Pizza Party!

The front page of the New York Times Food section last week was “Hot from the freezer Aisle”, all about how Artisan pizzerias are striving to produce store-bought pies that taste delicious. These aren’t your typical Tombstone, DiGiorno or Red Baron pizzas, but pizzas that are wood-fired and made with Italian and organic ingredients.

Sales of frozen food surged during the Pandemic, according to research by marketing firms. There was a similar article about the popularity of frozen pizzas in the newsletter Taste, so it’s definitely a trend. The traditional pizzas in the freezer section made by industry giants like Nestle, are filled with additives, dough conditioners and processed cheeses. The new Artisan pizzas are trying to elevate the frozen pizza market by using slow-rise dough and quality ingredients.

I’m loving my Ooni Pizza Oven. The one we made last Monday was BBQ Pizza. I pulled some pulled pork out of the freezer and went to work. The base on the Publix pizza dough was barbeque sauce. I then piled on the pulled pork, some corn kernels, sliced red onion and jalapenos and sprinkled the top with Cheddar Cheese. It was a very hearty, sweet (bbq sauce) and savory pizza we both enjoyed.

Inspired by the Lunar New Year (still going on, btw) I made a Peanutty Dumpling Salad for lunch that day. It was based on a recipe in Real Simple; I used Trader Joe’s Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons for the dumplings and their Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette for the dressing, instead of making it from scratch. Other than steaming the dumplings, it was super simple- chopping carrots into matchsticks, chopping peanuts, scallions and thawing out frozen edamame.

I love dumplings! Like Will Rogers- I never met a dumpling I didn’t like- but just dumplings aren’t a very well-rounded lunch, so adding them to a salad is genius. Now I am getting my fill of fiber and vegetables, plus the little treat of the dumplings and, I’m not starving an hour later. The dumplings are only 50 calories for 4 (I used 5) and the dressing is 70 calories for two tablespoons.

A sad zucchini was lurking in my vegetable drawer, so I sliced it into batons, dipped it in whipped egg whites with garlic powder and dredged them in Italian bread crumbs. Sprayed with olive oil spray (also Trader Joe’s) I put the zucchini sticks in the air fryer for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees. I served them with a Ranch dressing and Marinara Sauce and they were a perfect savory treat to eat with a glass of wine before dinner Tuesday night.

There was an article in The Miami Herald that day about how how Crust restaurant on the Miami River serves THE best Chicken Parmesan in the United States. Their secret is using chicken tenders, instead of breasts and panko, instead of regular bread crumbs for more crunch. I tried the chicken tender idea, but mixed panko with Italian bread crumbs and cooked the chicken partway in the Air Fryer, instead of pan frying it.

A note on the Air Fryer. I am pretty much against gadgets in the kitchen, so was very reluctant to try the Air Fryer, plus I’m running out of counter space! But, I have to say, the Air Fryer really lives up to the hype, giving you crunchy food without the calories of frying. It’s infinitely better than trying to “fry” food in the regular oven, probably because of the basket it sits in, where the heat can circulate around the food. And our air fryer is part of our toaster over, so it’s not taking up more space.

I put the cooked chicken tenders in a greased casserole dish and topped it with sauce, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves. It went into the oven at 350 until the cheese melted. My secret was using my grandmother’s Pasta Sauce., leftover from Spaghetti Sunday. I served it with a simple salad. My Chicken Parm was good, but not fantastic, so I would like to try Crust, which also serves other Italian dishes like Beef and Turkey Meatballs, Pasta Dishes and Pizza. According to Foodie in Miami’s dining spy (Tami), Crust is coming soon to South Miami on Sunset Drive.

There’s another Krust we tried in the Keys that John and Kelley had been raving about. It’s truly a Mom and Pop restaurant, with a Miami-based couple that drive up to Tavernier each day to make fresh, Chicago-style pizza. Michelle Bernstein and the pizza reviewer Stoole Presidente (Dave Portnoy) both posted on their Instagrams about Krust, so I wanted to see if it lived up to the hype.

It did! A cozy spot in an old building, the interior was decorated with colorful graffiti; it had a well-lit interior and chill atmosphere. The pop was helming the oven, the mom taking our order at the counter. John got the Classic, we ordered Pepperoni with Hot Honey and a Greek Salad. The salad was made with arugula instead of the traditional iceberg and was enough to share, which we did.

The difference in Chicago-style Pizza is it’s cooked in a metal pan, so the cheese from the top melts down into the edges of the pizza, making for a cheesy, crunchy edge. The crust itself is fluffy and airy, but not at all heavy. The Classic had just tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. It was very good, but I really loved the Pepperoni with Hot Honey- little pepperoni saucers with oil puddled inside; the heat and sweetness of the honey really made for an interesting combination that exploded in your mouth. Fresh basil leaves and grated Parmesan were sprinkled on top.

I will definitely be back to Krust. The only downside to this restaurant is that it closes at 6 p.m. (so the couple can get back home to their kids), so you can’t eat here for dinner or get take-out. The other downside is, sometimes they sell out. This happened Saturday after we left. They are closed Monday and Tuesday; it has five stars on Yelp.

Saturday night we got treated to delicious Stone Crabs for dinner at John and Kelley’s. We started with cocktails and John’s famous Conch Fritters. The sides were Joe’s Tomatoes, Joe’s Cole Slaw, Hash Browns and, of course, Joe’s Mustard Sauce and melted butter. Dessert was Key Lime Pie from Publix. Oh! Krust also sells pies. The husband makes the pizza, the wife the pies. Anyway, we watched The Fabelmans, the latest movie by Steven Spielberg about his family, after dinner.

It was a very relaxing weekend and nice to be down in the Keys, since our place has been rented for three months. Since we’re not running down to the Keys every weekend, it’s given us the opportunity to spend time fixing things up around the house, as well as cleaning up the yard, which desperately needs it. And, I can also finish projects, like my Vision Board, which I’ve yet to complete.

I think I’ll put Pizza Party on it, as I think that would be a really fun Dinner Party idea. I will get dough and a bunch of toppings. Everyone gets to make their own pizza and then Papa Zeke will cook it in our Ooni Pizza Oven. Mama Gina will make the salad and desserts and all will be well. I can see it now- our own Mom and Pop pizza shop at Casa Guilford.

Up Next: Superbowl Corn Dip

Published by gleeguilford

Born and raised in Miami, the daughter of a pilot and stay-at-home Mom, I love food in all forms. My great grandfather opened the first Italian restaurant in Miami in the 20's, The Boathouse on the Miami river. I love exploring my heritage and linking food and recipes to personal stories. I've been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love and wrote restaurant reviews and news as the Miami Dining Examiner for three years. I love exploring Miami's latest hot spots, hole in the walls and institutions. I'm always looking for innovative ways to use the plethora of tropical fruits and vegetables South Florida offers, especially from my own garden.

One thought on “Pizza Party!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: