Preparation - Medium
One 12 X 16 inch pizza
Like the scalcione and focaccie that precede, this is a two-crusted savory pie, with a stuffing of sweet and hot peppers. Throughout the winter, Silvana Camisa, an accomplished cook in Lecce, uses a sauce made from her own preserved peppers, long, slender ones that she grows and puts up each year in the early autumn. Silvana says they're piccante, meaning hot-hot her idea of hot peppers is not Thai, or even Mexican. She preserves them in the following manner: She half opens each pepper, fills it with salt, then puts the peppers in a colander with a weight on top, exactly as you would for eggplant, to rid them of excess water. After a couple of days, she puts the salted peppers in a terra-cotta crock, layering them with more salt, and keeps them like this throughout the winter.
Keeping in mind that most American cooks won't have access to salted peppers like these, I've adapted Silvana's recipe somewhat.
DOUGH FOR THE BIGA:
1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
FOR THE PIZZA:
1 cup warm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
I teaspoon sea salt
Oil for the pan and the top crust
3 red or yellow bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 small green jalapeno peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup chopped black olives
1 tablespoon brine-preserved capers, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon oregano
MAKE the biga in the usual manner: First dissolve the yeast in the cup of warm water. When the yeast has "bloomed," stir in the flour for the biga and mix well. Set aside, covered, to develop for a couple of hours until the dough is bubbly, then refrigerate overnight.
NEXT morning add the remaining water, 2 1/2 cups of the remaining flour, and the salt; mix well with a wooden spoon but do not knead. Set aside, covered, in a warm place to rise, about 2 hours. While the dough is rising, prepare the stuffing.
TO make the pepper stuffing: In a saute' pan over medium-low heat, gently saute' the peppers and onion in the olive oil until they are very soft but not brown-about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have thickened into a sauce. Stir in the parsley, then the olives, capers, and oregano. Let cook for 5 minutes, to meld the flavors, then taste and add salt if necessary. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook for about 20 minutes. If the stuffing is still too liquid, drain it in a sieve before filling the pizza.
PREHEAT the oven to 450 degrees F.
WHEN the dough has risen and the stuffing is ready, spread the remaining cup of flour on a board. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on the board just a little, no more than 25 or 30 strokes, incorporating into the dough about half the flour on the board. When the dough is still soft but no longer sticky, divide it in two, one part a little greater than the other. Roll out the larger portion in an oval roughly 12 inches by 16 inches for the bottom crust, which should be about ½ inch thick. Set the crust on a well-oiled aluminum baking sheet and prick it all over with a fork.
SPREAD the stuffing over the crust. Roll out the remaining dough, placing it on top of the filling. Bring the upper and lower dough edges together and press with your fingers or a fork to seal, then prick the top all over with a fork. Rub some oil into your hands and smooth it over the top crust, just as if you were rubbing in hand cream. Then bake in the preheated oven until brown on top, about 30 minutes.
Flavors of Puglia
Nancy Harmon Jenkins