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a pizza-sorta

kinda Greek-a.

It all begins with our blogging buddy Chicago John’s Spianata. (He’s no stranger to many of you. But if somehow life has passed you by and you’ve never visited his warm Italian home kitchen, come in out of the cold, take off your coat, pull up a chair, smell what’s steaming on the stove and get ready for something like love at first sight.)

For the Spianata dough…if you follow the link above, it’ll take you right there, and John’s background on a dish is always nearly as savory and delightful as the dish itself. But I’ll also provide the recipe here so you don’t have to continually flip back and forth. It’s much like a focaccia, thick, dimpled, moist, pungently olivey. It develops its flavor slowly, with the yeasty “sponge” left overnight, and the dough finished the following day. The way I chose to make this dish is to bake the herb-scattered dough in a hot oven, adding the toppings when it comes out, still steamy hot – the sweet caramelized onions, the roasted small tomatoes, the leaves of baby spinach, the Kalamata olives, the shavings of Feta, and a scattering of Mediterranean herbs. Drizzled with a bit (more) olive oil and a sprinkling of balsamic – it’s sweet and savory and devastatingly delicious! 

The Dough

For the sponge

  • 1 cup flour (5 ounces)
  • 1 cup warm water (approx. 110°F)
  • 1 tsp active yeast

For the finished dough

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour (10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoons dried mint
  •  ½ teaspoon dried oregano

Pour water into a small-medium bowl and add the yeast; allow yeast to dissolve and for a bubbles to begin forming on the surface.  Add the flour to make the sponge, mix well, cover, and set aside at room temperature. The sponge should be allowed to rise for at least 8 hours but no more than 20. 12 to 16 hours is usually best. When you ‘re ready to proceed, the sponge’s surface should be mottled with bubbles and it should have a strong yeast scent. (yum!)

To the sponge, add the flour¼ cup of the olive oil and the salt. Knead dough for 5 to 7 minutes. The consistency of the dough should be neither sticky nor dry…the “test” I use is to grab hold of the dough with an open hand, hold it firmly for a few seconds…if when you remove your hand the dough almost wants to cling to it but releases without actually sticking, it’s about perfect. If not this, then add water by the drop-ful or flour by the teaspoonful.  It’s been kneaded enough when the dough is soft and supple, smooth and elastic, and when you press it with a knuckle the dough springs right back at you.) 

Place the finished dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and allow it to rise until doubled – depending on the warmth of your kitchen and a couple other factors, this will take from 1 to 2 hours.  While the dough is rising, prepare all the other ingredients, for which you’ll find instructions below.

Punch the dough down, turn it out onto a floured work surface and cover with a towel. Allow it to rest for 15 minutes. This rest relaxes the dough, making it more pliable.

Pour the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil into a 9 x 12-inch pan, covering the entire bottom of the pan.

After the resting period, place dough onto the pan and, using your fingers, begin stretching it to fit the pan. When it covers about 2/3 of the pan, flip the dough over and continue stretching until the entire pan is covered and there’s enough dough to create a ridge around the pan’s edge. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled again, about 1 hour.  20 Minutes before it’s ready, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and 1 teaspoons dried mint and ½ teaspoon dried oregano. Place it in the preheated oven on the middle rack and back for about 25 minutes. It should be lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top immediately with the toppings in the following order.

The Toppings

Baby Spinach Leaves

Caramelized Onions

Roasted Tomatoes

Kalamata Olives (allow to come to room temp. or gently heated)

Feta Cheese (thinly sliced or crumbled)

a small handful of whole parsley leaves

Aged Balsamic Vinegar

A drizzle more Olive Oil

You’ll want approximately  1 cup each of the spinach leaves, olives, and feta. Instructions for the caramelized onions and tomatoes follow.

“Sun”-dried or Roasted Tomatoes

  • ½ pound to 1 full pound cherry tomatoes (1 pound will leave you quite a few extra to use as you like. They’ll keep in the fridge for at least a week.)
  • coarse sea salt
  • freshly-ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon (or more) dried mint leaves
  • olive oil (about 2 teaspoons per pound tomatoes)
  • balsamic vinegar (about 2 teaspoons for 1 pound tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and lay on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mint. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic over top.

Bake until edges have begun to brown and juices have started to caramelize beneath them. (About 30 to 40 minutes.)

Caramelized Onions (& Garlic)

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (or 2) cloves garlic, minced

Put the onion, oil, sugar and salt (not the garlic) in a large skillet on fairly high heat and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. When soft and deep golden brown, remove from the heat. Add the garlic and stir. (The residual heat will cook the garlic.)

Just before the pizza dough comes out of the oven, gently reheat the onions.

Remove dough from pan. Assemble the pizza in the order given above. The spinach leaves will begin to wilt with the pizza’s heat.

