Healthy Cooking Class: Pizza Salad with Pesto Grilled Cheese

Chef Stella's Corner: 

This year, we will be investigating the ingredients in foods we love the best, replacing the worst of them with the most nutritious ingredients on the planet, and reformulating the whole plate into a superfood-packed dish of undeniable deliciousness! We are starting with a salad that has all the same ingredients of a veggie supreme pizza. Our salad keeps the tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and olives uncooked to preserve the enzymes and then we serve it on top of grilled cheese with pesto sauce that is lower in fat, salt, and sugar than conventionally prepared cheese-bread.

Pizza Salad Ingredients

Serves 4-6

·       7 Roma tomatoes, diced

·       1 ½ cups white beans

·       ½ cup pitted black olives, diced

·       2 cloves garlic, minced

·       2 sprigs basil, chiffonade

·       3 sprigs oregano, minced

·       Juice and zest of 1 lemon

·       ¼ cup olive oil

·       4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

·       Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste


1.     To create the salad, combine the tomatoes, beans, garlic, olives, basil, and oregano in a large bowl. Stir the salad thoroughly so you can see the beauty in all the colors and textures.

2.     In a separate bowl whisk the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Pour the dressing over the salad and season with salt and pepper.

3.     Marinating for an hour or more helps the flavors in this salad to intensify, so cover the bowl and refrigerate while you are making the grilled cheese. Your salad will stay vibrant and tasty in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Pesto Grilled Cheese Ingredients

2 servings

·       1 thin whole-grain burger bun, separated into halves

·       ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

·       ¼ cup pesto


1.     Put a heavy-bottomed pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. You can also turn the oven to 200 and use a parchment-lined baking dish.

2.     Place the separated halves on the pan with the cut sides up. Sprinkle half of the cheese onto each bun. Let the breads toast slowly without moving.

3.     When the toasts become fragrant and the cheese is melty, remove from heat and cut each piece in half. Spread pesto on top of the melted cheese. Serve while they’re warm!


Easy Nut-Free/ Dairy-Free Pesto:

Throw 2 bunches basil, 2 handfuls spinach, 2 cloves garlic, 1 handful sunflower seeds, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper in a food processor with the s-blade. Turn it on and slowly drizzle in a stream of olive oil until it’s the consistency you like. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This is a good place to experiment with nutritional yeast: it’s yellow-colored flakes available in the bulk section of grocery stores that has a nutty, cheesey flavor and almost all of the B vitamins. Add 3 (or more!) tablespoons with the greens.

Nutrient Breakdown!

Tomatoes- Tomatoes are saturated with cancer-preventing chemicals. In fact, the very same chemical that makes tomatoes red is what gives them their spectacular cancer-preventing powers. This chemical is called a ‘carotene’, which is part of a larger family called “phytonutrients”. All fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes have phytonutrients. Tomatoes are high in a carotene called ‘lycopene’.  You can receive a large amount of lycopene by eating raw tomatoes, but lycopene is even better absorbed when you heat tomatoes with oil. Cooking with canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste are easy and affordable ways to get more of this powerful chemical.

Oregano – Herbs are any plants without woody stems. Some herbs are delicious and give food complex flavors—these we call “culinary herbs”. Basil, cilantro, dill, and rosemary are examples of other culinary herbs.  Oregano is an herb that is part of the mint family. Herbs have high levels of the phytonutrient “chlorophyll”. Chlorophyll is manufactured by the sun and gives herbs their deep green color. Oregano has extremely high antioxidant levels, too. Antioxidants keep the body’s cells vital and fit. Oregano tested to have the highest antioxidants levels of any herb or food tested- four times as much as blueberries!

Beans—Beans are an economical way to make filling, nutrient-dense food. Beans are high in one of the most important required nutrients: fiber. Fiber keeps your system clean, helps keep blood flowing smoothly, and stabilizes blood sugar. Beans are famously potent sources of plant-based protein that fills your belly up and builds stronger muscles. Canned beans must be rinsed thoroughly before consuming to remove preservatives and added salts.

Local Farmers Markets

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market: Year Round!

1 Ferry Plaza (Embarcadero):  Tuesdays 10 – 2; Thursdays 10 - 2; Saturdays 8 - 2

Saint James, Saint Anthony’s

Mission Community Market: Bartlett Street between 22nd and 21st: Thursdays 4 -8

Saint Paul’s

Noe Valley Farmers’ Market: 3861 24th street: Saturdays 8 - 1

Saint Finn-Barr

Glen Park Market: Parking Lot of Glen Park Bart Station: Sunday 10 -2 (thru 11/25/2012)

Good Shepherd

Half Moon Bay: Shoreline Station: Saturdays 9 – 1

Pacifica: Rockaway Beach: Wednesdays 2:30 -6:30

Zion Lutheran

Parking Lot between 8th and 9th Avenue, South of Irving:  Sundays 9 – 1

Kaiser Farmer’s Market: 2525 Geary at Saint Joseph’s street: Wednesdays 10 – 2:30

Saint Vincent de Paul

Fort Mason Center: Marina & Buchanan:  Sundays 9:30 - 1:30