Friday, October 28, 2011

Glazed Pear and Kale Pesto Pizza

Sunday October 30th will be the last official market of the season for the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, but if the weather is nice in November, the farmers may hold some additional impromptu markets. You can check back at this site for further updates. This Sunday you can expect the following produce from SLO FarmSweetwater Farm, and Songbird Farm: 
  • apples, pears, Asian pears, and quince
  • the last of the season's tomatoes and peppers
  • cucumbers, summer squash, and eggplants
  • pie pumpkins and winter squash
  • root vegetables including carrots, beets, and potatoes
  • greens including kale and romaine lettuce
  • garlic and onions
  • eggs
This attractive combination of SLO Farm's pears, Sweetwater Farm's onions, and Songbird Farm's kale inspired me to create an autumn pizza in honor of the end of the harvest season.

For the base of the pizza I made a raw kale pesto with walnuts, which I tempered with creamy ricotta.

For the topping, I seared onions and pear slices and finished them with a splash of balsamic vinegar. 

And then I assembled everything on a cornmeal-fortified pizza dough with a sprinkle of gorgonzola. All these components melded together into delicious celebration of the flavors of autumn, and, it occurred to me, served as a taste metaphor for the teamwork that contributed to the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market's second successful season. Many thanks to the dedicated vendors who brought us their delicious food all summer long, the support of neighborhood's businesses Sun Automotive and Eugene City Bakery, and the patronage of the market's loyal customers. 

Glazed Pear and Kale Pesto Pizza
makes 1 large or 2 small pizzas

for the pizza dough
1 1/2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup medium ground corn meal
1/4 cup coarse ground corn meal (polenta)
3/4 cups flour such as Camas Country Mill Hard red spring wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

for the toppings
3-4 kale leaves
1/4 cup walnut pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1/2 cup ricotta
1 large or 2 small ripe but firm pear
1 medium or 2 small red onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese

1.  At least two and a half hours ahead, prepare the pizza dough. In a large mixing bowl, mix the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water and allow to sit for a few minutes until it foams up. Mix in the remaining ingredients, alternating between the flour and water. You may need a little more or less of the water or flour, depending on ambient moisture. When combined, turn the dough onto a work surface (I like to use a large silicone mat for easy clean up) and knead for several minutes until the dough is satisfyingly elastic. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, or if using, loosely wrap the dough in the silicone mat and transfer it right back into the dough mixing bowl. Allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in bulk for a coupe of hours. You can also make this dough in the morning and let it rise in the refrigerator during the day and it will be ready at dinnertime.

2. Prepare the kale pesto. In a toaster oven or on the stovetop in a dry skillet, toast the walnut pieces until fragrant. Remove the kale leaves from the stems and put them in the bowl of a food processor with the walnuts. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the ricotta, and a generous pinch of salt. Process until you have a fairly smooth, bright green paste. Reserve.

3. Prepare the glazed onions and pears. Peal the onion and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Half and core the pear and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and pear slices in a single layer and allow to cook a few minutes until they start to brown on one side. Flip the pieces and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over them, as well as a pinch of salt and grind of black pepper. Cook briefly to let the vinegar cook down into a syrup, and then remove the slices to a plate, pouring over any remaining vinegar.

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and insert a pizza stone if you wish. Roll out the pizza dough into a thin sheet, approximately 15 inches in diameter (or you could make two smaller pizzas). Sprinkle a pizza peel or baking sheet with polenta and place the dough on top. Spread the kale pesto in a thin layer over the dough. Layer the glazed pears and onions over the kale pesto. Crumble the gorgonzola and sprinkle on top. If using a pizza stone, carefully slide the pizza from the peel onto the stone. Bake the pizza for about 16 minutes until the crust sounds hard when tapped and the ricotta in the kale pesto has cooked through and lightened in color. Serve at once.

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