Pizza bianca

Last night we reaped the first meager harvest from our garden rows. Five violet streaked leaves of romaine, a handful of basil leaves, and one spring onion sat strewn across the cutting board, waiting in limbo for the calamitous clang of the dinner bell.

When the clock struck eight, down came the blade. Swiftly, silently, the green harvest heralds resigned to their fate. Tonight, they would provide the toppings for an impromptu pizza bianca.

I had heard about the dish on NPR. Driving lazily along the bayside on Saturday afternoon, the wavering voice of Lynne Rossetto Kasper drifted over the airwaves, bringing with it the tastes and smells of a Roman artisanal favorite. Pizza bianca, as Kasper and her guest Anya Von Bremzen (travel writer for Travel + Leisure; check out her article on eating on the cheap in Europe) explain, is the antithesis of American pizza. In other words, it lacks tomatoes and and cheese.

The Roman variation focuses instead on simplicity. A good dough, fine olive oil, and sprinkling of coarse salt are the key ingredients. Often ricotta and fresh vegetables serve as toppings, dotted across the crust as tiny accents rather than layered in the thick tradition of a New York pizza.

Following the season, we topped ours with our first tiny basil, a smattering of bok choy and romaine, sautéed spring onion rounds, the leaves of our burgeoning potted rosemary, and a few scattered dollops of Shy Brother's lavender cheese. A sprinkling of oats over the pan allowed the crust to crisp up in the oven, and we sat down to a meal that—at least in the vegetable department—was entirely the work of our own earthen hands.


Serves 8

Let 2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast dissolve in 1 and 1/3 cups very warm water for 5 minutes, or until bubbly. Add 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 3 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour. Mix well and knead 8-10 minutes or until elastic. Set aside to rise for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.

Punch dough down and divide into two balls. Preheat oven to 475 and set dough aside to rest. In a heavy frying pan, sauté one large chopped spring onion or scallion until tender. Add several sprigs of chopped rosemary, sauté for a minute longer, and turn off heat. Add several chopped lettuce, bok choy, or other spring green leaves to hot pan to quickly coat in oil (to keep moist in oven).

Roll out dough and place on cookie sheet sprinkled with oats (this will prevent dough sticking to pan and burning). Brush dough with several tablespoons olive oil and top with sautéed veggies. Add a handful of basil leaves and several dollops of soft cheese as desired. Crank sea salt and pepper over top to season, and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Enjoy hot or cold as leftovers.


Chris Gillis said...

Great looking dish Elspeth...

Anna said...

i have been rolling my own pizza dough at home and i just wanted to offer a little tip. when i first started making the dough, i was tempted to bake it, let it cool, and then put it in the freezer for later on. I made two pizzas that way and found that they were good but a little tough. The second time i made dough, i rolled and shaped it and then immediately put it in the freezer raw. When i was ready for my pizza i just let it thaw a bit, then topped it and baked it. the pizza made with raw dough came out MUCH better than the one made with pre-baked dough...very moist and so easy and delicious that i have practically been living on the stuff!

Elspeth said...

anna, that is a great suggestion. next time i have extra i will try rolling it out before popping it in the freezer.

thanks to both you and chris!

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