Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh - this is exciting stuff. This is one of those special recipes. You know, the kind you cut and paste to your fridge to make over and over again, at which point you start to know the recipe by heart and can pass it on to anyone who's ever tried it and oohed and aahed over it, and then to your children and grandchildren, even to your arch-enemies and best friends. It's timeless. It's elegant. It's perfect. It's easy.
The recipe comes from an article on lemons that Christopher Idone wrote in the New York Times Magazine last summer (when his name kept popping up all over the place, from an article on Brazilian food in the LA Times, to an odd piece on summer Thanksgiving in the New York Times that I mentioned, back when this blog was a wee fledgling and still so stilted and weird to read). Idone wrote up alluring recipes for lemon fritters (salty or sweet), roasted lemon shells filled with tapenade, and then this pizza.
Oh, this pizza. Every time I'd leaf through my clippings, I'd stop at the recipe and stare at it, figuring out an occasion on which to make it. Finally, last night, the opportunity presented itself at an Australian wine-tasting and dinner-party that a group of enterprising girlfriends of mine organized. On my lunch break, I ran to Whole Foods to pick up prepared pizza dough, creme fraiche and organic lemons, then on to a different store to get salmon roe. At home, I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin, then lifted it up and did my best to jiggle and stretch it to the appropriate size. I covered the surface with thinly sliced lemons, cracked black pepper and olive oil, then slid the pizza into the oven.
25 minutes later it emerged, crust browned and crisp, the lemons nicely toasted and barely shriveled. After it had cooled, I spread creme fraiche carefully over the surface (using only half of what Idone called for, otherwise it'd be far too gloppy), and then dotted the creme fraiche with glowing dots of salmon roe (again, I used less than called for: 4 ounces instead of 6). I'd say you should absolutely invest in a pizza cutter before making this - I butchered it by attempting to slice it with a bread knife. And did you notice that no salt was required? I had to hold myself back from sprinkling salt on the lemons along with the pepper and olive oil. But it was worth it.
The combination of puckery lemons (at once still sour and yet fragrant from the high heat in the oven), smooth cream, salty and soulful roe, and crunchy crust was a revelation. Each bite was delicate but satisfying, new and somehow still familiar. The pizza was beautiful to look at, but even better to eat. And the possibilities are endless. Need an appetizer for a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas? Try this: it's light enough and yet totally mouth-watering. Want something simple to serve to guests at a weeknight dinner party? Make this: the preparation is so swift and simple - there's barely even anything to clean up. Want a simple lunch to eat outside on a warm afternoon? Serve this along with a lightly dressed salad. Whatever you do, be prepared to dole out the recipe. People will be asking for it.
Serves 8 as an appetizer
12 ounces prepared pizza dough
3 lemons, ends trimmed and discarded, sliced paper thin, seeds removed
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup creme fraiche (I used 1/4 cup)
6 ounces good-quality salmon caviar (I used 4 ounces)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and roll dough out to roughly 12 inches in diameter and very thing - about 1/6-inch thick. Place on a greased sheet pan, or heat a pizza stone in the oven. Cover surface of dough with lemon slices, overlapping them very slightly. Sprinkle with pepper and olive oil. Transfer pizza to hot pizza stone or place the sheet pan in the oven.
2. Bake until dough is brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. If the lemons brown too quickly, cover the surface of the dough with foil until dough is cooked through.
3. Remove the pizza from the oven and let cool. Spread creme fraiche over the surface and dot with caviar. Cut into wedges and serve.