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*July 2011 COTM, BATALI II: Bruschetta, Pizza and Flatbreads

Please use this thread to discuss and review recipes from the following chapters:

Molto Gusto: Bruschetta & Cheese; Pizza
Italian Grill: Pizza and Flatbreads

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  1. Leek Ragu – p. 93 - Molto Gusto

    We love leeks so this dish had immediate appeal when I first purchased this book. We’ve now had this on several occasions and it’s always well received. Prep and execution is simple and relatively quick.

    Oil is heated in a large pot prior to adding garlic which is cooked until soft. Liced leeks are then added, seasoned w S&P and cooked until softened at which point 1/3 cup of water is added, pot is covered and heat is lowered so leeks can cook until very soft (about 20 mins in our case). MB suggests you may need to increase the heat at this point to evaporate the cooking liquid. In my experience, this is always necessary. Leeks are tasted to adjust seasoning and, brought to room temperature for serving.

    We love to serve this as part of a “bruschetta” bar where folks can top slices of plain bruschetta w dishes of their choosing. The leeks are so rich and sweet, they are just lovely on the crusty, garlic rubbed toasts.

    This recipe can also be used as a component of MB’s Chickpeas w Leeks recipe on p. 27 of this book. We’ve made that dish as well and my review appears in the Antipasti thread.

    1. Ceci - p. 92 - Molto Gusto

      If guests are arriving unexpectedly or, you're just pressed for time and want to pull some antipasti or, bruschetta toppings together, this one's for you! We've made this on a number of occasions now and it really couldn't be simpler.

      Prep consists of thinly slicing half a red onion and opening, draining and rinsing a can of chickpeas. Oil is then heated in a large pot and onions seasoned w salt and red pepper flakes and cooked until the onion begins to soften. At that point the chickpeas are added and heat is reduced so mixture can simmer for 5 mins to heat the chickpeas through. Dish is now ready to be served or, set aside and served at room temp.

      Quick and tasty, I often serve these w a spritz of lemon juice or, a splash of balsamic. MB notes you can also slightly mash the ceci on the bruschetta if you wish.

      Sorry, no pics as I've made this pre-COTM.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Breadcrumbs

        Sounds quick, easy and delicious! Just my speed right now.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Fits the bill on all counts DQ . . . do enjoy!!

      2. So I tried out the Pizza from Italian grill last night. It calls for making the dough, letting it rise once, and then it says it's ready for use. I did this, punched it down, then left it in the fridge for about 6 hours until it was dinner-time.
        I figured I should just stick to his toppings, and he has only two pizzas, so I did two Margherita and two Salumi Pecorino Pizzas with pepperoni. Now I had done grilled pizzas before, the recipe from Peter Reinhart in 'American Pie,' so I knew the basic ideas and techniques. The first thing I noticed was this dough was a lot harder to stretch out and get to a nice 9 inches or so. Once you stretch it you just place it on the grill, flip once one side is cooked and leave it for 30 seconds on the other then take it off. At this point you put toppings on, then you put it back on the grill to heat the toppings.
        Overall it was great pizza, and it got some great reviews from neighbors who we brought dinner to (who had just had delivery pizza). If you haven't tried grilled pizza yet, definitely give this a go, but I would say once you get it down try some different grilled pizza doughs as well.

        1. Foccacina with Roasted Garlic, Scallions, and Provolone--page 72 Italian Grill

          This recipe consists of Mario's basic pizza dough recipe, grilled, split in half and stuffed with lots of roasted garlic, provolone, and chopped scallions. I thought the dough handled very well--it shaped nicely, and the grilling process was simple. I had no issues with it sticking or burning.

          Splitting the warm grilled dough was a little tricky as it was not a perectly even thickness (probably my fault). Once the dough is spilt and stuffed you wrap it in foil and put it back on the grill long enough for the cheese to melt. Everyone really enjoyed this bread--I'd make it again.

          2 Replies
          1. re: liamsaunt

            That sounds and looks terrific. You make it seem so easy to do. I overlooked this recipe but now... I might just give it a try. Thanks, Liamsaunt.

            1. re: liamsaunt

              So glad you made this. It looks absolutely scrumptious. I took the Grill book out of the library even though I don't have a grill, and that was one recipe that was so appealing I've been thinking about trying it with alternate cooking methods. Your report--and photo--confirms it's at least worth a try.

