I know, the title sounds ridiculous. Healthy pizza and fries? That combo sounds like it fits more in the comfort food column than the healthy.
Let's start with the fries. I got a whole sweet potato, cut them into little fiddle sticks, tossed them with some olive oil, salt and a few fresh chop't Italian herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, basil) and...baked them. They come out colorful and nutritious. The herbs are packed with antioxidants, vitamin A, cancer preventing agents and the sweet potato is packed with calcium, iron, vitamin E and A. And not only that, they're delicious lending a sweet and salty flavor that everyone will enjoy. So instead of the regular limited nutrient potato, try some nutrient packed sweet potato fries. Don't eat them all for yoursef...give them to the kids too! I have a friend who comes over once in a while with some sweet potatoes to bake. I'm going to have to make these for her sometime. :)
American pizza vs the Italian pizza.
Italian foods are relatively simple, America's get's complicated. Let's take the American Pizza Hut deep. The pizzas are piled high with all the toppings across the board; sausage, ham, pepperoni, cheese, veggies and extra cheese all on a thick crust. Truly an American creation. "The more the better"
For the Italian pizza, let's go back to the authentic Italian culture to see the mystery of the "healthy" pizza. Take the simple and classic Margherita. Basil, tomato and mozzarella. Remember the courses appertivo, primi, secundi, dessert and coffee? Pizza was made as a primi portion and only one of the many small courses in a traditional Italian meal so pizza there is not as filling like Pizza Hut. Often, the pizza has little or no meat because the Italians usually serve meat in the "secundi" portion.
Fact corner: Did you know the Margherita is the national pizza of Italy?
In about 1889, Queen Margherita, accompanied by her husband, Umberto I, took an inspection tour of her Italian Kingdom. During her travels around Italy she saw many people, especially the peasants, eating this large, flat bread. Curious, the queen ordered her guards to bring her one of these Pizza breads. The Queen loved the bread and would eat it every time she was out amongst the people, which caused some consternation in Court circles. It was not seemly for a Queen to dine on peasant's food.
Never the less, the queen loved the bread and decided to take matters into her own hands. Summoning Chef Rafaelle Esposito from his pizzeria to the royal palace, the queen ordered him to bake a selection of pizzas for her pleasure
To honor the queen who was so beloved by her subjects, Rafaelle decided to make a very special pizza just for her. He baked a Pizza topped with tomatoes, Mozzarella Cheese, and fresh Basil (to represent the colors of the Italian flag: Red, white, and green). This became Queen Margherita's favorite pizza and when word got out that this was one of the queen's favorite foods, she became even more popular with the Italian people. She also started a culinary tradition, the Pizza Margherita, which lasts to this very day in Naples and has now spread throughout the world.
So in keeping with the simplicity of Italian pizza, I made the Sorrentina Pizza from Trattoria de Sorrentina which was mentioned in my previous post. It had three toppings: arugula, cherry tomatoes and prosciutto. It was a white pizza so no tomato sauce. (Picture is of restaurant's pizza)
Now I could tell you a lot about prosciutto since my curiousity has led me to read a book on them, but I'll just give you the most important things. You can find prosciutto from a charcuterie (deli) and it's simply a dry-cured ham. There are a few different kinds, but Prosciutto de Parma is the tastier one.
So where did prosciutto come from? [No, stay with me! It's interesting. :)]
A long time ago before the Italians had refrigeration, they needed meat to last through the whole year. So on the day they butchered a pig, they had some fresh meat as a meal for energy to do the rest of the preparations with the pig which were:
1. Take all the big cuts and dry-age them
2. Take the head parts and chop them up to make a "head cheese". ie ears, snout
3. Save the big pieces of fat or lardo for cooking and flavoring foods
4. Grind the tiny pieces of meat and fat leftover and case them into the intestines to make sausage (origins of sausage)
They Italians found a system of salting and drying meat that kills bacteria and prolongs the life of the meat. Let's take, for example, one of the big cuts of meat from the leg. They would be treated with salt and dry-hung for months. That would be PROSCIUTTO. It's not cooked, but perfectly safe to eat. :)
Since we're able to get fresh meats from our local store today, there's no need for prosciutto anymore, but prosciutto continues to stick around not out of necessity , but for that signature salty and sweet taste. So with that, I present a Sorrentina Pizza in our home with all it's nutritional and prosciutto glory.
*Angel choir singing*