Nature pizza

Nature pizza

By Laura Fries

Lost in the Supermarket

Frozen pizza is the ultimate in post-post-modern dining. It's cheap, easily accessible, and perfect for virtually any social situation: a snuggly night watching movies on the couch, a busy workweek dinner, a family gathering, or a late-night post-party snack. As our society becomes more fragmented, and fewer people take the time to cook, I predict that the frozen pizza will become the mainstay of an emerging food culture. Of course, convenience has its price (Don't we all?), and in terms of frozen pizzas, that cost is super-high fat content combined with astronomical amounts of chemical preservatives and flavorings. Organic frozen pizzas seem to be a contradiction in terms (How can something be so convenient, and yet good for you?), and so a panel of willing tasters has taken it upon themselves to explore the final frontier. We found these pizzas at Whole Foods, but many of them are available in conventional H-E-Bs.

Linda McCartney Spicy Thai-Style Vegetable Pizza, $3.79

First Impressions: This is a beautiful pizza. Even frozen, Linda's pie is gorgeous - heaped with portabellas, bell peppers, carrots, cilantro, and cheese, all of which survived the freezing process with no tale-tale ice crystals.

Taste Factor: This was the best nature pizza in the group: great ingredients tied together with a nutty peanut sauce, and gads of cheese and cilantro. The portabellas actually tasted marinated and juicy, which is hard enough to do in person, let alone to replicate on a frozen pie. The crust, surprisingly, was crisp and delicate.

Earth-Friendliness: Linda also wins out for the most earth-friendly product. The box was recycled, and she makes a point of emphasizing the "all-natural" ingredients: no GMOs, no hydrogenated oils, and no meat enzymes or rennets.

Body-Friendliness: Considering that you're likely to eat the entire thing at one sitting, sign yourself up for 640 calories, 160 from fat. It's not diet food, but it beats pepperoni.

Boca Rising Crust Pizza, Meatless Pepperoni and Tomato, $5.99

First Impressions: OK, so fake-meat products that taste like meat kinda don't make sense if you are a vegetarian. But for those with weak willpower, Boca all the way. At first glance, the frozen pizza looked just like any meat-variety, with pepperoni, odd orange bits of tomato, and ice. After baking, it was hard to lift the pizza off the pizza stone; it mushed together, and was super doughy.

Taste Factor: Damn good. Baked, the doughy crust turned out to be pillowy and soft, the sauce was tangy and plentiful, and the fake pepperonis actually tasted like the real thing - unless you ate them on their own. For an imitation pizza, it tasted a hell of a lot like a normal one.

Earth-Friendliness: No points on the healthfulness of this dish. Sugar was the third ingredient in the pizza after flour and water, and there were numerous oils thrown into the mix. The sodium level was so high that the box had a disclaimer.

Body-Friendliness: Again, these are small pizzas. You'll likely eat "three" servings, for a grand total of 780 calories, 210 from fat.

Bravissimo Roasted Vegetable Pizza, $4.29

First Impressions: It wasn't until the pizza came out of the oven that the obvious struck us: This was a pizza with no cheese, just roasted veggies on a bed of tomato sauce. Prior to heating, this pizza had the worst case of the icicles, and the frozen bell and poblano peppers, eggplant, and onion looked incredibly unappetizing.

Taste Factor: Once you got past the dogma that all pizzas should contain cheese, this was a tasty little treat - more of an appetizer than a meal. Tomato sauce was enlivened by a strong dose of honey, and the result was so sweet that it tasted like roasted red peppers had been thrown into the mix. Surprisingly, the veggies - including finicky eggplant - baked up just fine (although the eggplant was far too bitter).

Earth-Friendliness: Made without preservatives or additives, this self-proclaimed "all-natural" pizza was true to its word.

Body-Friendliness: Since this is a larger pizza, I'd say it'd be fair to assume you'd eat about a third of it. Your low, low price is 230 calories, with 25 from fat.

Amy's Pesto Pizza, $5.99

First Impressions: This pizza came out of the box looking like it had been blasted with an industrial-strength pesto, which coated the entire pizza, and, quite frankly, looked odd. The icy frozen tomatoes and chopped broccoli weren't evenly distributed, but fortunately, there weren't any ice crystals.

Taste Factor: There was nothing exceptional about this pizza, but it was quite serviceable. The crust won acclaim from the tasting panel, but we all agreed this pizza was boring.

Earth-Friendliness: Kudos to Amy's, which turned out an essentially all-organic pizza that is strictly vegetarian. Other pizza varieties included one with soy cheese, and another with a gluten-free rice crust. It's fabulous that someone is making organic and health-conscious pizzas - let's hope the next batch isn't as dull.

Body-Friendliness: A third of this decent-sized pizza will run you 310 calories, with 110 from fat.

365 Spinach and Feta Pizza, $3.69

First Impressions: This veggie pizza was covered with a healthy dollup of tomato sauce, sprinkles of mozzarella and feta, damp basil, and roasted tomatoes - a very intriguing, slightly ice-tinged presentation. The crust had a hard time lifting off the pizza stone due to its goopiness, but that may be my fault for being impatient, and taking it out of the oven too soon.

Taste Factor: The flavor here was mild, and could use a kick from some additional feta or crushed red pepper. But the texture of the pizza was superb, and this is often what kills a frozen pizza. I'd suggest heaping on some cheese and spices from home in the last few minutes of baking to wake up this pizza.

Earth-Friendliness: For a Whole Foods brand item, this pizza was surprisingly mainstream - organic flour was used for the crust, but everything else was commercial, including the vegetables. But apparently the crust was hand-made, which I suppose creates jobs somewhere.

Body-Friendliness: At 300 calories per third, with 90 of those coming from fat, this pizza is comparable to the others in this survey. •

By Laura Fries

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