            2. White Bean Bruschetta with Grilled Radicchio Salad, Pg. 62, Italian Grill

              Because I'm saving my radicchio to grill in another application, I made this recipe as a salad with hearts of escarole ribbons. The rest of the recipe was made as written and the final dish was delicious.

              A tin of cannellini beans are drained, rinsed and place into a medium sized bowl. Add slivered basil, red pepper flakes, 2 T EVOO, 2 T balsamico, sliced garlic (I pressed it) , S & P. Mix all together and set aside. At this point I rinsed, cored and slivered the heart of a very large escarole. The heart is a lovely light yellow-ish green and much sweeter than the outer leaves. It's terrific as a salad. As it would have been done with a grilled radicchio these escarole ribbons were tossed with 2 T EVOO, 2 T balsamico , S & P. Mix to combine. I mixed the beans and escarole together and served it piled on top of a very thin, slightly warm multi grain, low carb pita. The main dish was Bluefish Oraganata from Fish Without A Doubt, page 282. Great meal...!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Gio

                White Bean Bruschetta with Grilled Radicchio Salad – p. 62 – Italian Grill

                Thanks to Gio for reviewing this dish as I’d somehow missed it when I did my first run through of this book. True to his (imaginary) Tuscan roots, mr bc is a big fan of beans so I knew he’d be excited about this dish and hoped it would entice him to eat some radicchio!

                Mario notes that the beans can be made up to a day ahead and says that in fact, they will be even more flavourful if you do this. I’m sorry to report that I can’t comment on this since mr bc devoured all the beans and there are none to be had for tonight’s meal! Needless to say this dish was a huge success!!

                Mario also notes that when he serves this at Po, he uses a Radicchio di Treviso which is longer and narrower than the round (Verona) type . . . who knew? Well not being savvy to the ways of radicchio, I think I’ve only ever seen the round ones and, that’s what we used last night.

                In my view, this would make a perfect dish for entertaining if you're serving a plated meal as it can be made ahead and the plated dish has high visual appeal. Since the beans were dressed and a little “wet” I decided to allow everyone to assemble their own bruschetta so I served the bean salad atop the radicchio leaves with a basket of the grilled bruschetta on the table.

                Lovely, delicious and I’m happy to recommend this too! Thanks Gio!

                1. re: Gio

                  White Bean Bruschetta with Grilled Radicchio Salad – p. 62 – Italian Grill

                  I tried this without the radicchio and with dried beans. I thought the flavor of the sliced garlic was a little overwhelming. I would mince next time. Perhaps the absence of radicchio made the difference here, though, so I don't necessarily advice everyone to run out and mince their garlic.

                  This is pretty addicting. Would probably do it again.

                  Sorry, no photos. The phone rang.


                2. Bruschetta – p. 89 – Molto Mario

                  Since Mario includes a recipe for this, I thought I’d post the review. Even though this is a pretty standard recipe for Bruschetta, there were a couple of subtle differences that made an impact and also made for a tasty toast! Mario recommends the use of filone, an Italian loaf similar in texture to a baguette but with a thicker crust. One of our guests commented that it reminded them of a British “crusty cob”. This bread grilled beautifully, retaining its soft interior and “chew”. Once the bread is grilled, MB has you rub a garlic clove “just around the circumference of each toast, along the jagged outer crust.” Normally I smear it across the centre and depending on the freshness of the garlic, this can sometimes be a bit strong on the tongue. I liked the effect of MB’s technique as the garlic aroma was prevalent but the flavour was subtle.

                  I’d recommend giving this recipe a try, I’ll be making my bruschetta this way going forward.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    Eh, I wish I'd noticed the recipe for bruschetta or your report thereon before I tried the White Bean Bruschetta with Grilled Radicchio Salad – p. 62 – Italian Grill. I think he has some great tips. Thanks for calling my attention to it. Next time...


                  2. Eggplant – p. 93 – Molto Gusto

                    I have one word for this dish . . . “YUM”. Simple, just a few ingredients and absolutely delicious. The final dish is much greater than the sum of its parts and this is one of those recipes that I just know I’ll be making again and again for my antipasti courses.

                    Eggplant is cubed, salted and left to stand for 20 mins then rinsed, dried, tossed in olive oil and broiled until charred. MB says this will take 15 to 20 mins, mine took 10.

