After an incredibly energetic day at the Headhouse Market with new record sales, I was pretty beat last evening. Cooking was about the last thing on my mind… or at least it came behind 1) take a nap, 2) take a shower, 3) veg out on the couch, and 4) go to the store to get those canning jars I’ve been meaning to pick up for the last week so I can make salsa verde with the 5 pounds of leftover tomatillos I brought back from the market.
Being a neurotic list maker and an even more neurotic “checker-offer”, I somehow made it through the first four items on that list with some time left to spare around 7 pm. It was at this point that D asked what the plan was for dinner. I gave him a blank stare. He gave me an even blanker stare. One of our cats joined in and we had a three way starring contest for a minute or two…okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that elaborate, but you get the idea, which was that I didn’t want to make dinner.
We shuffled around for a bit – me muttering how tired I was, he muttering how hungry he was – and eventually I caved. I hadn’t spent any time with him all day and all he wanted was a nice meal together so I couldn’t really blame the guy. I pooled some fading energy together and went about putting together this pizza I had been noodling for a week or two.
Squash blossoms are by far my favorite thing to both create recipes for and sell/talk about at market. Nothing generates more curiosity and passionate recollecting than the vase full of squash blossoms on our Headhouse table. Anyone who’s been to Italy goes on and on about how there were so many dishes there incorporating these delicate blooms. I plan to try as many dishes as possible – soon to start using pumpkin blossoms too as they come into season – but one that tickled my fancy the most was the idea of squash blossoms on white pizza.
(A quick little aside here on how to store squash blossoms. I have found, through trial and error, the best method for keeping them is to trim the stems fairly short, wrap them in a barely damp paper towel and seal them in a ziplock bag before placing them in your fridge’s crisper drawer. They will keep for about 3 days this way.)
In Italy, this pizza usually holds anchovies too, but I’m not one to consume little whole fishes. I replicated the intended salty bite of the anchovies with some coarse sea salt, but use the anchovies instead if you’d like. Another of my modifications to the traditional approach was to leave out the alfredo sauce since I did not have it on hand (and darn well wasn’t going back to the store) and also didn’t want such a heavy pizza late in the evening. If you’d like to use it, spread a half cup or so of alfredo over your pizza dough before topping it with all the rest listed in the recipe.
In the end, I was glad to have made the pizza… D was happily full and I was pleased to have finally tried the recipe, which was a total tasty success. It was also nice to be working with dough again since I hadn’t made bread all summer. And while it was a labor of love (of both D and squash blossoms), those are often the most rewarding.
White Pizza with Squash Blossoms and Fresh Herbs
Inspired by conversations at Headhouse Market
Dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen
12 squash blossoms
1 T. chopped fresh basil
1 T. chopped fresh oregano
1 T. chopped fresh marjoram
1 T. extra virgin olive oil (higher quality counts for this)
1 c. shredded cheese (a blend of italian cheeses is best)
1 t. coarse sea salt
1½ c. flour
1 t. salt
¾ t. active dry yeast
½ c. lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 T. olive oil
*This easy dough recipe was an excellent choice (kudos to Deb at Smitten Kitchen). That being said, if you’re in a rush, a store-bought dough would be a worthy substitute. A thin crust variety is better since there is no sauce to moisten a thicker crust.
Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a medium bowl. Combine water and olive oil in a measuring cup before adding to dry ingredients. Stir together wet and dry ingredients until it forms a messy ball. Dump contents of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth ball.
Deb recommends that if you are finding this step difficult, leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough is much more manageable.
Reusing the same bowl from before, lightly spray the bowl with cooking spray and place the dough ball inside, turning it over so all sides are coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and leave it to rise for an hour or two until it has doubled in size.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under the plastic wrap (not tightly wrapped, just loosely placed on top) for 20 more minutes.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper (or use a pizza stone if you have the luxury of having room for it in your cupboards) and preheat your oven to 475 F.
Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. I didn’t worry about making it a circle but you can fuss with it if you want. Sprinkle on cheese, herbs, squash blossoms (stems removed right at the base), and salt. Drizzle top with some good extra virgin olive oil.
Bake it for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is golden and crust is turning a light tan on the bottom. If the top is browning quickly, you may want to place the pizza on the bottom rack of the oven to get the underside to brown before the top gets too dark.