Thursday, 16 May 2013

Sicilian Squeeze

Schiacciata di Patate, Ricotta, Rucola, Avocado &
Schiacciata with Potato, Ricotta, Arugula, Avocado & Ajvar

Just as Italy has it's pizza and calzone, Sicily is the home of the schiacciata and the sfincione... all members of the same family, but each with its own character, taste and appearance- a little like me and my 8 siblings really!

This is an improvised schiacciata of my own devising, with a soft and juicy filling of mashed potato, avocado, onion, garlic, ricotta, arugula and ajvar- all good stuff, all healthy, all delicious... and this evening- all mine! This was a very quickly made snack- perfect as an appetizer and great whether you serve it hot or cold.

To make this, I began by boiling a medium sized potato- which was plenty for a large, single serving such as this. After around 15 minutes, it was soft enough to mash with a fork- so I drained off the water and did exactly that with it. Whilst the potato was still hot, I added a couple of handfuls of roughly chopped arugula, a very finely chopped Spring onion, a little crushed garlic and 2 tablespoons of fresh ricotta cheese. I stirred this all together well and seasoned generously with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Whilst the potato had been bubbling away, I busied myself by dicing up an avocado, grating a little Parmesan cheese and spreading a sheet of pizza dough generously with spicy Ajvar. Next step was to turn on the broiler to maximum heat and turn the stove top on and get my frying pan hot, hot, hot too! It was time to put this little thing together and get some cooking going on!

I spread the potato/arugula mash out over half of the dough, then placed the avocado dice on top, being careful to spread it out equally- it only took half an avocado to cover a single serving generously. I seasoned the avocado with salt and pepper and then carefully folded the other half of the pizza dough on top to seal everything in. I tucked in the ends of the dough all the way around and then lifted it, right with the greaseproof paper it was packed in and placed it straight onto that hot frying pan!

After just a couple of minutes, the dough was firm and baked enough on the underside, that I could flip it over using a wooden spatula... it was a little heavy- but one good flip did the trick, even though it did land with quite a bit of a "whump!" sound! I gave it 2-3 minutes from the other side and then pressed it down firmly and flat with the wooden spatula. The word "schiacciata" means literally "squashed down"- which is what I did, to make sure the filling warmed through nicely and that a nice crust formed too.

Once the schiacciata was baked and firm, I spread the top surface of it with Ajvar and sprinkled it with just a little coarsely grated Parmesan- and then popped my pan under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese had melted and become crispy. This crispy, salty crust, with the tangy Ajvar, was perfect in contrast to the mild and soft avocado and potato inside. Along with the creamy ricotta cheese and the rich coating of Ajvar inside, this was an absolutely wonderful combination... which will be a treat for even the most avid anti-vegetarian of you! Trust me- this snack has all you need and then some! So grab your pans and make some!

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