Thursday, August 30, 2007

Squash Ribbon Pizza with Blossoms, Basil, & Anchovies

Somehow the ritual of having an aperitivo along with some appetite-awakening, savory little nibbles in the hours before dinner seems perfectly suited to summer, when the outdoors beckon and life feels ever so slightly slower and easier. It’s a reviving, incredibly civilized custom I enjoy whenever I’m in the Mediterranean. Why don’t we stretch out our meals over the longer summer evenings more often, after all? Back in New York, I wait all winter for the warmer weather and the return of our ever-so-relaxing, light-drenched cocktail hours.

And warm it is. Though the calendar says it’s almost September, New York lingers on in the 80's. Factor in the “Indian summer” we always have in the northeast, and I’d guess we’ve got another 4 weeks dotted over the next few months to enjoy a refreshing glass of rosé and some salty little treats whenever a free early evening presents itself.

Here’s a pizza I’ve made a lot this summer – one that I adore for its beauty as much as for the pairing of sweet, buttery squash and smoky, saline anchovies. Summer squash are in season until the first frost – usually late October or early November around here – which leaves you plenty of time to make this dish with wonderfully fresh produce.

You may have leftover basil paste – keep it under a layer of olive oil in the fridge for at least a week. It’s delicious over fish and makes a great base for Susan at Farmgirl Fare’s inspired pesto. I first started turning my extra basil into this simple paste after reading about it in Patricia Wells’ Vegetable Harvest. It’s less of a flavor commitment than dedicating the entire bunch to pesto right off the bat, and it’s a great way of extending the herb’s usefulness. For summer aperitivi ideas, try my Prosecco with Basil, a Kir, or even an Elderflower Liqueur with white wine and soda.

Serves 8 with aperitivi before dinner

1 medium bunch fresh basil leaves, rinsed well and patted dry
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
1 portion pizza dough (about 20 oz. Click on the link for a recipe)
sea salt
2 small or medium summer squash, preferably different colors
8 anchovy fillets preserved in oil
1 medium ball fresh mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz.)
6 – 10 squash blossoms, depending on their size
freshly ground black pepper

Put a pizza stone (if you decide to use one – it’s not imperative) in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 F.

Reserve 10 or 12 of the smallest basil leaves for garnish. Put the rest in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Use a spatula to push down the leaves on the side of the bowl. Leave the processor on and stream in olive oil until a loose paste forms and season to taste with kosher salt. Pour the basil paste into a bowl and pour over a thin layer of olive oil to keep the color bright. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Sprinkle a flat cookie sheet (no sides) with cornmeal. Stretch or roll out your pizza dough into a rectangle about twice as long as it is wide – mine was 16” by 8”. Place the dough on the cornmeal and brush with olive oil. Season with a little sea salt and set aside.

Using a y-shaped speed peeler , shave ribbons down the length of one of the squash, Once you reach the seeds, turn over and do the same on the other side. Repeat with the second squash. Lay a single layer of squash strips along the length of the pizza dough, leaving a small amount of bare dough around the edges. You’ll probably have leftover strips.

Lay out the anchovy fillets over the squash strips, running in the same direction. Pull apart the fresh mozzarella and dot pieces of it over the pizza. Next dot small dollops of basil paste over the pizza in the spaces with no cheese. Gently check the insides of the squash blossoms for fauna and then arrange them over the whole thing. Drizzle with a tiny bit more olive oil (there’s oil in the anchovies and basil paste already). Season with freshly ground black pepper and a little bit more sea salt – remember the anchovies are salty, so you’ll need less salt than usual.

If you’re using a pizza stone, sprinkle it liberally with cornmeal and slide the pizza onto the stone. Otherwise just put your cookie tray into the center of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Cool the pizza on a rack for 15 – 20 minutes before garnishing with small, whole basil leaves, slicing into smallish wedges (this is about piquing the appetite, not satiating it), and serving with cool drinks.


Wendy said...

Wow. This is absolutely inspired, Amanda! I take my imaginary courgette-flower hat off to you.

janelle said...

I go weak in the knees when I see zucchini blossoms. Yummo.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Wendy, thank you! I feel the same way about your new header, and I would pay good money to see your imaginary courgette flower hat!

Janelle, thanks so much! Aren't they wonderful? So nice to cook with when they're in season.

Maryann said...

Love pizza. Love squash blossoms. How can you go wrong?

Lucy said...

I clicked on your first photo for a closer view - it's a gorgeous image - and am so pleased I did. Those flavours are ripe and luscious for your Indian Summer.

