I'd like to discuss an oxymoron: Italian Thanksgiving.
As you know, Thanksgiving is an American Holiday. Italians have similar feast days of thanks, called Le FestediRingraziamento, but these are usually religious holidays, held at various times of the year.
Thanksgiving comes but once a year. And "thanks" be for that...there is only so much gin on the planet to appease Aunt Emily's tolerance for turkey. And speaking of turkeys, you most likely wouldn't find one on a table in Italy, as they are pretty hard to come by in that country.
Which brings me to my point: What we have here is an Italian-American Thanksgiving, and as such, it presents a challenge to John and myself. You see, our passion for Italian food extends to protecting the authenticity of its traditions....when and where is limoncello served? Why are rice dishes more popular in the North of Italy? And etcetera.
So where Thanksgiving is concerned, we really only have our Italian-American family traditions. However, many of these (except for serving Aunt Emily copious amounts of gin) are derived from actual Italian food and holiday traditions. And with Thanksgiving on the horizon, this is what we would like to focus on:
How to incorporate traditional Italian foods into your feast, giving your holiday some Italian flair.
And in true John and Elana fashion, I will begin with pizza.
I can't think of a dessert more American than apple pie, or more appropriate to Thanksgiving. Except when the "pie" in question is, in fact, a pizza pie. I think this is the beauty of pizza – its versatility. A traditional Southern Italian food, pizza has been adopted by American culture wholeheartedly (admittedly not always in the healthiest ways).
This particular "pie" is a true collision of Italian and American cultures. It combines an earthy whole wheat crust with farm fresh apples, thinly sliced gouda cheese, plump cranberries, fried sage and a smattering of honey.
This pie works as an appetizer, a wonderful addition to an antipasto plate, or as a sweet and savory dessert, to be served along side a selection of other cheeses and fruit.
Here's how you do it:
What You Need:
1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (found here). This recipe makes 4-5 personal sized pizzas. You can also purchase uncooked pizza dough from your grocery store or local pizzeria.
3 apples, thinly sliced. Use what your local orchard is dishing out. I like Honey Crisp, but I also threw in some Golden Delicious and a tart Granny Smith.
1/4 Gouda cheese. You want something semi-soft.
1/4 cup dried cranberries
6-8 sage leaves, fried in olive oil and crumbled
honey - as much as you like
salt to taste
What To Do:
Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and heat to 500 degrees for at least a half hour prior to using it.
In the meantime, thinly slice the apples. I sliced mine to an 1/8" thickness.
Next, slice the cheese.
You can also prepare the fried sage by heating tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is nice and hot, place in the sage leaves. They won't take long to fry, about 30 seconds or so. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to absorb the oil (like bacon!). You can crumble them with your hands, and once the pizza pops out of the oven, sprinkle them on top.
Sprinkle some semolina flour or cornmeal on a pizza peel and stretch out a pizza dough round to about 10-12" in diameter.
Place some of the apple slices down on the dough. Don't overload it with slices at this point, just about 8 should do it.
Follow up with some slices of cheese, and then another layer of apples.
Don't make your pizza too heavy – save some toppings for the other pies!
Sprinkle with a little salt and a handful of cranberries.
Drizzle with honey.
Shimmy the pizza into the oven and bake for about 8 minutes.
Using the pizza peel, remove the pizza from the oven, drizzle with a little more honey and sprinkle with the crumbled, fried sage.
What You Should Drink:
I politely begged Jameson Fink of Wine Without Worry to give me a pairing recommendation for this pizza. Here is what he suggested:
When Elana asked for my help picking a wine to pair with pizza, I said, “No problem.” Tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni? Have a Chianti. Boom. Done! Then I actually paid attention to what she told me: a pizza topped with apple, gouda, cranberries and fried sage. Gouda grief! I’d have to put on my thinking cap.
In honor of Elana’s family heritage, I’m sticking with my initial thought of an Italian wine. And in honor of my personal penchant, I’m selecting a rosé. Which gives me the opportunity to go on a mini-wine rant. You think rosé is just for summer sipping? Let me give you my best John McLaughlin: WRONG! My pick, the 2011 “IlChiaretto” from producer Azienda Agricola San Giovanni, has year-round charm and appeal. It’s from the region of Lombardy, not far from the lovely shores of Lake Garda. A refreshingly unusual blend of four grapes (Groppello, Marzemino, Barbera, and Sangiovese), it is pizza-ready.
So let’s take a look at Elana’s culinary creation, starting with the cranberries. (Especially since Thanksgiving thoughts are turning in my head.) A dry rosé has a reminiscent tartness; a fine match whether cranberries are a side dish or atop a pizza. And rosés also have a savory, slightly herbaceous quality perfect with crispy fried sage. Plus the acidity in the IlChiaretto will play nice with crisp apple, and cut through the rich gouda to get you ready for another dang slice.
Last but not least, it comes in a squat, stubby, attention-getting bottle. Turns out it’s a bottle with a purpose. I asked BirkO'Halloran, who is a manager for the company that imports the wine (A. I. Selections), about the bottle. Here’s what Birk had to say:
When I spoke with [owner/winemaker] Paolo, he told me that by his calculations about 70% of the total carbon footprint of wine comes from the glass. The bottles he uses are about 30-40 grams less than a conventional bottle. This has been one of many ways he tries to minimize the carbon footprint of his wine. If you look on the back label you can find amount of carbon produced by the production of the wine. Since he has started recording it he has lowered it every year.
I would also add that this design makes it less difficult to knock over on a table crowded with pizza and friends.