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Eric Akis: Deep-dish pizza a tasty way to eat your veggies

Savoury cake-like creation is filled with cheese, roasted vegetables, olives, tomato sauce
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Deep-dish pizza, baked in a skillet, is rich with roasted vegetables, cheese and olives. ERIC AKIS

After offering a recipe for calzone a few weeks ago, a few readers asked if I also had one for deep-dish pizza. It’s quite different than calzone in terms of look, but still something where yeast dough is rich with cheese and a range of other possible ingredients.

Many sources suggest the first deep-dish pizza was sold at Chicago’s Pizzeria Uno in 1943. The restaurant’s owners, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, descendants of Italian immigrants, dished it up.

They wanted to serve a pizza different than the rest and made one where the dough reached up the sides of a cake-style pan. Doing that created a large space in the middle to load with toppings, which they did. When baked, what came out of the oven was a thick, delicious, almost savoury cake like creation that became widely popular in Chicago and elsewhere and, of course, still is.

Because it was thicker than a regular pizza, it took longer to bake. So, to prevent the cheese from burning, Sewell and Riccardo decided to invert the toppings. The cheese went on first, followed by things such as meat and vegetables, and then, lastly, the tomatoey sauce.

Deep-dish pizzas are still made that way, but over the years, other ways of setting on the toppings were created, including those where cheese is set on top, which is what I did. To prevent it from overly darkening, you simply cover the pizza for the first part of the cooking.

I made the deep-dish pizza in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, the perfect vessel to bake it in. If you don’t have one, you’ll find them for sale at kitchenware and hardware stores.

Deep Dish Pizza with Roasted Vegetables, Cheese and Olives

A tall-sided pizza filled with cheese, roasted vegetables, olives and a tomatoey sauce. Serve the pizza with a green salad or caesar salad.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 58 to 62 minutes

Makes: two to three servings

1 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 cup thinly sliced fresh white or brown mushrooms

1/2 cup zucchini, cut into small 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, cut into small 1/2-inch cubes

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus some for the pan

• pinch red pepper flakes

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 homemade (see Recipe below) or store-bought (1 lb.) pizza dough

1 cup marinara or tomato sauce

6 to 8 pitted green or black olives, sliced, or to taste

1 1/2 to 2 cups (about 150 to 200 grams) grated mozzarella cheese (divided)

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, or to taste (divided)

• chopped fresh parsley or basil, to taste (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place onion, mushrooms, zucchini, bell pepper, garlic, oregano, basil, 2 Tbsp olive oil, pepper flakes, salt and black pepper in a bowl, toss to combine, and then spread on the baking sheet. Roast 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through the cooking, or until vegetables and mushrooms are tender. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Lightly brush the inside of a well-seasoned, 10-inch cast iron skillet with olive oil. Set the dough in the skillet and press and stretch it, until it covers the bottom of the pan and partially up the sides. Let dough rest 10 minutes.

After dough has rested, set an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 F. Press on the dough again and make sure it reaches about 1 1/2- to 2-inches up the sides of the pan. Spread 1/2 cup of marinara (or tomato) sauce on the dough. Top sauce with half the mozzarella cheese and half the parmesan cheese. Top the cheeses with the roasted vegetables/mushrooms and olives. Spoon on remaining marinara (or tomato) sauce, then set on the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.

Cover pan with foil, set in the bottom third of the oven, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake pizza 12 to 15 minutes more, or until puffed and golden around the edges. Turn oven to broil. Broil top of pizza a minute or two, until cheese richens in colour. Remove from oven, and let pizza stand five minutes or so. Sprinkle pizza with chopped parsley (or basil), if using. Slice and serve from the pan. Or carefully lift and slide pizza out of the pan, on to a board, and slice and serve it from there.

Eric’s options: If you like meat, add some sliced pepperoni, or cooked, crumbled Italian sausage, to the pizza. If you don’t have a skillet, try making the pizza in a tight sealing, non-stick, nine-inch, spring-form cake pan.

Pizza Dough

This recipe yields enough dough for the deep-dish pizza recipe above. It will also make enough dough for one, 12- to 14-inch pizza made in a regular pizza pan. Recipe could be doubled or further expanded.

Preparation: five minutes, plus dough rising time

Cooking time: none

Makes: dough for one deep-dish pizza

2/3 cup lukewarm (not hot) water

1 tsp active dry (traditional) yeast

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1 Tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

1 1/3 to 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine water, yeast and sugar. Let stand five minutes. Now mix in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add 1 1/3 cups of flour and mix on medium speed until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If it’s still quite sticky, gradually mix in some of the remaining flour until it does pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add the salt and mix and knead dough five minutes.

Grease a deep bowl with 1 tsp olive oil, set dough in it, cover and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, about 75 minutes. The dough is ready to use.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.