Tropical Fruit Deep Dish “Pizza”
Here’s a deliciously tempting dessert “pizza” from the kitchen of Lee Crenshaw, a member of Melissa’s Sales Team. While Lee takes liberties with the definition of “pizza,” the tasty results will melt any preconceived expectations in one bite! Besides, his recipe does start with a circular base dough (graham crackers), covered in a layer of cheese (as in spreadable Philadelphia cream cheese), then covered in an assortment of fresh fruit toppings that not only replace the traditional sausage or pepperoni but are so much healthier!
“I have been making a version of this dish, in one form or another, for about 20 years,” Lee explained. “I used to work at a small juice bar inside one of the original Whole Foods stores. That’s where the basis for the recipe started, and I have developed it over the years. This is a fun dish to make with a group of kids at birthday parties, family gatherings, etc. The fresh ingredients can reflect the seasons. Have fun with it!”
Since Lee leaves the fruit topping up to personal preference and seasonal availability, it was fun to shop the aisles of my local produce department without any preconceived ingredient list. Instead, I decided on the spot what to put on my pizza based on what looked appealing and fresh. So, the ingredients listed in the recipe below are meant only as inspiration; feel free to substitute your own favorite fruit combinations. I decided on a collection of tropical fruit toppings. The unique flavors of kiwi, mango, pineapple, red papaya and red banana laced with maple-infused cream cheese and supported by the crunchy sweetness of a graham cracker crust were sublime; one-of-kind goodness – so get creative with your own fresh toppings!
While Lee Crenshaw has been a member of Melissa’s Sales Team for only about three years, he is a longtime produce industry professional who has worked alongside Melissa’s for years. Before coming on board, he spent 25 years as a buyer for one of our Southern California retail grocery accounts.
“I’ve been working in the fresh produce industry for 31 years and love it! Every day is different and comes with its own set of unexpected problems to solve,” Lee said, then added, “For almost 30 of those years, those challenges were mostly caused by weather conditions, harvest fluctuations, and sometimes labor or transportation issues. It seemed like overnight the pandemic affected every facet of this industry and every department at Melissa’s. So, the way the company had to immediately change and evolve to continue taking care of the business, even during the most difficult of circumstances, was motivating. Everyone being flexible in the context of personnel safety while still doing their part and more – working as a team to keep the business operating and the perishable produce flowing. I was personally motivated and honored to be part of such a team!”
Outside of the office, the pandemic has also affected this avid world traveler. He and his wife, Patrice, had visited 16 different countries and 30 states before the world’s airports shut down. So “travel” has been limited to bicycling these days. Daily he rides his cruiser bike along the shoreline near his beach town home, or he’ll take his rugged mountain bike on “off road” adventures. Lee says that his home cooking has increased too, becoming his favorite quarantine space – hunkered down in his kitchen developing new recipes. Patrice has been a willing taste-tester, with any leftovers sometimes being shared with a canine and feline member of the Crenshaw household. However, there is no doubt that this pair of pampered pets never have and never will see anything but an empty pie tin when it comes to Lee’s Fruit Pizza!
Deep Dish Fruit Pizza
Makes 1 pie, serves 8
12 graham crackers
3 tablespoons brown sugar
7 tablespoons butter
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons maple syrup
2 Kiwis, skin removed, sliced into rounds
½ Caribbean Red Papaya, skin removed, sliced crosswise then cut into 1-inch pieces
½ Pineapple, cored & skin using pineapple corer, slice rings into bitesize sections
1 Red banana, peeled, sliced into rounds
½ Mango, peeled, sliced crosswise, then cut into 1-inch pieces
Place graham crackers in a food processor and pulverize until ground into crumbs. Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in a bowl, mix well—place crust mixture on a pizza sheet or deep-dish pan. Shape crust in desired shape and press firmly. Bake the crust for 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees.
Mix maple syrup, one tablespoon at a time, into the softened Cream Cheese until it has a consistency like icing, firm but spreadable. When the graham dough is completely cooled, spread the cheese mixture on top.
Arrange assorted fruits of your liking on top of the cheese, be creative!