Late Season Pizzas

It’s a cruel irony that heat of the late summer sun that produces perfect tomatoes and fragrant basil also makes our homes so hot that the thought of even turning on the oven – let alone cranking it up all the way for perfect pizzas margherita – is unbearable.  By the time I’m willing to endure the 500 degrees blasting away for over an hour necessary for decent pizza crust, the tomatoes are long rotten on the vine and the basil withered or brought indoors. Of course there are always canned tomatoes and greenhouse basil, but if you want to eat more in-season, you have to get a little more creative with your toppings (and loose with your definition of “pizza”).

Leeky pizza

Potato-Leek Pizza. This classic soup combination works reasonably well for pizza. The potatoes present a bit of a problem since the pizza only spends ten minutes in the oven; they need to be parcooked or sliced extremely thin. I opted for the latter and utilized a mandoline to make slices so thin that the skin of each slice could be seen through the flesh of the potato slice layered above it. A generous shower of olive oil combined with the blazing temperature of the oven slightly fries the potato slices. A sprinkling of leeks and a few cubes of feta completed a pizza of which Martha claimed, “tastes like soup.” In a good way, I think.

Squash on pizza? As dumb an idea as it sounds.

Butternut squash-gorgonzola-walnut Pizza. After a well deserved period of squash abstinence, I decided to get back into it by combining one of my least favorite foods – said squash – with one of my favorites: pizza. After sauteeing cubes of butternut squash until tender, I mashed them with butter and enough milk to make the mixture spread easily, then aggressively salted and peppered the mix. To offset the bland sweetness of squash, I used musty, tangy gorgonzola cheese. Both butternut squash and gorgonzola are well complemented by nuts, so I sprinkled on toasted walnuts after baking the pie.

A word of caution to anyone attempting squash pizza: that squash can retain a whole lot of oven heat for a long time. Give yourself extra cooling time before taking a bite! When the pizza did cool down to a reasonable tasting temperature, my taste buds that had not been burned away told me that this was a winning combination, at least as far as anything involving squash can be. Although the gorgonzola tended to overpower the squash, I had applied it with a light hand, so the cheese was well balanced by zones of pure squash. The walnuts were the pepperoni of this pizza, providing spots of excitement amongst the more uniform cheese and crust.

I enjoyed both of these pizzas. They’re not about to replace pizza margherita in my heart, but as a way to use those last late-season farmers’ market veggies – and enjoy a sustained heatwave issuing forth from your oven in the chilly fall – they were pretty good.

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