I am one of those people who is easily influenced when it comes to food. All it takes is seeing a photo of something, such as a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs, turkey or vegetarian of course, and suddenly I have to have just that. Right now I find that I am especially influenced by all of the wonderful fall ingredients that are available right now, butternut squash being one of my favorites.
I was contemplating what I could make for dinner with this nutty, subtly sweet delicacy when suddenly the idea popped into my head: Flatbread with roasted butternut squash and buffalo mozzarella. Yum! My mouth was already watering. Rich and yummy flavors, but also bordering on the healthier side of pizza. A flatbread would also be something simple enough to make that it wouldn’t take the entire evening to prepare.
Off I went to the grocery store to collect my ingredients. In addition to the squash and mozzarella I opted for fresh thyme, shallots, some fake bacon and a little Parmesan cheese. The “bacon” and Parmesan would add a nice element of saltiness to compliment the sweetness of the squash and the mild, fresh flavor of the buffalo mozzarella would round it out to perfection.
Now, for the butternut squash. I have cooked and prepared butternut squash enough times to know all of the ways that don’t work when it comes to getting the result I want. It is easy enough to merely slice the squash length-wise, scoop out the seeds and lay it face down in a baking dish with a bit of water to keep it from drying out. However, the end result is a mess of flesh that is difficult to use, if it is not to be used in a soup or puree.
The best method I have discovered so far is to peel the entire squash before carving it up into cubes. This does make it a bit slippery to work with (so be careful!) but in the end it is the quickest and most efficient method that I have found. And you get some nice caramelization on the edges of the squash when it is roasted without the skin. Which tastes amazing.
I recommend roasting your cubed squash in a cast iron Dutch oven but if you do not have one a baking dish in the oven works well too. I place my Dutch oven directly on the stove top. The cast iron heats up really well and the heat distributes evenly so be careful not to have the heat too high. I use about a tablespoon of olive oil and a thick pat of butter. Once the butter stops sizzling add your cubed squash, stirring well to coat each piece. Then place your lid on and let her roast. Check often to control the heat and make sure it isn’t “caramelizing” too much. It should take between 20-30 minutes, depending on how high you have your heat.
You can even add a drizzle of maple syrup (if you love syrup like Buddy), when it is nearly done, but I think the sweetness of the squash is perfect all by itself. If you are roasting in the oven, I would place the baking dish in the oven first to warm it up, then add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter has melted you can add and toss your squash. Bake at 200 C (approximately 400 F), stirring every so often to avoid burning. Once cooked, allow the squash to cool slightly.
Now you are ready to assemble your flatbread. This recipe is so delicious. I am already craving it again. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Butternut Squash & Buffalo Mozzarella Flatbread:
Preheat your oven to 265 degrees Celsius (approximately 510 degrees Fahrenheit), with your baking (pizza) stone in the oven. I know, this is hot, but it is one of the keys to making amazing pizza & flatbread. If you don’t use a pizza stone, you can just put your pan in the oven with the pizza when it is ready to bake.
2 ready-to-bake pizza doughs (*see tips below)
1 small to medium size butternut squash, peeled, diced, and roasted
1 package fresh Buffalo mozzarella, sliced and hand torn
2 small shallots, sliced in rings
2-3 slices of fake bacon (or the real stuff if you aren’t vegetarian), cooked & crumbled
Fresh thyme, rinsed and separated from the stems
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper
Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface. Or if you are not using a pizza stone & pizza peel, place dough onto your prepared baking pan.
Brush dough lightly with olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt.
You can layer the remaining ingredients however you want but this is the order I followed:
Roasted butternut squash
Torn slices of mozzarella
Fresh thyme leaves
Remaining Parmigiano cheese
A twist or two of freshly ground pepper
Repeat for second flatbread
Using your super peel, transfer to your flatbread to your pizza stone in the oven. Bake for approximately 6 minutes. Keep an eye on it because it cooks quickly.
Remove your flatbread from oven, transferring it to a round pan. (Leave your baking stone in the oven for flatbread number two). Slice your flatbread and enjoy with a glass of chardonnay or pinot noir.
*Tips that will make your flatbread/pizza making life easier:
– Purchase already made pizza dough from your local pizzeria. They are usually pretty inexpensive and it saves a ton of time. Plus they’ve already nailed the recipe and you are guaranteed delicious crust every time.
– If you do not already have one, purchase a pizza stone for baking homemade pizzas. It makes a huge difference and is well worth the small investment.
– Get a Super Peel. Seriously! You really should consider getting one of these. My husband wanted one for the longest time and, thinking it was one of those frivolous, kitchen gadgets that would sit unused in the cupboard until our next big move or kitchen clean out, I sort of refused to get it. Then one day I decided, “Okay, let’s try this thing,” and I ordered it for him as a gift from my parents. I now have to eat my words. It has been one of our best kitchen purchases and we both love it.