Pizza Panzanella Salad

From the time I was a young child, Saturdays were pizza night. It was one of the first things I learned how to cook. Pizza teaches you all of the basic fundamentals in the kitchen: dough, cutting veggies, shredding cheese, baking, or sautéeing (if you decided to par-cook some ingredients). This past summer has been largely sweltering. Or at least hot enough to minimize my desire to have a hot oven going for hours.

I like to have the oven on to have a stable heat environment to proof the dough (let it rise). So the last month or so I haven’t had my regular Saturday pizza night. To celebrate one of the first cool Saturday nights in quite some time, I decided to do a salad with the basic flavours of a great pizza: savoury chewy crust, vibrant tomatoes, garlic, oregano and cheese. And since another Italian classic recipe of panzanella has a bready element to a tomato salad, the idea of this salad came together naturally.

Pizza Panzanella Salad

For the Pizza Dough Croutons:

1 cup spelt flour (or plain/all purpose flour)

1 cup Park wheat flour, a high protein heritage variety of wheat (or bread flour)

1 tsp salt

3/4 cup warm water

2 tsp maple syrup

3/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

   In a medium bowl, combine the spelt and Park wheat flour. Make a depression in the centre of the flour, sprinkle the salt around the outer edge and add the water to the hole that the depression made. Add the maple syrup and yeast to the water. Stir together the yeast, water, maple syrup and a bit of the flour. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes or until the yeast goes bubbly. Start to fold the flour into the bubbly yeast mixture and as most of the dough starts to come together, turn the dough on to the counter and begin to knead. Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes or until smooth and no longer sticky. In a clean, medium bowl, add the oil, rub it all along the bottom and sides and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place (near a preheated oven for example) for an hour. (This will make much more dough than you’ll need for this recipe. So make pizza with it too!)

   Preheat oven to 190C/375F.

   After the dough has risen, pinch off about 1/4 of the dough and split that piece in two. Roll each piece into a long snake-like rod of dough. Cut into 3cm (1-1/2″) pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Set aside.

For the Garlic Vinaigrette:

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp cold pressed flax oil

1/4 tsp salt

   In a food processor, add the garlic, vinegar, oil and salt. Pulse a few times to combine but still leaving the garlic pieces relatively intact. If you over-process the garlic it will get bitter, so the less you purée the better in a basic vinaigrette like this. Set aside.

For the salad:

4 cups of mixed heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 Tbsp shredded pecorino cheese (or parmesan)

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

2 Tbsp fresh oregano

Reserved Pizza Dough Croutons

Reserved Garlic Vinaigrette

   On two plates, scatter the chopped tomatoes all around. Pinch the Pizza Dough Croutons into smaller pieces and dot them around the tomatoes. Sprinkle the fresh oregano over the salad. Drizzle with the Garlic Vinaigrette and shred the pecorino over the top. Serves 2.

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Note: The remaining pizza dough is enough for a nice 35cm/14″ pizza or two 18cm/7″ pizzas. You could bake them in the same 190C/375F oven, but the pizza will take roughly 20 minutes for smaller pizzas or 30 minutes for a larger pizza when the dough is thicker. If you turn up the heat to 220C/450F and stretch the dough into a thin crust (1/2cm thick), then it’ll only take 7 minutes or so. Tonight, I grilled some zucchini, eggplant, onion and pepper slices and along with halved cherry tomatoes and extra cheese, I made a twist on a ratatouille idea on a pizza. I did the thicker crust method (2cm/1″ thick crust at 190C/375F for 20 minutes). Just spread the dough with your favourite pizza sauce (I just add equal part water to a small can of tomato paste, 1 Tbsp dry oregano, and a few dashes of soy sauce and stir to combine). Sprinkle some shredded cheese on the sauce. Spread the grilled vegetables over the cheese. Add a few halved cherry tomatoes and top with a bit more shredded cheese (I used gruyere on the bottom and an Italian herb-infused gouda cheese for the top).Consider this a bonus recipe at the bottom of the post 😉

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