Genius Recipes

The Genius Zucchini Pizza That Won Smitten Kitchen's Heart

Five ingredients (including the dough).

June 26, 2019

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Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

I do not find summer squash naturally loveable. Its flavor is not robust—fairly watery when fresh, slippery when cooked, and even when you do succeed in browning or crisping it, this textural triumph is short-lived. But summer squash (and zucchini, which is a type of summer squash) is abundant in the warmer months, and I consider it my responsibility—as a person who cooks, likes vegetables, wants to support farmers, and celebrates locally grown food for all three months it happens in my part of the world—to use it as many ways as I can.

That sounded pretty virtuous, huh? Right, so the actual reason is that I once belonged to a CSA and the first thing I learned is that zucchini overpopulation is summer's real torment.

These are not the kinds of sentences one reads and expects culinary magnificence to follow, but this pizza upends expectations in every possible, wonderful way. I first spied it in the display case at Sullivan Street Bakery on 9th Avenue, the bread wonderland created by Jim Lahey in 1994 that has since relocated to Chelsea (and beyond). It's sold in squares, and while all of the flavors are unexpected, it was the zucchini pizza—with heaps and valleys of deer bed–like shreds of vegetables—that riveted me the most.

At home, I heated up a square and was bowled over by the complexity of flavor. I imagined all sorts of cheffy things went into making it taste so good: lemon zest, anchovies, garlic, some imported herb that refuses to grown on American soil (you know, the usual stuff). I did not expect to take Jim Lahey's pizza cookbook down from my shelf and find that it, in fact, contains five ingredients—and two are the flour and yeast used to make the dough.

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Top Comment:
“It is delicious and the crust is so crisp and Jim Lahey-like! The only comment about the proportions in the recipe is that 2/3 c. Water was not enough. I had to add in an extra couple of tablespoons in order to make the dough pliable enough. I will certainly make this again and will consider this a go-to recipe for pot lucks.”
— annieobo
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Forget cheffy fripperty—this had to be voodoo.

So I went across town and tracked Lahey down in the ceramics studio where he's learning to make teacups for the espresso he will insist you try (he feels strongly about how perfect it is and he is not wrong). I asked him a million questions about the five ingredients and learned that it was neither voodoo nor a happy accident that led to this pizza.

Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

Lahey believes all of the best ideas are really simple—and maybe a little lazy, too. What can you make with the three ingredients in the fridge? He says he often starts by making something and even if it's a spectacular failure, finding the one good part of it and trying to focus on that, and then tinkering until the balance of ingredients and flavors is just right. His book editor encouraged him to not use any ingredients a reader cannot find in a regular grocery store, and that's how he landed on Gruyère, which he likes the funk of, even though you could also use another low-moisture mountain cheese like fontina or raclette or mix a sharper cheese into it. But Gruyère is a "one solution" cheese here.

Unsurprisingly—Jim Lahey, after all, is the guy behind the web's first viral recipe, no-knead bread (The New York Times, 2006)—the dough is as simple as can be. No kneading, of course, just a wetter dough with a slightly longer rest that I take some liberties with, pressing into a sheet pan with oiled fingers, as you would focaccia.

Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

You shred summer squash and salt it, then drain and press it until most of the liquid is gone. These now nicely seasoned stands of vegetable are mixed with grated Gruyère and scattered all the way to the edges of the dough. Covering the edges—that is, leaving no pizza crust "handle"—allows you to bake the dough long enough that it gets fully crisp without overcooking the sides. A bit of breadcrumbs, the fifth and final ingredient, on top promises to absorb any excess liquid you could not wring out.

What emerges from the oven is like no pizza you've had before—golden, crisp, and wildly flavorful, three descriptions that, forgive me, I didn't ever expect to use in regard to 2 1/2 pounds of summer squash, but couldn't be happier that I get to.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it Kristen's way (and tell her what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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21 Comments

Chrissy C. July 3, 2019
This was fabulous!
 
Karen June 30, 2019
Sublime. Nutty, cheesy, crisp. Unanimous raves at our last party.
 
