Thursday 21 June 2007

Summer's in the air...

Rome and the whole of Italy have been hit, at last, by the summer heat wave and boy are we sweating here!
I love summer and I love the heat, but the down side is it makes cooking a cumbersome time.
After a long day running round like a headless chicken getting the little tsunami to kindergarden, then rushing to work, smashed and mashed between an array of other bodies fighting their way into the hot hot hot subway, and then, after hours spent in a warm office, going through the process all over again turns the idea of slaving infront of a stove a gruesome dream.
And so...what to serve on the table this evening?
Dear husband is on a mission to lose weight (he doesn't need it, believe me. At 39 he's got a great muscular figure, he's a bit of a hunk, if I say so myself, but then again I know what cruel judges we are of our own bodies), and every meal has become and ordeal for me!
It's far from easy to concoct a light yet tasty meal every evening, so the one time your man is not in, I can finally eat whatever I want to my heart's content.
Tired, sweaty and hungry as I was last night, I decided I was in no mood to turn the stoves on a second time, the first havig been to prepare pasta with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala and basil for the little tsunami - and so opted for an old time Roman favourite, Parma ham (prosciutto) with fresh fruit.
You'd be amazed how versatile Parma ham is. It tastes lovely, and looks lovely too, casually draped over slices of juicy orange melon, and is, for me at least, at it's best when accompanied by sweet mushy figs.
These two delicacies are at their best though when squashed between two slices of pizza bianca alla romana, or on foccaccia.
Of course living in Italy it's easy as pie to get your hands on a good piece of white pizza (I've got 5 pizza shops lined up one after the other just across the road from my house!!!), but following is your basic pizza dough recipe, which can easily be whipped together in a big batch and used to your heart's content. My advise is make a lot, prepare some for dinner and freeze the rest of the dough for another occasion.

Pizza with Prosciutto e fichi
300 gr. 00 flour
20 gr beer yeast
250 ml water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pour the flour onto a clean surface and make a well in the centre. Add the yeast and a little at a time luke warm water. Gently start mixing all together with a fork starting from the centre of the well and moving out. Add the olive oil and start kneading the dough with your hands until you end up with a smooth ball of dough.
Place in a bowl, score a cross on the top, cover and let it rest until it has doubled in volume.
At this stage you take a good sized chuck of, gently flatten the dough (the best way is to work it with your fingers to get the air out), to about half an inch. Remember you want it to be high enough and soft enough to cut through it add the filling later.
Place on an oiled oven dish, add a pinch of salt, and some fresh rosemary, and pop it in the oven at full blast for aprox 15 minute, or until nice and golden.
Wait for it to cool, cut across, and fill with slices of Parma ham and wedges of very mature figs.
Serve with chilled sparkling wine, prosecco is lovely, or, for a more relaxed evening, a big pitcher of lager beer.
Nothing nicer then an evening to yourself having dinner on the terrace, Portishead on in the background, a good book in one hand, a glass of almost frozed white wine in the other and a mouth full of Parma sharpness and the sweetness of figs. Not the lightest of meal, I'll admit, but one deserves to indulge in these anti-diet joys once in a while.

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