Summer is prime growing season—but for many of us, it is prime travel season as well. A couple of times each year, I face the challenge of what to do about our local CSA veggies when we, ourselves, will be anything but local. We could always suspend delivery while we’re away, but the problem is not with the box that arrives that week—it’s easy enough to find a neighbor to pick up our share and leave it at our door the next day in exchange for a few of the goodies inside.
No, the problem was with the share we picked up on our last day in town: a veritable mountain of green leaves—lettuce, chard, beets, arugula, kale—accented with a generous scoop of sugar snap peas and a few bright yellow summer squash, courtesy of last week’s heat wave.
Nobody in their right mind would buy a week’s worth of highly perishable groceries twenty-four hours before heading off on vacation. Even if every item could be eaten or cooked and frozen, that’s an inefficient way to spend an afternoon that could otherwise be devoted to, well, packing for the aforementioned vacation.
On the other hand, I hated the thought of skipping a share when we were still at home. Besides, not much packing gets done with a couple of five-year-olds bouncing around. We did need something to keep them occupied in the late afternoon, and, luckily, they were willing to do much of the work themselves to produce a batch of their beloved kale chips. So while the kids gently dabbed away water droplets and rubbed olive oil over every leaf—and their own arms, for good measure—I began to tackle the rest of vegetable pile.
The snap peas I set aside as a snack for the car. (I take no credit here; Sarah, who manages the Sunday Stillman’s CSA distribution, made that suggestion.) Beetroots were separated from their greens and packed into a paper bag to accompany us to Grandma’s house (she loves beets). The greens themselves I put aside for the morning, knowing that I could not resist sauteing them with garlic for breakfast before we hit the road. The mixed salad greens would accompany that night’s dinner...whatever it turned out to be.
Dinner. Yes. I wanted to eat that squash. With an eye toward a simple meal that night, I had already defrosted a bag of homemade pizza dough. A handful of cherry tomatoes remained from from my trip to the farmers’ market a few days earlier, and I knew there must be some way to incorporate those into a pizza with along with the squash. A quick online search pointed to ricotta as a suitable cheese—and luckily I had most of a gallon of milk at home to make up a quick batch. (Upon reflection, I have no idea what possessed me to buy a gallon of milk three days before our trip.) The tiny bunches of baby arugula would lend a peppery burst of flavor toward the end of cooking.
The cheese would definitely benefit from a little flavor punch as well. I ventured out onto our deck to harvest a few tender leaves from each of the various herbs we’re growing this year. I then considered the lemons that I was about to juice to stir into the warming milk—a little zest seemed like just the right final touch.
After dinner, I couldn’t fathom dealing two heads of lettuce, much less packing them all up into a cooler, so after a moment’s thought I wrote an email to the upstairs neighbors: “Would you guys like some stuff from this week’s share in exchange for picking up next week’s for us? We can give you a head of lettuce”—I looked at the still-enormous green mountain—“and two bunches of chard.” Maybe a better person than I would have washed, blanched, and frozen that chard for later use, but I wanted to get some sleep before our long drive the next day. Sometimes it’s better to keep your ambitions in check.
And given the quantity of romaine still sitting in my in-laws’ refrigerator, we probably should have handed over both heads of lettuce.
Summer Pizza with Squash, Tomatoes and Herbed Ricotta
Adapted from My Life Runs on Food
Active Time: 15-20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes, including preheating oven
- 1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough
- 12 oz (about 1 1/2 cups) whole-milk ricotta cheese (homemade if desired)
- 1 tsp lemon zest (from 1 or 2 lemons)
- 2-3 Tbsp mixed fresh herbs (e.g., basil, oregano, sage, rosemary), finely chopped
- 1 or 2 small-medium zucchini
- 2 plum tomatoes or a handful of large cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 small red onion
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh basil and/or arugula
Place oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 550 degrees or the highest bake temperature possible. If using a pizza stone, place pizza stone on oven rack before turning oven on. Allow at least 30 minutes for oven and stone to preheat.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll dough into a ball, flatten slightly, place on parchment paper and shape into a circle about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. If dough resists stretching, let it rest for a few minutes while preparing cheese and toppings, and then try shaping it again. Set aside.
Mix ricotta cheese with lemon zest, the finely chopped herbs and salt to taste. Set aside. Slice squash into very thin rounds, using a mandolin if available. Slice tomatoes into thin rounds and discard excess juices. Slice onion into half-circles or quarter-circles as desired.
Spread ricotta mixture evenly over prepared dough, leaving a border of 1/2-inch to 1-inch all around, and then scatter with about two-thirds of the sliced onion. Arrange zucchini and tomato slices over the cheese and onions, slightly overlapping, in alternating circles, haphazardly or in any other pattern you wish. Sprinkle vegetables with salt and pepper to taste, top with remaining sliced onion and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Transfer pizza (with parchment paper) onto preheated pizza stone. (If not using a pizza stone, place entire baking pan on lower oven rack.) Bake for 8-9 minutes or until crust and vegetables are just beginning to brown.
While pizza is baking, chop or thinly slice fresh basil and/or arugula and toss with just a little bit of olive oil to coat. When vegetables are just browning slightly, remove pizza and quickly (and carefully) distribute chopped herbs over surface of pizza.
Immediately return pizza to oven for about 2 more minutes, until herbs wilt and crust turns golden brown. Remove pizza from oven and let cool for about a minute before slicing and serving.