This pizza is a collage of fall flavors from the farmers’ market. I was feeling ambitious today, so I ended up spending way more time than usual on dinner for just myself. Anytime I’m hungry (or just getting off the subway), it’s always tempting to saunter into Little Luzzo’s and grab a decently delicious slice. Tonight I decided to knead and puree my way to homemade pizza that was eaten at 10pm. Was it worth it? Always. And I have leftovers too.
I made my pizza crust with a blend of whole wheat and regular flour, and pureed carnival squash (similar to acorn squash) stood in for the usual tomato sauce. I also used small squares of sliced cheese instead of piles of shredded cheese. As much as I love cheese (and I do love cheese), I can’t go around creating fatty calorie-bomb pizzas for a regular night’s dinner if I’m going to study and work in nutrition. Right?
1 small yellow onion
1 small fennel bulb
1/2 medium apple
4 small sage leaves, chopped
leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
5 to 7 oz mozzarella or fontina cheese, sliced
1 1/2 cups of winter squash puree with roasted garlic (details below)
pizza dough (details below squash puree details)
fried sage leaves for garnish
grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Heat a large pan over medium-low heat with a bit of olive oil. Cut onion and fennel in half lengthwise, then very thinly crosswise. Peel apple and cut into thin matchsticks. Add onion, fennel, and apple to the pan, along with chopped sage, thyme, some salt, and pepper. Let mixture cook until soft and lightly browned, tossing frequently. It should take 20 to 25 minutes or so. If stuff starts sticking to the pan, add a tiny splash of water.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a half sheet pan (about 18 by 13 inches) with parchment paper. Or you could use a pizza stone.
Sprinkle some corn meal on the baking sheet. Place the dough on the baking sheet and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Shape dough to fit pan. If it won’t stretch, let it rest a bit before handling it.
Spread squash puree over dough. Spread onion fennel apple mixture over squash. Top with cheese slices. Bake in oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is slightly bubbly and crust is slightly golden. Top with fried sage leaves (directions: just throw some sage leaves into hot oil and fry until they become translucent, then sprinkle a little salt on them) and grated cheese.
Winter Squash Puree
(adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Cooking)
Cut the squash(es) in half (whether this is lengthwise or crosswise doesn’t matter) and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves on a parchment-lined or lightly oiled baking sheet or baking pan. Throw in a few unpeeled garlic cloves (optional). Bake in a 350-degree oven until the flesh of the squash is soft. The only way to know is to keep checking, since the time will vary depending on what type of squash you have and what size it is. Let it cool, then scoop the flesh out. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the papery stuff. Mash squash and garlic with a fork, potato masher, or food mill. Add a small spoonful of cream to smooth things out. Season with salt and pepper. I added some fresh thyme as well.
This stuff is also great in soup (add to broth with herbs and a little more cream or milk), as a sauce for pasta (add some herbs and cream or milk), or as baby food (because I’m pretty sure infants love roasted garlic).
Basic Pizza Dough
(adapted from The Cheese Board Collective Works)
makes two 12-inch, thin pizzas, or a large rectangular 18 by 13-inch pizza
1 packet (2 1/4 tsp or 1/4 oz) yeast
1 1/8 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/8 tsp salt
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups flour (I use 3/4 cups whole wheat flour and regular unbleached flour for the rest)
Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl. Whisk with a fork, let stand 5 minutes.
Add oil, salt, and 2 1/2 cups of flour. Mix with a wooden spoon for at least 5 minutes. The dough should be a little sticky, but not so much that you can’t pick it up with your hands. It should form a ball.
Add 1/4 cup of flour to a large cutting board (or any clean, flat surface such as a large baking sheet). Dust your hands with some flour. Knead dough for at least 8 minutes, incorporating flour. If the dough is still way too sticky, add flour 1/4 cup at a time. The end result should be a smooth ball of dough that isn’t too dry. For those of you who don’t know how to knead, all you do is fold the dough towards you, then push forward with the heel of your hand, then rotate a quarter turn and repeat. It can be therapeutic, like those stress-relief balls that you squeeze. Tip: to prevent your kneading surface from slipping, place a damp towel under it.
Place dough in a well-oiled, large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place (such as your kitchen stove) for 1 hour (or whatever the yeast packet instructions say).
After the dough has doubled in size, divide it into two portions (if making two pizzas) and use one per pizza.