TIVERTON — Heavy on the veggies — hold the sausage — Tiverton High School chefs competed last week for the title of best pizza. One rule — only healthy ingredients allowed.
Twenty-five THS culinary arts students entered the cook-off in the school kitchen on Tuesday, March 5, an event that culminated weeks of preparation. The student chefs hit the ovens with their best-effort pizzas at three intervals — at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 10:30 a.m..
Three winners were selected, one in each class period.
“This is the fourth year for the Healthy Pizza Contest,” said Culinary Arts Teacher Catherine Marshall. “I wanted to give the kids something to get excited about when they get back from winter vacation.”
For weeks before, Ms. Marshall said, the students had been screening and scouting ingredients. “We were looking at avoiding foods that have high fat and high calories, and at substituting more nutritious and colorful and flavorful ingredients. Kids like to compete, and when they’re in competition, they work a little harder,” she said.
The winning recipes, said Ms. Marshall, were “heavy on vegetables, which really produced good flavors, a hand-made dough, and emphasized perfect cooking.”
Toppings included red, yellow, and green peppers, jalapeños, fresh basil and spinach, tomatoes, and portabello mushrooms.
Five cheeses tended to predominate, she said: part-skimmed mozzarella, goat cheese, feta, queso, romano, and parmesan.
Meats included boneless chicken, shrimp, and lean ground beef — but no pepperoni, Ms. Marshall said.
Extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper contributed to flavor and texture.
And for sauces, there were pink sauce, pesto sauce, and home-made red sauce.
Ms. Marshall did most of the ingredient shopping, with funding provided by the school and Nonni’s Restaurant in Tiverton.
The students brought their enthusiasm. “They worked hard as a group,” Ms. Marshall said. “They made doughs with all-healthy ingredients. Instead of white flour alone, they mixed in and used wheat flour, oat flour, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.”
It all worked out for the cook-off last Tuesday.
“They loved it,” Ms. Marshall said. “They love being able to do something independently and successfully. They like working with their friends to see what they can accomplish.”
All pizzas were cooked at 400 degrees for approximately 16-22 minutes, said Ms. Marshall, using “a well-seasoned pizza pan,”
Taste-testing and fresh-from-the-oven judging was done by two school committee members — Deborah Pallasch and Sally Black — and a guest caterer, Gerry Dupont (from the pastry shop at A-1 Pizza in Little Compton).
They were joined in their mid-morning pizza-eating assessments by seven other volunteer school-based judges: Diane Sanna, the school curriculum coordinator; Vice-Principal Jack McKinnon; Technology Department Chairman Ed Fernandes; Mardie Corcoral, the school-based coordinator; Community Services Coordinator Sheila Kaufman; School Librarian Vicki Blaser; and Ms. Marshall.
Of the three winning pizzas, one from each of the morning classes, Ms. Marshall selected one winning recipe at random (see below), that from Culinary I-6 (chefs Sarah Barboza, Kathryn Landry, and Haley Greene).
One of the three winning chefs in one of the classes, Sarah Barboza, a junior, said, “we wanted it to be a healthy pizza, so we put a load of vegetables on it — green, yellow, and red peppers. I love the peppers.” What she liked most about the competition “was just being with my friends, and learning how you can be healthy.” She said she and her two other teammates cut their pizza up and gave it to the faculty.
Jonathan Hoepzel, a sophomore, said he used healthy ingredients too, with different results. He and his team used oat flour, and no sauce — just olive oil, slim mozzarella, chopped garlic, onions, and kalamata olives, with a scattering of red, green and yellow peppers thrown in.
“It turned out pretty good,” he said, “but it didn’t come out exactly as we planned because we had to speed things up. We had to put everything on at one time, and it got kind of soggy, and it messed up the flavor.”
In the world away from school, said Jonathan, “I like a good pizza, with veggies. I also like them with pepperoni and sausage.” What he liked about the competition was having the results judged by people who included professionals. “I like to cook,” he said. “Sometimes I cook for my family.”
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water for yeast (105-115 degrees)
1 1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup oatmeal flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cup water for dough
1 Tblsp. honey
1 1/4 cup homemade red sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic
2 cups part-skimmed mozzarella
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup basil
6 red grape tomatoes
8 yellow grape tomatoes
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup yellow pepper
1/2 cup green pepper
1/3 cup grated romano
2/3 cup grated parmesan (optional)