The raw and the cooked: Often the combo can lead to deliciousness
Most dishes are either raw, like salad, or cooked, like a cake, but you can find dishes that contain both if you look. Soon, you may discover that this hybrid category contains some of your favorite foods.
The gestalt of a fish taco depends on the co-munching of cooked fish and tortilla with raw cilantro, cabbage and onions, along with sauces and cheese. Like a good piece of jazz, all of the diverse ingredients in a fish taco do their own things together, harmoniously.
Or consider the soothing complexity of a bowl of pho, in which the eater drops bean sprouts, herbs and jalapeno slices into the hot soup. The salad adds vibrancy and fiber to the broth, yet isn’t in there long enough to get soggy, and the meal transcends semantic distinctions like “soup” and “salad.”
Pesto on noodles. Lettuce, tomato and onion on a burger or BLT. These hybrid dishes are there if you look. But I was just minding my own business when I discovered pizza with arugula salad.
It was at one of the last parties of the before times, when nobody was wearing masks and everyone grabbed pizza from the same platter without washing their hands before, during and after dinner.
‘Twas a simple pizza. A rectangle, with sliced onions and sweet peppers atop a layer of crumbled chevre, which had, deliciously, been mixed with lemon zest.
Our instructions were to pile the pizza with arugula that had been tossed in lemon juice and olive oil, and then fold the pizza around it.
Arugula is sweet and tender but very spicy, and a little can go a long way. Once, I bought a bag of salad mix at a farmers market that was half arugula, and felt cheated because it was too spicy. I don’t want to eat a bowl of arugula, or its cousin the mustard green, any more than I want to spoon a bowl of Dijon mustard into my mouth.
The brilliance of this pizza is how it uses arugula as a mustard-like condiment, adding spice and crunch as it delivers the perky lemon vinaigrette. When eaten together, pizza and greens form a delicious continuum, bright and crisp like an autumn sunset.
Arugula Salad Pizza
• 1 pound store-bought pizza dough
• 1 10-ounce chevre log
• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan
• Juice and 1 teaspoon zest from one lemon
• 3 sweet peppers, cleaned and sliced
• ½ large onion, sliced
• ½ cup olive oil
• 1/2 pound arugula
Let the chevre and pizza dough come to room temperature. Mix the chevre with the lemon zest and Parmesan cheese in a bowl, and leave on the counter, covered.
Turn the oven to 400, and while it’s heating cut the peppers and onions. Toss them in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Roast them until the pepper skins begin to blister, stirring once or twice, about 20 minutes. When done, remove and allow to cool. Meanwhile, work on the crust.
Sprinkle some flour on your pizza pan — I use a 15 x 10 cookie sheet; a large cast-iron pan works, too — and roll the dough around it so it isn’t sticky. Then work it into a roughly pan-sized piece. I rub it with a little olive oil to loosen it up. Make sure the pan is well oiled and slap, push, prod, squeeze and plead the dough into place.
Sprinkle the cheese mixture atop the pizza dough as evenly as you can. Then add the pepper and onion mix, as evenly as you can. Cook the pizza until the crust is brown around the edges — about 40 minutes. Use a spatula to check the bottom if you’re in doubt.
While the pizza cools, toss the arugula in the lemon juice and remaining oil.
To serve, top a slice of pizza with a large dollop of arugula, and squeeze the pizza around the salad to keep it in place. Eat the pizza and salad combo. Enjoy the surprising combination of spicy arugula, rich cheese, and sweet peppers and onions.