Dinner · Vegetarian

Winter Squash and Spinach Pizza

winter squash pizza

This recipe is inspired by Picco, a lovely restaurant located in Boston’s South End. While everything on the menu is top notch, my absolute favorite thing to order is the pizza covered in butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and a generous amount of fontina cheese.

For my rendition of this recipe, I decided to skip the red sauce and start with a foundation of white pizza.  I didn’t have any brussels sprouts on hand, so I replaced them with a few handfuls of fresh spinach.  I also added a few caramelized onions, since I love their sweet and savory flavor (hint: if you’re in a rush, add some balsamic vinegar to the onions near the end of cooking.  This creates a similar flavor, but takes about half the time!).

Winter Squash and Spinach Pizza Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough (I suggest this recipe, but you can also buy some at your local grocery store)
  • mozzarella cheese, grated
  • ricotta cheese
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • 1/2 butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium onion
  • cornmeal
  • olive oil

Prep:

  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the cubes of butternut squash in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on a prepared baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, testing for doneness with a fork. Don’t overcook, since the butternut squash will roast for 10 minutes more on top of the pizza.
  2. Cut the onion in half and slice into thin half moons. Heat oil in a small skillet on low and add onions.  Cook for about 20 minutes, or until onions are evenly golden brown and caramelized.
  3. In the meantime, spread cornmeal out onto a large baking pan.  Stretch the pizza dough so that it is uniformly thin and fits nicely into the baking pan. Rub stretched dough with a light layer of olive oil.

Assemble the Pizza:

  1. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
  2. Spread mozzarella cheese evenly over the pizza dough. Using a medium sized spoon, scoop ricotta out of the container and drop onto the pizza. Continue this process 10-15 more times, until pizza is evenly covered. Sprinkle spinach over the entire pizza. Use a few handfuls, keeping in mind that the spinach will shrink during cooking.
  3. Top pizza with minced garlic, caramelized onions, and cooked butternut squash cubes. Place in the hot oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, or until pizza is evenly browned.  Remove and let cool before serving.
Dinner · Vegetarian

Homemade Pizza

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My first attempt at homemade pizza was a complete flop. My friend decided to make it using a bread maker, assuming that the huge machine would make the process rather foolproof. But, boy were we wrong.  When we went to remove the dough after kneading, the entire thing was a liquid mess.  We tried as hard as we could to mold it into some semblance of a pizza, but it just wasn’t meant to be.  To salvage the meal, we cooked up a quick batch of penne and topped it off with our prepared pizza sauce and chopped veggies.  While there was no nicely bubbling crust or melty mozzarella cheese, we were still happily full.

After that experience, I pretty much gave up on making my own pizza dough.  I found a local shop that sold it pre-made, and that became my go-to way of hosting a pizza party. I still experimented with homemade sauces and fancy toppings, but the dough was not something I was eager to try again.

Recently, however, I had a renewed desire to make my own dough.  My coworker always talked about how easy it was, and I wanted to get over my fear of yeasty doughs.  So, I googled a dough recipe, took out my KitchenAid mixer (definitely instrumental in this process), and got to work.

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In just a few steps, I wound up with a stretchy, fluffy, perfect dough.  The dough rose perfectly within two hours, held up to some pretty aggressive shaping, and served as a great vehicle for all my toppings.

The sauce here is also wonderful.  The great thing about pizza dough sauces is that they don’t have to be cooked (since they’ll be baked in the oven for at least 10 minutes), so they can be whipped together very quickly.  Feel free to experiment with the herbs (or use fresh ones), but definitely give it a try!

Homemade Pizza Recipe 

Ingredients

For the dough (recipe from Simply Recipes):

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

For the sauce (adapted from Peter Reinhart):

  • 16 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of ground pepper
  • 1/ 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Toppings (these were great, but feel free to use whatever is in the fridge):

  • asparagus (cut into 1-2 inch spears)
  • zucchini, quartered and diced
  • red and green peppers, chopped or sliced thinly
  • mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • mozzarella cheese, grated
  • cornmeal (for the crust)

Instructions

For the dough:

  1. Combine warm water and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Make sure that the water isn’t too hot! Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, or until the yeast foams on top.
  2. Using a wooden spoon, mix in olive oil, salt, and sugar.  Slowly add the flour until it is too difficult to stir.
  3. At this point, attach the dough hook to your stand mixer.  Mix the dough on low or medium speed for around 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and stretchy.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl.  Cover with a tea towel and let sit in a warm place (I chose the top of my fridge) for 1-1.5 hours.  During this time, the dough should double in size.

