It’s officially September, officially post-Labor Day, and I’m so so ready for fall. I’m ready for the changing colors, the chilly air, the crunchy leaves on the ground outside. And the holidays. I’m always ready for the holidays.
But amidst all my fall anticipation through the years, I’ve realized that I never give summertime the send-off it probably deserves. Sure, it’s hotter than I like and longer than I like, but summer has been good to us, especially this year. Summer gave us a great few months in Missouri with family. Summer sent us up to Wisconsin for a relaxing vacation before all the moving chaos got started. Summer found us a new home in a new city, where lots of new people have been super nice (it’s that Southern hospitality thing I suppose). And summer has led us straight into a brand new adventure that we’re both pretty pumped about starting.
So yes, despite its relentless heat, summer 2011 is filled with happy thoughts, sweet memories and looming excitement. I guess it’s only fitting that the foods of the season be equally memorable. Although I know my insides will leap with joy on the first morning I have to go back inside to grab a jacket before heading out for the day, my kitchen (and our palates) will definitely miss the bunches of asparagus, zucchini, summer squash, peppers and tomatoes that have been so readily accessible for the past few months, so I’m using them in any way I can before replacing them with their autumn cousins. It’s a heartfelt last hoorah.
This pizza recipe is far less instructional and far more inspiration-based. Feel free to pile it high with your favorite fare. Actually, although our latest version is an end-of-summer pie, you could easily substitute fall produce (roasted butternut squash would be delicious) to ring in the next season. For now, though, we’re enjoying every last bite that summer has to offer. Then we’ll welcome fall with open arms.
Dough recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, FoodNetwork.com
• 2 teaspoons dry yeast
• ½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
• 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
• 2 small zucchinis, cut in ¼-inch slices
• 1 red bell pepper, sliced in ¼-inch strips
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
• 4 to 6 tablespoons of your favorite pizza sauce (I have yet to master a homemade sauce, so we have a favorite store-bought brand that we use.)
• fresh mozzarella, about 6 to 8 ounces, cut in thin slices
• freshly grated Parmesan, about ½ cup
• freshly ground black pepper
• crushed red pepper
In a small measuring cup, mix together water and yeast, then allow to stand until yeast is dissolved completely, about 5 minutes. In the meantime, combine flour, salt and sugar in the large bowl of a food processor, and pulse to combine. Blend in the oil.
With the machine on, slowly pour water/yeast mixture into the food processor and allow to run just until dough forms. If the dough isn’t coming together well enough because it’s still a bit dry, add 1/2 tablespoon of warm water, one at a time, until dough forms (you shouldn’t need more than an extra tablespoon). Turn dough onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Place dough ball in a large oiled bowl, and roll the dough around a bit so it’s coated in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm, draft-free place until dough doubles in size, about 1 hour. Once dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide it into two equal-sized dough balls. At this point, you can use the dough immediately or refrigerate it in an airtight container for one day.
Now for the toppings. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange zucchini, peppers and garlic in a single layer on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil (about a tablespoon), sprinkle with onion powder, and toss gently to combine. Roast veggies in oven until tender and just beginning to caramelize, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool slightly.
Up the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Roll each ball of dough into a 10- to 11-inch round, and place each on its own prepared rimless baking sheet (sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on each baking sheet before placing dough to keep it from sticking). Drizzle a bit of olive oil on each dough round, then add your toppings: 2 to 3 tablespoons of sauce each, 3 to 4 ounces of mozzarella each, ¼ cup Parmesan each, half the roasted vegetables each, freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkling of cracked red pepper. (Note: You’ll want to leave about an inch of bare dough around the outer edges so your toppings down flow over the crust.)
Bake pizza for about 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is nicely browned around the edges. Theoretically you could bake both pizzas at once, one on each oven rack, but I did mine one at a time for more even cooking. It’s also a good idea to turn the pan halfway through to ensure all the edges are evenly browned.
And that’s all there is to it! Cut into wedges, and serve immediately.
How are you celebrating the end of summer? Are you downing fresh veggies and cooking up favorite summer recipes before fall weather arrives? What did your Labor Day menu entail? I’d love to hear it!