Vegetarian pizza comes together on a pre-baked crust

Deb Lindsey/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST - Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza.

I’m a self-identified pizza obsessive; it’s one of my favorite ways to get my fill of vegetables. I love making my own dough when I have time — and freezing it for times when I don’t — but on any given weeknight, if my freezer is bare, I’m not ashamed to reach for a store-bought, pre-baked crust.

The benefits extend beyond mere time savings. When I make a no-knead dough from scratch and cook it under the broiler, I am restrained with the toppings to keep from overwhelming the crust and turning it soggy. Pre-baked crusts, on the other hand, are sturdy enough to hold a mountain of produce, making for a hearty vegetarian dinner.

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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The whole-wheat crust sold under the 365 Everyday Value brand at Whole Foods Market takes only about 20 minutes to finish baking, during which time it becomes crisp, reminding me of a good pastry crust (but with a bigger dose of healthful whole grains, of course). What to put on it? This time of year, I use a base of caramelized onions instead of tomato sauce. I top them with roasted butternut squash, a little blue cheese, walnuts (which toast as the pizza bakes) and, after it comes out of the oven, a scattering of fresh, sharp arugula. The finishing touch: a drizzle of pumpkinseed oil.

Caramelized onions, by the way, are a great thing to have on hand in late winter when local produce options have hit their nadir. They’re best made slowly, so the onions have time to release their sugars and get all jammy, a process that takes up to an hour or more. When done this way they require nothing more than a sprinkling of salt — no oil, even, as I discovered by accident. And you can make them ahead. But if you haven’t, here’s an idea: Quickly saute them until tender, then drizzle with honey.

On a weeknight, when the fridge and pantry are as bare as the freezer, everybody needs a shortcut.

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