Butternut Squash Pizza
The latest craze in San Francisco? Pizza wars. It seems like a new pizza joint materializes on a weekly basis, promising the latest and greatest gourmet pizzas. Arizmendi just opened in the Mission. Ragazza is new to NOPA. Una Pizza Napoletana and Zero Zero are both new to the scene in SOMA.
To say that I love pizza would be a major understatement. And I have to admit that I’m a total sucker for this whole who-has-the-best-most-delicious-pizza thing (thus far, none of the new pizza joints even compare to my absolute favorite San Francisco pizzeria). I was equally obsessed with the who-has-the-most delicious-burger debate when I lived in New York (I love this place, but think my heart goes to this one).
But during the course of my pizza adventures—which I’m sure I will blog about more than I should—I’ve discovered that I can make a pretty delicious pizza at home, homemade dough and all. It gives even some of the best pizzas I’ve had a run for their money. Sure, I don’t have a pizza oven. Sure, I don’t have fancy accoutrements like a pizza peel. But the end product is simply delectable. Like this butternut squash pizza. It’s fresh and seasonal—like all the best pizzas you get out in San Francisco. Plus, with a minimal amount of cheese, it’s healthy. Not to mention how quick and easy it is to make. It even uses up any leftover hazelnuts and sage that you might have from last week’s burrata crostini. Waste not, want not. A perfect week night dinner.
Who knows, maybe I’ll join in these SF Pizza Wars someday with a pizzeria of my own… well, a girl can dream at least.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH PIZZA
Adapted from Martha Stewart, Oct. 2010
Serves two as a main.
1 super simple pizza dough (recipe follows), or store-bought pizza dough
1 large butternut squash
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Using a large knife, cut the long “neck” off the butternut squash. Reserve the round base for another use. Peel the squash. You can do this using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. I personally prefer to cut the neck into three-inch rounds, and then use a large knife to cut off the tough skin. For me, this is the easiest and quickest way to peel the squash. But then again, I have perhaps the dullest vegetable peeler known to man.
Next, slice the butternut squash into wafer-thin rounds. Since the pizza will only spend a few minutes in the oven, slicing the squash nice-and-thin is key to ensuring that it cooks properly. I use a knife to do this. You could also use a mandolin.
Thinly slice the garlic and chop the sage. Combine in a small bowl with a splash of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Set aside.
Toast the hazelnuts in a small pan. Let cool for a few minutes, then use your hands or a kitchen towel to rub the loose skins off. Coarsely chop.
Use your hands to stretch out your pizza dough (homemade, recipe below, or store bought). I find that it’s best to drape the dough over your hands, and use your fists (move them around in a slow circle) to stretch the dough (gently!) into a big pizza pie. Gravity does half of the work here.
Lay your dough onto a pizza stone, pizza crisper, or sheet pan (whatever you’ve got). Brush or spritz lightly with olive oil. Arrange the butternut squash rounds on top of the dough. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, a grind of pepper, and the garlic/sage mixture. Dollop fresh ricotta all over (see picture).
Bake for about 10 minutes, until the squash is roasted and the dough is blistered. Sprinkle the top of the pizza with the toasted hazelnuts, and with a light drizzle of good quality olive oil. Slice, eat, and enjoy!
Serving ideas: I like to serve this pizza with a small side salad of mixed greens and simple vinaigrette. If you want something a little fancier, add some toasted pine nuts, crumbled goat cheese, and dried cranberries to your side salad. There’s something about the cranberries that goes so well with the butternut squash. Toss with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.
PATRICK’S SUPER SIMPLE PIZZA DOUGH
Adapted, only a little, from Smitten Kitchen
Patrick always makes the pizza dough around here, so this version of Smitten Kitchen’s really simple pizza recipe—and all the tips and tricks—comes from him. One warning here: don’t stress if your dough doesn’t come out perfectly the first time you make it. It may take a few efforts to figure out what exactly works for you. But don’t give up! Making your own pizza dough is a wonderful thing.
1 ½ cups 00 flour*
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (I usually end up using 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil
We’re relatively recent converts to making our own pizza dough. We used to but it frozen from my local grocery store. That works well, but it’s surprisingly easy (and cheap!) to make your own dough. Give it a try—you’ll be surprised at how simple, delicious, and cost-saving it is.
In a large bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together (including the yeast). Add water and olive oil and, using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture into one big lump. Dump it onto a lightly floured surface (countertop or cutting board) and cover the dough with the bowl for approximately 5-10 minutes. Next, using your hands, knead the lump and little floury bits for 1-2 minutes, until it forms a smooth ball. Add more flour as you knead, if necessary—the dough should be slightly moist, but not wet.
Back to your large bowl (same one that you mixed the dough in). Lightly oil the bowl with a spritz of oil (or a light drizzle to coat the sides). Place your dough in the bowl, and spritz again (very lightly) with oil, so that all sides of the dough are covered. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave it undisturbed in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size.**
* I use 00 (“double zero”) flour in my pizza dough. It’s available at SF’s Rainbow Grocery in bulk, and it’s cheap to boot. But if you can’t find 00 flour (or it’s expensive at your local store), regular flour works just fine.
** It’s best to let the dough rest for as long as possible. Make it the night (or two nights) before, and just let it hang out in the fridge (in the covered bowl). The dough will be even tastier and easier to work with. Oh, and the crust will blister up even better in the oven.