Pizza alla ‘Greenwich’

I’m off today, and today’s my Friday. Despite longing for this much awaited break, I still woke up very early this morning after having a long and tiring week before me.  I also didn’t eat so well last night. I wanted something a bit heavier, but just ate some Rice and Chinese Broccoli so that I could hit the sack immediately and could grab some much needed shut-eye. For a long day like yesterday, a  frozen pizza would have been a good treat.  It’s very filling and it really doesn’t take long to cook in the oven.  I should have had one in my freezer for something or some night like this one.

Anyway, there are countless pizza joints here in Toronto.  Almost everybody has joined the bandwagon to have a slice of the big and growing market in the city with the burgeoning population in the city and the suburbs brought about by emigration. Even convenience stores  jumped in; preparing their own pizza slice and pop combination for some change to cater to two Junior High schools located in my area and to students who really do not have money to spare for lunch. There are about five to six pizza joints in and around my block, and they are open late and sometimes round the clock.  Abundant as they may seem, I still don’t trust the cooks who prepare them nor the kitchen from which these pies were baked. Call it being cautious and knowledgeable about kitchen back door operations.  I would, however, eat a frozen pizza bought from the grocery shelves as made by a fully sanitized factory with ISO standards and the like.

A pizza is pizza. It mainly consists of the dough (handmade or frozen), the pizza sauce (fresh or canned), choice of cheese (cheap or expensive types), the toppings, herbs and the chosen seasonings. Pizza ‘Chefs,’ as they call them here, play around on these ingredients, and they know how to make it dirt cheap and affordable to the young crowd it caters to.

I had a try making pizzas a couple of years ago when I worked in a cafeteria. It was easy to assemble for as long as the ingredients were prepared beforehand. Unfortunately, the ‘Chef’ who I had worked with at that time was a total jerk and after six months in that kitchen, I left. Employee treatment was dissatisfying and the place was highly politicized with backstabbing staff who didn’t seem to care about anything else but themselves.  And they were just about five of them in that kitchen!  I worked as a temp despite a promise of being offered a regular job thereafter. I didn’t last.   There was also no point moving on with them. I couldn’t deal directly with my boss, and in my case, the chef, who was surprisingly scared of being burned or cut at work.  However, he had his clout working for him. Can’t do anything with that.

Besides Shakey’s, which I know most of those living in the Northern American part of world miss, there’s also the very popular Greenwich Pizza. Before it grew in leaps and bounds, it was a hole in the wall pizza joint like many of those I see here in Toronto. It served the best Personal Pizza at a very affordable price and very appropriate for a HS student like me. My ‘barkada’ or close friends would usually visit one of the very few branches at the Greenbelt Mall and grabbed a Personal Pizza for only a few pesos.  The ambience was very country style and it was dark and quite unimpressive as it is now. Menu list was basic, but the dough was amazingly crunchy when served hot and well-d0ne. When combined with the chosen toppings and the sweet and peppery sauce it was made with, the pie is elevated to the next level.   It stood out above all else when hot sauce was drizzled from the tip of the slice up to the other end of the crust. I did that. I saw a friend of mine and copied his ways. It was extremely hot, but I ate it anyway. And, I enjoyed each bite at a time.  That was definitely the finest pinoy pizza for you. Back then, olive oil and herbs were not in my dictionary yet. I was young and fastfood was food.

Based on a request by a very good friend of mine living in Houston, I’ve tried to recreate the flavour and the aroma of that sweet and peppery tasting pizza.  The pizza sauce and the crunchy and crispy dough stood out on the first bite. Add to that the unique pinoy hot sauce and what you have is an overload of  pizza goodness; and at a very good price at that.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Thin Slice Pizza Dough
  • 1 Can Pizza Sauce
  • 140g Grated Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 2-3 Slices of  Black Forest Ham, diced
  • 1/4 of Green Pepper, diced
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Chopped Red Onion, diced
  • 3 Cloves finely chopped crushed Garlic
  • 2 tsps. Ground Black Pepper
  • 3 Tbsps. Brown Sugar

Saute Onion until it caramalizes, and add the finely chopped garlic, ground black pepper, brown sugar and the pizza sauce.

Add the Oregano and a little water to help adjust the consistency of the sauce. Continue stirring and season to taste.

Let the sauce cool down and puree using a blender or an  immersion blender.

Ladle the sauce on the dough, beginning from the centre and spreading it through close to the edge. Add more sauce if necessary. Do the same with the cheese.

Add the diced Black Forest Ham and Green Pepper, and shove the pie in a 350’C preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the dough turns  crunchy and crispy.

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