Wednesday, October 31, 2007
PESTO PIZZA WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Another delicious way for me to use Trader Joe’s pizza dough, courtesy of Cooking Light. Last night was the second time I tried this recipe; the first time, I foolishly disregarded the recipe directions and prebaked the pizza crust for a while before adding the toppings, as I habitually do when making tomato-sauce-covered pizza (I must have been tired, because if I’d been thinking straight I would have realized that this is much closer to asparagus flatbread than to ordinary pizza, with no sauce to keep it moist). Surprise, surprise, it ended up over-browned and a bit dry, still OK-tasting but overall uninspiring, and given such a flawed first attempt, I couldn’t decide whether the recipe was a keeper or not. Of course, when I made it again and actually followed the instructions, it turned out perfectly done, with just the right balance between crispy and chewy. Adding ingredients to the raw dough not only prevented overbaking, but also allowed the cheese and pesto to bake deliciously into the crust. I suppose you could experiment with other ingredients or seasonings (sage instead of dried oregano, maybe?), but I think the different flavors (sweet squash, acidic tomatoes, garlicky pesto, salty cheese) blend together admirably. So, to recap: tasty, moderately healthy, and pretty darn easy to make, especially if, like me, you use premade dough and happen to have some homemade pesto stored in your freezer (I can’t in good conscience recommend that you use store-bought pesto, but do what you must).
One change I did safely make to the recipe was to use chopped fresh tomato instead of canned. With meaty heirlooms still in season at the farmers’ market, I just couldn’t resist. I might consider slicing them instead of dicing them next time, just for a prettier effect and more uniform texture. I also think I’ll try brown sugar instead of white next time. It’s traditional to pair it with squash, and it creates such a better caramelized flavor.
Also, don’t skimp on the squash or cut it too thin. The first time, my slices were too thin (apparently, ¼ inch is bigger than I think) and quite a few burned to a crisp during the initial roasting, leaving me with not much to put on my pizza. This time, I cut about 12 slices from the stem end of the squash (the solid part, that is; I saved the part with the seeds for another use), experimenting with varying thicknesses, then cut each squash round in half to make half-circles. After roasting, I was able to pick and choose the best ones for my pizza, rejecting the few that were too thin and overbrowned or thick and underdone. I used as many as would fit comfortably on the rectangle of dough, which was nearly all of them, which is probably more than the recipe calls for, but hey, if you’re going to make a squash pizza, make a squash pizza! It’s good for you.
About ½ pound butternut squash, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus a little extra
pizza dough for one pizza (1 lb)
½ cup shredded fontina or Gouda cheese
1 tomato, diced or sliced, or 1 (14.5-ounce) can finely chopped tomatoes, drained
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup pesto
½ cup grated fresh Romano or Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine squash slices with sugar and 1 teaspoon olive oil in a medium bowl and toss well. Spread squash on a baking sheet coated with a little olive oil (I also coat mine with tin foil, just to minimize mess and sticking). Bake for 20 minutes or until squash is tender.
3. Remove squash from oven and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
4. Roll out pizza dough to desired size and shape. Sprinkle fontina or Gouda over dough, leaving a ½-inch border. Top with squash slices, tomatoes, and oregano. Drop pesto by level teaspoons onto pizza, then sprinkle with Romano or Parmesan. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned.
Time: 1 hour