Finals Week Dinner Challenge: Quick Naan Pizza
90 term papers and 90 final exams. That’s what I’m faced with for a few days. And since Will is on end-of-calendar-year rush of business trips, the entirety of doggie care is left solely to me. Our condo looks like a war-zone with papers, and exams, and junk mail, and envelopes strewn all around; and our refrigerator is rapidly depleting itself of anything remotely resembling “fresh” produce. I really hope no one decides to drop in for a visit!
The other day, I probed the contents of the refrigerator for something to sustain myself while generating exam questions. Just when I was about to opt for carry out—but begrudging that trip which would cost me extra 20 minutes and ashamed enough of my plight that I did not want to get food delivered—I decided to play a little game with myself and to treat my mission as a dinner challenge. What, amongst the desiccated remains of the fridge, could serve to produce a meal under 20 minutes?
Once I remembered that I had a store-bought “Stonefire Tandoori Naan” (which advertises itself as an “authentic” flatbread) in the freezer, everything clicked into place. I remembered being twelve years-old and raiding the fridge for a lunchtime snack. Out came a slice of bread, a jar of Ragu, and a slice of American cheese which got toasted under the broiler for “pizza.” It wasn’t the greatest, but it did hit the spot. So why not now when I have slightly better ingredients—well, usually—to play with?
So I turned the oven to preheat to 400 degrees and brought the naan out to defrost while I gathered everything else.
If I had pizza sauce, I would have used it. If I had extra 20 minutes, I could have made some good pizza sauce (by simmering and reducing a can of chopped tomatoes, a minced clove of garlic and some parsley, and 4 tablespoons of olive oil). Lacking either, I opened a jar of ready-made pasta sauce. At least it was Mario Batali’s Cherry Tomato Marinara, made from “fresh ingredients.”
It’s been decades since I ate fake yellow cheese that came in individually wrapped slices, and I knew that our refrigerator usually has fresh buffalo mozzarella. (I am a cheese fiend and have to have some sense of decorum, even during finals week!) The “Best if used by” date had long passed, but since the tub was not opened, I decided the date was just “recommended.” Of course, you can use regular mozzarella—or most other kinds of cheese.
Luckily, I was able to salvage a few leaves of rapidly-darkening basil. (Otherwise, you can use any other dried or fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, “Italian Seasoning,” or just parsley.)
Because it’s so thin, the naan should be mostly defrosted by the time you got all your ingredients together and sliced or shredded your mozzarella. Spoon some sauce—of whatever you decided to use—and spread on the naan. You want a fairly thin covering since you don’t want to overdo the sauce and result in a soggy mess. Then place slices of cheese on top—or sprinkle shredded cheese—of the sauce, and then tear up some basil leaves over the cheese and sauce. (Alternatively, if your basil is in good shape, you might just want to tear up leaves over the pizza after it's baked.) Lightly salt and pepper the pizza before putting it in the oven on a pizza screen—for ventilation.
Check after about 8-10 minutes. If the cheese looks mostly melted but not browned, turn on the broiler function. In about 2 minutes, the cheese should be to the consistency and appearance that you want. After you remove from the oven, you might drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil as a final Italian flourish—and to convince yourself that you are no longer twelve.
Now, back to grading.