Week Night Yum Yum: Pizza Siciliana with Arugula and Parmesan

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Usually I make my own pizzas using store-bought pizza dough (or if I have time like on the weekend, I'll make my own from scratch). But sometimes even I need a bigger short cut than that. Enter...focaccia bread.
There are many different styles of pizza, one of which is Sicilian style. Using a much thicker, spongier dough, it's more like a focaccia bread with toppings than a the flatter or crispier pizza we're used to. Focaccia bread isn't hard to make on your own, but it takes time. With so many great artisinal breads out there, a really great short cut for those super busy week night meals is to use a great store-bought focaccia, then top it as you would a pizza.
I did this one with a simple and fresh arugula salad and good quality Parmesano-Reggiano shaved right on top. It was simple, extremely fast (hello 10 minutes prep-to-eat!), and very satisfying.
Pizza Siciliana with Arugula and Parmesan
1 store-bought focaccia bread
1 bag (about 4 cups) arugula
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
good quality extra virgin olive oil
good quality imported Parmesan-Reggiano
special equipment: cheese shaver or vegetable peeler
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place focaccia bread in oven (straight on the rack or on a baking sheet is fine) and heat through 5 minutes. While the bread is heating, prepare the salad. Simply combine the arugula, lemon juice, garlic clove, and around a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then gently toss. Once bread come out of the oven, cut into sections like a pizza (you can use a pizza roller or just a knife). Then pile the arugula salad high on top and drizzle with a little more olive oil. Top with shavings of the parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
My Notes:
Parmesan shavings are key for this salad. If you use finely grated, it will get lost in the salad. You want to bite into salty pieces of whole parmesan cheese for this. If you don't feel comfortable grating it yourself, you can buy pre-shaved parmesan cheese in the cheese section of your grocery store.
Since this recipe stands on only a few ingredients, all of the ingredients have to be best quality, fresh, and at their prime. If your arugula doesn't look the best, don't use it -- it will wilt too much and get mushy. Invest in some imported, good quality extra virgin olive oil to use just for these occasions. I often have my cooking olive oil and my "finishing" olive oil for salads, drizzles, and dips. I will invest up to $30 a bottle for a finishing olive oil because I want that perfect taste. Italian and Spanish olive oils work best for this; Greek, Middle Eastern, and American olive oils are better to cook with.
If you don't have Parmesan on hand, you can use any goat cheese (chevre, montrachet, even feta). If you have spinach and bleu cheese on hand go ahead and substitute those instead for the arugula and Parmesan. The point of this recipe is to have a nice hot bread on the bottom to contrast with a cool, crisp salad on top and salty bite of cheese. Go nuts with your combinations!

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