Slice & serve with plenty of napkins.

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 For a printer-friendly version of these recipes, click here

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31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Very good looking food – beautiful light.

    February 18, 2012
  2. Ali #

    This looks fun, fresh and fabulous!!

    February 18, 2012
  3. What beautiful, scrumptious fun! Can’t wait to eat it!!!

    February 18, 2012
  4. Amazing .- John´s lovely dough and those amazing tomatoes and onions. Will have to give this version a go next time I fancy pizza – so light and full of flavour!

    February 18, 2012
  5. Wow, Spree! My spianata never looked so good! I’m so glad you prepared the recipe, adapting it to suit your own tastes and needs. The result is one beautiful-looking pizza that you, again, photographed so well. And you began it all with your gracious description of my “home.” Thank you for that, Spree, and for sharing such a great, new pizza recipe.

    February 18, 2012
    • So happy you gave me the go-ahead to mess with your family’s time-honored recipe John! The crust was WONDERful! (And the toppings and the crust got along like they’d known each other for a lifetime!)

      February 19, 2012
  6. Oh, my mouth is watering! You are pure genius, Antoinette! This is one recipe that I could handle, I think! Kudos to you and to Chicago John!

    February 18, 2012
    • well of COURSE you could Cyndi! Takes some time, but it’s easy as pie! 🙂

      February 19, 2012
  7. What a great twist on pizza. Love the photos!

    February 18, 2012
    • I appreciate that, Maria, thank you!

      February 19, 2012
  8. What beautiful images! The recipe looks and sounds amazing!

    February 18, 2012
    • It was a very happy collaboration, that crust with those toppings! T’was awfully good!

      February 19, 2012
  9. Oh, this looks so good!! We had mini pizzas today, I love pizza! You really captured the scruptiousness in the photos 🙂 they look incredible!

    February 18, 2012
  10. I really need to try this!
    I’ve been doing pizza with some friends lately; the dough was really bad when we started but with the time, we’ve been improving a lot, but we never get something as good as this!

    Love your photos!
    Can you give me any tips to get good photos of food? I’ve been trying to do some today but the result is not great… Do you use external flashes?

    Hope you are having a great weekend!

    February 18, 2012
    • Pablo, thanks for your compliments! I think I’ll just jot you an email in answer to your questions about food photos!

      February 18, 2012
  11. I think, spree, you may have a little Italian in you.. ok, and some greek… and the photo of the dough rising then punched down is fantastic! (Isn’t that the fun part?!) I love that you’ve roasted tomatoes and caramelized onion for your toppings… delicioso (is that a word?) bellisima!! (oh, dear, the red spell-check line is telling me I’ve made a mistake)… all-round fabulous pizza, spree! xo Smidge

    February 18, 2012
    • ahhh Bella Smidge! Graci graci! Molto bene!
      The caramelized onions were really awfully good on this, so sweet!! And the tomatoes warm and juicy, all their tomatoness concentrated. Twas really good, I just has to say! 😉

      Now – Mangia mangia! (eat up, eat up!)

      February 19, 2012
  12. oh I think pizza needs to happen for dinner tonight now.

    February 18, 2012
  13. Spree, what a wonderful looking “pizza”. I shall have to take a closer look at the dough. I’m completely in awe of your blog as usual. I wish mine was half as professional 😀

    February 19, 2012
    • You have a LOVELY blog frugal!! (But you say the kindest things! Thank you SO much for that!)

      February 19, 2012
  14. I sorta love this. Oh wait, no I really love this.

    February 19, 2012
    • I thought-a you might-a! 🙂

      February 19, 2012
  15. Fabulous as always, the pics are so delicious and perfect what an artist you are!

    February 19, 2012
  16. FP&F is right–as usual, your use of light and your food photography sets the stage perfectly for your gorgeous food!

    February 19, 2012
  17. Jean-François #

    Looks beautiful and tasty. Love those orated tomatoes.

    February 19, 2012
    • It was delicious for sure! Thank you Jean-Francois!

      February 19, 2012
      • Jean-François #

        Need to turn off that auto-correct – not sure how “roasted” became “orated” 🙂

        February 19, 2012
  18. I love pizzas in any shape or form! This looks fantastic…love the colors!

    February 19, 2012
  19. Val #

    Those tomatoes made me blush.. sun-blush… they look so good!

    February 19, 2012
  20. I am in love!
    Foccacia is a favorite in my house and I think this will be an instant hit!
    Thank you for making a recipe of John’s that I missed Ani.
    As always I am in love with your photography but the picture of the punched down dough is beyond beautiful

    February 19, 2012
  21. I want to live on this pizza, every meal. And breathe that dough.

    February 20, 2012

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