Light on the Cheese, and a Perfect Pizza

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I have a new toy!

    The other day, I picked up a pizza stone from my favorite kitchen shop in downtown Princeton, along with a book on making pizza. For me, there are two orgasmic experiences in this world, and the one that is safe to mention is the smell of fresh dough baking in the oven.

    I love pizza, but until I got the stone I had to severely limit the stuff in my diet. First, I have a high cholesterol count. Second, pizza combined with my meds is an invitation to audition as Macy’s next Santa. Third, being fat and jolly is an oxymoron. As the pounds pile on, you begin to feel sluggish, you lose self-esteem, and before you know it, you’re telling friends you have a chemical imbalance of the brain.
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    But now that I make my own pizza, the deal has changed. The difference between cooking at home and eating out is that I get to control the ingredients. That restaurant heart attack special, with a bit of smart at-home manipulation, can actually turn out to be quite healthy, or at least not put you in the hospital.

    I’ve done this with dozens of eats. Now I’m doing it with pizza. With pizza, cheese is the enemy. I’ve never experienced a slice where the stuff wasn’t piled on to the thickness of a mattress — a huge, thick layer of molten, golden, greasy goop. Yum!

    So here’s what I do. I make my pizza dough and let it rise at room temperature for an hour, then punch it down and let it rise again for 45 minutes. Next, I roll out the dough into a flat, circular shape and plop it on a pizza pan. I brush on a little olive oil, and make an executive decision whether to go with a traditional pizza or a gourmet one. The traditional ones are tomato sauce-based with mozzarella. The gourmet ones have things such as portobello mushrooms and goat cheese.

    Whichever way I go, the cardinal rule is to go light with the cheese. I buy the low-fat mozzarella and only sprinkle on about one-third the usual amount. To add a little bite, I shake on some Parmesan.

    My pizza stone sits in the bottom of my gas oven. I preheat the oven at 500 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the stone radiates heat like the surface of the sun. I place the food-laden pan directly on top, and 10 minutes later I have a perfect pizza.

    I will be the first to concede that the reduced cheese won’t win me any prizes at pizza contests. But I can assure you the result is bliss inducing. And, by being smart, I can now experience, for the first time in ages, the pleasure of having my cake – um, pie – and eating it, too.

    Buono appetito!

Published On: January 03, 2006