Eric Akis: Tortilla pizza delivers for kids

Eric Akis

As I noted in recent columns, many Times Colonist readers have reached out to me and emailed suggestions on topics I could write about during the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers have also sent recipe requests and ideas.

One of them, Karen, asked for a simple pizza recipe kids could help make. To me, that meant one where you didn’t have to fuss and make pizza dough. Many years ago, I came up with a solution: Sandwich together two store-bought tortillas with cheese and use that as the base for a pizza.

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You then top the tortillas as you would a pizza and bake them. As they cook, the cheese sandwiched between the tortillas melts and fuses them together, creating an appealing thin-crust pizza all ages will enjoy.

My recipe only yields one pizza, but you can, of course, expand it and make as many as you like. If you do, bake one pizza and enjoy it while your next pizza is cooking in the oven.

Another reader, Betty, noticed some of my recipes called for vegetable stock and wondered if I could provide a recipe for it. I liked the idea and knew it would appeal to those not wanting to use store-bought stock.

As you’ll see in the options part of the recipe, you can play around with the ingredients, depending on what you have on hand.

Another reader, Ian, suggested I offer a recipe for “wacky” cake. As many of you probably know, it’s an old-fashioned, one-pan chocolate cake that also goes by names such as crazy, three-hole and mix-in-the-pan cake.

Ian said it’s easy to make and good to eat — just the thing for people stuck at home. It’s also a recipe kids/teens can make. In fact, Ian told me it was the first thing he ever baked, when he was 13, for his father’s birthday.

Today’s recipe is adapted from one my wife has kept in her recipe box for decades.

Her friend, Luba, who in turn got it from her friend Bernice, gave it to her. It’s clearly one of those popular recipes that, over the years, have been passed along, from home to home.

Tortilla Pizza

This is a tasty, easy-to-make pizza all ages will enjoy.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Makes: one 10-inch pizza (about two servings)

2 (10-inch) flour tortillas (plain, whole-wheat or flavoured)

• oil spray or olive oil

1 1/2 cups (about 125 grams) grated mozzarella, asiago or provolone cheese, or mix of Italian-style cheeses

1/3 cup tomato sauce, or to taste (see Eric’s options)

1/4 tsp dried oregano

• your favourite pizza toppings, to taste, such as mushrooms, pepperoni, cooked Italian sausage, ham, bell peppers, pineapple, goat cheese, pesto, olives, cherry tomatoes and/or roasted vegetables, sliced, diced or crumbled, as needed

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray or brush a 12-inch, non-stick pizza pan or large non-stick baking sheet lightly with oil spray or olive oil. Place one of the tortillas on the pan, evenly top with half the cheese, then set on the second tortilla.

Spread tomato sauce over the second tortilla. Sprinkle with oregano.

Top with remaining cheese and desired toppings. Bake pizza 10 minutes, or a little longer if you want a very crispy crust. Let pizza rest 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully slide the pizza off the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into wedges and serve.

Eric’s options: Canned pizza sauce could replace the tomato sauce and oregano in this recipe. Barbecue sauce could also replace those items, especially if you’re topping the pizza with such things as rotisserie chicken or pulled pork.

Vegetable Stock

Here’s a vegetable flavoured stock you can use for soups and other meat-free creations.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: about two hours
Makes: about eight cups

2 medium peeled carrots, sliced

2 two medium onions, halved and sliced

2 two celery ribs, sliced

2 medium tomatoes, halved and sliced

1/3 lb white or brown mushrooms (about 6 to 8, depending on size)

1 bay leaf

• a few whole black peppercorns

• a few fresh thyme sprigs, or 1 tsp dried thyme

• a few fresh parsley sprigs, or dried parsley, to taste

12 cups water

Place ingredients in a tall, not overly wide pot (mine was eight inches wide). Set over medium-high heat and bring liquid to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface). Lower heat as needed to maintain that gentle simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the stock has a pleasing vegetable flavour. Strain the stock and it’s ready to use. Once cooled, you can refrigerate it for up to three days, or freeze it.

Eric’s options: You can play around and add or substitute some of the vegetables called for with other ingredients, such as sliced leeks, sliced broccoli stems, sliced fennel, dried mushrooms, other herbs, sliced garlic or any other vegetable you think would add a nice flavour to the stock.

Wacky (One-pan) Cake

Serve this easy-to-make cake warm or at room temperature as is, or with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, ice cream or a non-dairy frozen product. The cake, when cut into squares and individually wrapped, will also freeze well.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 to 40 minutes
Makes: nine servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp white, rice or cider vinegar (see Note)

1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a nonstick, eight-inch-square baking pan. Mix with a fork or small whisk until well-combined.

Make three holes in the flour mixture. Into one of them, pour the oil, into another, the vanilla, and into the last one, the vinegar. Pour the water over everything in the pan. Gently mix until a batter begins to form. Now more vigorously mix until a smooth batter forms.

Bake cake in the middle of the oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean, or the cakes springs back when touched very gently in the centre.

Let cake cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

Note: The vinegar in this recipe is the acid that helps activate the baking soda and leaven the cake.

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

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