A near perfect combination of rain balanced with ample sunshine have provided me with lots of garden-fresh spinach and basil.
The tomatoes are on their way and I can’t wait!
Fresh spinach is such a joy! As a child, I never liked spinach but that’s because spinach came in a can, back then. Canned spinach is a sad, soggy misrepresentation of what spinach is meant to be. Fresh spinach isn’t bitter, like the canned version and it’s crammed with vitamins and minerals.
I have been feasting on spinach salads for over a week now and the garden is outpacing my consumption. Must eat more spinach!
So, with that in mind, I find myself including it in more and more dishes.
Today’s culinary excursion took me to Italy, Florence, to be precise. ‘Florentine’ is an adjective that is used to describe many things. To fight Florentine style is to use a sword in one hand and a dagger in the other, but I’m not a fighter. My passion is food and preparing food, Florentine style, often refers to the use of spinach in the dish.
Pizza Fiorentina speciale! Mama mia!
I’m making three pizzas today. Two showcase spinach and one is an Italian meat extravaganza. The spinach pizzas are made with garlic infused olive oil, rather than a traditional marinara sauce.
I recommend using fresh spinach for the pizzas. Frozen spinach can be used by it must be squeezed to remove as much moisture as possible…and for pity’s sake, don’t use canned spinach! Use homemade pizza dough, or store-bought pizza crust.
Pizza Fiorentina (Pizza Florentine)
2 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup fresh spinach, rough chopped
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp red chile flakes (optional)
1 ½ cups grated mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil, to taste
Heat the olive oil and garlic in a pan over low heat. Simmer and stir for a few minutes until the garlic softens.
Strain the garlic and reserve the olive oil.
Chop and mash the garlic. Return the garlic to the olive oil and set aside.
Combine ricotta and Parmesan cheese, spinach, oregano and red chile flakes. Mix to combine.
Prepare the pizza dough.
Spread the olive oil and garlic on the pizza dough and bake in a 425° oven for 10 minutes.
Remove the pizza crust and add the cheese mixture, spreading the mixture evenly across the pizza crust. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes.
Remove the pizza from the oven. Top with fresh basil. Slice the pizza and serve hot.
Pizza con Varietà Di Salumi (Pizza with a variety of cured meats)
This pizza features thinly sliced pepperoni salami, hot capocollo and hot calabrese.
6 oz cured Italian meats (pepperoni salami, hot capocollo and hot calabrese)
1 cup marinara
2 cups mozzarella
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Prebake the pizza crust, if making from scratch.
Add marina, followed by the meats and then the cheese.
Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.
Remove the pizza, slice and serve hot.
Pizza Spinaci all’Aglio (Pizza with Spinach and Garlic)
In its purest form, this pizza is nothing but olive oil, garlic, spinach and cheese but, I added a few other items to add sweetness and flavor.
3 Tbs olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 fresh tomato, sliced thin and marinated in olive oil and oregano for 30 minutes
1 cup fire roasted yellow bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup fresh onion, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh spinach, rough chopped
1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese
½ cups Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil, to taste
Simmer the garlic in olive oil over low heat until the garlic softens. Strain the garlic, chop and mash and add back to the olive oil.
Roast the bell pepper over an open flame or over hot coals. I laid the pepper on top of the gas burner and set the heat to the lowest setting. I rotated the pepper every few minutes until the whole pepper was charred.
Store the pepper in a paper or plastic bag for a few minutes to steam.
Remove the pepper and wipe away the charred skin, under cool running water. Dice the pepper and reserve.
Spread the olive oil mixture onto the raw pizza crust. Allow the oil to soak into the dough for about one minute and then blot with a paper towel, to remove excess oil.
Add tomatoes, bell peppers and onion.
Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Remove pizza crust and add the spinach. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan.
Bake for another 15 minutes, or until the cheese begins to bubble and brown.
Remove the pizza from the oven, top with fresh basil. Serve immediately.