For the sauce:

  1. combine all ingredients in a blender.  Mix for 10-15 seconds, depending on the strength of your blender and your preferred sauce texture.  I like to leave it pretty chunky so there are pieces of tomato on my pizza.

Making the pizzas:

  1. Prep your pizza pan by covering it in cornmeal.  I use square pans, either 11″x18″ or 9″x13″.
  2. Heat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and punch down the dough.
  3. Split your dough evenly in half and mold each piece into a small round ball.  Let sit on a tray covered with a tea towel for 10-15 minutes, or until you are ready to start baking.
  4. Working with one ball at a time, start stretching the dough.  To start, I like to put the dough ball on top of my knuckles and let the dough stretch around my hand.  Then I work with the edges, letting the dough hang down and stretch as I work my way around the circle. It’s OK if the dough isn’t perfectly stretched yet, since you can continue to work with it once you lay it on the pan.
  5. Place your stretched dough on the prepared pan.  Cover with olive oil first (this helps the sauce stay on top, and not soak into, the crust).  Then lightly coat with sauce, top with mozzarella cheese, and add toppings.
  6. Slide pizza into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Check the bottom of the pizza to make sure that it’s browned as well.
  7. Let cool for a few minutes and then cut into pieces to serve!

This recipe makes 2 doughs (or pizza for roughly 4-6 people).

Bread

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

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For the past three years, I’ve experimented a lot with bread making.  I started off with my friend Laura’s sourdough starter (otherwise known as my “pet”), which had an awesome, complex flavor. However, the starter often disappointed me, and I could never get my dough to rise above the lip of the pan.  The starter also required daily attention, and I quickly killed it in the fridge (perhaps the reason I don’t have a real pet).

I then moved onto yeast-y breads, although no one recipe could keep my attention for very long. Pretty soon, I found myself back at the grocery store buying Arnold and Pepperidge Farm.  Who doesn’t have a special love for bread that is perfectly sliced and lasts for a week or more?

But then, I found the KitchenAid.  I wouldn’t necessarily call myself lazy, but the stand mixer makes bread making so easy that I don’t think I’ll ever want to buy bread again. My loaf (pictured here) rose so high that it was towering over the pan, and I was pretty sure the whole thing would flop over in my oven.  The texture and taste were also wonderful, and I couldn’t wait to share it with friends and co-workers.

To be fair, I’ve only made one loaf so far.  However, based on the way this one turned out, there will be many, many more.

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread Recipe (adapted from “Good to the Grain” by Kim Boyce)

Ingredients:

  • oil for pan
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees)
  • 3 tbsp unsulphured molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 tbsp sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Oil a 9″x5″x3″ inch loaf pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, and molasses.  Let sit for 5 minutes, or until light foam appears on the surface of the water.  At this step, be very careful that the water is not too hot or you will kill the yeast!
  3. Slowly add whole wheat flour, bread flour, and oats to the bowl.  Stir with a spatula until combined. Cover the bowl with a tea towel for 30 minutes (I considered skipping this step, but it was well worth it).
  4. Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer. Add salt and mix dough on medium speed for 6 minutes.  When finished, the dough should be smooth and elastic.
  5. Oil a large bowl.  With your hands, roll dough into the form of a ball in place it in the bowl.  Cover with a tea towel and let rest for one hour, or until doubled in size.
  6. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  With your hands, stretch the dough into a square, approximately 12 by 12.  Working with the top two corners, fold them into the middle of the square.  Repeat on the bottom, folding the bottom two corners into the middle.  Pinch the seam where they meet, and lightly roll the dough back and forth.
  7. Curl the ends of the dough inwards and slide the loaf into the prepared pan.  Cover dough with a tea towel and let rise for one more hour. Dough should double in size and stand 1-3 inches above the lip of the pan.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake loaf for 40 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  When finished, the bread should sound hollow when tapped lightly on the top. If you like, rub the top of the loaf with a light coating of butter to make it glossy.
  9. For best results, let the loaf cool for a few hours to preserve moisture.