Gluteny On The Bounty

The heavy, humid heat has made me eager for fall to arrive. I do not love the jungly mugginess. So when it broke the other day, I was eager to fire up the oven and make pizza.

There’s nothing quite as nice as making a big batch of dough and then heading out into the garden to gather toppings. Because I taught a meat-curing class last weekend, there were plenty of meaty treats to choose from as well. The dough was my usual, but since it was a same-day affair I added some dried yeast added and gave it a vigorous kneading to develop gluten since there would be no overnight ferment per the normal routine. Flavor is improved by a long ferment and an overnight retard in the fridge, but if you use a wild starter in your recipe it tastes pretty good even if you don’t have time for those steps.

The Swiss chard is doing well; the kale is slowly recovering from the woodchuckalypse, and the broccoli is gone, but the chard is soldiering on. I have found that the somewhat swampy flavor of chard can be neutralized to great effect by including a little feta or goat cheese in whatever the chosen preparation is. The goaty funk brightens it right up and makes it an utter delight. So for one of the pizzas, one I did not photograph, I took finely shredded chard (stems included) and kneaded it with sliced garlic, a fat pinch of salt, and a crumbled handful of feta to form a dense and tangled mess of vibrant flavors. After I spread it out on a round of dough, I added thin slices of homemade lomo on top for extra decadence.

The one up top there was cherry tomatoes, basil, and bresaola, which was not the worst combination ever devised. Apart from a plate of thin slices for an appetizer, there may be no better application for home-cured meat than topping a pizza. Down below (left to right) is olive, onion, and caper—a total winner—then potato with rosemary and black truffle salt, then arugula and gravlax.

Olives, capers, and onion are magical together; it’s a lot like a puttanesca, and can be enhanced with anchovy and hot pepper to great effect. The potato one I learned in Rome; near the school there was an utterly unremarkable pizzeria rustica that made potato pizza with rosemary and black truffle butter and it was a thing of pure beauty. The key is to slice the spuds with a mandoline so they’re thin enough to cook in the short baking time. The arugula and salmon combination is one of my all-time favorites: I bake a crust with a thin layer of tomato sauce on it, then let it cool and top it with arugula and cured salmon (this batch was cured with fennel pollen and lime zest) and then lemon juice and olive oil. It’s the perfect summer pizza. Add a glass or four of cold rosé and your day is complete.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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