                    While eggplant is cooking, Pomi strained tomatoes are put on the stove and boiled until they reach the consistency of ketchup at which point you add red pepper flakes and fresh mint. I used fresh basil in place of the mint.

                    Once the eggplant is done its placed in a bowl and tossed w the Pomi along w some EVOO.

                    We served this at room temp spooned atop MB’s tasty bruschetta (reviewed above).

                    Fantastic, even my vegetable averse mr bc loved this saying it was the best eggplant he’d ever had.

                    1. Pizza Dough - p. -183 - Molto Gusto

                      Well, I ordered some "00" flour from King Arthur (they call it "Italian Style") and yesterday tried the griddle method for pizza crusts. The dough mixed together just perfectly -- I'm sure due both to now having a stand mixer and the nice flour, which the package says is "soft red winter wheat".

                      One 90 minute rise, and then make 8 flat rounds, about 10 inches across. I used a rolling pin just to save time, but flattening and shaping by hand would have been doable. (Is that a word?)

                      My skillet was an 11" Scanpan, (non-stick material, not actually coated with slick surface stuff) and I did not use any oil. Just got it hot enough to sizzle-dry water drops immediately, and plopped on the dough. The pan is not a griddle, it has straight 2 1/2 inch sides--it was tricky to get the rounds in there flat and round without risking burned fingies--you can see in the picture the folding that occured. The cooking started right away. They puffed up in bubbles very quickly--then all you have to do is wait (less than 3 minutes, I'd say) until the bottom bubbles are as brown as you'd like. Flip it over (crisp now and easy to handle/flip) and brown t'other side. You're done!

                      I rolled one out as one cooked in the pan, it went very quickly.

                      If you did the flattening by hand, you could make a raised rim around the edge (M. Batali does in the book) but I didn't think it was neccessary.

                      We topped these with our own bell pepper, mushroom, etc. home toppings. I wanted to be sure of the crust before going all Quattro Stagioni :)

                      I'd say the crust was a success. Tasty, crisp enough, chewy enough, easy enough, fast enough. Freezable too!

                      I just have the one book (no grill). I'm completely sure that a crust on a grill would out-flavor the griddle version, but I was happy with my homemade pizza dinner last night.

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: blue room

                        Those are lovely. I wonder how they would taste just brushed with some garlic oil, a dried herb and some salt? Could be a lovely bread to serve with all the antipasti we are making this month.

                        1. re: blue room

                          Encouraged by your report, blue room, and knowing I had some King Arthur Italian-Style flour on hand, I thought I might give his pizza dough and method a try this weekend. Was looking in the book- to see what other ingredients I might need, but didn’t see rice flour. I was sure I had read somewhere in your post that the recipe included rice flour. Went back and took another look at what you had to say about the dough and see that you said “nice” flour, not “rice” flour. Can’t decide whom to call first—my opthamologist or my neurologist.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            I'm all smiles now...

                            Actually, the actual length-of-inked-area difference between an "n" and an "r" is tiny -- way smaller than a grain of rice...er, wheat.

                            Please tell how your crusts go if you decide to try. I don't cook so much as some here, so having real pizza without superoven, baking stone, etc. makes me happy. I will devise a way to get them into the pan with folding and smooshing. They are thin and floppy when raw of course, you can't just lay them in the pan like a wet washcloth, you must support the whole thing and slowly lower into pan--hot ! A shallower pan (griddle) is the answer.

                          2. re: blue room

                            After an otherwise successful Mario Batali COTM, mr bc encouraged me to share this tale of woe for your enjoyment:

                            Pizza Dough – p. 183 – Molto Gusto

                            The story you are about to read is true. The names have been changed to protect the cook!

                            It was one of those super-rare moments where, against all odds, mr. Panko decided he’d like to make dinner. Not just dinner, pizza. Pizza is one of mr. Panko’s very favourite foods. I should add that mr Panko excels at many things but cooking isn’t one of them. Mr Panko is a great photographer and can move like lightening when heading from the kitchen to the sofa to watch tv. He can work a tv remote w unprecedented speed and accuracy but, when it comes to cooking, mr Panko is sloooooow, so very, very slow.

                            Now, mrs Panko had a friend visiting and mr Panko’s “talents” and “creations” in the kitchen are legendary so you can imagine her horror when he announced he’d also be making his own pizza dough from Mario’s book. (note to self . . . hide cookbooks!!!).

