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Mexican pizza

Pizza may be associated more often with Italy, but the Mexican variety is hardly just a cheap knock-off. Quite the opposite.

Not just an Italian imitation

A good Mexican pizza will knock your socks off. They do have some things in common - flour, cheese, tomatoes. But there the similarities end. Mexican pizza is a world away from that of its cousin.

Like many Mexican dishes the ingredients are a familiar mix: refried beans, ground beef, cheddar cheese and tomatoes. But for a truly Mexican pizza, not just an Italian pizza with some Mexican-style toppings, you have to use a corn tortilla as the base. Of course, 'have to' makes it sound like a torture. But in fact, it makes for a delightful variation.

There are a couple of ways to prepare that base. Many will fry the tortilla in vegetable oil for about 15 seconds, flip it over, and fry the other side. That's not a bad way to go. But try baking them in a small oven at about 350°F (175°C) for a few minutes for a lower calorie alternative. If you do fry, let the cooked tortillas sit on a paper towel for a minute to soak up the excess oil.

If you really want a lot of oil in the dish, you can use the leftover from cooking the ground beef in a skillet. Drain it off and layer the bottom of another skillet for the tortillas.

Now heat up the refried beans. A microwave makes for a very evenly done result because they work by heating water in food. Refried beans have considerable water inside, so the method works well for them. Then spread them onto the tortilla. Layer on the ground beef, followed by cheddar cheese. For a nice variation, use a bit of pepper jack cheese in the mix.

Pre-heat or keep the oven at 350°F (177°C).

Bake the beef and bean, cheese, and tortilla pizza in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. Check it after 15 minutes to make sure the edges aren't getting burnt. If it tends to cook too fast you can cover the perimeter with a small strip of aluminum foil.

Depending on how you like your pizza, you can add fresh or cooked tomatoes after pulling the pizza out of the oven. Or you can put them into the oven a few minutes before it's done. Unlike Italian pizza, it's not usually a good idea to cook the tomatoes for the entire period with the rest. They'll end up very soggy and a Mexican pizza should be crisp.

Top with avocado and olives for a traditional Mexican garnish. For those who want a little extra flavor, you can try some sour cream. For something a little more spicy, sprinkle a chopped jalapeño pepper at the beginning onto the pizza.