As I’ve written before, I probably make pizza for the adults’ dinner once a week. There is inevitably one night of the week where I know I will need to make something quick and easy because one of the kids has a late activity or there is some other kink in the routine. It’s often Wednesday night when Zuzu has Hebrew school from 7 to 8 pm, which really throws the whole night off. (Although we do have very kind neighbors who drive Zuzu home most weeks because my husband is so often out of town and it’s just too late to drag JR out.) That night becomes pizza night. With a little forethought — namely taking the pizza dough out of the freezer in the morning — I can have a homemade dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.
My husband and I both love pizza but when you eat it every week, you begin to get tired of the same old tomato-sauce-cheese combinations. So lately I’ve been experimenting with white pizzas, that is, pizzas without a tomato sauce base. I suppose it might be more accurate to call these creations “flatbreads” than pizzas, but I don’t want to sound pretentious. Whether it is pretentious or not, I’ve been having a blast coming up with new combinations of ingredients.
Last week, I put together a white pizza with caramelized shallots, roasted butternut squash and arugula. (The caramelized shallot recipe comes from the Barefoot Contessa and is to-die-for.) For that recipe, check out Artizone.com: a cool new grocery delivery service in Chicago that delivers food from the city’s best specialty markets and artisanal food producers. I am very excited to be working with Artizone.com and creating some recipes for their website. I think it is a terrific service for busy people who love great food. I will tell you this: the meat from Gepperth’s Meat Market — one of Artizone.com’s partners — is really a cut above (get it?) what you find at supermarket butcher counters. We tried Gepperth’s beef stew meat the other night and it was so tender. So definitely check Artizone out.
Last night I made a new white pizza that was inspired by a visit to Sable Kitchen and Bar, a lively Chicago restaurant where Top Chef contestant Heather Terhune is Executive Chef. Heather, who is much nicer in person than she appeared on the show, makes reimagined American comfort food, like short rib sliders with root beer glaze and bacon-tomato jam. And everything is intended for sharing. We went with two other couples and had a great time sharing plate after plate of delicious fare. Sable also has a cocktail menu that rivals a Melville novel in length.
When we visited Sable a few months ago, we sampled a flatbread with pear and gorgonzola. I love that combination and I thought that those ingredients would work well with fennel, which is one of my favorite vegetables to work with this time of year because it doesn’t seem quite as peaked as some of the other vegetables in the store. The fennel-pear-blue cheese combination was a perfect blend of sweet and salty. Although the pizza was not the most colorful, it was perhaps one of the most delicious that I had ever made. And I’m eating the leftovers for lunch.
As I think I mentioned before, I buy the raw pizza dough from Whole Foods because it is inexpensive and convenient. I always keep one or two in my freezer. Italian delis also sell raw pizza dough or you can make it in your bread machine. It’s a very good thing to have on hand.
White Pizza with Roasted Fennel, Pear and Blue Cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
2 bulbs fennel
1 large onion
1 Bosc pear
3 oz. grated mozzarella cheese
1 oz. crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes
To roast the fennel, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the stalks and bottom of the fennel and chop the bulbs roughly. Reserve some of the green fronds for garnish. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Roast the fennel in the oven until it turns brown and softens. The time will depend on the size of your pieces. Begin to check after 20 minutes. After you remove the fennel from the oven, turn the heat up to 475. Chop the fennel into bite-sized pieces.
While the fennel is roasting, slice an onion and saute it in olive oil over low heat until it softens and begins to caramelize.
Make sure your pizza dough is at room temperature before you begin. Spray your pizza pan with a nonstick olive oil spray. Spread the pizza dough in the pan using the tips of your fingers. If the dough is hard to work with, give it a break for five minutes and try again. When the dough covers the bottom of the pan, drizzle the dough with olive oil. Spread the fennel and onion evenly on the pizza dough. Top with the grated mozzarella and crumbled blue cheese. Thinly slice the pear and place the slices on top of the cheese.
Bake the pizza at 475 for ten minutes or until the cheese melts and the crust puffs up and turns golden brown. Top the cooked pizza with a pinch of red pepper flakes and some of the reserved fennel fronds.