Monday, April 30, 2012

Quick Bites: English Muffin Pizza

It's a happy day when I find I have all the ingredients for English muffin pizzas -- some whole wheat muffins, the dregs of spaghetti sauce, and mozzarella cheese. They work as a breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner, and can be whipped up in no time flat.

This is a recipe that has never died, and it’s easy to see why. To very loosely paraphrase Ryan Gosling (yes, really): Show me a kid who doesn’t like pizza, and I’ll show you a liar. (He was talking about Emma Stone, but still: She probably likes pizza, too.)

This version comes courtesy of Family Circle magazine, specifically the April 5, 1977 issue. Which brings me to an obvious fact of my homemade cookbook: I was culling some recipes from a collection that Mom had already clipped. (While I may have always been ahead of my time, I wasn’t dexterous enough with scissors at the tender age of three to have cut this one myself.) Still, I saw fit to include it in my own collection at some point.

This slightly classier version of my everyday standard calls for fresh tomato, onion and garlic, and again, that vague “mozzarella cheese slice” we became acquainted with making Stuffed Beefaroni Peppers. Is this a process mozzarella slice they’re calling for? Did that even exist in 1977? The variety of sizes cut by a variety of people has got to be amazing. Additionally, for a recipe proudly touting it “Makes 1 serving at 220 calories,” you’d think accuracy might be a bit more important.

It strikes me how almost quaint this recipe is – there are no speedy shortcuts, like using prepared pasta or pizza sauce, or nuking it in the microwave to melt the cheese. Instead, you’re asked to layer the fresh ingredients and take your time while they bake together in a 400-degree oven. I used the time to peruse the other recipes on the original page – Soy-Flour Waffles, Rice Pulao and yet another version of Stuffed Green Peppers (this time filled with pinto beans and jack cheese). Since all have their calorie counts neatly listed (and none of them more than 350 a serving) and have more than a whiff of health about them, I wonder if the headline was something like “Slim Down for Swimsuit Season!”

As my stomach growled, I assembled the simple ingredients and popped the topped muffins in the oven. Fifteen minutes seems an eternity for those of us raised on the microwave. But the results were astonishing – the muffins became crisp on the underside and chewy in between – just like “real” pizza dough. The tomato, garlic and onion covered by a coat of gooey mozzarella. I’m not used to spending so long on a “lite” lunch for one, but this is a keeper.

Warning: I may be able to fit into my swimsuit after eating this lunch, but with my garlic/onion breath, nobody’s going to want to come to the beach with me. Take the time to brush your teeth or chew gum (or both) after indulging. Please.

English Muffin Pizza
Makes 1 serving at 220 calories.
1 English muffin, split, slightly toasted
4 slices tomato
2 teaspoons finely chopped onion
¼ teaspoon finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
4 slices mozzarella cheese
2 pinches leaf basil
2 pinches leaf oregano
2 pinches hot dried red pepper (optional)

Place English muffin halves on baking dish. Place 2 tomato slices on top of each muffin. Combine onion, garlic and salt; sprinkle over tomato slices. Place cheese slices on top; sprinkle with basil, oregano and red pepper. Bake at 400-degrees for approximately 15 minutes until cheese is melted and browned.


·      I used 3T. grated mozzarella (part-skim, low-moisture) divided over the two muffin halves instead of the called-for “mozzarella cheese slice.”
·      The microwave may work in a pinch, but you’ll trade mushiness for speed. So pop ‘em in the oven and put your feet up, or do the dishes, or call your mother: You’ll be glad you did.

Why Don’t You …
·      Make it a point to whip this up during tomato season – garden-fresh tomatoes would take this over the top.
·      Conversely, use up your leftover pizza or pasta sauce to clean out the fridge and save some money.
·      Use the broiler to brown the cheese at the end of the cooking time – or finish your micro-cooked version under the broiler.
·      Experiment with other tops and bottoms – pepperoni slices, Canadian bacon, olives, on extra-crispy, raisin, high fiber    the list, like a pizzeria menu itself, is endless.

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