roasted fall vegetable pizza

I’ve made this pizza before.

It was when Handsome and I first moved in together, about three years ago. We were watching Everyday Food on PBS and I thought this roasted veggie and ricotta pizza sounded really sweet. So I transcribed the recipe from the show, went to the store, made the pizza, and Handsome and I had a homemade meal that night!

I hated it.

The vegetables tasted weird with the ricotta to me, and what was all that onion doing there? I missed tomato sauce, and was not a butternut squash fan. It was just too much…. Just goes to show how much my palate has expanded in the past few years, because when I gave this pizza a second try, I couldn’t get enough.

It’s the perfect pizza for cooler weather (which, I realize, is now on its way out). The butternut squash is sweet and tender, the potatoes and carrots taste soft and familiar, and the rosemary is warm and comforting. The pillows of ricotta dolloped around the vegetables melt in your mouth and provide a nice contrast to the crisp crust and the roasted vegetables. It makes your kitchen smell amazing, and it’s a great make-ahead dish: prepare the crust a day (or 3) before, and let it rise in the fridge. Roast the veggies the day before, storing them in the fridge as well. When you’re ready for pizza, just preheat the oven and allow yourself ten minutes of assembly.

I did make some tweaks. In the original recipe, Martha uses a pretty large crust (12″ x 16″), which supports more vegetables. I used a 13″ x 9″ cookie sheet for the crust (and a half recipe of Pioneer Woman’s pizza crust, which is now my go-to pizza crust recipe), so even when halving Martha’s recipe for Roasted Fall Vegetables, I had too many.  Rather than overload the pizza, which would have resulted in a soggy crust and a disappointed me, I evenly distributed the vegetables I could, along with the mozzarella and ricotta, and just saved the leftovers. The measurements given here are my approximations of how much I actually used, and don’t include the leftover vegetables.

Roasted Fall Vegetable Pizza
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

You will need:
1 pizza crust (I used a half recipe of Pioneer Woman’s pizza crust)
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, diced or shredded
6 oz. ricotta cheese (in this instance, do not substitute cottage cheese, as it is too runny)
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt and black pepper

Roasted vegetables:
3 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if thick, and cut into 1.5″ strips
4 red new potatoes, quartered
1/4 red onion (quarter one onion, and just separate the layers of one quarter. Use more if you like.)
1/2 butternut squash (I used approximately one pound), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/5″ chunks
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 475. Arrange vegetables in one layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat veggies in oil. Roast 30-40 minutes, stirring once, until vegetables are tender.

Oil pizza pan (I used a 13″ x 9″ baking sheet) and spread crust onto it. Spread half mozzarella cheese onto crust. Top with roasted veggies, spread as evenly as possible. Dollop ricotta onto vegetables and top with remaining mozzarella. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, rosemary, and salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and mozzarella is melted.

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tonkatsu

There’s a satisfaction in making a dish that gets your hands dirty. For these meals, which I can never seem to make without getting every bowl and plate in the house dirty, I find it easiest to start with a clean house. When the kitchen, living room, and dining room are straightened and ready, it feels like cheating to literally beat a meal into submission, sling it through egg and flour and oil, and then serve it with wine and candles.

Tonkatsu, a Japanese dish of thin, breaded, and fried pork loin, is one such dish.

I’ve been making tonkatsu for several years, and I learn something new every time. First, any cut of boneless pork seems to work well, but I generally choose a boneless pork loin. Second, pounding the pork with a meat mallet until it’s quite thin will reap huge rewards in tenderness and taste. Third, using the spiky end of the meat mallet only increases your pounding dividends. Finally, the oil should be quite hot before you fry the tonkatsu, else the tonkatsu will overcook and lose its tenderness.

Tonkatsu is traditionally served with a mustard sauce (a quick Google search of tonkatsu sauce will yield you plenty of combinations to try), but I prefer to use the spicy soy sauce I make for Chinese dumplings. If you’d like to try some spice with your pork, combine equal parts soy sauce and rice wine vinegar (about a quarter cup each) with a dash of sesame oil, half a teaspoon of red chili paste, and one clove of minced garlic in a saucepan. Simmer until hot and fragrant, and serve on the side.

Tonkatsu
Serves 2
Note: The roasted Japanese sweet potatoes make a lovely accompaniment to this dish, as does roasted broccoli, seasoned with red pepper flakes. a

You will need:
2 boneless pork loins
Salt and pepper
Flour, for dredging
1 egg, beaten
Panko flakes
Vegetable oil, for frying

Heat about 1” vegetable oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat. (Cover to make it heat more rapidly.)

Pound both chops with the business end of a meat mallet until they are quite thin. Season both sides with salt and pepper, and dredge with flour. Dip both sides in beaten egg, and coat well with panko flakes.

