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No-Knead Pizza with Eggplant, Ginger and Basil

Monday, June 3, 2013
No Knead Pizza

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

~ Emma Lazzarus, The New Colossus, sonnet written at the base of the Statue of Liberty

A short story. Because it's not just those others, the immigrants we're afraid of.
She had managed to sell two plates, the candlestick and an embroidered shawl, in exchange for a green suitcase and a pair of thick and comfortable shoes for me. Before embarking, my mother lit a candle to St. Joseph, and praying quietly she asked him to escort us at least until the exit from that island of tears.
That was how uncle called it; he had made ​​the journey three times already, and in town rumor had it he had made ​​a fortune: he was no longer living like a rat underground, he had his own room overlooking the street, and just enough money to buy oil and fresh bread, and on Sundays in the summer, to go to the beach in Coney Island.
When he came back last time he was different; he wore a hat and had his beard in order, but he looked tired and full of melancholy. You could see inside of him the same mix of stubbornness and pride that had led him to leave, stronger than the call of the sea and the smell of lemons among the rocks. He had come to bring along his children with the promise of a future, and he ended up dragging my mother with him, widow for years and with nothing to lose.
The crossing was long and tedious; Cece and I slept together on a dirty mattress, suffocated by the sweat of people packed all around. To survive, we recalled the afternoons spent playing soccer barefoot in the streets, wondering if we'd find enough friends in this Brooklyn to make a team of six, including the goalkeeper.
We got off in Ellis; grim-faced men in uniform ordered us to stand in line, while we, leaning against each other with our stomach swollen from hunger and fear, perceived by far the flattery of Lady Liberty. Someone, perhaps for the long beard or a flash of madness in the eyes, was pushed back and overwhelmed with shame. Uncle had warned us: Ellis does not forgive, he had said, but during the long nights of that trip he had filled our heart with hope. Still stunned by the ocean, they plagued us with mysterious questions, writing our destiny on a stamped document and searching for sins, pregnant women and monstrous diseases.
Under the striped flag I saw Cece for the last time, amidst the anxiety of the hungry and noisy crowd. A merciless doctor marked his jacket with a white letter, and two indifferent arms dragged him inside a large room that smelled of dust and threats: they'd force him to re-embark on the same ship from which he had gotten off, indicted by a malformation of the eyes that couldn't grant him the entrance.
Dragging the fatigue towards the future that was open to us, I felt a pain in my belly, quick and dry like a whip on bare skin. I looked up at my mother, frail and scared, and I thought, is this the Merica of our dreams, will it be like this our new world?

No-Knead Vegan Pizza

No-Knead Pizza*
with Eggplant, Ginger and Basil

for 4
For the dough
flour 500 gr
salt 16 gr
dry yeast 1 gr
sugar 1 teaspoon
water 350 gr

For the topping
crushed tomatoes 1 can
Japanese eggplants 2
fresh ground ginger 2 teaspoons
garlic 1-2 cloves
salt, pepper, chili pepper flakes, olive oil, basil to taste

No-Knead Vegan Pizza

*The first pizzeria in the United States was opened in New York in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi, who emigrated from Naples at the end of the century. What follows is the no-knead pizza by Jim Lahey and his Sullivan Street Bakery; I took and adapted the recipe from here.

In a bowl mix flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon or with your hands, just until the dough comes together. Cover with a cloth and let rise at room temperature for about 18 hours, until it more than doubles.
Place the dough on the counter dusted with flour, divide it into four pieces and work each piece as follows: take the right side of the dough and fold it toward the center; then do the same with the left side, and with the two ends above and below (the order doesn't matter, what matters is having four folds). Then give it the shape of a ball and then flip it upside down, so that the folding is underneath. With cupped hands, shape the dough by turning and pulling it slightly downwards, so as to have a round ball with a smooth surface. Do the same with the other pieces, then lightly dust them with flour and cover with a kitchen towel. Let stand for another half hour.
After this time, take each piece, flour it and slightly push it down, pulling it out from each side to form a round disc of about 4-6" diameter. Still using your hands, or making it spin on the knuckles, stretch it until you get a thin base of about 10" diameter.
At this point, pizza is ready to be dressed to taste. It's baked on a baking stone preheated to 500 for about 20 minutes.
As usual, all this is easier done than said; but trust me, it's really very easy, and a short explanatory video can be found here.
My pizza, if you're really really curious to know, is a modern melting pot, a little heretic and a bit underground, in perfect immigrant style: tomato sauce seasoned with salt, garlic slices, grated ginger and Mexican chili, grilled Japanese eggplant slices, and to finish a few leaves of Thai basil and a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil.

Broiled Japanese Eggplant

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