Friday, May 13, 2011

shaved asparagus pizza

Hallelujah, people, spring has come!

Yes, yes, maybe it did snow twice last week and we got humidity, 85, and severe thunderstorms yesterday, and you're probably thinking "Hm, what are you so excited about? Have you seen the weather these last six months?"

But I'm trying to be optimistic here--as I've been trying to do for quite some time now. It's all I can do. So I will continue rejoicing. Winter. Is. Over. Say it! Well, if you still need convincing, I'll help you out by making a list of reasons that it no longer appears to be winter. Here goes:

1. The grass is a deep, glorious shade of green that I feel like I haven't seen in ages.
2. The trees have leaves. And are full of birds. Birds don't live here in the winter, you know.
3. I haven't seen a snowplow in at least three weeks.
4. The last ice that fell from the sky was not classified by flake size or as "pellets," but rather likened to golf balls and quarters, and brought with it considerable anxiety for all who have to park their cars outside.
5. I managed to acquire an impressive sunburn last weekend. It's fine now, don't worry.
6. We've taken up napping in the sunshine in the hammock on our balcony--be jealous.
7. Tulips and daffodils. And lots of other flowers I don't know the names of.
8. My roommate has begun drinking ridiculous amounts of cold tea.
9. I don't have to go to school anymore. For a while. 
10. We are currently in possession of rhubarb and asparagus. Which does it for me--as far as food goes, it's definitely spring, as far as I'm concerned.

I hope you are convinced. If not, you've got some ridiculous standards.

Anyway, on to the point of this post. Which is rhubarb and asparagus, of course--how did you know?! Okay, I'll probably just stick to asparagus for this one, in the interest of not making it so long that you lose interest.

So my family actually grows asparagus--to sell. Like when the season really gets going, we cut hundreds of pounds of asparagus. So. Much. Asparagus. By the time late June rolls around, we are sick of it. Can you even imagine?! Sick of asparagus! I know, it sounds absolutely impossible. Well, it's possible, let me tell you. Fortunately, because we can't have it for 10.5 months of the year (and I won't eat it any other time), every time the snow leaves and spring rolls around again, it's all we want. And it's so good. So worth the wait, and so worth eating ourselves sick of it. Mmmm. I was lucky enough to make it home for a short while last weekend, and before I left, my lovely mother presented me with the first asparagus of the season (gasp! swoon!)--the very first. Spoon was overjoyed as well, and proceeded to enjoy asparagus sauteed in butter as her bedtime snack. Don't act surprised. You know we do things like this.

I had come across an interesting concept a while ago, and had stored it away in my mind for spring, when there would be asparagus. Asparagus + mozzarella + parmesan + dough....yes, asparagus pizza. And I know, we've written kind of a lot about pizza on here, but come on--nothing like this. This isn't like anything you've heard of before. And you're probably thinking that it sounds absolutely terrible, but you're wrong. Oh so wrong. Step outside of your box. Really.

This caught my eye partly because it was gorgeous, partly because it was fascinating, and mostly because it was a really crazy way to use asparagus. You don't just chop up asparagus for this pizza--you shave it into thin, curly strips and toss it with olive oil. Then you stretch your dough, top it with fabulous cheese, and cover the whole thing with your asparagus shavings. And no, there's no sauce. It's supposed to be that way--get out of your box--we already talked about this. Top it off with some crushed red pepper, a little lemon zest, and into the oven it goes, to get all charred and melty and delicious.

But oh goodness, you need to try this. We're going to recommend having it with white wine in the company of people who make you happy, but in reality this pizza is so fabulous, that it will probably make you unreasonably joyful no matter what. Really, though, white wine and awesome people. Just saying.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 12-inch pizza

1 recipe your favorite pizza dough (we may have cheated this time and gotten some from Trader Joe. It's cool)
1/2 pound asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes (get the good, whole-milk stuff--none of that part-skim nonsense)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Several grinds black pepper
1 scallion, thinly sliced
crushed red pepper flakes
zest of 1 lemon

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 (or a sharp-ish little paring knife, which is what we used, since our peelers weren't quite working out), 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. You should probably try a few, too--raw asparagus is actually quite delicious. And if you're like me, you're going to want to be eating while you're cooking anyway.

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. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper and lemon zest. It's going to be pretty.

Bake pizza for 8 to 10 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.

 Happy spring! And sorry it's been so long--we'll talk again soon.



  1. Your family grows asparagus?!?! That is awsome! I am so jealous ;)! This pizza looks amazing, piled high with one of my favorite spring veggies! Yum!

  2. Oh, wow. That looks so good. I've never seen shaved asparagus before.