Asparagus Pizza

If I showed you a picture of the ingredients (sans pizza crust) and hadn’t given away the recipe in the title, would have guessed this was the makings of one awesome pizza?

There is no tomato sauce. There is no meat (sorry, Suzie).  It basically two cheeses, two veggies and some seasoning. The original recipe comes via the forever fabulous Smitten Kitchen and is as follows:

1 recipe Really Simple Pizza Dough or your favorite pizza dough
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to the hottest temperature it goes, or about 500 in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, have it in there.

Prepare asparagus: No need to snap off ends; they can be your “handles” as you peel the asparagus. Holding a single asparagus spear by its tough end, lay it flat on a cutting board and using a vegetable peeler (a Y-shaped peeler works best here, but I only had a standard, old and pretty dull peeler and it still worked; a mandolin would also work, in theory, but I found it more difficult to do it that way), create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks and don’t fret some pieces are unevenly thick (such as the end of the stalk, which might be too thin to peel); the mixed textures give a great character to the pizza. Discard tough ends. Toss peelings with olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and be sure to try one — I bet you can hardly believe how good raw asparagus can taste.

Assemble and bake pizza: Roll or stretch out your pizza dough to a 12-inch round. Either transfer to a floured or cornmeal-dusted pizza peel (if using a pizza stone in the oven) or to a floured or cornmeal-dusted tray to bake it on. Sprinkle pizza dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile asparagus on top. Bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle with scallions, then slice and eat.

I’m going to simply this greatly by two moves. First, I use a Boboli crust instead of baking my own. I went with the original crust, but a thin crust would work as well. Second, screw that shaving business. For one, I don’t have any of those utensils. For another, I can envision shaved skin mixed in with shaved asparagus and frankly that’s none too appetizing.

So what’s the alternative to shaving? I’ll tell you in a second, but first how to prep the asparagus. Besides washing it, you need to break off the blunt ends. Why? Because they are tough and tough is not tasty. Grab the blunt end in one hand and the remaining portion in the other hand (about half way). Bend and it should break where it needs to.

Fresh asparagus will easily break with a nice snap. If it doesn’t and just continues to bend, then you’ve got yourself some aging asparagus. You should end up with a stack of spears similar to this (the pile on the right):

So what’s my alternative to shaving? I cut it into 1/4 inch long pieces. I take all the prepped spears, line them up parallel with each other and start chopping off 1/4 inch pieces.  Its quick work and involves no band-aids or stitches.

Returning to the recipe, coat the asparagus with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and one addition offered by SK (but omitted from the above) — a dash or two of red pepper flakes.

You could eat this as-is and be a happy camper. The taste is amazing.

I make one more substitution. Instead of a scallion, I use a small red onion. First, the color is a nice contrast to asparagus. Second, the first time I made this pizza I was out of scallions and only had a red onion. Third, I liked the result of the substitution and have stuck with it.

Before I continue, a note on cheeses. I used REAL cheeses for this recipe. The Parmesan is shaved from a wedge and not that nasty shit that comes in the green can. It was purchased from HT in the high dollar cheese section (labeled Parmesan Reggiano). The Mozzarella was from the cheese ladies at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. If you go back to the first photo you’ll see that its a ball of cheese and comes packaged in liquid. It is not a block shrink wrapped in plastic nor is it pre-shredded in a plastic package. You can also purchase Mozzarella such as this at HT. It comes in plastic containers and is also found in the high dollar cheese section. Substitute if you like, but the taste will not be the same (and I will give you all sorts for grief for doing so).

As for assembly, I coated the crust with a light amount of extra-virgin olive oil (always do) before applying the ingredients. Parmesan first, then the Mozzarella (I break it off instead of chopping it). Asparagus next, followed by the onions. I cook my pizzas at 425º on a pizza stone and this one takes about 12 to 15 minutes.

The finished pie. Goes really well with the Two Buck Chuck Shiraz from Trader Joe’s.

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~ by Genevieve on 2010.07.04.

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