At their James Beard nominated outpost in Culver City, Pitfire Artisan Pizza bakes tantalizingly topped pizzas. Using local ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, each pie is made with the best produce the market has to offer. Here, executive chef Michael Ainslie walks us through the Pumpkin Pizza, a seasonal special. Comprising roasted butternut squash, wilted swiss chard, brown butter, and three cheeses and finished with toasted pumpkin-seed oil and pepitas, this customer favorite is a velvety smooth bite, with a nutty crunch and salty finish.
When picking your dough, don't be discouraged by Pitfire's wood-burning oven. This is not Neapolitan pizza, nor do they want it to be. Pizzamaker Paul Hibler's crust was born after a life-changing encounter with Al Forno's grilled pizza in 1992. Further influenced by the rustic baking techniques at Chez Panisse and Tartine, Hibler formulated his pizza over the next 15 years, resulting in dough made from three types of flour and aged 36 to 72 hours. Though the actual pit fire is long gone—replaced with a wood-burning oven 10 years ago—the pizzas retain the smoky char of real fire. The dough browns into a crisp bakery-loaf crust that can support hearty but balanced toppings with no limp-tipped slices.
What you'll need:
- 1 ball of dough (Pitfire's are about 7 ounces each)
- A blend the following cheeses:
- 1 ounce shredded fontina
- 1 ounce shredded mozzarella
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 bunch red chard*
- Half a red onion
- 1 butternut squash
- A handful fresh sage leaves
- 1 ounce toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- Toasted pumpkin seed oil**
- Sea salt
*Any dark leafy green can be substituted. We like red chard for its color and the way it contrasts with the beautiful orange squash.
**Available at most gourmet shops or online.
Ready to cook?!
You'll probably have leftover Swiss chard and butternut squash, which make a delicious snack while your pizza bakes. Check out the slideshow for step-by-step instructions.