Before me I have a plate with three of these pizza slices. For once I’m camped at my dining table, a phenomenon occurring maybe twice a year. I have a peripheral view of my balcony, outside of which gleams reflections of the midday sun twinkling off the leaves as a light dry breeze pulls dry bits of fall, or wishful fall, through my neighborhood. That’s today’s Tampa weather forecast. Hope you enjoyed it, like you hopefully will enjoy this pizza.
My sister’s 27th falls in two days. I’m a miserable gifter, so I somewhat bandage that shortcoming by doubling back to my stash of creative energy and curating something of a spectacle for the day, or part of it. I still buy presents and am a proponent of presents. I love childlike pleasure in tossing tissue and ripping paper, and there’s something to be said of feeling more connected to the world by treasures. But so far her celebrations have revolved around the creature comforts of companionship and cocktails and postseason baseball. For the actual birthday weekend, Mom and I planned out a supper. I gathered supplies to set the table and drew up menus earlier this morning, and tomorrow I intend to paste the pieces together and hope it works before the “big” event Sunday. In getting older, I’m simplifying. I myself don’t want menial gifts, don’t expect large ones. When I ask for gifts, they typically err on the side of practical, a can opener or an apron or a set of running socks. Overall, though, I just want the day itself and the surrounding days to be nice, enriched by loved ones, supplemented with bites and sips. Both mom and my sister function similarly, valuing lingering happiness, a nod of satisfaction, above the material. Though yes, indeed, the material is lovely as well.
As a child I celebrated several of my birthdays at my dad’s bowling alley (fun fact: I’ve bowled 200 or above several times and participated in the alley’s Junior League until 7th grade). Each year, lunch consisted of a couple steaming cheese or sausage pizzas bitten between frames, the tableset a pile of paper plates & napkins for wiping greasy fingers before taking the ball to the lane. Most years for a family supper we dined at Red Lobster, peeling shrimp and dunking them in cocktail sauce before plates of steak & seafood came sizzling to our booths, until that tradition fizzled and each year took no particular pattern aside from some commune at some dinner table, my mom’s or otherwise, with three of us for company rather than five. This pie is merely grown-up pizza, still perfect finger food and a gorgeous centerpiece for a fall gathering or prior to blowing out candles on a cake. I ate the whole pie myself, though not all at once since it’s sweet and rich and filling – but hey, if you’re determined, go for it – so it’s quite appropriate for a lazy night at home. Don’t skimp on the caramelized onions & squash: they’re extremely simple to make once you get the rings sizzling on the stovetop, and once you manage to surpass the risk of losing a hand while dicing the butternut.
PIZZA WITH BALSAMIC CARAMELIZED ONION & BUTTERNUT SQUASH, HONEYCRISP APPLE, CHEVRE, SPINACH & SAGE
Yields one 10-12 inch pizza
For the onions & squash:
- 2 onions, thinly sliced (I used one red & one Vidalia)
- 1/2 medium butternut squash, diced to 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 T olive oil
- 1-2 T balsamic vinegar, to taste
- salt + pepper, to taste
For the pizza:
- 1/2 pound of homemade pizza dough or one store-bought ball of dough
- 1 honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced
- 8oz log of chevre/goat cheese
- 1-1.5 cups caramelized onions & squash
- 1/4 cup crumbled feta (you can sub 1/2 ball mozzarella if you wish, see note)
- 1 cup loosely packed baby spinach or torn regular spinach leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
- olive oil for brushing crust
TO MAKE THE ONIONS & SQUASH:
- Heat oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add onions and squash, stirring, until onions are lightly fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Lower heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes until onions are soft, brown, and smell/taste very sweet, and until squash is tender. At this point you can add your balsamic vinegar, stirring well and adding more until desired taste is reached. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. This recipe will make more than you will need for one pizza. I stowed mine in a hinge-lid mason jar, and the mix can be kept 5-7 days in the fridge or longer if frozen.
TO MAKE THE PIZZA:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees with a cast iron skillet on the rack. You can use a baking sheet if you wish.
- Roll and stretch your dough to desired shape and length – my skillet fits a 12-inch pizza but you may need to adjust according to the size of your pan.
- Once the oven has preheated, remove your skillet and VERY CAREFULLY mold your dough to the shape of the pan. Brush all over with olive oil.
- Line bottom with sliced honeycrisp, then crumble goat cheese atop. Evenly spread squash and onions over the pre-existing mixture. Dot with feta, spinach, and sage leaves.
- Bake pizza for 10-12 minutes until cheese has melted, spinach and sage are crispy and the crust is golden. Remove and CAREFULLY slide pizza onto a clean, flat surface for slicing. I cut my pie into 8 slices. You can also wait a bit and slice the pizza in the skillet/on the pan but be sure it is cool enough to avoid burning yourself.
Note: If you use mozzarella, I’d recommend slicing it into relatively thin rounds (about 1/4 inch) and spreading it beneath the apple slices.