the Menu: What Do Shah Rukh Khan and Pizza Have in Common?

Like the famous SRK, pizza is a perfect chameleon-like dish that can adapt and transform to any situation. And it’s the perfect dish for a movie night.

menu-hero

The Times of India Film Awards (TOIFA) just wrapped up in Vancouver and it’s got me in a Bollywood mood. (Check out recaps of our full coverage of TOIFA.) In honour of the awards, I decided I’d catch up with some Bollywood movie-watching (first pick: Dil To Pagal Hai, a classic with my favourites Madhuri Dixit and Shahrukh Khan). Of course, I needed a movie-watching snack and it was easy to decide on what. When I think of Hindi movies and food, I think of pizza.

dil to pagal haiGrowing up, Friday nights were always family date nights, which entailed watching the latest Bollywood release and homemade pizza.  Friday night dinners were sacred in my childhood home, as it often the few times during our respective hectic weeks where we enjoyed a meal together.

We had the ritual down pat: my dad would pick up the movie at the local Indian grocery or movie store and my mom, my sister and I would get our pizza dinner ready.  My brother would help set our table — i.e. the family room coffee table. The pizzas were fresh out of the oven, drinks were distributed (milk was and still is my preferred choice of drink) and a variety of condiments were ready (my parents preferred lots of green chillies with their slices). We’d each settle into our regular spots on the couch or floor and queue the DVD player. We were ready for our regular appointment for a fun and casual night of glitzy escapism.

Inevitably, my dad would fall asleep halfway through the movie, I would get into a debate with my sister about some unrealistic scene that just played out, and we’d pause the movie around the 1.5 hour mark to grab dessert or warm up pizza slices for a sudden case of the munchies. For me it was the perfect way to spend a Friday night. Having moved out of my parents’ home and no longer having our standing family movie nights, I’m left with only fond memories of these gatherings.

Pizza was the dish we all agreed upon because it was easy to prepare and we could customize them. Pizza is a versatile universal food, liked by almost everyone, created in almost any way you like. The basic recipe of bread, sauce and cheese can be transformed and adapted to suit any taste. Here are some “shortcut” pizza recipes – the shortcut being using pita or naan bread in place of pizza dough. Using a flatbread helps cut the prep time quite a bit because you don’t need to fuss with fresh dough, and makes it easy to whip up these recipes on a weeknight.

Mushroom, Spinach and Onion Pizza

mushroom pizza2 whole wheat pitas
5-7 mushrooms, mix of cremini and button, finely sliced
2 handfuls of spinach, shredded
1/4 red onion, finely sliced
1/4 white onion, finely sliced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1 tsp garlic, finely minced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper chilli flakes (optional)
Olive oil

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 425F. Mix the tomato sauce with garlic, chilli flakes, salt and black pepper.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper place your pitas. Brush each pita lightly with olive oil. Top each pita with about 3 teaspoons of sauce and just shy of 1/4 cup of cheese (the remaining cheese will be added at the end). Evenly divide the remaining toppings on each pita, in this order: mushrooms, spinach, onion and thyme. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the pita is browned and crispy on the bottom.

 

Zucchini, Tomato, Onion and Herb Pesto Pizza

pesto pizza2 whole wheat pitas
1/2 cup of prepared arugula or basil pesto
1/2 zucchini, thinly sliced (use a mandolin if you have one)
1 plum tomato sliced, seeds removed
1/4 red onion, finely sliced
1/4 white onion, finely sliced
1 cup of Parmesan or Romano cheese, finely grated

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 425F. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper place your pitas. Top each pita with about 3 teaspoons of pesto and 1/2 cup of cheese. Evenly divide the remaining ingredients, in this order: zucchini, tomato and onions.

Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, when the pita is browned and crispy on the bottom.

 

 

Chicken, Onion and Red Pepper Pizza

chicken pizza2 whole wheat pitas
1 cup cooked chicken breast, shredded or finely sliced
1/4 red onion, finely sliced
1/4 white onion, finely sliced
1/2 red pepper, finely sliced
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1 tsp garlic, finely minced
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Pinch of red pepper chilli flakes (optional)
Olive oil

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to 425F. Mix the tomato sauce with garlic, chilli flakes, salt and black pepper.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper place your pitas. Brush each pita lightly with olive oil. Top each pita with about 3 teaspoons of sauce and 1/4 cup of cheese. Evenly divide the remaining toppings on each pita, in this order: chicken, red pepper and onion.

Bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the pita is browned and crispy on the bottom.

Tips:

  • Use parchment paper for easy clean-up. You can omit this step if you don’t have parchment paper. (Note that parchment and wax paper are NOT the same thing (I learned the hard way!)
  • For an added flavour kick, test out a variety of flavoured and spiced flatbreads as your pizza dough base – focaccia, olive bread, onion naan, whole wheat naan, etc.
  • The pizza sauce is a great place to add more subtle spice to your pizza. Think of how you make an Italian pasta dish or an Indian curry – match up your spices with your ingredients. For example, if you want to top your pizza with leftover curry chicken, add some garam masala to your tomato sauce.
  • Keep a pack of pita or naan as well as your choice of cheese in your freezer, and your favourite jar or canned tomato sauce in your pantry, so you’re always ready for last-minute dinners.
  • A pizza bar is great for group entertaining. Use a variety of flatbreads and naan, toppings and sauces. Pizzas can be baked in the oven or on a barbeque grill.

Photography: Pizza images by Naveen Atwal, Bollywood image by Naveen Girn