What do you think of the Patricia Wells book? I haven't heard much about it and am keen to know your take on it!

Anh said...

I love pizza that is full of lovely veg like this! :) Oh, and the anchovies are nice here, too.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Maryann, thanks! They're 2 of my favorites too.

Lucy, thank you! I love the Patricia Wells book. It's such a great, creative celebration of produce. One of my favorites she's done, and I actually think you'd like it too - you should check it out. Let me know if you do. By the way, I haven't forgotten about your restaurant recommendations. I'm compiling and getting pointers as we speak.

Anh, thanks! They go nice and smoky when they bake, so I love getting a little sliver of them along with the sweet, ripe squash and milky mozzarella. Real warm weather food! Hope you enjoy.

Rose said...

This looks absolutely beautiful. Who wants autumn after this? Could you please tell what brand of anchovies do you recommend? I've been desapointed with so many. Thanks.

Cynthia said...

Amanda, I am not a pizza lover but if you promise to make pizza like this, I swear, I'll become a pizza lover. No kidding.

Valli said...

A wonderful use for the squash blossoms!!!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Rose, thank you! I've been very happy with Ortiz anchovies from Spain. It's a red label and the jar comes with a little fork on the side for fishing them out. Hope you can find them - they're pretty common.

Cynthia, aren't you wonderful! I will make this for you any time you want!

Valli, thank you! I do love squash blossoms, so I try to use them as much as possible while they're in season!

christine said...

I'm so intrigued with these squash blossoms I'm seeing in so many food blogs. I've never tried nor have I seen any around here I think and I can't imagine what it tastes like. But I've never seen it on a pizza and it looks stunning!

Ilva said...

You are one of my Blog Day blogs, check it out on Lucullian!

Joanna said...

You're right about aperitifs being civilised, and easier to do in the summer (why should that be? Or is it just that everything seems easier when the sun is shining?). I love the ribbons of squash - I use the same technique for a lovely raw courgette salad with lemon zest and pinenuts.

Definitely one to try - thanks for sharing


lorraine@italianfoodies said...

Love this pizza, looks delicious! I'm normally a plain Margherita girl but I could definitely be persuaded by this recipe. Nothing like an Aperitivo on a summer's evening - a glass of chilled Prosecco or Braigetto!! Love the blog, just found it through Ilva's site:)

Figs Olives Wine said...

Christine, they're beautiful, aren't they? The flavor is really just that of the squash - maybe a little milder. And the texture is wonderfully light. I hope you manage to find some some day! By the way, there's another recipe in the July archives for stuffed blossoms if you feel like it.

Ilva, oh my goodness, thank you! How kind of you! I'll check it out right away.

Joanna, that salad must be so delicious. I've got to try it, and you actually just reminded me I have a ton of squash in the fridge. Tonight may be the night! As for aperitifs, I think you're right - it must be the light. I think it makes us feel like we have more time to enjoy the process of the evening meal. Whatever it is, I love living at that pace whenever I can!

Lorraine, thank you and welcome! I'm not familiar with Braigetto - what is it? And you know, I love margarita too. There's a reason it's such a classic, after all!

Mercedes said...

Oh I love little homemade pizzas and flatbreads! With the anchovies and basil paste, this reminds me of a summer vegetable version of pissaladiere.
I'll be holding on to every last moment of warm weather, but I do love autumn and the produce it brings.

tribecachef said...

This is a beautiful dish, and I like the suggestion of a glass of rose with it. Great for indian summer, as you say.

songinhersky said...

This sounds delicious! I am a newcomer to your blog, directed from the great vegetable challenge across the ocean! I have a question (sorry if it's silly) - but how do I check the inside of the blossoms for fauna? What am i looking for? Thanks for the great recipe!

Christina said...

Beautiful! That's it, that's what I'll make as an appetizer for Saturday's dinner party. Thank you for solving my severe case of blank-menu-itis.

And, as a frequent lurker, I must tell you that you have a lovely site.

Patricia Scarpin said...

This is the most sophisticated and beautiful pizza I have ever seen, Amanda!

Simona said...

Very interesting recipe for pizza and very nice blog!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Mercedes, I love pissaladiere too, and this could definitely be my summer version! I do long for autumn now - actually since the heat got to be too much in July. Changes at the market are starting to show signs of its approach, and I'm thrilled.

Tribecachef, thank you. I do love it with rose!

