Making dough with Diane: Use autumn’s fresh vegetables to harvest new recipes

Diane Chaisson
November 10, 2008
By Diane Chaisson
To celebrate the change in seasons, why not kick off the celebrations with an Autumn Harvest theme? Tied in with the ongoing trend to promote healthier lifestyles and eating habits, the new crop of vegetables the fall season offers would be a welcome addition to your pizza menu.

Over the past decade, the popularity of vegetarian pizzas has grown immensely, so this season is the perfect time to satisfy your vegetarian pizza customers with creative and innovative toppings. You might even be able to convert your meat lovers to try more veggies.

Autumn also offers a wide variety of inexpensive ways to decorate your operation, and to get your customers into the fall spirit. Here are a few simple ideas that you can try to effectively welcome in the new season:

1. Roast root vegetables
Root vegetables are the stars of autumn’s fresh produce, and when roasted, the sweetness that exudes from the flesh of the vegetables is sublime.

You probably already offer a few roasted vegetable items like eggplant and peppers, but why not add root vegetables to your toppings list? Parsnips, rutabagas, zucchini, beets and squash would make a colourful and healthful addition to your menu. Combined with goat cheese or Parmesan cheese, you have a real winner.

2. Give Brussels sprouts a chance
Most people have Brussels sprouts on their least-favourite foods list, but what many people do not realize is that once Brussels sprouts are roasted, they take on a whole new flavour, which is much more appealing than a bowl of boiled Brussels sprouts.

Try pairing roasted sliced Brussels sprouts with bacon and cheese on a pizza.

A key selling factor for Brussels sprouts is that they are highly nutritious. Plant phytonutrients found in the under-utilized vegetable enhance the activity of the body’s natural defense systems to protect against disease, including cancer.

To encourage your customers to try your roasted Brussels sprout pizza, offer free samples. And really, what doesn’t taste good with bacon?

3. Appeal to customers with gourmet palates
Artichokes are now considered a common topping for pizzas, but most usually come marinated in a jar or out of a can.

A fresh artichoke tastes entirely different. Because of their smaller size, baby artichokes would be perfect for a pizza topping. Although the preparation of fresh artichokes is somewhat labour-intensive, customers who appreciate good food would be willing to pay a little extra for something special. Combine roasted baby artichokes with capers and anchovies on a pizza, and you’ll have gourmets knocking down your door.

For lovers of French onion soup, the combination of oven-roasted onions with a hint of sherry and Swiss cheese would make for an intriguing pizza.

Over the years, leeks have also moved their way up the food chain from a component of mire poix for stocks to the star of its own dishes. A pizza made up of roasted leeks, mascarpone cheese and smoked salmon would amp up your gourmand clientele.

4. Don’t forget about autumn fruits
Figs are a wonderful autumn fruit that go hand in hand with blue cheese, so why not create a thin-crust pizza with a light layer of tomato sauce, topped with blue cheese, proscuitto and figs?

Grilled pears also pair well with a wide array of cheeses and greens, as well as nuts. Turn a popular salad combination by creating a white pizza with grilled pears, Roquefort cheese, toasted walnuts and arugula drizzled with walnut or olive oil.

For fun, do a twist on apple pie with cheddar cheese by creating an apple and aged cheddar pizza dusted with cinnamon sugar that can be sold as a dessert.

5. Create a pumpkin pizza
Halloween is such a huge event that we are inundated with recipes for black and orange foods every year. So how about offering an orange pizza shaped like a pumpkin – made of pumpkin?

A popular pasta dish is ravioli filled with pumpkin, drizzled with sage butter, which can easily be parlayed into a pizza. You can roast slices of butternut squash or pumpkin, and layer them on a pizza crust to make it look like a pumpkin.

To appeal to kids for dessert, offer small, sweet-crust pizzas dotted with colourful candies and chocolates. (But tell their parents they can only have the candy pizza if they try the Brussels sprout one first!)

6. Decorate accordingly
To get your Autumn Harvest theme going, you must also decorate your operation appropriately.
The fall season offers several inexpensive items that you can use to easily achieve this goal, with pumpkins leading the way.

Nothing states “fall has arrived” better than the sight of pumpkins. Use cornhusks, sheaves of wheat and a variety of gourds to decorate your countertops and shelves.

7. Promote, promote, promote
To kick off your Autumn Harvest, throw open your doors and invite locals to try out your new line of pizzas.
Prepare a large cauldron of hot, apple cider to get people in the mood. Offering free samples of your new pizzas is the only way to get pepperoni-and-cheese stalwarts to even consider ordering anything else.

Send flyers out within your neighbourhood to invite them to the launch of your Autumn Harvest. Include your new line of pizzas with tantalizing descriptions, and a coupon with a discount for the purchase of one of your new, seasonal pizzas.

For more than 25 years, Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been working with North America’s leading restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail owners and operators to deliver truly unique dining and shopping experiences for all their customers. Diane is recognized as an industry leader in providing innovative and creative foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design and marketing concepts. You can call her at 416-926-1338 or 1-888-926-6655, fax her at 416-921-6994, contact her via e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or visit her website at www.chiassonconsultants.com.

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