We’re hugely inspired at the moment by the writings of Ethné and Philippe de Vienne, a pair of spice hunters whose two boutiques at the Jean-Talon market are so full of thrilling ingredients that we are faced with the choice of having to stop shopping there, or moving into a larger house.
The pizza we made this weekend as the opener at a collaborative dinner party doesn’t actually use any of their incredible ingredients, but our current zest for novelty, and this new recipe in particular, are guided by the sense of adventure that the de Vienne’s boutiques and writings inspire.
Their philosophy is perennial – the dishes we most love to eat feature a variety of contrasting flavours that are presented in artful balance. And they challenge cooks to refine their sense of taste balance by experimenting with simple recipes that showcase contrasting flavours, like a Thai vinaigrette, where the flavours of fish sauce, lime and chili create a magic kind of synergy. Alice Waters is also eloquent on this topic, and will have you obsessing over the salt-vinegar balance in your home-made salad dressings. Because once you’ve tasted that magic point of equilibrium, it becomes a kind of culinary holy grail.
Anyway, when Rob said he wanted to put raw lemon on pizza, I was quite skeptical that it could taste anything but bitter, or sour, until we started discussing how the flavour might be balanced. We thought it through – there would need to be a richness under the brightness (creme fraîche) a light sweetness around it (onion) , something bitter (rapini) and some complementary tartness (goat cheese). Add the roasted flavour of pine nuts and a crispy crust, and shazam. A beautifully light appetizer that really awakens the senses.
chèvre and rapini pizza with red onion, lemon, and pine nuts
130 grams pizza dough
NOTES: As you’re rolling out your crust, keep in mind that it will rise as it sits, and as it cooks. You can replace the red onion with a clove of garlic, finely sliced right onto the creme fraîche. (A truffle shaver works great for this.)
1. Slice the lemon as thinly as you can. Slice the onion and cut the rapini into small florets. Toss the onion and rapini with a bit of olive oil, and a small amount of salt and pepper.
2. Roll out the dough, and spread it with a thin layer of crème fraîche, then a single layer of lemon slices. Add the rapini, onions, chèvre, then drizzle with some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Cook at 375 F for 8 minutes, then sprinkle with the pine nuts and cook a further 8-10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly golden around the edges. Serve warm or at room temperature.