2. Whisk together whole wheat flour, semolina flour, 1 2/3 cup of the whole wheat white flour, and 1 tsp sea salt. Put onto clean work surface and make a well in the center. Pour yeast mixture and oil into well. Using a fork or your fingers, gradually bring in the flour around the sides to the center well. Once it starts to combine, work the dough with your hands (using some of remaining 1/3 cup whole wheat white flour if dough becomes too sticky) and knead until it becomes smooth and springy, about 5 minutes.

3. Put dough in oiled bowl and cover with damp cloth or plastic wrap. Leave in a warmer area of your kitchen and let rise until dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

4. Punch dough in bowl to push some air out. Transfer dough to flour-dusted work surface. Divide into 3 balls. Roll out each ball into a crust about 1/8 to ¼”-thick (13″ diameter) and place between flour-dusted sheets of parchment on a tray until ready to use.

5. Make sauce: Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add garlic, onion, and thyme and cook, stirring, until fragrant and onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes (with puree), tomato paste, and bay leaf. Simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes with a spoon, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

6. Discard thyme sprig and bay leaf. Transfer sauce to blender and carefully puree until smooth. Set aside. Makes about 2 ½ cups.

7. Pre-heat oven to 450ºF.

8. Prepare toppings: Toss together vegetables (except cherry tomatoes), oil, lemon zest, garlic, and thyme in bowl. Season with sea salt and pepper.

9. Turn a heavy-duty half-sheet pan or a large baking sheet upside down and coat lightly coat with olive oil spray. Transfer pizza crust carefully to pan and roll up edges slightly.

10. Spread about 3/4 cup of the sauce onto one crust and sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella. Arrange one-third (about 2 cups) of the vegetables evenly on top of the cheese. Top with 1/3 cup each of the cherry tomatoes and the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp of the Parmesan.

11. Bake on bottom rack until crust is golden brown and crisp and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. If making all 3 pizzas, repeat process with remaining dough, sauce, cheese, and vegetables.

Nutrition information per serving: 310 cal, 16 g protein, 35 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 12 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 529 mg sodium

Recipe tips...
*If baking a single pizza, prep only 1/3 of the toppings and wrap remaining 2 crusts separately in plastic wrap. Keep chilled in the refrigerator for one day. Or wrap tightly in foil (over plastic wrap) and freeze up to one month.

*Use a mandoline or sharp knife to slice the vegetables as thinly as possible.

*Be careful when blending the hot tomato sauce. Puree in batches, filling the blender no more than half full.

*If you have a pizza stone, use it for a crispier crust. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.

*Reheat any leftover slices on a baking sheet in a 350ºF oven until hot, about 10 minutes

Check the sidebar of the blog for more White House recipes.

*Top photo by AP; Air Force One photo courtesy Nation's Restaurant News; Leno photo courtesy NBC; pizza photo courtesy Evette Rios/The Chew. /Updated.