Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Pressing Matters

Schiacciate di Melanzane alla Griglia
Schiacciate with Eggplant, Olives, Capers, Mint & Provolone, "Grilled" in the Pan.

When it comes to making a "schiacciata", pressing does indeed matter- as the word "schiacciare" translates to "flatten", or "squash" in English. Which is exactly what you do with these pizza, or bread dough parcels. In principle, these are a similar to pizza calzones, but the fillings are usually a little different- at least where my family comes from in Sicily, they are!

Traditionally, schiacciate were made with excess bread dough, on the days when the ladies would bake bread, maybe once or twice a week in days gone by. Back in the old days, there may have been a communal oven in the village that the women all took their home made loaves to, in order to have them baked, or maybe they got together with family and neighbors if they were fortunate enough to know someone with an oven. And obviously, once they had the oven fired-up with wood and coal, they would make the most of the fact an prepare enough dough and bread to make the whole endeavor worthwhile...

Once they had shaped the larger, full-sized loaves, the women would shape the remaining dough into rolls, or sometimes, they would flatten the dough out, lay some kind of filling out onto it, then fold it over and fire it up that way- pretty cool actually!

Back when food was scarce and money was tight, people would use whatever they had... scraps of cheese, ham, olives, peppers, vegetables, tomato sauce... and the most important ingredient, necessity, was what gave birth to so many variations in the fillings. My all-time favorite, for example, is broccoli, black olives, sun dried tomato, potato, pancetta and cheese... mmm! Except, this evening, I decided to try something else...

I decided to use eggplant, olives and capers as the main ingredients, combined with Provolone cheese, Spring onions, tomato sauce and thyme... and of course mint! Lots and lots of mint, which I always love in combination with eggplant- and which would transform this little snack into something really different and special.

The dough I used, as you can see, was a pre-made pizza dough on a roll... as always! And at the risk of repeating myself, over and over and over... if I make pizza, focaccia or and other bread-like concoction for more than one person- yes, I will go to the trouble of making a fresh dough myself. But if it is just a snack-type meal for myself... like this one... forgeddaboudit!

The first step to making this dish was to pre-cook the eggplant. Now, as I did not want to have a greasy filling in my schiacciata, I went about preparing it like this. I cut the eggplant into a relatively small dice and popped it into a hot frying pan with a little salt and pepper, but no oil. Instead, I just went on stirring it until it began to brown here and there and then added the Spring onion, also cut into slices. I then added just a brief splash of water to deglaze the frying pan and continued stirring until the water had evaporated away, then took the pan off the heat and fetched the pizza dough out of the packet.

I cut the dough into 2 equally large pieces and drizzled it lightly with tomato sauce- a simple "passata" is fine for this. Next came the mint leaves- and plenty of them! I laid these out evenly on one side and then added the pre-cooked eggplant and onion. Next came the olives and capers, a little fresh thyme and the provolone cheese. I seasoned with salt and pepper and then folded the dough over on itself and sealed everything firmly shut. Simple. And then, yes, I did squeeze everything nice and firmly flat- making sure that my dough parcel really WAS, "schiacciata" :-)

Oh- and yes there WAS double the amount of cheese in my schiacciate as there is 
 visible in my photos... I just didn't want for you to not be able to see all of the other goodies that went into my little parcels.

And all I needed to do now, was to pop the finished, filled and folded pizza-dough parcels on to my grill frying pan... how I love it! I made sure to press the dough down firmly into the pan, so as to get these lovely scorch marks and the typical deep roasted flavor... mmm! If I had the good fortune to have at least a simple balcony even... and a grill... I would do this kinda thing outdoors on real grill all of the time! ... but alas, I live in a 2 room apartment in the city- so the pan, cranked up to the highest temperature, was the way to go. 

After 3-4 minutes from each side, things were already looking pretty good, but it is important to flip the schiacciate over and over to make sure that the whole surface gets nicely toasted. By the time the dough is nice, firm and golden brown, it will be ready for slicing up and enjoying... like I did!

With the eggplant, capers, olives and cheese, this was a great combination- especially with the mint, it made for an unusual but down-to-earth alternative to a pizza or a toasted sandwich. And it reminded me of home... sigh!

But most of all it put a smile on my face and a warm meal in my tummy! So hurrah for me and the same for you, if you try this out to! Don't you just love it when what you want to say comes out as a rhyme?!? Hahaha! Enjoy!


  1. Now this is my kind of snack food!

    PS: I'm with you on store-bought pizza dough. It's a real godsend on weeknights.

  2. :-D So glad you like it Frank- and nice to have someone I respect and admire so much agree with me on the issue of the dough too :-) Best wishes, Francesco