Healthy Pizza and Wine

Summer 2009 CSANews Issue 71  |  Posted date : Jul 21, 2009.Back to list

I love barbecues, and I crave pizza.  So, I like to combine this cooking method and comfort food into one course.  Barbecued pizza can be downright healthy, can aid you in keeping the kitchen cool on hot and humid evenings and can make for easy cleanup. 

The secret to a heart-smart barbecued pizza is to use a whole wheat thin crust, fresh and local produce and whey-based cheeses.  I use whole wheat tortilla shells for my crusts. 

Have you ever heard the term "curds and whey"?  During the cheese-making process, an enzyme is added to the heated milk, starting the curdling process.  The fat-soluble parts of the milk begin to clump together, floating in its watery whey.  The whey is drained off the curds.  The curds are made into a variety of fatty products, while the whey is used to produce fresh cheeses with generally lower fat, more moisture and less sodium.  Examples of whey cheeses are feta, chevre, farmer's cheese and Boursin, to name a few.   

Fresh cheeses can add loads of flavour to a barbecued pizza.  How about an oregano pesto whole wheat pizza with artichoke hearts, black olives and chevre? Or a basil pesto whole wheat pizza with wild mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, topped with Boursin? A favourite of mine is white bean and garlic whole wheat pizza with fresh tomatoes, onions, green olives, spinach and chevre.  The list of healthy and harmonious combinations is endless.

There are three secrets to making a fabulous barbecued pizza.  Be sure to coat the perforated pizza tray with heart-smart margarine.  This makes the bottom of the crust golden and crunchy and sturdy enough to hold a variety of heavier ingredients.  Second, use low or indirect heat on the grill.  And last, refrain from walking away from the barbecuing pizza!  You must watch it carefully to keep the crust from burning. 

Wine is certainly healthy as well.  All wine, when consumed in moderation with food, helps to reduce stress.  Red wine is high in antioxidants. 

The fabulous thing about pairing wine to pizza is that everything goes!  Pizza is a casual dish and, therefore, works well with a casual wine.  In other words, it would be quite appropriate to serve an easy-drinking white or red in the $10 to $15.00 range.  Appropriateness is really key.  It would be silly to serve a $50 to $100 rare vintage with something as simple as barbecued pizza, unless your intent is that the wine takes centre stage.  But even so, pizza would not do justice to a wine of this calibre. 

The simplest approach is to stick to pairing wine to the cheese topping.  After all, this is often the most highly flavourful ingredient on the pizza, save for anchovies. 

Pizza topped with goat, feta or Boursin is tangy and so complements a tangy and crisp, dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc. 

Pizzas highlighting fresh fruit can also be healthy and flavourful.  Chunks of fresh pineapple contrast nicely with goat cheese on Hawaiian pizza.  The sweetness of pineapple calls for a white wine with a hint of sweetness, such as semi-sweet Riesling or Gewürztraminer, or a rosé with a hint of sweetness to match.  Dry whites or reds would taste too tart alongside this pizza style.

Mexican pizza with a salsa base is often spicy and so also complements semi-sweet whites and rosés. 

Traditional pizza with a roasted tomato base and partly skimmed mozzarella topping goes nicely with a full-bodied, barrel-fermented Chardonnay.  The wine's primary building block of fattiness (big mouth feel and oily texture) works nicely with this creamy textured cheese, while its toasty notes complement the roasted tomato.  The wine's good acidity also balances the acidity in the tomatoes. 

You can still create a healthy barbecued pizza using blue cheese, one that partners well with red wine.  Use low-fat blue cheese salad dressing as the base ingredient for your pizza.  Add toppings, such as chicken, roasted garlic and rosemary.  Pizza featuring blue cheese requires a red wine with enough flavour to match.  A medium-bodied red, such as Merlot, partners well.  Merlot has enough body and flavour to stand up to the soft flavour of the blue cheese dressing, but is not so full-bodied that it dominates the other flavours in this pizza. 

Goat cheese also works well with the earthy character of quality Pinot Noir.  Add to this a topping combination of rosemary, spinach and garlic, and you'll have a barbecued pizza-and-wine marriage made in heaven. 

What about pizza heavy in chorizo sausage, pepperoni, steak and cheddar?  In this case, pull out your Cabs and plan to walk an extra mile the next day.  Meat and cheese are both heavy and so require a big red wine for balance.  Try Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pizza can be so casual that almost any wine will do.  And, as I've always claimed, the only rule you need to follow is this …make sure that you get the glass to your lips! 

White Bean Whole Wheat Pizza with Spinach and Chevre
Serves four
  • 4 whole wheat tortilla shells
  • 1 cup cannelloni white beans, rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • ¼ cup heart-smart oil of choice
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced 
  • 1/4 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups baby spinach, steamed
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 to 6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 8 large, stuffed green olives sliced
In a food processor or blender, add beans, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. 
Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Butter bottom of tortilla shell and set on perforated pizza pan.  Spread the tortilla shell with bean purée.  Top with tomatoes, onion and spinach.  Sprinkle with rosemary and dot with goat cheese.  Set pizza (in tray) on prepared grill (low heat or indirect heat).  Close top and grill, watching carefully, for 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove pizza when bottom is golden and cheese is melted.  Repeat using remainder of ingredients for second tortilla pizza.

Wine Suggestion: Sauvignon Blanc

The saltiness of olives, bitterness of white beans and garlic and tanginess of fresh tomatoes and chevre call for a white wine with crisp acidity.  Sauvignon Blanc is ideal.

Shari Darling is an award-winning and bestselling cookbook author. Her products are available at www.orgasmicculinarycreations.com




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