                            Sadly mrs Panko and friend had eaten a very light lunch while out shopping and the thought of a delayed dinner was a blow. Needless to say, we did what any self-medicating women would do, we turned to the Pinot Noir. . . and we sipped. And we waited. And we sipped some more until it no longer mattered that almost 3 hours (I kid you not!) had passed before our pizzas arrived in front of us. We smiled since they looked pretty appetizing and, of course, we’d had a fair bit of Pinot at that point. At casa Panko, mr Panko was cook and server that night and just before sitting down w his own plate, he said (cuss words removed) “you don’t want to eat these “insert expletives here” pizzas, they’re too salty and the dough isn’t cooked inside”

                            Sadly, he was right but since we were totally tipsy and far too famished to care, we managed at least a few bites before I packaged the remainders away so I could taste again w a clearer head.

                            Not only did we find the 2 tbsp of salt in Mario’s dough to be excessive but mr Panko added to the salt-fest by forgetting to rinse the olives. The undercooked dough was due to the fact he’d decided to use dough intended to yield 8 pizzas to make just 3 . . . but who’s counting! Oh, then he skipped the long, one page bit about doing these in the oven, I mean who needs to read all that nonsense about what Mario thinks might work best!! Mr Panko decided to cook them on a hot bbq where the crusts quickly (yes, you guessed it) charred on the outside before cooking on the inside.

                            Mr Panko decided he’s never cooking pizza on the grill again. I have decided not to consume copious amounts of Pinot on an empty stomach again and my friend has decided not to visit again if mr Panko is cooking!!

                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                              A sad night in the Panko home, indeed. But the photos look wonderful!

                              1. re: L.Nightshade

                                Thankfully the cook wasn't consuming the Pinot so while his cooking skills were lacking, he was still as sharp as ever behind the lens!! Actually, I should have taken the photos, that would have been funny!! Thanks LN!

                              2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                Oh did I need a laugh tonight... and you my dear crumb have provided one! Thank you thank you thank you.

                                1. re: smtucker

                                  Glad you got a chuckle smtucker, it was quite the fiasco! The funny thing was that mr "Panko" said he felt the process had gone quite smoothly and QUICKLY . . . he was just disappointed w the result!!

                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    If was determined to grill his pizza, methinks he was using the wrong Batali book...

                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      It's a complete puzzle as to what he was trying to do Caitlin. I thought he was using the grilling book and it was only the next morning (when I had my wits about me again!!) that I asked him to show me the recipe so I could verify the amount of salt that I realized he'd used Molto Gusto.

                                      Some day I'll tell the tale of mr bc's tomato soup or, pasta w pesto. The latter left me bed-ridden for 3 days! Legendary I tell you!! Fortunately he only cooks once a year at most!

                                2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  A huge thanks to you, Mrs. Panko, for telling this woeful tale. Much hearty laughing ensued.

                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                    Thanks so much Allegra, I'm glad you got a chuckle. I still get an involuntary body shiver every time I think about that night!

                                3. re: blue room

                                  Pizza Dough (MG, page 183)

                                  Finally, with grandson visiting and requesting pizza, I got around to trying Mario’s recipe and method.

                                  I followed the recipe as written, substituting instant yeast for the active dry, found it sticky to the point of being unhandleable, and added a bit more flour. After letting the dough rise, punching it down, and forming 8 balls, we set them in the fridge overnight. Next day, grandson and I alternated making the crusts. The first two each of us made were horribly shaped (see first photo of dough on skillet), but after that we began to get the hang of it. We parbaked the crusts on my largest, upside down, cast-iron skillet as directed, about 2 to 3 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the other. I was surprised that the dough didn't stick and that it was so easy to flip by hand. Second photo is of the finished, parbaked crust.

                                  We topped the pizzas with sauce I had in the freezer, a combination of shredded mozzarella and provolone, and pepperoni. The first two we placed under the broiler as directed. I didn’t think the dough was too salty, it just wasn’t very good. The toppings began to burn before the dough was cooked through and the crust didn’t have that chewy factor I think is so important in a pizza crust.

                                  The second 2 pizzas we cooked on the preheated pizza stone and they were much better. The crust cooked through and was rather pleasantly crispy and the toppings didn’t get overcooked.

                                  Interesting experiment, but one that probably won’t be repeated. I can see the advantages of having the parbaked crusts in the freezer ready to go, but I could do that with a dough recipe more to my liking.

