The wait at the mediocre, overpriced takeout pizza joint in the sleepy beach town where our extended family vacations is notoriously long. But with scarce desire for meal prep when the ocean awaits, one of us inevitably stands in line for those cardboard boxes of crust and goo.
This year, though, my stepdaughter Julia had a better idea. She picked up ready-made naan flatbreads from the island’s only grocery store, toasted them on the gas grill, topped them with bagged grated cheese, bottled sauce and tidbits from the fridge, and returned them to the grill just long enough to melt the cheese. This no-hassle feast rivaled some I’d had in pizzerias equipped with wood-burning ovens, and got me thinking about other short-cut possibilities I could try.
Lucky for me, a handy source of inspiration awaited back home: “The Big Book of Pizza: Foolproof Pies in Every Style” (Hearst Home, $25). This tip-filled, spiral-bound compilation of 75 favorite recipes from Food Network Magazine editors begins with a concise tutorial for making an all-purpose dough from scratch. A stone or steel is a great investment for pizza makers, they write, but a preheated upside-down baking sheet will also suffice.
Store-bought dough is presented as a viable alternative to homemade in many of the full pie recipes. Others are specifically designed for alternative ready-made foundations: flatbreads, tortillas, French bread, puff pastry, bagels and cauliflower crust. The creativity mostly lies in the topping combos, both classic (New York-style, Neapolitan) and unorthodox (Corned Beef and Cabbage Pizzas, Grilled Pizza with Peaches and Burrata, Jalapeno Popper Tortilla Pizzas).
In a recipe keeping with its heritage, naan is paired with tandoori chicken. I subbed the Indian flatbreads for the pocketless pitas called for in another recipe with a Mediterranean topping of tomatoes, olives and arugula, and they were well worthy of a repeat.
Flipping through these beautifully designed pages, it quickly becomes clear that the possibilities for mixing, matching and improvising know no end. You may never have to settle for mediocre takeout again.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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