All this talk about pizza was making me hungry. With a hankering for a good pie and the season’s first Farmers’ Market on Saturday, I decided to meld the two into that evening’s dinner. I got the pizza dough started before I left the house, hoping that the Market’s fare would inspire my choices for the remaining ingredients. Lucky for me, the Market was chock full of great looking early-season produce, including my selections: green onions, king oyster mushrooms, arugula and acorn squash. A quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few additional items, and I was ready to get cooking.
I started by cubing and roasting the squash and a few cloves of garlic until the squash was soft and browned, about 35 minutes. While the squash was roasting, I sautéed the mushrooms and green onions in a blend of olive oil and butter to soften them. I find that gently sautéing pizza toppings makes them not only softer and more flavorful, but cuts the raw bite out of more pungent ingredients like onions or peppers.
Once the veggies were ready, I assembled the sauce ingredients. In keeping with my nontraditional theme, I didn’t want to make a generic tomato sauce. Instead, I combined ricotta cheese with basil pesto and added the few cloves of garlic I roasted earlier to make a “spread” rather than a sauce – the ricotta mellowed the intensity of the pesto, while the roasted garlic added a distinct flavor.
After allowing the dough to rise twice during the day, it was ready to be punched down and shaped into the crust. Making your own dough allows you to control the thickness of the crust, and the size and shape of the pizza. Personally, I like a seriously thick, chewy crust – none of that crackery, thin crust for me. In the past I’ve tried pizza stones (the dough stuck), perforated pizza pans (the dough seeped through the holes) and other methods of obtaining a perfectly baked crust, but I’ve found that nothing compares to a simple baking tray with a nonstick mat – I use a Silpat, but there are plenty of comparable options out there to choose from. I also like to drizzle a little olive oil over the crust before putting the toppings on.
I started by spreading the ricotta pesto mixture over the crust, then adding the roasted squash and the sautéed mushrooms and green onions. Once everything was evenly distributed, I topped the whole thing with mozzarella cheese, and into the oven it went. After about half an hour, the dough had turned a perfect golden brown, yielding a hollow thump when gently flicked – a sure sign of a crunchy outside and a chewy inside! With the mozzarella bubbling and beginning to brown, I took our dinner out of the oven and topped it with chopped arugula for a fresh, peppery bite.
Dinner that night not only satisfied my hankering for pizza, but it also proved that pizza doesn’t have to be about meat, cheese and tomatoes – there are infinite possibilities for toppings, sauces and even cheeses. I’m providing my basic dough recipe and some tips for making your toppings even better, but the rest I’m leaving up to you! Visit the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market on Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday mornings and let the local farmers’ fare inspire your toppings. Enjoy!
Farmers’ Market Pizza
14 oz. bread flour (just under 3 cups)
1 1/4 c. warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope yeast
1/4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Pour sugar and yeast over water and let sit for 10 minutes, until foamy. Combine flour and salt in large bowl (or in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment) and stir to combine. Pour yeast mixture over flour and stir until dough is combined (it will be a tacky). Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead 4 or 5 times. Place in large bowl, covered, and allow to rise for 3 hours. Punch dough down and allow to rise an additional two hours. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and gently knead 3 or 4 times. Form into a dome and spread into the pizza shape of your choice.
Ricotta Pesto Spread
1 1/4 c. whole milk ricotta
1/2 c. pesto
5 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
salt and pepper to taste
Peel the roasted garlic and mash the cloves with a fork. Combine ricotta, pesto and garlic in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cut vegetables into similar sized pieces to ensure even cooking.
- Sautee any raw vegetables in a mixture of oil and butter, and season with salt and pepper.
- Try roasting heartier vegetables like squash and carrots – even broccoli!
- If using leafy greens, finely chop them and add them to the pizza after baking to retain the flavor.
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