Monday, March 8, 2010

when the moon hits your eye

After writing that pizza post, you won't be surprised to hear that I was craving pizza.

I really should try making one of those spinach pizzas, I thought.  So I picked up some pizza dough, rather than attempt another draft of fool-proof dough myself, and some spinach, some garlic, some ricotta.

The results ... made me realize just how high-fat Nashua House's spinach pie must be.  Because while I added a ton of fat to mine, it came out "delicious but kind of lean-seeming."  Maybe just drizzling some olive oil on would make a difference, I don't know.

What I did was, I combined garlicky creamed spinach with whole-milk ricotta and spread that on the dough, and topped it with cheese.  It was certainly very good!  It just wasn't as delectable as Nashua House's, and didn't seem NEARLY as high-fat as I knew it was.

This pizza, today's pizza, is not that.  But I found that the creamed spinach makes a great addition to a red sauce pie: spinach, ricotta, and lampascioni pie:

Spinach, ricotta, and lampascioni pizza

First, the creamed spinach:

I minced about half a bulb (that's half a bulb, like six cloves) of garlic and cooked them in half a cup of heavy cream in a saute pan until the cream reduced to the point that the garlic was frying in butterfat.

Meanwhile, I took one bunch of cleaned spinach, blanched it (boiled for about 45 seconds, shocked in ice water), squeezed every drop of moisture out of it that I could, and chopped it fine.  When the butterfat broke from the reducing cream, I added the spinach to the pan, cooked it quickly, and added a touch of cream at the end to bring everything together -- and then seasoned with a pretty healthy pinch of salt.

You use about a third of that spinach for a pizza.


Next, the lampascioni.  Nevermind the label: these are not wild onions.  They're labeled that way sometimes because they sort of look like onions and a lot of English-language guides to Italian food refer to lampascioni that way.  They're wild hyacinth bulbs.  You can't eat most varieties of hyacinth, but you can eat this one, which grows wild in Italy.  It's bitter -- punishingly bitter if you don't precook and/or soak them in olive oil before your final preparation.  The brand I have, sold by Zingerman's, has been roasted and packed in olive oil.  Noticeably bitter, but edible.  (My bitterness threshold: I can drink Campari straight, but bitter melon is almost completely inedible for me.)

There is maybe a gene for the enjoyment of bitter foods.  I'm half-Italian, and the Italians certainly love their bitter things, from bitter greens to Campari and other amaros to chinotto oranges.  Salt reduces bitterness-perception, so all those bitter things pair well with salty cheeses like Pecorino and parmigiano, or meats like prosciutto.  One of the finest flavor combinations in the world is broccoli raab (rabe, rape, rapini) with pork and Pecorino or parmigiano.  

On a pizza like this, the cheese, the garlic, the tomato, they all provide great contrasts for that bitterness, which in turn distracts you from how much cream and cheese is involved here.

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