Friday, 24 January 2014

Home Made- with a Little Helping Hand

Pizza con Salami, Finocchio, Pomodorini & Scamorza Affumicata
Pizza with Salami, Fennel, Cherry Tomatoes and Smoked Scamorza

This was not the first time- nor will it be the last that I used a store-bought pizza dough to make my supper... and I am not in the slightest ashamed to admit it! Yes, home made is better, but no, I do not consider it worthwhile to go to the time and trouble for just one single-serving sized pizza. Uh-uh. Especially after a long day at the office and in particular one when you are feeling a little "under the weather"...

Not every day can be a good day, but you know, even a so-so day can end with a good meal! As usual, I used but a mere handful of ingredients to transform a roll of pizza dough into a what I would describe as "my kind of pizza"- crispy, full of rich flavor, but at the same time light... not for me those soggy, thick, cheese-festooned and greasy concoctions- no, no... just take the time to stop and reconsider and next time around, you could try making your pizza this way too... I think you might even like it!

Choosing the ingredients was a simple affair... I just used what was there in the fridge! I had a nice artisan salami with hazelnuts in it and decided to use some of that, cut into the thinnest slices I could manage- I wanted the rich, smokey and salty flavor but not too much fat... as you can see there were probably no more than 10 or 11 thin slices. I also added about a third of a bulb of fennel cut into thin slices, a shallot, a handful of cherry tomatoes and a few nice leaves of basil. 
And as for cheese, well there was that last quarter of smoked Scamorza just begging to be used- and who was I to disagree?

What I decided to do, was to pop the salami into a non-stick pan, crank up the heat and to render out some of the fat... the reason being, that I wanted to partially cook the fennel, shallot and tomatoes in advance, so that I could crank up the heat in the oven to maximum and get the base nice and crisp, but still make sure that the ingredients cooked through and didn't simply get singed and burn.

So, on went the heat for my frying pan and at the same time for the oven, which I turned up to maximum and heated the tray I wanted to use in advance- obviously if you have one of those pizza stones that would be even better, but if I don't use my now famous frying pan technique, I like to have the tray hot before placing my pizza on to it to make sure the base gets nice and crispy from below.

I fried the salami for 2-3 minutes before adding the fennel and shallot and gave them 3-4 minutes of their own, then added the halved cherry tomatoes, again for just 3-4 minutes as well. This made the salami already pretty dry and ready to crisp-up on the pizza, the fennel and onion just transparent and ready to be finished, along with the tomatoes in the oven.

I assembled my pizza by first sprinkling a light layer of grated Scamorza directly on the dough, then laying out the basil leaves and then the fennel, first of all, as they were the largest of the ingredients. Spreading the salami slices and tomatoes out evenly was then of course a simple affair- and then to finish off, again a good, generous handful of grated cheese on top, with a dusting of nutmeg and plenty of freshly ground pepper. 

After 10 minutes on the middle shelf in the oven, the pizza was already a gentle, golden brown and the base was baked-through... but if you know me at least a little- you will know that I am not a friend of any kind of dish with soft, oozy, cheesy toppings-neither pizza nor pasta- and this is purely my preference.... BUT- being as that is the case, back into the oven it went, under the broiler, for a further 2-3 minutes, to take the Scamorza over the edge and turn it a lovely rich, golden color and to slightly singe the tips of the tomatoes and onions, giving them a nice caramelized kiss- yum-yum for me!

The other thing that happens, is that if you make sure to sprinkle just enough cheese onto the basil to lightly coat it but not totally suffocate it, it will dehydrate and become crisp and intense in flavor and just wonderful in combination to the tangy little tomatoes when you bite into them. The fennel and onion are sweet and tender and the salami, salty, rich and crispy! Mine had the extra flavor of the nutty filling, but of course any salami will do- important for me though was that it didn't just lie there on top like a sheet of meat and fat flavored rubber... if I had wanted that I could have gone to "The Hut with No Name" and got one of their pizzas- lol!

So, even if you don't make your own dough base, you can still decide what to add as a topping- and that is what makes or breaks a pizza in my opinion. People get all fussy about whether they like the base to be thick and soft or thin and crisp- and whatever they may prefer, they go and ruin it by adding too much topping! Trust me- less is more and this is another great example of just how true that old saying is! Just you mark my words!

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