Thursday, October 17, 2013

arugula, caramelized onion, and pumpkin pesto pizza

I told myself I wouldn't get caught up in the pumpkin craze this fall...hmmmm...well...yeah. In my defense, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to use up leftovers and take advantage of a well-stocked freezer. This week I made these chicken, black bean, and sweet potato tacos to use up some leftover tortillas, fresh corn, and sweet potatoes. Tonight's dinner is this carrot soup with feta and quinoa; my feeble attempt to put a dent in the millions of carrots still in my parent's garden. 

But yes, back to this incredible pizza. I had some leftover pumpkin puree from last week's pumpkin apple streusel muffins. And the dough was sitting rather forlorn in the back of the fridge - clearly it was just asking to be topped with pumpkin pesto. Clearly. I blame thank How Sweet It Is's Harvest Pizza and Two Pea's Pumpkin Pizza for inspiring this pizza.

The pizza ingredients:

First, let's make the pumpkin pesto: 
About 3/4 c. pumpkin puree
Handful of fresh sage leaves (about 12 leaves)
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/2 a clove of garlic (you can do more - I personally prefer not to have the flavor of raw garlic overpowering the others)
2 tbsp. of olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Puree all the ingredients up in the food processor. Taste your pesto - add more of whatever you feel it needs. Remember, you're cooking - not baking :) In full disclosure, I had a brain fart and completely forgot to add the parmesan to my pesto, so I topped my pizza generously with parmesan while it was still warm from the oven.

Now, it's time to make the deliciously caramelized onions:
Be warned: your abode will smell like onions. Throw open the windows and turn on that kitchen fan! Warm up a wide saucepan with low sides on medium heat with two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter until it's shimmering. Throw in about three red onions cut in thin semi circles and saute. The process from sweated onions to caramelized onions takes about 30 minutes. Here's a helpful tutorial including pictures from Serious Eats.
Time to get pizza making and baking!
1. Preheat the oven and pizza stone in a 475 degree oven. In my humble opinion: the key to a crisp crust is a preheated pizza stone and a hot oven.
2. While the stone and oven are preheating, roll out the prepared pizza dough on parchment (this is my favorite method for easily transferring the prepared pizza onto the hot stone) 
3. Spoon the pumpkin pesto over the pizza dough. You can be heavy handed or use only a little pesto - it's your pizza :)
4. Sprinkle cooked bacon and caramelized onions over the pesto. I only had turkey bacon, but I think some lovely applewood smoked bacon would be heavenly here. 
5. Cover the pizza in mozzarella (or gouda). Use as much or as little as you'd like, I typically use about 1-1 1/2 cups.
6. Transfer the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for about 10-15 minutes or for however long your pizza dough recipe tells you to. Edited to give you some dough recipe options: I used Artisan Bread in Five's olive oil dough. My only complaint is the stone needs to be well-preheated and in the bottom of the oven for the crust to brown. Smitten Kitchen conveniently posted a lazy pizza dough recipe today - haven't tried hers yet, but it's on list of versions to make. If you're pinched for time, I use Cooking Light's basic pizza dough. It only needs thirty minutes to rise and it's ready to go. 
7. Immediately after removing the pizza from the oven, top with 1 1/2-2 cups of arugula and about 1/4 cup parmesan. The arugula will wilt and the paremesan will semi-melt.
Gorge with glee! I admit it's not a typical pizza combination, but the flavors mingle together into a scrumptious fall-inspired pizza. The sweetness of the onions, the pepperyness (spell check says this isn't a word, I disagree) of the arugula, the flavor of the pumpkin, the saltiness of the bacon and paremesan - it works!
If you don't usually make pizza at home, please please please try it! It may not be wood-fired, but you can save hundreds of dollars a year by eliminating the weekly take out pizza from your budget. And of course pizza dough is a wonderful blank canvas for all those random leftovers. Happy pizza making, peeps!

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