As This Pizza Proves, There’s No Shame in Shortcuts
Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza. Pizza is one of the author's favorite ways to get his fill of vegetables. Illustrates VEGGIES (category d), by Joe Yonan (c) 2013, The Washington Post. Moved Monday, March 18, 2013. (MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Deb Lindsey)
I’m a self-identified pizza obsessive; it’s one of my favorite ways to get my fill of vegetables.
I love making my own dough when I have time — and freezing it for times when I don’t — but on any given weeknight, if my freezer is bare, I’m not ashamed to reach for a store-bought, pre-baked crust.
The benefits extend beyond mere time savings. When I make a no-knead dough from scratch and cook it under the broiler, I am restrained with the toppings to keep from overwhelming the crust and turning it soggy. Pre-baked crusts, on the other hand, are sturdy enough to hold a mountain of produce, making for a hearty vegetarian dinner.
The whole-wheat crust I buy takes only about 20 minutes to finish baking, during which time it becomes crisp, reminding me of a good pastry crust (but with a bigger dose of healthful whole grains, of course).
What to put on it?
This time of year, I use a base of caramelized onions instead of tomato sauce. I top them with roasted butternut squash, a little blue cheese, walnuts (which toast as the pizza bakes) and, after it comes out of the oven, a scattering of fresh, sharp arugula. The finishing touch: a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil.
Caramelized onions, by the way, are a great thing to have on hand in late winter when local produce options have hit their nadir. They’re best made slowly, so the onions have time to release their sugars and get all jammy, a process that takes up to an hour or more. When done this way they require nothing more than a sprinkling of salt — no oil, even, as I discovered by accident. And you can make them ahead.
But if you haven’t, here’s an idea: Quickly saute them until tender, then drizzle with honey.
On a weeknight, when the fridge and pantry are as bare as the freezer, everybody needs a shortcut.
Butternut Squash And Caramelized Onion Pizza
Make Ahead: The onions take about an hour to caramelize. They can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. The squash can be roasted up to 1 week in advance; refrigerate until ready to use.
2 large yellow onions (13/4 pounds total), thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 small butternut squash (1 pound), stemmed, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pre-baked whole-wheat pizza crust, such as Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value or Boboli
2 ounces Gorgonzola dolce or other blue cheese, cut or pinched into small pieces
1/2 cup raw unsalted walnut halves, broken into large pieces
1/2 cup lightly packed baby arugula leaves
2 teaspoons pumpkinseed oil (see headnote; may substitute walnut oil or olive oil)
Set a baking stone, if using, on a rack in the oven; preheat to 450 degrees. (Alternatively, the pizza can be placed directly on the oven rack.) Have a large rimmed baking sheet at hand.
Heat a large cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, tossing with tongs or a spatula, until they wilt and start to brown. Sprinkle with half of the salt, toss and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring very occasionally, until the onions are deeply golden brown, very soft and sweet, up to an hour or more. Let cool.
Meanwhile, scoop out and discard the seeds from the squash, then cut each squash half into 1/4-inch slices. Transfer to the baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining salt and toss to coat. Roast the squash slices until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool. If you are making the pizza right away, reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
To assemble the pizza, spread the caramelized onions evenly over the crust. Arrange the butternut squash slices on top. Dot with the blue cheese and walnuts.
Slide the pizza onto the baking stone (or place on the oven rack). Bake until the pizza’s edges are browned, the bottom is crisp and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.
Immediately scatter the arugula leaves on top, then drizzle the pizza with the pumpkinseed oil. Cut the pizza into 8 slices; serve warm.
Nutrition Per serving: 480 calories, 13 g protein, 62 g carbohydrates, 23 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 550 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 11 g sugar