Songinhersky, thank you and welcome! Don't you love Great Big Vegetable Challenge?
This is not a silly question - I should have been clearer. I just mean that you should gently peer into each flower to make sure there are no insects inside!

Christina, I'm so happy to help! And thank you for lurking. I really am so pleased that you like the site! Hope you have a great time on Saturday.

Patricia, thank you so much! I'm so glad you like it!

Simona, thank you and welcome. I'm very pleased that you like it!

winedeb said...

Pizza's are such a great thing! Yours looks great because you are not using any tomatoes! Here just a few weeks ago I was in tomato craze! I have not tried squash blossoms. I will try if I can find them. Lovely ingredients!

Anonymous said...

Just found this blog through Ilva's. Your work is delicious and beautiful - I'll be checking back often.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Winedeb, I should have said that this works well without the blossoms! You already have the squash underneath, so they're more an aesthetic thing. But the strips of multi-hued zucchini & squash below are beautiful too! Let me know if you give it a whirl. And I'd love to know you decide to drink with it!

Anonymous, thank you and welcome! Don't you love Lucullian Delights? It's one of my favorites.

The Passionate Palate said...

This looks like a dish made for me - you used all my favorite ingredients! I will make this and soon. I love your aperitivo ideas, too. I have an aperitivo and a snack most nights, and love to share that tradition with others. Glad someone else does, too!

swirlingnotions said...

Oh my husband is going to love you for this! He's always asking me to make squash blossoms, and I always seem to freeze under the pressue and resort to the stand-by fry. I will definitely be giving this a try . . . thank you!

Rose said...

Amanda, thank you so much for your advice on the anchovies brand. For the mergez, I visited their website but had yet to found the merguez. Unless you want me to buy one of their cute lambs and...Oh no no no!

Jen said...

Oh, that's completely beautiful and it looks absolutely delicious!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Passionate Palate, isn't the whole aperitivo ritual such a wonderful bridge between day and evening? I'm always glad to meet someone else to shares my affection for it! And I'm glad you like the pizza. Hope you enjoy.

Swirling Notions, there's something so gratifying about just laying them on the pizza at the end! Absolutely zero fuss but still all the beauty. Hope your husband (and you!) enjoy the pizza!

Rose, hehehe. No need to slaughter your own lamb. I'm saving that for a winter project - no just kidding. Their website isn't exactly high tech is it? There's a form to fill out at the bottom of the "Mail Order" page. Or you can email or call them at: Email:
I'm so impressed with your sourcing! Let me know if you need any more info, and enjoy the merguez! I'll be really interested to hear what you think of it.

Jen, thank you! It's very gratifying to cook this time of year, isn't it? Everything's just so darn pretty. Enjoy!

farmgirl said...

Another gorgeous pizza. It sounds divine, and now I know what to do with all those pesky squash flowers in the garden that simply will not become squash. We're talking dozens of flowers for every one squash, and it's happening with five different types of squash--something is seriously wrong but I haven't yet figured out what. Maybe one of your farmers' market farmers knows? It shouldn't be a pollination problem, as my garden it totally organic. Half the time when I bend over to look at the blossoms, a bumblebee crawls out of one. This same thing happened last year, too.

The only recipes I ever see for squash blossoms call for frying them, and while I am not one to snub my nose at frying (more than once All Things Fried has been a theme when ordering from a menu, LOL), the idea of fried squash blossoms--and the trouble to make them--just never appealed to me. Now pizza--THAT appeals. ; )

Thanks for the beautiful post and for the link to my blog, and I owe you an email! xo

Figs Olives Wine said...

Farmgirl, hello and thanks! I'm going to ask Nevia from Yuno's Farm about your blossom situation this week. She has the most magnificent summer squash, and I'm sure she'll know what to do.

Frying the blossoms is such a production - I completely understand feeling that way. Whether gearing up to deep fry or to stuff and sauté, it somehow takes such mental preparation. Whenever I make my stuffed blossoms (which I just sauté, by the way), I'm always so happy I did it, but it's still special occasion food in my book.

And your pesto is so brilliant, I had to make sure people knew about it! I'll let you knwo what Nevia says, and talk to you soon. xo

ChovyChap said...

Yep you got the recipe right by including anchovies. I reckon any pizza deserves chovies!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Chovychap, when I saw your name I should have known you approved of the anchovies! I do enjoy the pungent savor they add here. So glad you like!

Anonymous said...

A pleasure - you're a treasure. I think it's the saltiness I savour the most. I'm a bit of a salt junkie.

ChovyChap 2009

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