                                4. Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Bruschetta – p. 63 – Italian Grill

                                  When I think of Bruschetta, these are all the ingredients that come to mind. In fact, add in some EVOO and garlic and that’s exactly what I use for my usual preparation.

                                  Always keen to try something new, I thought we’d give Mario’s version a go last night. In addition to the usual suspects noted above, Mario also includes dried oregano, hot red pepper flakes, kosher salt for seasoning and, coarse sea salt for plating. Mario calls for tomatoes cut into a ¼ inch dice which seemed quite small to me but it didn’t really matter since I only had grape tomatoes and, I’d sliced them in half. “Fresh mozzarella” is called for in this dish and in my neck of the woods this translates into the soft, freshly made cheese balls sold in brine. I had some Buffalo Mozzarella imported from Italy in the fridge so that’s what I used. Again, MB calls for a 1/4” dice which was impossible w my super-soft centred cheese so I chopped it to be a just a little smaller than the tomatoes.

                                  Mario and I differ in terms of our prep as he slices his garlic whereas I usually crush it and, he has you stir the cheese in along w all the other ingredients in the dish whereas I usually top my bruschetta w cheese and sometimes even stick them under the broiler to warm it a bit.

                                  What worked? I loved the chili flakes in the mix for a change of pace. Funny I’ve never tried that before but I’ll definitely do it again or, at least offer them tableside when I make Bruschetta again. Surprisingly , we also really liked the addition of the dried oregano. Somehow it just made things taste more Italian and the fresh basil did its usual job of brightening the mix with its fresh flavour.

                                  Won’t repeat? Thinly sliced garlic was just too strong and we prefer the subtle flavour imparted by using crushed garlic. Definitely didn’t like the buffalo mozzarella mixed in with the other ingredients. The cheese was just too tender and soft. After a few tosses, most of the cheese had melted into the juices of the dish.

                                  This was tasty and refreshing, it was a shame that the Buffalo mozzarella got lost in the shuffle.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    See, here comes that difference between fresh vs bufala mozzarella again. In this recipe I use the fresh pre-wrapped ball, or freshly cut from a larger piece and wrapped in the store. This holds up much better than the bufala, although after a time it too begins to melt. Both delicious, though.

                                    And I'm with you, Breadcrumbs. If garlic is to be eaten raw in a recipe I use a garlic press because thinly sliced garlic is way too strong. Sometimes I reduce the amount depending on what the other ingredients are.

                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      M. Batali has probably eaten so much raw garlic in his life, those slices don't phase him!

                                      1. re: blue room

                                        LOL blue room, no doubt!! Though sometimes I think mr bc & I must exude it from our pores since we go through so much of it!!

                                    2. Chicken Liver Crostini, page 64, Italian Grill.

                                      This was sooo good, I'm glad I've got leftovers! The grill in this recipe is only used for toasting the bread, so it is not really necessary to fire up the grill unless it's needed for other dishes.

                                      Red onion is sauteed until soft, then chicken livers, anchovies, capers, and hot pepper flakes are added, and cooked until the livers brown. Then white wine goes in (I used vermouth, didn't want to open an entire bottle on a "school night"), and is stirred until the liquid is gone.

                                      The mixture goes into a food processor, and pulses until chunky, not smooth. Add salt and pepper, spoon onto grilled or toasted bread, and enjoy. This is in the pizza and flatbread section, but it is more of an antipasto, at least on the tiny bread slices I used. Just lovely. I'm going to have chicken liver crostini for lunch tomorrow. I'd like to try it with sherry instead of the wine/vermouth, but it's pretty darn good as is.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                                        Love this...! Must make. Did you oil the toasted bread slices before schmearing the pate?

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I thought about it, but did not. And I did not miss it at all.

                                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                                            Ok... good to know. Thanks. I won't do anything to mar the original flavor either.

                                      2. We have had a HUGE breakthrough at the smtucker household. Mr. smtucker, who jealously guards his grill, has decided that he can be convinced to make pizza on the grill!!!!! Ten years I have tried to get this to happen. But there is a caveat. I can not call it a pizza; it must be called flatbread. I would call it mud if it means i can get a grilled bread product with toppings without firing up the oven during the summer.

                                        Life is looking up!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: smtucker

                                          The caveat made me laugh! Ours is not to reason why ...