Balsamic-Dressed Salad Pizza with Tempeh Bacon & Tomato
Long ago, pizza was very plain and boring; kind of like my taste buds. Then, I opened myself up to the flavors of the globe. Armed by the Chicago food scene and an adventure seeking palate, I followed my (then) boyfriend (now husband) into the unknown. Since he has an Italian family, one of the first places he took me too was a "real" pizza place; a true Naples, Italy inspired approach to pizza. Perusing the menu, I saw what appeared to be a salad-topped pizza. I simply adore salad and pressed forward in ordering this curiosity hoping that my pizza salad dreams came true. In short, they did!
Now, in researching this blog, it turns out salad pizza is a "pizza trend" in 2021 as Americans are looking for (hopefully) better ways to eat and maintain their bodies. It probably doesn't surprise you that polling data shows the most popular pizza toppings in the U.S. gravitate towards meats (pepperoni and sausage). It's probably equally unsurprising that vegetables do not score very high on the "most liked" pizza topping list either. Which is a shame because there is SO much flavor and textures to be found in a vegetable forward pizza. Especially with a salad topped pizza as there is also a lovely temperature contrast to the hot and bubbly pizza dough and the cold and crisp salad topping.
Sustainability Spotlight: As the clock winds down on 2021, the food service industry continues to be stressed from operational limitations, capacity caps, worker shortages, and supply chain delays. The pandemic has subsided, but we have not declared victory and consumers are eating (more than ever) with high expectations on quality of food and sustainability practices. Those practices include reducing food waste, and certainly have brought single-use plastics to the forefront of our concerns.
What hasn't been largely demanded is the use of per or polyfluoronated substances (PFAs) in the food industry on their single-use papers and cardboards. PFAs are collectively a group of substances developed and used widely for consumer products for their water, fire and oil (grease) resistance. These substances are in our bodies, our waters, and do not degrade (i.e. - break down naturally in our environment). They have been linked to various cancers and other chronic diseases affecting our population materially. Read more about these substances and the issues in my Informed Choices: PFAS blog. Specifically, PFAs are used in plastic food wrappings, and (as it relates to this recipe) pizza boxes.
Pizzas have oils from the dairy and meat toppings; these products when warm exude pools of greasy yellow-orange liquid that coats the cardboard boxes used for pizza carry-out or delivery. The PFAs treated cardboard box doesn't "goop" all over you, your car, your table, or the delivery person because the oils are blocked from full absorption into / through the paper from the chemicals that were applied to the cardboard during the manufacturing process; PFAs. I assume at this point, you read my Informed Choices: PFAS blog which gives you a great overview of why PFAs touching your food, and you consuming that food is a problem. The boxes are also thrown away (can't be recycled when it's "contaminated" with absorbed oils) which contributes to the opportunity for PFAs to enter our waterways through leachate (the liquid from landfilled organic and inorganic materials) via sanitary landfills.
One way for you to lead the charge on sustainability is to avoid pizza chains and make this (or really any other) simple pizza at home. A few tips and tricks will get you a very similar pizza; not least of which is to broil your pizza at the end! The broil is what gets the cheese bubbly, browned and super stretchy; all that loveliness you want from the chain store pizza carry out or delivery. If we avoid the contributors to the sustainability issues we face, those companies will change their approach. Find better ways to get you that hot and ready pizza without using substances that harm you and the planet. In the meantime, chow down on your homemade pizza knowing you are helping to save the world today for a better tomorrow.
1 lb. pizza dough - I used Fleishman's Pizza Crust Yeast (takes only ~15 min; no rise time needed) and follow directions on the back subbing 1/2 of the flour for whole wheat. It makes for a flat rustic crust (which I prefer)
3-4 garlic cloves (thinly sliced - level 1 on a handheld mandoline)
1/2 tsp smoked pepper flakes (or regular if you can't find smoked - it enhances the flavor though)
1/2 cup tomato (marinara) sauce
4-5 strips vegan bacon (I used Sweet Earth)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (quartered)
~3/4 cup almond mozzarella cheese (shredded; I buy the "block" and do it myself)
1 very large handful baby arugula & spinach mix
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of salt & black pepper
Prepare your pizza dough by following package directions (see note above in Ingredients on brand / time); roll out into a circle and place directly on a pizza pan (I use one with air holes to help evenly bake my pizza crust. You may want to use cornmeal and / or parchment paper if you are using a different shape / pan). Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F
Heat a medium skillet over M-H heat and add your tempeh bacon slices. Cook ~3 minutes on each side to a deep color and crisped exterior. Remove from pan and set aside to cool slightly so you can "crumble" onto your pizza.
While your bacon is cooling, spread marinara sauce evenly over the pizza crust, sprinkle with thinly sliced garlic and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes.
Next, add your cherry tomatoes in an even layer, crumble the bacon over the pizza and cover evenly with the mozzarella shreds.
Slide pizza into the oven and bake for ~17-19 minutes until crust is done / cheese has melted. I usually switch over my oven to broil on High (without removing the pizza) for the last 3-4 minutes of the cook time to brown and bubble the cheese.
While your pizza is baking, make your salad mix by combining the olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper in a medium bowl. Toss in greens and stir to coat all leaves.
Once your pizza is done baking, remove from the oven and top evenly with your prepared salad.
Cut into wedges (or squares) and serve with some simple sliced fresh fruit.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie