So what is homemade Romanian pizza, you may ask? It’s pizza with lots of toppings baked in a round pizza oven pan or in a rectangular baking pan. The dough is not really pizza dough, especially if, like me, you’re struggling to make one with gluten-free flours. But even with wheat flour it can be more spongey and cake-like than pizza-like.
But my pizza is delicious and it satisfies while also being rather healthy. I use lots of superfoods in the dough and some healthy veggies in the toppings.
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Here’s how I make my (gluten-free) Romanian pizza.
For the crust I use (NB: this is for a 30 cm/12” pan; remember to line the pan—including the sides—with baking paper):
12 heaping tbsp gluten-free flour (for instance some chickpea and some soy flour)
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp coconut oil
a packet of baking powder
a pinch of salt
And then some extra goodness:
2 heaping tbsp ground seeds (I usually go for a mix of sunflower, flaxseed, pumpkin, and sesame)
1 flat tsp ground cumin
1/2 flat tsp turmeric
1/2 flat tsp ground ginger
1 flat tsp Italian seasoning (optional)
1/3 flat tsp ground rosemary (optional)
Mix the dry ingredients together and then add about 100 ml/3.5 fl oz water. Try incorporating the water gradually, until you get a moist dough that you can work into a ball. Then transfer the dough to the pan and press it down in all directions until you get it a little up the sides of the pan (which is how I do it, so as not to mess with a rolling pin, which wouldn’t work here—this dough is a little too moist for that, so I press the dough onto the pan with my fingers instead).
Now for the toppings. I use:
salami, cut into quarters (about 5 cm/2” in length)
bacon, with most of the fat on (about 3 cm/1.18” in length)
a mix of cheese varieties (400 g/14 oz)
And the healthy stuff:
a large red onion, finely chopped
a bag of frozen broccoli (450 g/16 oz), first defrosted 10 mins in the oven (at 180°C/350°F) and then cut into smaller bits
and 2 bell peppers, cut into strips and then cubes
Mix all the toppings and place them on top of the crust. Then pour half a bottle of tomato sauce (I use various Panzani blends in 400 g/14 oz bottles) in a glass and with a spoon spread this sauce all over the toppings. Add water to the remaining sauce in the bottle, place the lid back on, and shake the bottle to rinse it. Pour the sauce in the same glass and add this more diluted tomato sauce to the toppings as well.
Place in the (preheated) oven and leave it to bake 45 mins at 180°C/350°F.
I wish I had better photos for this particular recipe, but here they are.
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I ate two slices and I’m super full, so now I’m drinking a hot chocolate for a pick-me-up. I earned it—even though, as I was tired when I cooked this pizza, I forgot to add the olive oil and coconut oil! I actually expected the dough to turn out hard as stone, but as the seeds have their (good) oils and the cumin has some as well, somehow it wasn’t too hardened. And then part of it also had to do with liquid pressing and infiltrating down from the toppings.
Why are seeds like flaxseed and sunflower healthy? What are their health benefits?
Since I mentioned healthy oils and fats, do note that flaxseed has the third kind of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA). Flaxseed also contains lignans, a type of polyphenols that can help reduce cholesterol, while omega-3 fats reduce triglycerides, a major vascular risk factor. Since we’re on the topic, do note that seeds alone won’t give you all the necessary omega-3 fats you need in a day; it’s recommended you either eat two large servings of fish a week, which, unfortunately, may be contaminated with mercury, or take a nice pill for it. I’ve been taking one for some fifteen years now and I’ve been doing okay, despite having high triglycerides now and then, when I haven’t been very careful with my diet.
Please note that the Ultimate Omega and Ultimate Omega-D3 soft gels from Nordic Naturals, shown below, contain some naturally-sourced vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol—listed among the ingredients but not on the Supplement Facts label, so it may not be much) and traces of iodine. Consult with your doctor(s) before taking one of these supplements, as vitamin E is an anticoagulant that interacts with many medications; also, beware of an allergy to iodine.
Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega-D3, Lemon Flavor – 1280 mg Omega-3 + 1000 IU Vitamin D3-90 Soft Gels – Omega-3 Fish Oil – EPA & DHA – Promotes Brain, Heart, Joint, & Immune Health – 45 Servings (affiliate link)
Sunflower seeds lower cholesterol because they contain phytosterols, plant sterols that are similar structurally with cholesterol and as such compete with it for absorption in the body. As a result, sunflower seeds reduce both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. But don’t go hunting for supplements containing these phytosterols. While they are healthy when ingested in small amounts from food you eat, they actually damage the heart if taken in large quantities. But if you want to find them in food, note that broccoli and Brussels sprouts have some of the highest amounts (eat those in moderation too, because they contain a lot of vitamin K, which is a blood-clotting agent), but red onion is not too bad either.
While flaxseed may be the best source of lignans (but eat it in moderation: some say a maximum of two tablespoons, while others recommend no more than two teaspoons a day), all seeds in the mix I use—sesame, sunflower, pumpkin—contain these polyphenols. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are also high in lignans, and cereal is a good source too. While there is some controversy about how phytoestrogens like lignans function in the body, some studies on animals have shown a link between these compounds and reduction in cancerous breast tumors, regardless of their impact on the metabolism of estrogen. Here’s an article about flaxseed, lignans, and a lower risk of breast cancer—which doesn’t mean you should take supplements. Only lignans from food are advised.
I also found a 2012 study which concludes that intake of dietary lignans—found in sources such as sunflower and pumpkin seeds and soybeans—may decrease the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.
Sunflower seeds are also powerful antioxidants, as they contain vitamin E and several phenolic compounds, including the potent chlorogenic acid. They also contain the mineral selenium, which is another antioxidant, and they are rich in other important minerals as well, mostly copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. Among their other health benefits, sunflower seeds provide B-complex vitamins and they reduce—as I’ve mentioned—total and LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides.
Importantly, seeds (such as sesame, pumpkin, sunflower)—and nuts (such as Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, and walnuts)—are high in magnesium, which is the one mineral I also take daily as a supplement. Seeds and nuts are fine, but they should be eaten in small quantities, on account of their high vitamin E content and the fact that they pack not only good—monosaturated and polysaturated—fats, but also a lot of saturated fats). Magnesium helps with physical and mental stress, as well as blood pressure and blood sugar, among many other things.
In conclusion, nuts and seeds are very good for you, with their healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated—including in the latter omega-3 fatty acids), cholesterol-reducing phytosterols, antioxidant lignans, and their vitamins and minerals. But again, eat them in moderation (as with everything). Using ground seeds in pizza dough or any salty dough is one way to do it. And remember, you can incorporate the powerful anti-inflammatory spice turmeric and ground ginger root as well. Also, keep in mind that turmeric and ginger are blood thinners as they have a high concentration of salicylates, so beware of interactions with medications as well as possible sensitivity to salicylates (aspirin is a synthetic derivative of salicylic acid).
Lastly, here are some health benefits of rosemary and cumin:
Rosemary is also an anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antioxidant food, but it should be ingested in very small amounts. And again, don’t take it as a supplement. It has convulsant properties and may cause seizures and even coma. Also, please note that it interacts with some medications.
As for the last super healthy ingredient in this homemade Romanian pizza, cumin, it too is an antioxidant spice. It helps with digestion and detoxifies the liver, and it has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties as well. Cumin is also an anticoagulant (this spice, too, is high in salicylates—a teaspoon of cumin is equivalent to a baby aspirin), so again, skip it if you take medications that slow blood clotting.
That’s it for now. More about healthy foods and spices and satisfying, super nutritious recipes in future posts.
To a happier, healthier life,
P.S. I’d appreciate a pin/share if you found my post helpful. Thank you! 🙂