June 25, 2008

Lately I just can't eat enough veggie pizzas and grilled flat breads. Perfect on a patio, paired with a cold beer or chilled glass of white wine, this is one meal that could please nearly anyone.

I was pondering the pizza while on vacation in northern California, where it is entirely appropriate -- nay, practically mandatory -- to have a glass of Napa Valley Chardonnay at lunch, with your alfresco meal, while people-watching from a sidewalk cafe. This particular pizza came adorned with sundried tomatoes and fresh leeks.

Now, it had never occurred to me to put leeks on a pizza. But the combination was surprisingly tasty. (Disclaimer: I realize leeks are not in peak season now. They're best in the spring and fall, though you can find them year-round in supermarkets.) The leeks got me thinking about the beauty of pizza: if you've got a good crust and a quality sauce, you can top it with just about anything and it will taste wonderful. Pack your pie with fresh veggies and you have a healthful meal that reinvents itself with each season.

I make pizza frequently at home, but I have a confession: I use pre-made, store-bought crusts. I'm not much of a baker, and anything requiring the kneading of dough intimidates me. (On the other hand, the pre-made crust does make this a superfast meal, ready in about 15 minutes.) But I think I may be ready to graduate to making my own pizza dough from scratch.

I'm going to start with what I learned from our pizza primer, which shows how to make pizza in 5 easy steps. Check it out to find recipes for basic pizza dough, sauce, and gourmet combinations of healthful toppings. If all goes well, I might host a pizza party and try rustic pizzas cooked on the grill. (Quick Tip: You can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it for up to two weeks). For more pizza ideas, check out our staff's favorite recipes.

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