On Campus

Cooking: for useless and impatient slobs

If you can put it in a sandwich, you can put it on these pizzas – and impress your friends, too

I am on a bit of a culinary kick at the moment.

This would surprise almost anyone who knows me well, as I am not known for my enthusiasm in the kitchen. If anything, I invite friends over for dinner and then learn how to cook the chicken. Gives it a sense of urgency, I find.

Because of this, I’ve received an endless number of cook books for Christmases and birthdays – “Easy Chicken”, “Rookie Cooking”, “Cooking for Useless and Impatient Slobs”, etc. None of these have enticed me. I open them, I look at the pictures, but something stops me from re-creating the meal.

Namely, there are too many ingredients involved. Really  – when am I going to need oregano again? Let alone capers.

So I am providing here a series of impromptu recipes. I say recipes loosely, because to qualify for my approval, they have to be too simple to appear in any genuine cook book. So simple they would shame any genuine cookbook. So simple they can be made in about ten minutes, while reading the paper, washing the dishes, and talking on the phone.

The first recipe is my Mum’s, and it has been my saving grace at endless dinner parties. It is called the “gourmet pizza.”

The “gourmet pizza” is only gourmet because it looks more attractive than the average pizza.

Use a pita of any size or disposition, layer on what you want, put in the oven on broil, and take out when it looks crispy. The only key is good, colourful ingredients (this we have learned from the Italians.) Here are my favourite combinations:

The Italian Pizza: Pesto sauce with fresh mozzarella, a combination of green and red peppers, onions and zucchini, plus shrimp or prosciutto.

The Cowboy Pizza: Barbeque or chipotle sauce, Monterey jack or cheddar, with caramelized onions, red peppers, and roast chicken (you can always use a full, cooked chicken from the grocery store for this one.)

The Asian Pizza: Peanut sauce, plus mozzarella, red peppers, cilantro and shredded carrots, roast chicken or shrimp.

I’ve also tried sausages, bacon, feta cheese, cucumber, goat cheese, asparagus, and a particular favourite – slices of avocado. I rarely use actual tomato sauce. A good rule of thumb is: if you have it in your fridge, you can put it in a sandwich, and if you can put it in a sandwich, you can put it on a pizza and serve it to friends.

If you’re entertaining for many, supply the pitas and the spreads, and get everyone to bring a different topping. Everyone picks what they want, and the combinations get a little more exciting than your average pepperoni.

For other lazy, sloppy and generally unwilling student cooks, I’ll be including a series of super short and easy “recipes” from time to time, suggested by competent and creative friends across the country (and one in Australia.)

Soon to come are tips for making Mexican salsa burgers (with sweet potato fries and fresh guacamole), and the world’s easiest salad wraps.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.