Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
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MAKES TWO 14-INCH PIZZE; SERVES 12 TO 16
The name of this pizza, quattro stagioni (four seasons), should tell you that it is as much fun to make as it is to eat. There are many versions of this compartmentalized pizza to be found in Italy, and the toppings vary widely because it is made with whatever ingredients happen to be on hand.
This one evokes the seasons with everything from spring artichokes and summer tomatoes to pungent fall olives and winter onions. I like to bake this on a preheated baking stone, but conventional pizza pans are fine, too.
5 tablespoons Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil
2 large white or Spanish onions, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 shallots, thinly sliced
Two 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained and thinly sliced
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup diced pitted oil-cured black olives
1/2 cup diced green olives in brine
1/2 cup seeded and thinly sliced sweet red peppers
1/2 cup seeded and thinly sliced sweet yellow peppers
2 medium plum tomatoes, sliced
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
4 fresh basil leaves, shredded
1 recipe Straight Dough
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they are browned and glazed. Raise the heat to high, splash in the vinegar, and stir until the vinegar evaporates. Remove the onions to a small bowl and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and the shallots, and cook until soft. Stir in the artichoke hearts and salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture to a small bowl.
Preheat the oven to 425ºF. If using a baking stone, place it on the lowest oven rack to preheat. Alternatively, lightly spray two 14-inch pizza pans with olive oil spray and set aside. Line a baker's peel (or two peels, if you have them) with parchment paper or sprinkle heavily with cornmeal.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky. Divide it in half. Set half of the dough aside, covered with a damp towel.
Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a tangerine and set it aside. Roll the rest of the dough out to a 14-inch round.
Place the dough on the baker's peel or a baking sheet. Divide the tangerine-size piece of dough in half and with the palms of your hands, roll each piece into a 14-inch rope. Cross the two ropes over the top of the dough, dividing it into quarters.
Spread half the onions over one quarter of the dough. Spread half the shallots and artichokes over the second quarter. Press half the black and green olives gently into the dough in the third quarter, and spread half the strips of red and yellow peppers over the olives. Arrange half of the tomato slices and cheese in the last quarter and sprinkle with half the basil. Drizzle the top of the pizza with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and toppings.
If using a baking stone, slide one pizza onto the stone, with the parchment paper if you used it, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bottom crust is browned and crisp. Bake the second pizza as soon as the first one is done. If using pizza pans, bake the pizzas for 25 to 30 minutes.
Cut the pizzas into wedges with scissors and serve hot.
This recipe is from WHAT YOU KNEAD by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1997.