In 1989, chef Todd English opened Olives, the first of his eight restaurants, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. His goal was to prepare and serve extraordinary Mediterranean-style food; since olives flourish in the Mediterranean, it was only natural that they would figure prominently in the restaurant's cuisine. In 1992, Todd opened Figs, a more casual, affordable restaurant where uniquely delicious pizzas became the mainstays.
Todd's take on pizza involves three basic principles: A pizza can never be too rich, nor the crust too thin; in terms of toppings, restraint is paramount; and a perfectly round pizza is not to be trusted. Figs, olives, prosciutto, and generous amounts of olive oil are just some of the ingredients that make Todd's pizzas especially delicious. For a light, crisp crust, Todd never throws the dough in the air; stretching the dough in this manner can turn the crust tough and chewy. Instead, he uses a rolling pin, which is gentle and preserves the airy crispness of the dough.
Todd has coauthored several cookbooks, including "The Olives Table" and "The Figs Table," which reveal the secrets of his celebrated cuisine. He uses his pizza dough in three unusual dishes, specialties at Todd's restaurants: a deliciously different fig-and-prosciutto pizza; the Olives tart; and his version of panini, Italian-style sandwiches.
Figs Pizza Dough
When Todd instructs his Figs cooks in how to make pizza dough, they're often surprised at how wet the dough is. But the extra moisture helps produce a crust that is light and crispy. This versatile dough can also be used to make tarts and panini.
Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
One of the keys to a delicious pizza is the balance of toppings. Fig jam topped with prosciutto combines sweet and savory flavors for a deliciously piquant taste. A light layer of Gorgonzola cheese adds complexity to this pizza without overwhelming the other flavors.
This tart, a favorite at Olives restaurant, is inspired by one of Todd's favorite Provencal tarts. One batch of pizza dough can be the foundation for two delicious tarts.
When Todd traveled to Europe to gather ideas for the restaurant long before it opened, one of his favorite snacks was the pressed sandwich found all over Italy. Instead of using bread or a roll, which in Italy are called panini, Todd makes pressed sandwiches from his pizza dough.