The elections are behind us. Super-storm Sandy has come and gone. A Nor’easter is in process south of here, on the eastern part of Long Island. As I write, heavy winds blow and snow falls outside my window. Although I worry about the folks—including my aging mother, my extended family—in the storm’s direct path, here it’s a glorious sight, especially when combined with the joy on my daughter’s face as she plays with the falling snowflakes, shielded only by the new winter parka and rugged boots we have saved for this occasion.
I am in awe of what we have come to describe as weather events, but I am even more humbled by the amazing generosity and fortitude people have shown in the face of continued adversity. After Sandy, marathon runners ran with backpacks filled with food to get to people who could not be reached other ways around New York City. My cousin made his way to lower Manhattan to rescue relatives without power and take them to safety. A friend on Facebook, whose family has been without power for 10 days, managed to see outside her own needs to aid an animal shelter in her hometown that has taken in displaced pets. There truly is no end to human hope, generosity and optimism.
And here I sit, writing about food, wondering if in the grand scheme of things my recipes and photos are trivial. The short answer is yes. The more profound answer is no. Food and creativity are sustenance. Without them we cannot survive. So, while people in harm’s way crave and deserve calories to sustain themselves, the dream is for something more fragrant, more fulfilling, more human. Because for now I have the luxury of making essentially any meal I choose for my family, I reach toward this: Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with a Whole Wheat Crust. The whole wheat crust is nutritious, earthy and grounding. The roasted butternut squash is sweet and seasonal. Both are balanced and held together by smoky Gruyère cheese. We eat it while we sit by the fire, thinking of our friends and family, with the hope that they will soon be able to create their own satisfying meals and time together.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH PIZZA
Yield: One Pizza, About 8 Servings
For the pizza dough:
2 and 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus a bit more for rolling out the dough)
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil (plus a little more for the bowl)
For the topping:
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into large chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus a bit more
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To prepare the pizza dough: Place the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss together lightly. Make a well in the center and pour in the water and olive oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir the flour into the well until the flour is fully incorporated and you have a soft dough that holds together. (You may want to use your hands instead of the spoon as the dough begins to come together.) Gently knead, with your hands, in the mixing bowl.Lightly oil another large bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl, turning it once so the ball is covered with oil on all sides. Cover with a clean tea towel, and let rise in a warm place. The dough should double in size in about one hour.
- While the dough is rising, roast the butternut squash. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with raised sides with parchment paper. Place the chunks of butternut squash on the prepared cookie sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, and roast in the preheated oven until they darken and become richly caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. (Once they have cooled, drain off any cooking liquids that have accumulated while roasting.) Leave the oven for the pizza.
- To assemble the pizza and bake, lightly cover a clean work surface with a bit of whole wheat flour. Punch the pizza dough down in the bowl, form it into a ball again, and roll it out on the prepared surface, into about a 14-16 inch circle. Cover a cookie sheet or pizza stone with parchment paper and transfer the prepared dough to sheet or stone. Cover the dough with the grated Gruyère cheese, leaving a 1/2 inch border along the edges. Top evenly with the roasted butternut squash. Sprinkle on the dried herbs. Drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
- Place in the heated oven and bake until the dough is cooked through and golden, the cheese bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Notes: The pizza dough recipe was adapted from Pizza by James McNair. To prepare the dough in a food processor or bread machine, follow the manufacturers instructions.
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