Fall pizzeria menus in Canada get a fresh twist with seasonal toppings
By Karen BarrFeatures In the Kitchen Ingredients Trends editor pick
When it comes to seasonal pizza toppings, what grows together goes together
Fall is an ideal time for pizzerias to change their menus, delight customers and keep them coming back for more. Here are some ideas for combining fall fresh toppings for new and innovative pizzas that will delight your customers.
Seasonal produce availability is at its peak of freshness. It’s all about vegetables, fruit, nuts and herbs as flavourful combinations for toppings.
First, think about adding mushrooms beyond the button variety. Mix it up with cremini, oyster mushrooms, chanterelles, portobello mushrooms, shitake and lobster mushrooms.
Virtuous Pie with locations in Vancouver, Victoria, and Portland, Ore., is famous for its hand-pulled pizza doughs and plant-based cheeses. The Super Funghi Pizza with wild mushrooms steals the show. It’s also topped with herbed potato cream sauce, vegan mozzarella, truffle almond ricotta and raw green arugula.
The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar in Edmonton, Alta., is known for delectable pizzas made in its woodburning oven. The Funghi pizza is loaded up with seasonal mushrooms, along with fior di latte mozzarella, truffle and fresh thyme. Then, there is the King Shroom Pizza at General Assembly in Toronto. Roasted cremini mushrooms, fior di latte, blue cheese, Grana Padano, crispy garlic, aged white balsamic vinegar and olive oil top the pizzeria’s famous crust. It’s made from 100 per cent naturally leavened dough.
Fall recalls an abundance of root vegetables. Think, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, garlic and fennel. An easy way to make a topping is to roast up some root vegetables, along with olive oil, garlic or onion.
Beets might not be top of mind when it comes to pizza, but they can be part of a deliciously earthy combination. Slice and roast the beets first before placing them on top of an oven-fresh pizza. Try bright red beets, golden beets or the candy cane variety for even more flair.
Famous Peppers on Prince Edward Island has two locations – one in Charlottetown and the other in Montague. Not surprisingly it features a Spud Islander pizza. With house-made maple syrup sauce, double-smoked bacon, roasted potato slices, caramelized onions and mozzarella cheese, it’s a must when visiting Canada’s smallest province.
At The Parlour Italian Kitchen & Bar, the You Say Potato pizza features crispy Yukon Gold potatoes, Italian sausage, red onion and fontina cheese. It’s a bianca-style pizza that is topped with good quality extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs from the garden.
Fall herbs grow thick and hearty and include parsley, cilantro, sage, thyme, rosemary and chives. Fresh rosemary pairs well with broccoli and thin slices of lemon. The flavour of roasted vegetables is also enhanced by rosemary. Thyme and mushrooms are an earthy and fragrant combination. For a Moroccan-style pizza combine spicy ground lamb and mint.
Botanically speaking, tomatoes, eggplants squash and pumpkins all are fruit. The other commonality? Each makes the perfect fall pizza topping. One seasonal variety at Pizzeria Gema in Montreal features roasted butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, homemade pancetta and apple cider vinegar reduction.
In October food campaigns turn to pumpkin promotions. It’s a combination of Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween that pushes the theme forward. Try to incorporate it as a topping for your pizza. Pumpkin and sage are a classic duo.
Early fall markets are full of healthy greens like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, kale, spinach, mustard greens and zucchini. Don’t forget to save the leafy green tops from carrots and beets. These easily whip into impressive pestos.
Il Focolaio, established in Montreal in 1984, is a popular pizzeria for wood oven-baked pizza often topped with greens. There are three pizzas for spinach lovers to try. The Fa Bien pizza has a base tomato sauce, with loads of spinach, fresh garlic, mozzarella, mushrooms and black olives. The Primavera is topped with broccoli, spinach, fresh garlic, mushrooms, black olives and mozzarella. Finally, the Spinachio pizza has sauce, spinach, fresh garlic, mushroom and black olives.
Pizza Garden is headquartered in Vancouver with multiple locations in British Columbia. Known for award-winning, hand-crafted Neapolitan pizzas, its green of choice is bright green, fresh Italian arugula. The Dal Mare is a sauce-free option with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the base crust. It’s topped with three cheeses: mozzarella, fior di latte and Grana Padano, along with Italian anchovies, garlic, capers and red onions. The Parma Prosciutto pizza contains tomato sauce, mozzarella, fior di latte, Grana Padano, prosciutto di Parma and, of course, arugula.
Kale is another healthy alternative. Drizzle it with a little olive oil and place it on top of the pizza before baking. Try the curly Winterbor kale, Tuscan kale or Red Russian kale, a slate-green variety with purple stems. Try other colours too, such as Scarlet kale and Redbar kale – both with purple to purple-red leaves.
Create playful combinations using fruits and nuts. How about an apple and goat cheese pizza with toasted walnuts or pecans? Try caramelized onion and apple for a sweet and savoury combo. Layer slender slices of apple such as Granny Smith that will keep their delicate shape when baked. Top with blue cheese to add extra depth of flavour.
With the fall wine crush and so many beautiful Canadian bottles to choose from, why not incorporate local grapes as a pizza topping? Here’s a take on the classic Tuscan grape focaccia. Brush pizza dough with olive oil, drizzle with a bit of honey and sprinkle on some chopped rosemary. Add red grapes cut in half and placed face down. Then, add just a dash of pecorino before baking.
Virtuous Pie’s Pear+ Gorgonzola Pizza has confit garlic oil, pear, cashew gorgonzola, candied walnuts and fig jam. This combination of fresh fruit and jam packs in the sweetness. Try fresh or even dried figs later in the season. Think fig pizza with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar. Really bump up the colour by adding a layer of bright green, fresh arugula as the pizza slides out of the oven.
Virtuous Pie also produces the popular Forager pizza with walnut arugula pesto, Italian sausage, and cashew mozzarella. The Fern Gully Pizza at General Assembly Pizza in Toronto features caramelized onions, toasted walnuts, roasted cremini mushrooms, herb oil and parsley. It’s a vegan delight with natural plant proteins.
In the winter the team at Virtuous Pie produces a seasonal pizza that plays with the cranberry theme. It’s called the Holiday Pie. This pizza features cranberry walnut stuffing, roasted Brussels sprouts, rosemary chicken, cranberry sauce, cashew mozzarella and herbed potato cream.
What grows together goes together! Combine fall fresh toppings for new and innovative pizzas. Delight your customers and keep them coming back for more.
Karen Barr writes about arts, culture and cuisine. She is a graduate of George Brown College and a Red Seal pastry chef.
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