Friday, August 22, 2008

Amy's Single-Serving Spinach Pizza: My Thursday Night Ritual

I know that Thursday nights are like HUGE going out nights for the cool kids and people on The Hills, but I'm not really all that cool, and I get tired on week nights. Call me a wet blanket, but my ideal Thursday involves Patrick Dempsey, Rainn Wilson and Amy's Spinach Pizza -- not alcoholic binge sessions at Les Deux.

While I will make occasional exceptions for close friends and special events like Campanile's grilled cheese night (before it started to hate me), my Thursday nights are sacred. Nothing says "me time" quite like frozen pizza, and since discovering Amy's Spinach personal-sized pies last summer, I've been firmly committed to maintaining the integrity of my Thursday night ritual.

Nutritionists might shudder at the sodium levels (33% of the recommended daily intake) in Amy's organic spinach pie (though they do offer a lower sodium version), but with only 440 calories and 18 grams of fat (6 saturated) it's not a complete diet deathtrap like many of its counterparts in the freezer aisle. Compared to the 812 calories and 27 grams (12 saturated) in California Pizza Kitchen's small BBQ Chicken pizza, it is practically virtuous. Or so I tell myself as I devour the entire thing.

Amy's spinach pie comes topped with a blend of feta cheese, basil, organic spinach, and part skim mozzarella cheese, but because I have this strange compulsion to make things better, I like to perform my own Dr. McDreamy-type surgery on it. While the pizza begins to bake, I nuke half a chopped red pepper in the microwave for approximately one to one-and-half minutes and then squeeze the excess liquid out with a paper towel. Leaving the liquid intact will make the pizza a soggy, wet mess, and/or cause the crust to stick to the foil on the baking sheet. Once the pizza has been baking for a few minutes, I take it out of the oven, drop my excessive amounts of red pepper (I like to ensure I have at least one pepper piece in every bite) on top, and then sprinkle a little Parmesan reggiano over the red sea of peppers. Yes, I do realize the extra cheese decreases the virtuosity of the pizza, but it tastes good, and I do what I want.

I continue my reign of absolute authority over everything by ignoring the cooking time on the package. My oven is not calibrated correctly, so I always bake the pie at 350 degrees rather than the recommended 425 degrees, and similarly pay no attention to the other instructions on the box. I can tell it's done when the cheese has melted, the edges are golden brown and the bottom of the pizza is slightly crisp. If any of these visual indicators of proper doneness fail to meet my approval, Miss Amy goes back in the oven like those little brats Hansel and Gretal.

When the pizza does meet my standards, I cut it in half with a serrated knife and leave one half on the foil to return to the oven once I've finished the first half. Why? Because I like my pizza hot, and by the time I finish one half, the cheese on the other half has started to do that unappetizing congelation-type thing. Call me neurotic, but at least I'm a happy neurotic.

The final step to premier pizza satisfaction involves the uber-feminine move of "blotting" off the excess grease, followed by the addition of red pepper flakes. Amy is good, but is much better when she's got a little kick to her bite. Plus, it's as wild as I'm going to get on most Thursday nights. Unless I count the bowl of steamed broccoli I serve on the side. (Or the ice cream I may or may not choose to ingest whilst watching Dr. McDreamy save the day again.)

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