Cooking an elaborate meal is something I don’t get to do very often, and not because there aren’t enough holidays, birthdays, or ends of long work-weeks to celebrate. It’s simply because of time—lack of it. An hour spent prepping something fresh and tasty is an hour spent not cleaning off my desk, not finishing that almost-overdue library book, and not walking the dog.
Enter the healthy-in-a-hurry meal. I don’t own a microwave, so there’s a limit to how quickly I can get food onto my plate and into my mouth, and besides, I’ve never been into prefab foods. Instead of relying on packaged products, I’ve developed a repertoire of fast, tasty, healthy meals that take very little time to prepare.
One of my favorites is pizza. All you need for the dough is yeast, water, sugar, flour, salt, and olive oil. The trick to getting it done fast is to activate the yeast as quickly as possible so it can begin doing its job: Making the dough rise, which ensures a light, fluffy crust. To do this, you’ll need to add sugar to the yeast, then add hot (but not boiling) water to kick-start the chemical reaction. Within two minutes, the mixture should begin bubbling, which means you’re in business. From there, add flour, salt, and olive oil.
Ever since discovering how simple it is to make a deluxe pie at home, the poor pizza-delivery guy has been down one faithful client. While the dough rises, I make a fast, garlicky spinach pesto, chop up some veggies—onions, peppers—and in no time, I’m in pizza-scarfing heaven.
Lickety-Split Pizza Dough
makes 1 thick pizza crust or 2 thin crusts
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1 Tbs. olive oil
1. In a stainless steel or ceramic bowl, combine yeast and sugar. Add 1 cup hot water (100 degrees) and let sit 2 minutes, or until
mixture begins to froth.
2. Add salt and flour, and mix with a fork until dough becomes firm. Knead in bowl for 1 minute, then form into a soft ball.
3. Pour oil into a second bowl, add dough, and roll in oil to coat.
4. Allow dough to rise for 15 minutes or until doubled in size, then punch down into another ball to incorporate oil.
5. For a thin crust, divide dough into two balls and press one into an oiled pie pan. Add sauce (tomato or pesto) and toppings of your choice (sliced peppers, onions, cooked potato, zucchini, tomatoes), then bake on the middle rack of a preheated, 500° oven 20 minutes, or until crust is golden-brown. For a thick crust, press dough into an oiled pie pan and bake for an additional 10 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes.