In this recipe, I’ve taken the traditional “Polenta Nera” recipe of the mountainous Alto Adige region and modified it by using puffed buckwheat, barley or spelt as a wonderful pizza with anchovies.
Polenta Nera Pizza
10 ounces of your in-house dough
1¼ cups of whole buckwheat berry or grain (substitute local spelt or barley)
2½ cups cold water
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic chopped fine
10 anchovy filets
One head of radicchio, sliced thick
Juice from one-half lemon
One sweet red pepper, diced
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
3 ounces of aged asiago cheese
Pinch of Italian flat-leaf parsley
Put the water in a pot with the buckwheat berries. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-high and let cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste for doneness. (Each berry should not be mushy but should have a chewy texture.) Cool and set aside.
Add the chopped garlic and five of the anchovies to the extra virgin olive oil in a medium-high pan, press them down with a wooden spoon to mix well with the oil and lower the heat so the garlic doesn’t burn. Cook for 12-15 minutes.
When the garlic-anchovy mix is well incorporated with the oil, turn the heat up and add the radicchio and cover. Cook for five minutes, toss and add the lemon juice and pepper and cook for another 8 minutes until the radicchio is semi-limp.
Bang out your pizza crust, add the mozzarella, Asiago and 1 cup of the buckwheat berries. (Do not add too much as they will weigh the pie down.) Cook the pizza until just beginning to brown, (6 to 8 minutes). Pull the pizza and add the radicchio-pepper mix and cook until the crust goldens.
Pull the pizza and add the remaining anchovies, then garnish with parsley.
We all get the salt packed, brown anchovies swimming in oil from Morocco, Peru or (hopefully) from Sicily. Taking them directly from this state onto a pizza is not the best way to enjoy them. There are two methods for heightening flavor from these small brethren of the shallows:
1. Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water. Place the anchovies in the water, separating them as you gently bathe the salt out for 12 to 15 seconds. Drain gently and slowly refill the bowl with cold water for 30 seconds to one minute. Dry the anchovies on paper towels then cover them with a bath of your finest extra virgin olive oil, Sicilian oregano and a few smashed, whole garlic cloves. (Add more adventure to this with fresh thyme and lemon zest if you wish.)
2. For the second prep, flush (as above) with equal parts ONLY cold water and good vinegar for 2 minutes, then drain but do not pat dry. Add extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes and oregano.
Both of these can sit and plump on the counter at room temperature for 12 hours before refrigerating. This will ensure the oil will take on the wonderful flavor of the ‘chovie!