There really is no pizza like NY pizza. That’s not to say that I like NY pizza the best, but it does mean that I won’t tolerate establishments outside the state that claim to have “New York style pizza.” I literally can’t even.
I had my semi-annual fix of New York pizza last week when I was back East for my cousin’s wedding. I got a slice of fresh tomato and garlic from Sunrise Pizza, my hometown favorite and a spot I frequented in my formative years – so much so that the owner still recognizes me when I stop in twice a year. The rest of the year, I’m eating the kind of pizza that I like best: California flatbread. You know, the sauceless pizza-looking thing with the leafy greens and veggies and occasionally some fancy meat.
Butternut Squash & Kale Flatbread (serves 2)
- 1 cup butternut squash, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 a medium squash)
- 1 TB olive oil, plus 2 tsp
- salt and pepper
- 1 pizza crust
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 garlic clove, diced
- 2 cups chopped Tuscan kale
- 4 oz cubed pancetta (sold at TJ’s)
- 1 TB Crème fraîche
- 2 oz Manchego cheese (a few thin slices)
- 3 fresh sage leaves, torn
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with 1 TB olive oil, salt and pepper and lay out on a baking sheet in one even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. When there are 5 minutes left, place the pizza crust on top of a sheet of parchment paper and place in the oven to lightly toast.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then add kale and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Increase the heat to medium-high and add pancetta to the pan. Saute until crisp – about 4 minutes – then remove from pan and set aside.
Remove squash and pizza from the oven, and increase heat to 450 degrees. Spread the Crème fraîche onto the crust, leaving about an inch of dough on the edge. Top with sautéed kale, shallots and garlic, then add butternut squash and pancetta. Finally, finish with Manchego and sage. Cook for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes, then slice.
I was thinking about this recipe all day, obsessing over every component and how to place them to make it the perfect autumnal flatbread. One of my best friends – currently a New Yorker, and who shall be known as Paco from this point forth – called just as I had pulled the pie out of the oven. When I told him what I had made, he grunted and said “you’re such a Californian”, to which I said, “I can’t even call it pizza.”
The obsessing paid off because the pizza was insanely delicious if I do say so myself. It was the perfect combo of sweet and salty and crunchy and creamy. I was worried the Crème fraîche would totally backfire on me, but it softened the base of the flatbread without making it soggy from the weight of the other ingredients. I loved how the kale and sage leaves crisped up to be chip-like while the squash was soft and gooey. And the hint of Manchego added just the right amount of nuttiness. Perfection.
I paired this flatbread with the 2010 St. Clair Brown Chardonnay that I got in my most recent wine club pick up. Choose a full-bodied white with a good balance of nuttiness and tropical fruit, such as Pine Ridge Dijon Clones, or if looking to go the French route try a Chablis or White Burgundy.