Barbara B. June 27, 2019
Wishing Kristen and her..genius newborn, many blessing and good health!
This recipe sounds very good, and I will try it. I make a cauliflower one similar to this. And cook the shells for 15 minutes flip. Cooked on olive oil greases parchment paper. Then add toppings of choice, bake for another 10 minutes or so. Yummy1 This recipe of zucchini pizza sounds really tasty also. Thanks Barbi from Lakeland Florida USA
 
Sherry E. June 27, 2019
just thinking after reading all the comments any opinions to just put the zuchinni per recipe for cheese and breadcrumbs then bake on its own?? a side dish of sorts?
 
2tattered June 27, 2019
I made this last night. The crust burnt in places, and I found it quite bland even after adding some garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes.
 
annieobo June 26, 2019
I just made this for a debate watching event tonight, so will be serving it at room temperature. I did have to taste test it though and it’s great. I added extra salt, pepper and red pepper flakes - probably could have used more red pepper flakes. It is delicious and the crust is so crisp and Jim Lahey-like! The only comment about the proportions in the recipe is that 2/3 c. Water was not enough. I had to add in an extra couple of tablespoons in order to make the dough pliable enough. I will certainly make this again and will consider this a go-to recipe for pot lucks.
 
Ann C. July 1, 2019
Did it taste ok at room temp? I was thinking of bringing it to a potluck.
 
sonia June 26, 2019
It is awesome.
 
Rosalind P. June 26, 2019
I use the zucchini liquid for the pizza dough. Just top it up with water and eliminate or cut back on the salt for the dough. Captures the vitamins and other nutrients that would otherwise go down the drain.
 
Sherry E. June 26, 2019
one question, how best to re-heat left overs? freeze well?
 
Sherry E. June 26, 2019
wish you would come make me one...next not so hot day I am definitely doing this...love seeing the YouTube of you demonstrating!!!
 
thatgirl June 26, 2019
Deb talking pies one day, pizza the next. It’s too hot to make decisions this week, so whatever you tell me to make, I will. My only concern amid all this was an oven heating up my kitchen, but the results wiped that from my memory rather quickly!

As always, thank you, Deb! And bravo, Food52, for hosting Deb’s always-sage advice!
 
Smaug June 26, 2019
If you make a lot of pizza (and have an outdoor space), you might consider an outdoor pizza oven. The "Pizzeria Pronto" that I have does a good job on fairly small pizzas (up to 12"- don't recommend bigger, but it's fast); the price is down to about $240 some places, and there are some newer products in that general price range that weren't around when I was looking into them. If you've got the bucks, of course, there are some really impressive looking models available.
 
thatgirl June 30, 2019
Well thanks! I don’t have outdoor space unless I’m out of the city. To be honest, I’ve had good results with lump (wood) charcoal in a lidded Weber and my pre-heated cast-iron round griddle on the rack above it. With the lid, it becomes an oven, no need for another appliance. Added bonus: the high heat heat and smoke-y essence that someone like Lahey would give his thumbs up!
 
Smaug June 26, 2019
I'm not terribly tempted by this, but I have found that one or two baby zucchini, sliced fairly thin, make a good addition to a pizza. Moisture release is not a problem. I've tried the shred, salt and drain method for zucchini cakes, and found that it remains awfully salty unless rinsed- not exactly what you want to be doing, but it won't really be absorbing the moisture- it'll come out just as wet if you don't rinse it.
 
Amy June 26, 2019
Yay, thanks Deb for this and looking forward to even more of these type of simple but delicious sounding recipes I actually can’t wait to cook! I love Food 52 but the recipes are often too complicated for me to want to hassle with as a working mom of small children or contain a weird ingredient I don’t have/no desire to buy.
 
Fj June 26, 2019
Is there an adaptation with gluten free flour?
 
Abby H. June 26, 2019
When I work with shredded zucchini I usually squeeze it "dry" using (and twisting up) a tea towel or some cheese cloth. Would this make it too dry for this pizza?
 
Author Comment
Deb P. June 26, 2019
No. But it’s not as needed here.
 
Linda June 26, 2019
Hi Deb, I can't tell you how much I love your recipes. Thank you for everything you do. You make me look like a master chef! This looks wonderful. I'm headed to a lawn concert, and I'm wondering if this is tasty if eaten cold. What do you think?
 
Author Comment
Deb P. June 26, 2019
Yes. It’s good at room temperature. I’d keep it out of the fridge for a couple hours before eating.