Thursday, 10 April 2014

Pizza Proprio Pazza!

Pizza Proprio Pazza!
Totally Crazy Pizza with Ajvar, Sweet Chinese Sausage, Rosemary, Basil, Olives, Capers & Feta Cheese!

Pizza Pazza is something you will find on most every menu at most every pizzeria in Italy. I don't know about the rest of the world... but I am guessing maybe not. Because it means "crazy pizza" and is usually something you wouldnt normally find on any Italian pizza menu. But being at the rest of the world pops just about anything on top of their pizza's anyway... that probably seems a little redundant outside of Italy. 

Usually you would have slices of boiled egg, or a fried egg, maybe peas or something like sweetcorn or pineapple and ham on top. If that sounds ordinary to you... then you probably have no idea what a real Italian pizza is like- haha! Why do you think the Italians call something like that "crazy"? Because it is simply not meant to be! Its ok- I wont bitch on and on for too much longer! 

Back in the old country, where pizza is simple and good, there is no real need to get too adventurous with the toppings. Those standard combinations just work well together- which is why they have become so established. But being as I am miles away in Frankfurt and just about as crazy as any of those Piazzaioli who sling the real things in the pizza parlors, I decided to go a little pazzo myself this evening and make a totally mixed-up and mad creation... One that turned out to be something quite delicious and almost sublime!

Despite my snide remarks, I am neither a great fan of pizza nor a traditionalist. Pizza is no great art form, it is simply a snack food- basically a flat bread with a little added flavor in its most traditional form- and that is the way I like it best- not too much cheese, not too much fatty stuff... and with not too much topping, period! One thing I loathe is a floppy, rubbery, gooey rag covered in grease!

So look at the madness that I dreamed-up this evening! There is something from every corner of the world on here! Feta cheese from Greece, Chinese sausage, olives and capers from Sicily, peppers and onion from wherever and all of those things on a bed of Ayvar from Yugoslavia! That IS pretty nutzoid! But together with some rosemary and basil, all of those ingredients balanced each other out quite wonderfully! What started out more as a dare, a prank or a bit of silliness on my part... turned out to be one of the best pizzas I have had in a long time... I kid you not!

Obviously, using a store-bought dough on a roll, like I did, the only prep-work involved is a little slicing. This means pulling the skin off of the Chinese sausage and slicing that as thinly as you can, slicing the pepper as thinly as possible and the onion of course too. That's not too much to ask of you, is it? ;-)

The only thing I will say, is that no matter what the pictures may suggest to your minds eye, the reality of the matter is that you only need a little of each ingredient. To make this pizza I used just 1/3rd of a block of Feta cheese, 2 small Chinese sausages, 1 small red, pointy pepper, 1 Spring onion, 5 olives and a tablespoon of capers. In my humble opinion... the whole secret is to absolutely NOT put too much topping onto your pizza. There- I've said it again!

The first thing I did after laying out the dough and rolling over the outside edges, was to spread the surface with Ajvar rather than tomato sauce. I love its sweet and tangy red pepper flavor, which of course in this case with the sweet Chinese sausage was a good thing!

And the second thing I did was to turn on the oven to the highest setting as it needs to be hot, hot, hot to make a good pizza!

Next came 7-8 nice large leaves of basil, the sausage slices, rosemary, very thinly sliced red peppers and then a nice sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese. The saltiness of the cheese and the pungent rosemary and aromatic basil go so well with the sweet sausage that they bring a wonderful balance to its flavor... which is rich but waaaay to sweet for out Westernized palates... and that's ok! As long as we do something to add a little seasoning, there is no reason to not add it to a pizza in the slightest!

I then added the finely sliced Spring onion, the 5-6 halved olives, the capers and a generous grind of fresh pepper. Thats plenty of variety, loads and loads of flavor... but just a little of each thing... but a little also goes a long way! If you have too much of each flavor, you end up having maybe a rich, uniform flavor, but I like to taste the nuances of the flavor of each ingredient if possible... thats what makes a pizza interesting and exciting to me!

Into a very hot oven it went, on the middle shelf, for something between 15-20 minutes... until it was golden and toasty and crispy and brown... I know that pizzas bake in less than half that time in a real pizza oven... but that's just the point... you are going to be at home when you try this out and unfortunately our home ovens are only half as powerful as those brick ovens... sigh! But we can be patient... can't we? You know it's going to be worth it after all... just look at the results!

Make sure to have the fan on so that the air circulates in your oven as you want the base to be nice and crispy just as much as you want the top to be golden and brown. And then after 15-20 minutes or so, depending the strength of your oven, give your beautiful pizzas an added 2-3 minutes underneath the broiler to get everything nice and toasty and delicious.

See- just because the ingredients are a little crazy, doesn't mean that it has to necessarily be difficult to make! This is all very easy and even fun to do!

And the result? A colorful, flavorful, sweet and savory pizza that can hold it's own along with any other of those "classics"... but is absolutely international in its ingredient list! What a mix- what a hoot... and what a great supper to enjoy! And I hope that you do too!

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