Friday, September 19, 2008

Guest Post by Jane: Friday Night Is Pizza Night 1 - Fresh Spinach & Cheddar Salad Pizza

Barbara Kingsolver’s best-selling, and for some, life-changing book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, is about her family’s experiment in raising their own food, buying from local farmers, or trying to do without – with the exception of essentials like coffee, spices and olive oil. Amongst all the vivid descriptions of planning, planting, cooking, canning, and turkey mating, one thing that struck me was that Friday night is pizza night at the Kingsolver-Hopp household, just like mine. Her pizzas, made with fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes, onions, spinach, herbs and home-made mozzarella must be bursting with flavour but Friday after Friday, those ingredients, no matter how tasty, must start to pall. Tomato, mozzarella, vegetables – pizzas can be so much more than this. That’s why my essentials include shrimp, capers, chipotle and avocado to make three Friday-night pizzas that are anything but traditional.

The theme of these pizzas is that each has a topping that is added after the crust with cheese comes out of the oven.

Basic Pizza Crust (adapted from Didi Emmons’s Vegetarian Planet)
¾ cup (175 mL) lukewarm water
1 tsp (5 mL) sugar
1 ½ tsp (7 mL) dry yeast

2 cups (500 mL) all purpose flour plus more for dusting surface
1 tsp (5 mL) salt

olive oil as needed to oil bowl and dough

To make dough by hand:

Stir 1/3 cup (75 mL) water and sugar together in large bowl then stir in yeast when sugar is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5–10 minutes. Mix in rest of ingredients, blending until dough comes together. Dump mixture onto floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5–10 minutes. Rinse and dry bowl, oil lightly and add dough. Turn dough to coat with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in warm spot to rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size. When risen, punch down and roll-out on floured surface. Makes one 14” (35 cm) thin-crust pizza base.

If making dough using a food processor, follow manufacturer’s directions.

Fresh Spinach & Cheddar Salad Pizza

(adapted from Alan Tangren in Fine Cooking No. 43)

The hot pizza warms the spinach slightly, removing some of the raw taste but leaving the freshness intact. I was leery of adding the hard-boiled eggs, but don’t be tempted to omit them – they’re essential.

For the crust – substitute 1 cup (250 mL) hard whole wheat for 1 cup all purpose flour.

Pizza Topping

2 eggs
2 tbsp (30 mL) lemon juice
1 tsp (5 mL) honey
1 tsp (5 mL) Dijon mustard
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
¼ cup (60 mL) capers, rinsed and patted dry

1 bunch tender spinach (not the curly kind), stemmed, washed and spun dry
¼ cup (60 mL) pine nuts
2 oz (60 g) Parmesan

While dough rises, cook eggs until hard-boiled then immediately place in cold water and when cool enough to handle, peel and set aside. In salad bowl, make dressing. Whisk together lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. When blended, add olive oil while continuing to whisk. Set aside.

To make fried capers, heat vegetable oil in small skillet until oil starts to shimmer, just below smoking point. Carefully add capers and fry until they bloom like tiny flowers. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Set aside.

Heat oven to 500 F (260 C).

Pizza Base

1 unbaked crust, rolled out
olive oil for brushing on the dough
6 oz (175 g) cheddar, Gruyère, or other cheese of your choice, grated

Transfer dough to pizza pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Distribute cheese evenly on dough and place in oven. Check after 2-3 minutes and deflate any big bubbles if needed.

While pizza base bakes, give dressing a quick whisk, add spinach and toss to coat. Toast pine nuts in toaster oven for 5-7 minutes at 350 F (180 C), or dry-roast in skillet, until lightly browned.

Remove crust from oven when edges and underside are golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 10-12 minutes. Place crust on cutting board, top with spinach salad then capers and pine nuts. Coarsely grate hard-boiled eggs, shave parmesan and spread each evenly over top. Slice and serve immediately. Makes 8 slices.

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