Please allow me to apologize for my radio silence these past few days. I normally post something mid-week (sometimes a few somethings), and I didn’t do that. Aside from life being its normal fever-pitchy self, I had an always-entertaining on again, off again headache. Not the ones that make you cry if you see a speck of light and make stuffed animals hitting the floor sound like gunblasts, no; rather, it was the sort that you can mostly function with, albeit poorly. So I could get through the day with some effort, but writing? Not a chance. Headaches like that allow me to go through the motions, but that doesn’t mean I can formulate complete sentences; certainly if I could manage to do that, I’d never commit whatever came out on (virtual) paper. So here we are, one week later, no posts until today. Please allow me to make it up to you.
When I’m feeling incredibly bad, I need food that doesn’t make me feel incredibly worse. I don’t feel like going to any trouble, mind you, but somehow I need to get decent food in my body to feel as good as is possible. This is tricky, because when I feel headachy, pouring a bowl of cereal can involve too much thought. So I stock up on fruit and veggies and greek yogurt and hope for the best, and I manage that way for breakfast and lunch. Dinner, though, seems to warrant something more, and cooking anything seems like way too much of a production.
Times like these call for puff pastry. Copious amounts of puff pastry. Someday I’ll learn how to make my own; this was decidedly not that week. This week was the week I continued to purchase perfectly lovely puff pastry from the market and make myself an incredibly easy dinner I knew would make me feel better. And how can you help but feel a little happier around puff pastry? It’s hard to be sad around something that flaky and delicious. It’s a mood-lifter.
You know what else brightens my spirits? Easy to make puff pastry pizza. Which is what I do when i need to relax, eat something delicious, and get well. Which is precisely what I did. This time, I made one of my favorite recipes from Gordon Ramsey Makes It Easy, and even if you feel only half-alive and have the energy of a geriatric slug, I promise you can make it with almost no effort. You basically throw ingredients onto a surface, pop that surface in the oven, and let the magic of The Puff do your work for you. You feel better already; I know.
So here is my feel-better pizza, and thank goodness it’s close enough to autumn that the butternut squash is plentiful. The sage I get from my garden and freeze (so I have it all winter), and the cheese? Buy whatever you want. I like a nice english cheddar; sometimes smoked, sometimes not. I’ve also used gouda and provolone, with good results. If you want it a bit lighter on the cheese, use a little mozzarella and some fresh parmesan.
Now; breaking down a butternut is not something someone with a headache should do. Indeed, you could lose fingers if you’re not at 100% power. Thankfully, many grocers offer fresh, pre-cubed butternut squash for you to buy. If your grocer doesn’t, then have someone else do the dirty work for you. Use a careful hand with the sage: a little goes a long way, and too much can overpower your pizza. Start with a few leaves and garnish with more if you like. I also make sure to season my squash when it’s sweating out in the pan, and I season the entire pizza before serving; I think it helps to bring out the flavor of the squash a bit more than just seasoning the final product.
And thank you: I feel much more normal now. The headache bid me adieu on saturday, and sunday was almost cartoonishly lovely around here. Highs in the 70’s, crystal blue skies, the works. I literally got up, watched The Sound of Music while cleaning (complete with serenades by yours truly when the songs came on; I’m surprised Mr. Table still lives here. If you’re wondering, I kill it with “The Lonely Goatherd”), went jogging with the Wee One, and got tons of writing done. Most importantly, I finally finished the second section of the cookbook library I began working on earlier in the week! You’ll see a drop-down menu now, and both The Celebrity Collection and The Williams Sonoma Collection are out there for your reading pleasure. Enjoy! You all were so sweet and encouraging and excited when the first section came out, that you make writing them that much more fun for me. There should be a few more cookbook sections out in the coming weeks, and if I’m feeling really productive, there may be an extra one I haven’t told you about yet.
Thanks, guys. I made you pizza. I hope your week bears such awesome things that you want to sing loudly to The Sound of Music as well.
Adapted, and only slightly, from Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy by, you guessed it; Gordon Ramsay.
Butternut Squash + Sage Puff Pizza
- 1 store-bought puff pastry dough (usually this comes in a pack of two), thawed according to package instructions
- 1 average-size butternut squash (to yield around 1 pound), peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 7 ounces (or thereabouts) english cheddar (you can use smoked english cheddar, smoked gouda, et cetera. go wild)
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, beaten together for egg wash
- 4 leaves fresh sage, minced, plus a few extra leaves for garnish (garnish optional)
- sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 425˚F. At this point, make sure you have your puff pastry thawing out on the countertop somewhere. I forget sometimes.
Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the squash, and sweat gently for about 5 minutes or so, just to start them cooking. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Roll out your puff pastry on a lightly floured surface (when thawed) to a rectangle, about 12 inches by maybe 8 inches, or choose whatever size, really, you want: it will work no matter what, just don’t roll it too thin. Using a sharp knife, like a paring knife, mark a 1/2 inch border around the edge of the pastry without cutting all the way through. Brush that outer border with egg wash.
Sprinkle about half your cheese on the pastry within the border and top with desired amount of squash: you may have some left over which you could finish cooking and use for another purpose. Don’t overfill, but your squash should be plentiful (see photos above). Sprinkle the minced sage over top and sprinkle maybe half of the cheese you have left over as well. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, until edges are a deep golden brown and cheese is melted. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and place back in the oven for 3-5 minutes until cheese has melted. Remove from oven, garnish with sage leaves (optional) and serve immediately.
Depending on how you roll it out, this could serve 3-5 as a main dish. I like it alongside a green salad with a little balsamic vinaigrette and some shaved parmesan, but that’s just me.