Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pizza with sardines

[From our kitchen. We prepare all dishes with a vignette filter.]

The war is on. Germany has invaded France. The unnamed narrator of Anna Seghers’s novel Transit has fled Paris. Stuck in Marseille, he lives on cigarettes, coffee, pizza, and rosé. Pizza for him is new:

Back then I was surprised to find out that pizza wasn’t sweet but tasted of pepper, olives, or sardines.
A sardine pizza? Our household’s curiosity went into overdrive. I found a recipe that called for baking the crust once (fifteen minutes) and then again (eighteen to twenty minutes). Huh? Elaine decided to do her own thing.

The ingredients:
1 teaspoon dry yeast
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Bob’s Red Mill whole-wheat pastry flour
    and King Arthur white flour, equal parts

2 onions, sliced
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
some black pepper
1 can skinless and boneless sardines
    in olive oil, drained and chopped
8 oz. finely shredded Italian cheese
    (the usual supermarket offering)
The directions:
Dissolve yeast in water. Add olive oil and salt. Wait a few minutes; then begin stirring in flour. Knead, and let dough rise in a towel-covered bowl for 50 minutes. Elaine says you’ll need to knead to know how much flour you might have to add. It’ll vary with the weather. She adds flour half a cup at a time.

Melt butter in a pan. Add onions and salt. Caramelize the onions on medium heat.

Roll out the dough and assemble the pizza — sardines first, then onions, then cheese. Bake at 400° for about twenty minutes.
The result was spectacular: savory, fishy, absolutely satisfying. Very Mediterranean. We added some red pepper flakes at the table and drank some cheap rosé. Elaine had a few leaves of fresh basil with her slices. I found the basil took too much away from the taste of the sardines.

In 2013 New York Review Books published Transit (1944) in a translation by Margot Bettauer Dembo. In 2018 the novel was adapted for the screen by Christian Petzold. I recommend the novel, the film, and this pizza with great enthusiasm.

Related reading
All OCA sardine posts (Pinboard)

[There’s nothing missing from the recipe. It’s a sauceless pizza.]

comments: 4

Chris said...

Sounds and looks delicious but a total of four cups of flour for 3/4 cup of water seems high. For pizza dough I use one cup of water and roughly 2 1/2 cups of flour (mostly King Arthur white, but I mix in other flours at whim).

Michael Leddy said...

You may be right. That was Elaine’s guess. She never measures but says that she adds flour half a cup at a time. I’m going to revise accordingly.

Fresca said...

Fun! Do you have other posts about food inspired by books or movies?

I must have have several examples (not posts)...
The one that immediately comes to mind is the meal I made in high school inspired by The Grapes of Wrath. I cooked for my family a meal that had sounded good to me in the book:
black coffee and corn bread made with pork fat.

It was horrible, which made the Joads' hardship more real to me.

My family went out for pizza that night.
(No sardines.)

Michael Leddy said...

I can’t think of any. The only thing that comes to mind right now is Proust’s madeleines.

The thing I most think of with the Joads is coffee. Sugar, the camp manager says, spoils the taste of coffee, which lets the Joads save face, as they have none. Oh, wait — I just remembered the tractor driver’s lunch, with the piece of pie with the brand name stamped on it.