When oil is hot (the end of a wooden spoon, when dipped in the oil, will bubble immediately), place the panko-crusted pork into the pot. Cook until both sides are golden brown, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. It is best to do the pork chops one at a time.

Slice each chop into thin trips. Serve over sushi rice and alongside the dipping sauce of your choice.

roasted japanese sweet potato

“Do you want to rethink that necklace?”

My 16-year-old self looks down. I’m wearing heeled boots, jeans with some sort of design on the back pockets, a form-fitting top, a bracelet on each hand, shiny, dangling earrings, and the requisite too much eye makeup. And some sort of baubly necklace.

This was not the first time my mother gently (ha) encouraged me to tone it down. Like all young women, I became overexcited at the prospect of dressing up, growing up, being paid attention to. I fit in with my friends well, most of whom wore similar amounts of too much. We all felt that if one necklace was good, three was better.

Something similar happens to me with roasted vegetables. If a potato tossed in salt + pepper + olive oil and then roasted in a pan produces that sought-for exterior crispness and interior tender savoriness, then adding extra herbs, spices, and oils to the mix can only lead to improved taste!

And then my boyfriend brings home a Japanese sweet potato. This potato, long and thin with thick purple skin and surprisingly white flesh, begged me not to abuse it. I briefly considered drowning him in some sort of honey-miso-chile glaze, or mashing him with ginger.

“Do you want to rethink that?” the sweet potato scolded me. Curiosity about what this mysterious vegetable tasted like before he’d been accessorized into submission won out. I sliced him into wedges (skin on, always), tossed him with salt + pepper + olive oil, and roasted him for about 20 minutes at 450. He tasted wonderful—like a better version of his orange cousin—and I’ll never again try to make him any other way again.

Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes
Serves 2
Note: This technique works for pretty much any root vegetable— sweet potato, regular potato, new potato, turnip, carrot, etc. It also produces great results for asparagus, broccoli, and tomatoes. For non-root vegetables, just adjust the cooking time and keep an eye on them.

You will need:
1 1/2 lb. Japanese sweet potato (or 1/2-1 lb. other vegetable)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Wash sweet potato well, and cut into 1 1/2” wedges. On a baking sheet, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 15-25 minutes, checking for tenderness with a fork. (I’ve found roasting times vary greatly depending on the density of the vegetable and whether I’m also cooking something on the stove.)

These potatoes make a great side to pork tonkatsu or roasted chicken.

spicy italian sandwich

Some days, I enter my car to discover it littered with the detritus of meals-on-the-go. Just yesterday, battling a headache and facing a 45-minute bumper-to-bumper commute, I spent $2.50 on a Dr. Pepper and a package of chocolate sandwich cookies to get me through the drive home. The Dr. Pepper made it into the apartment, but the wrapper from the cookies (which tasted, as one might expect, like so much cardboard and sour frosting) hides in the door pocket. Most days, the white paper straw wrappers in the seats and the receipts bearing the restaurant logos we all love to hate go ignored. 

I feel let down by the cookies. I know, as soon as a buy them, that they’ll taste terrible. Even the Dr. Pepper will fail me. I’ve slowly weaned myself off of caffeine, with the exception of a morning cup of coffee. So a soda this late in the day will do me no favors. But after a meeting that ran too long, a bristly customer, and facing a commute with a head that just won’t quit, I need something. I need sustenance.

Sustenance does not lie in cardboard cookies or delivered pizza, neither of which satisfy for any length of time. True sustenance lies in the salty, savory something I can put on the table without any trips to the store, any stress over instructions or ingredients, and without any guilt. Chopped garlic, swirls of olive oil, shavings of parmesan. Tonight, sustenance is a sandwich. Sustenance, that which sustains me, comes in the marrying of bakery bread (leave the Wonder alone on the shelf) with melted, tangy goat cheese, crispy-on-the-edges spicy salami, fresh arugula from my garden, and olive oil.  The spiciness of both the salami and the arugula go so nicely with the soft, fresh sourness of the goat cheese.

Spicy Italian Sandwich
Serves 2

You will need:
4 slices good-quality bread
Goat cheese

Parmesan cheese
Spicy salami or other Italian cold cut
Fresh arugula, or other leafy green
Olive oil 

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. While oil is heating, generously spread a slice of bread with goat cheese. When oil is hot (it will be particularly shiny), place a slice of bread on the oil. Top with cold cut, lettuce, parmesan cheese to taste, and another slice of bread. Brown the sandwich on one side, flip, brown on the other.

Serve with spicy mustard for dipping, and alongside sliced apples and olives for increased depth of flavor.