Those of you who live in the GTA will be familiar with Il Fornello: the hip, alt-chic series of restaurants that seem to be able to satisfy all palates. Besides fabulous pizza baked in wood-burning ovens, this contemporary Italian resto also provides a wide variety of dishes for those of us sensitive to wheat, gluten, or dairy. In other words, it’s the perfect weekday dinner out for me and my HH: he gets to have the Chicken Asiago (chicken breast stuffed with spinach/asiago mix), while I get to have my alternative pizza. We eat, we enjoy, we laugh about how my dinner costs $6.85 and his is $42.50 (okay, well, I laugh).
For years, my favorite pizza at Il Fornello was the “make your own”: start with a crust of your choice (in my case, spelt, of course), then add your pick of toppings from their list. Despite my best intentions to break free of old habits, I inevitably choose the same old, same old, consisting of roasted garlic, hot peppers, kalamata olives, tomatoes, and either spinach or roasted eggplant. If I’m really hungry, I’ll add some sliced onion or capers to the mix.
Finally, after staring at the list of crust ingredients just about every time I ate there for a few years, at least, I thought, “why don’t I just try to do this at home?” It seemed eminently achievable, given that (a) it was spelt, my flour of choice; (b) there was no dreaded yeast in the crust; (c) it was thin-crust, my preference; and (d) sometimes, you just want to have pizza at home.
So I took the basic list of ingredients from the restaurant menu, omitted a couple (such as the millet, which just didn’t seem necessary), changed another (subbed agave for honey), then played with the proportions. What I came up with was the following crust, ridiculously easy, totally yummy, and great for a pizza night when you’re snowed in at home. Because I’m basically a lazy cook (I may have mentioned that before), there’s no rolling or throwing into the air required. Oh, and it’s also great for breakfast the next day.
Spelt Pizza with Caramelized Onion, Artichokes and Chard
This pizza is quick and easy, and can be infinitely adapted to include any of your favorite ingredients. If using a tomato-based pizza sauce, spread it over the crust just before adding the other ingredients, after pre-baking the crust.
1-1/4 cups whole spelt flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/2 cup (or a bit more) water
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. agave nectar
2 large onions, sliced fine
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped chard (leaves only)
1 whole bulb garlic, roasted (see below)
1 can artichoke hearts, drained (not the marinated kind)
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
2 T. nutritional yeast or grated parmesan cheese
Prepare the garlic ahead of time:
Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the top off the whole head of garlic horizontally so that every clove is exposed at the top. Place on a square of aluminum foil or in a garlic baker and sprinkle with one tablespoon of the oil. Seal tightly and bake at 375F for 45 minutes to an hour, until the garlic is golden and very soft. Cool about 5 minutes, then pinch the cloves from the bottom up so that the soft garlic meat is squeezed out. Set aside the soft garlic in a small bowl.
For the topping, heat the 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat in a frypan and add the onions. Sauté at until onions are very soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Add the chard and allow just to wilt. Turn off heat and cover.
While the topping cooks, prepare the crust: lightly spray a pizza pan with nonstick coating, or line with parchment paper.
Mix flour, flax, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. In a measuring cup, measure the 1/2 cup water. Then add the 2 Tbsp. oil, agave and salt, and mix well.
Pour the wet mixture over the dry and toss with a fork. Once it starts to come together, knead with your hands about 2 minutes. It should be a soft dough, a little bit sticky, but one that holds together.
Using firm pressure, press the dough with your floured knuckles or fingers evenly over the pizza pan. Let the dough extend a little onto the rim of the pan. Prick the surface with a fork and then bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top is dry.
Assemble the pizza:
Increase oven temperature to 400F. Spread the roasted garlic evenly over the surface of the pre-baked pizza, then top with the caramelized onion mixture. Slice the artichoke hearts into quarters and toss evenly over the pizza along with the olives. (If using parmesan cheese, sprinkle it evenly over the top of the mixture).
Bake the pizza for about 20 minutes, until heated through and the edges of the crust are deep golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the nutritional yeast. Slice and serve, perhaps while reading Holidailies. Makes 6-8 slices.
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