Zucchini pizzette (Pizzette di zucchine)
Pizzette with a buttery puff pastry base are a "thing" in Venice, and they are beyond delicious. You will find pizzette with a dough base and ones made with puff pastry on offer in most bars but I always prefer the puff pastry version. So although this recipe is wonderfully easy to make, you needn't think of it as a cheat's pizza – unless, of course, you count cooking with ready-rolled puff pastry as cheating. I have topped these with grilled zucchini and fresh thyme, but baby artichokes, blue cheese, black olives and anchovies are all equally scrumptious alternatives – or leave them plain like a margherita.
1 small zucchini, cut into rounds 3-5mm thick
320g ready-rolled puff pastry sheet
400g tin of peeled roma tomatoes, drained, chopped, then drained again
25g mozzarella, chopped
50g pecorino, grated
a small bunch of thyme
1. Heat the oven to 200C. Heat a char-grill pan. Arrange the zucchini slices on it and cook over a medium-high heat for about three minutes, until char-grilled and blistered on both sides. Season with a little salt. Remove from the char-grill pan and set aside.
2. Lay out the puff pastry on a work surface and use a pastry cutter to cut out seven to eight-centimetre rounds (roughly the size of the base of the tomato tin, if you don't have a cutter the right size). Arrange them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, leaving plenty of space between each one. Using a sharp knife, score a circle on each pastry round to make a one centimetre border – be careful not to cut right through. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden.
3. Remove the pizzette bases from the oven and gently push down the pastry if it has puffed up at the centre – you need to create a hollow. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of drained tomatoes into the hollow of each one. Combine the mozzarella and pecorino in a bowl, then put a generous spoonful on the tomato, so that it is almost completely hidden under a snow-white layer of cheese. Top with a couple of slices of grilled zucchini and a few thyme leaves.
4. Return the pizzette to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden. They are best eaten straight from the oven but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container – all you need to do is reheat them before serving.
Semifreddo-meets-cake-meets-pavlova. Photo: Skye McAlpine
Zabaione and meringue semifreddo (semifreddo di zabaione e meringa)
Sheets of crisp, white meringue with blissfully chewy centres, layered with a light-as-air zabaione – this is semifreddo-meets-cake-meets-pavlova. There is something about the pure white-on-white of this that I find soothing and very seductive, but I won't deny that a handful of sharp red berries or some roughly chopped glace citrus peel buried in each tier of zabaione has an alluring more-is-more charm about it, too.
6 large egg whites
300g castor sugar
For the zabaione
6 large egg yolks
100g castor sugar
300ml whipping cream
1. Make the meringue layers first. Heat the oven to 140C. Line three large baking trays with baking parchment and draw a 24-centimetre circle on each piece of paper. Turn the paper over so you can still see the lines and use them as guides.
2. Rub a large bowl down with the lemon half to cut through any grease. Put the egg whites into the bowl and, using a handheld electric mixer, beat on a low–medium speed until the whites begin to froth. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until the whites become glossy and form stiff peaks. Spoon the meringue onto the baking parchment and spread it out evenly within the circles.
3. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes, then switch off the oven and leave the meringues in there, without opening the door, for an hour longer, until the oven has cooled. Take the meringues out of the oven and leave them to cool on the trays.
4. Now make the zabaione cream filling. Put the egg yolks and sugar into a heatproof bowl and whisk with a handheld electric mixer for two to three minutes, until light and fluffy. As the mixture begins to froth up, set the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the water isn't touching the base of the bowl. Keep whisking until the mixture is thick enough for a trail to stay on the surface when drizzled from the whisk. Slowly pour in the marsala, whisking all the while. This should take 3 to 5 minutes, and as you add the liquid the zabaione will double in size and thicken. Remove the bowl from the heat and let the zabaione cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally to prevent a skin forming.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until it forms soft peaks. Gently fold it into the cooled zabaione. To assemble the semifreddo, place one of the meringue layers on a serving plate, and spread half the zabaione cream over it. Top with a second layer of meringue, then the rest of the zabaione cream, and finish with the final layer of meringue. Freeze for three to four hours, or longer if you like, until set. Slice like a cake to serve.
Recipes adapted from A Table in Venice by Skye McAlpine, published by Bloomsbury (RRP $45).