Try a different shape this season
Food lovers hear a lot of talk these days about seasonal cuisine. Still, there are also some dishes that know no season--or are, to put it another way, foods for all seasons. One of my favorites, served in many of my restaurants, falls into this wide-ranging category: pizza.
When you think about it, of course, the reason has everything to do with the toppings. Arrange slices of sun-ripened heirloom tomato and dollops of fresh, creamy mozzarella, then top the baked results with a fresh basil julienne, and you have a classic summer pizza. Complement bites of winter squash with blue cheese and maybe some crumbled cooked sausage, and it's a robust winter pizza.
You get the idea: The dough itself provides a perfect canvas to showcase whatever seems most seasonal.
So what would I recommend right now for a pizza, with autumn just beginning? First, bear in mind that it may still seem like summer outside, with early autumn days sometimes still muggy. So we don't want a pizza that seems too heavy.
Yet, it's worth acknowledging that summer truly is over by including ingredients that are a little more autumnal, like woodsy mushrooms, meaty-tasting eggplant and dark greens like the always available prewashed baby spinach leaves now sold in supermarkets just about everywhere.
Let me also suggest another nod to the season: Shape the pizza differently, forming it into a calzone. The term, from an Italian word for an old-fashioned trouser leg because of its elongated baggy shape, describes what is basically a pizza turnover.
Calzones are easy to make: Just arrange the filling over half of the rolled-out dough circle's surface, then fold the other half over and pinch the edges to seal them. The calzone bakes in about the same time a pizza would: 12 minutes on a pizza stone or baking tiles in a 500°F (260°C) oven.
The result is a perfect seasonal treat: more robust and sustaining than a pizza might be, thanks to the generous amount of filling, yet still light and freshly flavored.
Imagine making these calzones the featured dish at an informal autumn party. Have all the fillings prepped and ready to put on the dough, letting guests assemble their own and slide them in the oven. You could even add other ingredients that seem appropriate to the season: some cooked sausage, perhaps; or crumbled blue cheese; or maybe a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes, as a bright reminder of the season just passed.
Make an extra batch or two of my easy pizza dough recipe, too, and freeze it. That way, you'll be prepared for more calzones filled with seasonal ingredients as the months unfold from autumn into winter.