Roasted Squash, Apple, Spinach, Caramelized Onion Pizza

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnyone who knows me or who reads my blog knows I love pizza. And the thing I love most about pizza is cheese. Sure, my pizza recipes are chock full o’ veggies, my crust is always whole grain (or whole vegetable in the case of cauliflower crust pizza), and overall, healthier than your typical pizzeria grease bomb, but cheese is consistently front and center. Until now.

The basis for this recipe popped up in Friday’s New York Times Cooking email and being it was from one of my favorite vegan chefs, Chloe Coscarelli, it caught my attention. What sealed the deal was everything this pizza called for was already in the fridge or pantry and there would be no need for a stop at the store to make it our Friday-night-after-work-dinner, prepared while enjoying a beginning-of-the-weekend glass of wine. I’ll stop with the hyphenated phrases now.

This pizza has no cheese, but I guarantee, you won’t miss it. The saucy white bean puree provides a tang and richness making cheese unnecessary. Yes, I said that. This cheese-is-the-best-thing-about-pizza person said that (okay, NOW, I’ll stop with the hyphenated phrases).

Experience has taught me to always read comments included after an online recipe and in this case, it brought a suggestion taking the flavors over the top. The idea of drizzling with a balsamic reduction when the pizza comes out of the oven is spot on and that made me think an additional drizzle of good quality olive oil (the kind you reserve for drizzles or dipping, not cooking) would be a great addition as well.

Most of this recipe can be made in advance, so you can eat at a reasonable weeknight time if you plan ahead. The white bean purée can be made up to a couple days in advance, the squash can be roasted the day before, and if you’re doing a homemade pizza crust, your dough will benefit from an overnight slow rise in the fridge. Even the balsamic reduction can be made ahead of time as well, and refrigerated until needed. The result is a hearty, filling, pizza-craving-satisfied meal, and you won’t miss the cheese! Enjoy!

Roasted Squash, Apple, Spinach, Caramelized Onion Pizza

  • Servings: One 12-inch pizza
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Based on this NYT Cooking Chloe Coscarelli recipe

Garlic White Bean Purée:
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 large or two small cloves garlic, peeled and minced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 apple, diced

Pizza dough, preferably whole wheat (store-bought is fine, or make your own)

Balsamic reduction (in a small saucepan, bring 1 cup balsamic vinegar to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue simmering until reduced to 1/3 cup. Unused portion can be refrigerated for another use.)
Good tasting olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Make the Garlic White Bean Purée by blending the beans, oil, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper in a food processor. Add water, as needed, until a smooth consistency forms. Set aside. Can be made up to two days in advance.

Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes until squash is fork-tender, turning once with a spatula. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn oven heat up to 450 degrees F. Place pizza stone in oven, if using.

While squash is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté onions until soft and lightly caramelized, about 15-20 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Stretch or roll homemade or store-bought pizza dough into a 12-inch circle. Spread a layer of the garlic white bean purée evenly over the dough. (You will only use about half of the purée—use the rest as a dip for veggies or pita chips.) On top of the dough, arrange the spinach, caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash and diced apple. Season with salt and pepper.

Bake on pizza stone or pizza pan at 450 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time, until the crust is golden. Remove from oven and drizzle pizza with balsamic reduction and good quality olive oil. Slice and serve. Makes one 12-inch pizza.



Polenta Cake with White Bean Ragout

Last week I spent four days away from home staffing a conference for work at a large downtown Minneapolis hotel with long days and lots of mediocre banquet food. Coming home was absolute heaven! But one of those banquet meals got my wheels spinning for something similar that was leaps and bounds above mediocre. There was a vegetarian lunch option that consisted of a couple small biscuit-size cakes I think were polenta-based. Topped with a white bean/vegetable mixture, and cold by the time I was able to sit down and eat, it was a dish with so much potential. Reworking it in my mind and checking out a few recipes online, resulted in one large polenta cake with a white bean ragout that has flavor and nuance, both of which were lacking in the banquet version (although I think that banquet version was leaps and bounds above the sad looking chicken dish everyone else was stuck with—so often the vegetarian option at a banquet elicits envy from my table mates, and that makes me feel smugly happy!).

Polenta Cake with White Bean Ragout
Adapted from this Cookstr recipe and another on The white bean ragout can be made a day or two ahead, giving the flavors time to fully meld.

Extra-virgin olive oil for coating pan
11 oz. (about 2 cups) coarse ground polenta (corn meal)
3 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup milk (either dairy or non-dairy)
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Oil a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet or other oven-safe 10-inch round pan and place in the oven for a few minutes to heat. Heating the pan or dish is important—it helps the polenta form a bottom crust.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the polenta, water, broth, and milk and over medium heat. Bring slowly to a boil, whisking often to prevent lumps from forming. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until thick and smooth. Season with salt and black pepper and carefully pour into the hot prepared skillet or dish.
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Bake the polenta cake until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and is lightly golden, 45-60 minutes. The cake will be crisp.

While the polenta cake is baking, prepare white bean ragout (or make it the day before):

1 15 oz. can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained, and liquid reserved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups chopped escarole, kale, or spinach
3 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or vegan margarine
1/8 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
½ cup shredded smoked provolone cheese (optional)

Drain the beans, reserving the liquid and adding enough water to it to make one cup; set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, thyme, and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Add the beans and bean liquid/water. Cover and bring to a simmer; simmer 5 minutes.
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Stir in escarole and simmer until it is wilted. Add the tomatoes, butter and parsley. Remove from heat the stir until the butter is melted. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut polenta cake into 8 wedges, and serve each wedge topped with white bean ragout. Sprinkle with smoked provolone. Makes 8 servings.

Tabouli with White Beans


Tabouli (or Tabbouleh) is a dish that is easily adaptable to what you have on hand. You can switch out the bulgur for quinoa or barley, even rice or orzo; change the parsley to dill; vary the vegetables, and add a protein if you’d like. Some recipes I’ve seen even add feta cheese. However, I’m not a fan of feta, so that won’t be me.

Traditional Lebanese tabouli uses a much smaller amount of bulgur, almost as a garnish, and the herbs, usually parsley and mint, are the stars. It’s more of a salad than a side dish when prepared in that authentic manner, but I went in the opposite direction, wanting the heartiness that more grains would provide.

Tabouli veg

I’ve recently seen quinoa tabouli at several restaurants, and while it was good, I really like bulgur. So why not a combination? I like cucumbers in tabouli, but didn’t have any, so why not radishes? This was to be the meal, so how about some white beans to really make it a main course? I did all of the above and it was delicious and filling! And so very fresh with veggies and herbs from your garden or the farmers’ market. Enjoy!

Tabouli (or Tabbouleh) with White Beans

2 cups cooked bulgur
1 ½ cup cooked red quinoa (or regular quinoa)
2-3 scallions, sliced
2 radishes, diced (I had red and purple—so pretty!)
1 ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
1 cup cooked white beans (or one cup canned, drained and rinsed)
1 handful fresh dill, chopped
1 handful fresh mint, chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix bulgur, quinoa, scallions, tomato, white beans, dill and mint in large bowl. In a small bowl, mix olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Pour dressing over bulgur mixture and toss. Adjust seasoning, adding more herbs and salt & pepper if desired. Serve immediately or cover and chill. Serves 6-8, possibly fewer, if serving as a meal by itself.