Arizona is one of those places that go through its seasonal changes indoors, rather than out. Sitting here, eating these soft little pumpkin cookies and a salad decked with such items as pumpkin seeds, turkey-bacon, and sweet potato, I can’t help but realize my kitchen is the actual source of these seasonal changes. (I hope that someday soon you will see this salad and batch of cookies, but I seem to be eating faster than I photograph!)
So now I’m just beside myself with excitement for this season. I love fall. Who doesn’t? I’ll be the first to buy up the pumpkins, pears, and kale as soon as they pop up at the market, and my fall decorations practically jump out of their boxes this time of year.
Butternut squash though – that cool-weather queen hangs around my house like stashed boxes of Girl Scout cookies, just chillin’ on a freezer shelf until I find them there sometime in June.
I realize how that sounded, but NO, it’s not because I’m a GS cookie- or a squash-hater. On the contrary, friends, it’s because I love them so that they wind up all over my house. I stock up like crazy when they’re around. And, I admit, my overzealous buying leads to some creative storing measures. Sorry guys, it was me who nabbed that last box of Thin Mints, and yes, I did just rediscover them under some frozen peas.
So, with a freezer drawer filled with my prepped squash from last season, and a new squash or two waiting in the wings, I think it’s high time to get into it with some of the best autumnal produce!
But, uh, I suppose you’re wondering what the asparagus is doing here with us today, so far from its natural season? Yes, well, perhaps you’re right to wonder. I thought it would go fantastically with goat cheese and butternut, and in my eagerness to try this, kinda forgot it was out of season. Still, I had to go for it. It was just too good a match! Frozen asparagus may be an alternative as well, but I tried fresh. (I suppose this also makes a good spring dish, when you have frozen butternut and fresh asparagus though!)
But, if you want to be truly seasonal, I recommend kale, which delivers a delicious oven-baked crunch as a pizza topping.
Pssst! Try the asparagus! You know you wanna...
Butternut Squash + Asparagus Pizza
For the crust:
- 1 cup warm water (heated to yeast packaging’s instructions)
- 1 packet (2 ¼ tsp.) pizza dough yeast or active dry yeast
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oi
- 2-4 cups flour – use about ½ whole wheat + ½ white for the best texture
In a stand mixer*, dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the warm water.
Add 2 cups flour (half wheat, half white), olive oil, garlic powder, and salt. With the dough hook attachment, bring the ingredients together to become a very sticky dough.
At this point, I recommend adding just ¼ cup at a time of alternating flours, mixing for a minute in between, until the dough is slightly sticky to the touch. I usually use about 3 cups of flour total.
Spray a clean bowl with olive oil spray or drizzle it with a tsp. olive oil, and roll the new ball of dough in it to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place (85-90 degrees ish) 30 minutes to an hour (longer is better for gluten – read: elasticity – production.)
When the dough has almost doubled in size, roll it back into a smaller ball and allow it to sit again, another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F and place a baking stone (if you got one!) on the center rack of the oven.
Divide dough into two or three if you want to make smaller pizzas like the one in my pictures. You could also make one large one.
Spray two or three sheet pans with olive oil and sprinkle with a handful of white corn meal.
Carefully stretch the dough across the pans. Don’t worry if dough breaks a little, you can always push it back together. Press everything but the outer crust as flat as possible, and make finger indentations in the crust to keep it from ballooning during baking.
When the oven is preheated, place one of the pans on the baking stone for 7 minutes. Exchange it for the other one when it is done, and you can begin topping the first while the other bakes 7 minutes.
Butternut Squash Sauce:
- ½ small butternut squash, or about 10 oz pre cubed and frozen
- ½ medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 oz chicken or vegetable stock
- 5-6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 bunch asparagus, about 15 spears, washed and bottom ends removed
- 8 oz crumbled goat cheese (or feta cheese)
If using pre-chopped and frozen butternut squash, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or on a low temperature in the microwave.
If using a fresh butternut squash…
Preheat the oven 375 degrees F. Pierce the squash a few times through with a knife to create steam vents, and place on a sheet pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until it is soft all the way through. Cut the squash in half lengthwise to allow it to cool faster. When it has cooled enough to handle, remove the seeds, cut the squash away from the skin, and cube. If you have a large butternut squash, you will probably only need half, but now you have half a cooked one that can be saved for another quick recipe!
Transfer the squash and the rest of the ingredients to a food processor. Blend until no more chunks remain, and taste test for seasonings. Depending on how thick you want your sauce will dictate whether you need more stock or not, and you may also want more salt and pepper.
When the pizza crust is done, spread an even layer of the squash-sauce on top, and layer on asparagus and goat cheese. Pop that bad boy back in the oven for another 8 or 9 minutes, or until the crust is crusty on the outside and cooked all the way through. The asparagus should be nice and tender
At this point, a pizza party is in order. A really delicious, goat-cheese-covered and cold-weather-friendly pizza party.