A world outside of mozzarella & pepperoni

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Posted by Antonio Tahhan

A simple google search for kid-friendly recipes is scary. What shows up, in fact, is a harrowing slew of butter-saturated, sugar-filled recipes written with a complete disregard for health. I discovered this last week because I was looking for just that - simple recipes that I can make with kids.

My friend Beth invited me to cook in front of a class of kindergarten students. Her son is in the class and they were looking for someone to do a cooking demo for the kids' end of the year party - I was flattered that they thought of me and happily accepted.

I took this as my tiny opportunity to make a difference in the way these kids looked at food. While this was not the time to introduce them to the delicate flavors of perfectly-seared scallops or steak tartare, I wanted to cook with them something they're familiar with, but probably never had before. I decided to let them make their own pizzas. Instead of just mozzarella and pepperoni though, I brought with me a ton of different vegetables and all sorts of sauces for them to experiment with. Well-aware of the fact that the kids will have a short attention span that rivals mine, I also brought with me my pizza paddle and pizza stone so they could take turns sliding their pizzas into the oven.

This is my first article for The Daily Tiffin, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Inspired by my pizza event last week and the smoldering heat of the summer, I decided to make a lemon-infused, goat ricotta, white pizza topped with thinly sliced zucchini. The flavors are light, refreshing, clean - perfect for the hot summer days ahead.

Count them - four ingredients; five if you include the extra virgin olive oil. This means no skimping on ingredients! I tried this same pizza with regular ricotta and it doesn't work. The wow factor just wasn't there. If you absolutely cannot find goat-milk ricotta, however, not to worry. Mix a semi-firm chevre (like Spanish Capricho de Cabra) with some good quality, fresh ricotta and you'll get a similar result. Like I said, it won't be spot-on, but you'll get pretty darn close.

The lemon zest in the ricotta serves two purposes. Not only does it heighten the flavors of the goat cheese, but it also gives the pizza a clean, crisp flavor. If you can get organic lemons, I recommend them because their zest tends to be more flavorful than their non-organic buddies.

Zucchini in general has lots of moisture and moisture is the kryptonite, so to speak, of pizza. To remove some of this excess moisture you'll want to thinly slice the zucchini (preferably with a mandoline) and fan the slices out on a plate so they're not on top of each other. Then season the slices with salt and pepper and the salt will start to break down the cell walls of the zucchini, and thus allowing it to give up some of that moisture. Soak it up with a paper towel and your ready to roll.

The kids were shocked when I hinted to the idea of a pizza without red sauce. Their facial expressions were absolutely priceless. And although not many ventured down this path, I feel like those that did may have a bright culinary future ahead of them.


  • 24 oz. pizza dough

  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 lb goat milk ricotta

  • zest of 1-2 lemons

  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced

  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting Them all Together:

  1. Zest the lemon(s) and stir the zest into the goat ricotta

  2. Thinly slice the zucchini (preferably with a mandoline), fan out on a plate, season with salt and pepper, and cover with a paper towel to soak up some of the moisture.

  3. Stretch pizza dough to approx 1/8" thickness - this pizza is better thin than thick - and brush a thin coat of olive oil over the top.

  4. Spread the goat cheese mixture over the top and top with the thin slices of zucchini.

  5. Preferably bake on a hot (550 degrees F) pizza stone for 5-7 minutes or until the crust gets golden brown.

This is why everyone should invest in a pizza stone:

This post was written by Tony

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this is just perfect tony! welcome to the DT and you join us with a bang. first i love the fact that you were able to cook at the kindergarten. it's important to show kids that healthy food is not "bad" for them and can be fun! second you are my hero - this pizza would have me eating out of your hands too!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
June 29, 2009 at 9:57:00 AM GMT+2  

I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and I wish I was in that kindergarten class!

Nupur said...
June 29, 2009 at 12:49:00 PM GMT+2  

great post, and great recipe with wonderful pictures!

Foodfreak said...
June 30, 2009 at 5:40:00 PM GMT+2  

Welcome to DT, Tony! I love how you took pizza to new heights - simple but so flavorful. This is a pizza we will be trying at home, soon. On a pizza stone, yes!

July 1, 2009 at 1:14:00 AM GMT+2  

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