Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Homemade Pizza with Winter Squash, Greens, and Goat Cheese

With a recipe like this, the challenge is always trying to decide which ingredients to leave out of the title.  I mean, would this have been the same pizza without the caramelized onions and the fresh thyme?  What about the slices of mozzarella gluing everything down?  How much of a difference does whole-wheat crust make?  I submit that it would not be the same at all, but I didn't want to overwhelm you all with an even longer title, so... the fact that we also added crumbled Italian sausage to ours is neither here nor there.

from Jake & Emma's kitchen, inspired by a picture I saw in a magazine

makes 2 14-inch pizzas (or so... depends on the size of your stone or cookie sheet)

1 recipe whole-wheat pizza crust, or substitute your favorite homemade or store-bought crust
about 1 lb winter squash, peeled if necessary, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 bunch chard, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/2 lb sausage of your choice (optional), removed from casings if using links
about 4 oz. soft goat cheese
about 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced or grated
olive oil
coarse salt
fresh or dried thyme
red pepper flakes

Start your dough.  During its first rise, caramelize your onions: Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and cook the sliced onion slowly, stirring occasionally, until it becomes very soft and golden, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

While the onions are caramelizing, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare squash, then toss cubes with a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Spread the squash in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast until golden brown outside and tender inside, about 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking time.  Set the squash aside too.

You'll want to saute your chard somewhere in here too: Once the onions are done, add a bit more olive oil to the same pan and wilt the chard to your desired level of... wiltyness.  I like to season it with a pinch of salt and a few red pepper flakes.  You can also brown your sausage, if you're using sausage, in that same pan if you choose.

When the dough has completed its first rise and is shaped and ready for its second, raise your oven temp to 450 degrees and put your pizza stone in to preheat.  (If you don't have a pizza stone, no worries.  Pizza on a cookie sheet is perfectly fine, and you actually save yourself the anxiety involved with sliding a carefully-topped pizza onto a hot stone as 450-degree heat blasts you in the face.)

Once all your toppings are prepped and your crust has completed its second rise, you're ready to assemble.  Prepare a pizza peel, cutting board, or the back of a cookie sheet by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal, if you're using a stone.  If you're using a cookie sheet, sprinkle that liberally with cornmeal.  Using floured hands, stretch the first piece of dough into a 12- to 14-inch circle (or rectangle, for baking sheet) and plop it on the peel.  

Next, add your toppings.  I like to get the toppings on fairly quickly, so that the cornmeal under the crust doesn't absorb too much moisture and I can still slide the finished product off.  I generally do the bulkiest toppings first, so I'd start with squash and sausage, then onions and chard.  Crumble the goat cheese evenly on top, then use slices of mozzarella to keep everything attached.  Drizzle a thin stream of olive oil over the whole thing, then sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some fresh thyme leaves (dried is fine too).

Open the oven and bring the rack with the stone on it partway out.  Using a spatula to start the edges moving, carefully slide the topped pizza out onto the stone.  Make sure the edges of the crust are all inside the edges of the stone, or your cheese and toppings will fall off as the pizza cooks, making more of a mess than you'll feel like cleaning up.  Alternatively, if you're doing your pizza on a cookie sheet, just slide the whole thing into the oven.

Bake pizza for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted, and the crust is puffy on top and brown underneath.  Remove it from the oven and repeat with the second crust!  Serve hot.

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