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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Creamy Rucola/Arugula Ciabatta Pizza

Check out the YouTube video:
 This is a really nice snack that is easy to make. The recipe produces a ciabatta pizza that is roughly the size of a normal medium pizza. Serves 2-3 people. 
> 400-500 g of rucola (it will reduce down as you cook it, similar to fresh spinach)
> 1 loaf of ciabatta (at least ten inches by 4 inches. It's also possible to use the small 4in buns, but I find that these are more work), sliced longways.
> 4 Tbl cream cheese 
> 1 Tbl butter 
> 1 tsp salt, garlic, parsley, oregano, basil; 1/2 tsp white pepper. This is your pizza seasoning base for the rucola spread.
> 50-100 g sliced salami, ham, pepperoni, etc. This is to your taste. For veggie lovers you can opt out of the lunch meats altogether. 
> 1 sliced sprig of green onions, 2 medium mushrooms, 1/4 bell pepper, etc. Again this can be to your own preference. Meat lovers can throw the veg our completely if they like, although I would recommend the green onions as they complement the rucola nicely. 
> 100 g slice cheese. I like a lighter cheese on mine, but cheddar is always acceptable.

Stage 1: Prep. 

Slice the ciabatta bread lengthwise so that you end up with 2 long flat "pizza" bases. Put these aside; once the oven has been started they will go inside to toast until the oven reaches temperature. This will take around 10-15 minutes depending on the oven, so be sure that the rucola cheese base is prepared before turning on the oven.

Prepare the pizza base by rough chopping the rucola and cooking the butter, cream cheese and spices into it in a nice saute. Keep the pan on low to medium and add the rucola and butter. Once the butter melts, add the spicing (garlic, parsley, oregano, basil and salt) and stir on medium until the rucola turns dark green, about 5 min. 

Add the cream cheese and turn the heat down to low. Stir the cheese in completely, about 2 more minutes and then turn off the heat and leave your base to sit on the warm stove while you turn on the oven and let the bread toast. Note: this whole process can also be done in the microwave. I use this recipe when I'm short on time and have more dried spices than fresh. Rucola is hardy enough that it can be cooked in butter with dried spices in the microwave and the vegetable is still fairly crisp. Don't overcook it; once the cheese is fully melted in and the rucola is dark green you can leave it to sit. Use a microwave safe bowl, please.

Use the broiler or grill option on you oven, whichever you are more comfortable with. Set the temperature to about 225 F (180 C). The pizza needs to cook, but more importantly it needs to toast evenly and not burn the edges. If your edges are getting crispy too quickly, turn the oven temperature down. Once the oven temperature has been set the ciabatta pieces can be placed in the oven to toast while it heats up. 

While the ciabatta toasts and the oven heats up, chop the veggies and meats you want to top the pizzas with. I chop up everything into large slices and pile as much as I can get on top of the ciabatta and rucola base. It's messy and wonderfully delicious. Choose your pizza topping preference and play with your own style. 

Note: the vegetables go on the pizza raw because they will cook in the oven, but still retain their crunch and flavor. Lunch meats such as salami, ham, pepperoni, etc can also be sliced right out of the package and put on the pizza. Sausage is also a great topping, like chicken and ground beef, but these will need to be cooked first. If you like to use toppings like these, cook them first and then cook the rucola and cheese base. The rucola will soak up some of the flavor from the meat, which will have time to cool outside of the pan before being added to the pizza.

Stage 2: The Double Toast

Once the oven heats up OR the ciabatta bread is already toasted, pull the pieces out of the oven and spread the rucola cheese base on them. Layer on the veggies and the meats and place the pizzas back in the oven. Let them cook for 10-15 minutes so that the vegetables can cook some and the meat juices can soak into the pizza. 

Lastly, pull the pizzas back out of the oven and add the sliced cheese to the top. I like to leave my cheese in long, thick slices so that each bite is nice and creamy from the cheese on top to the pizza base below. Shredded cheese is also useful here because it will melt into the toppings nicely and fill in any gaps. Let cook until the cheese has browned and melted, usually another 10-15 minutes. 

The reason for the double toast here - add the base and toppings, cook, add the cheese, cook - is so that each layer has a chance to cook. The rucola base was cooked first and then the vegetables (which secrete water as they are cooked) and meats (which secrete oils) are given a chance to be absorbed into the ciabatta. Lastly, the cheese is added and the whole pizza toasted some more so that the cheese soaks into the toppings and gets crispy on top.  

Note: The double toast makes  it imperative that you keep an eye on your ciabatta toast in the beginning. If your bread gets too toasty then your whole pizza base will be very crunchy and hard. When the ciabatta gets a golden brown you should start adding your toppings, even if the oven is still not at temperature.

Once the cheese has browned slightly the pizzas can be removed from the oven. Let them sit for a few minutes because they are going to be too hot to cut right out the oven. Use a large bread knife and "saw" through the pizza to cut it into slices. The sawing motion will ensure the integrity of the round ciabatta bread edges and allow you to keep the toppings on the pizza slices as well.

Enjoy! ~Jenn~

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