Saturday, April 09, 2011

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Bear with me. I know it looks awfully green, and sounds kind of weird, but if you like asparagus, you're going to love this.

My friend Sam told me about this. She posted the link to this Smitten Kitchen recipe on Twitter, and once I saw it I knew I had to make it. I had a bunch of asparagus left in the fridge from last week's Bountiful Basket, so the timing on finding this was perfect.

I used whole wheat pizza dough from the refrigerator section at Fresh and Easy instead of making my own. I'm out of olive oil and dang Whole Foods always seems to be out of the big bottles of the local brand I like. My preferred pizza dough is Pioneer Woman's recipe, but the F&E one is pretty good in a pinch.

My tips for a perfect not-soggy-in-the-center crust?

*Use a pizza stone if you have one. I use a Pampered Chef rectangle stone and it's perfect. You can also use a large, unglazed, terra cotta tile in a pinch according to Alton Brown.

* Make your oven as hot as possible. I set mine at 500 degrees F. Let it preheat for 45 minutes. An hour is even better.

*Leave the stone inside while the oven preheats, so that the stone will be as hot as the oven. Yes, I know those nice folks over at Pampered Chef say not to do that, but that is due to causing extreme temperature changes that may crack the stone. Since I don't take it out of the oven it's not an issue. I've been doing this for a couple of years and my stone is fine.

* Spread your dough out on PARCHMENT PAPER. This is key! No need for flour or cornmeal because the parchment won't let it stick, yet is thin enough that the crust will cook properly. (I got that tip from Saveur magazine!) Bonus - no messy cornmeal or flour all over your hands and clothes while you eat!

*Once your dough is ready, pop it in the oven with NO TOPPINGS. Trust me on this! Open the oven, use a mitt to pull out the rack with the stone on it far enough that you can get the pizza on it, pick up the pizza with the parchment and plop it on the stone. The parchment will not burn up and set your pizza on fire, I promise. Bake it for three minutes, then take it out and place it on a cutting board or cooling rack. You can just lift it off the stone using the parchment. It won't be hot. Leave the stone in the oven.

*Top your pizza, then place it back into the oven until the cheese is melted and the edges of the crust are a nice golden brown. Again, lift it out with the parchment and leave the stone in the oven. It will cool off along with the oven when you turn it off, thus, no extreme temperature changes that may cause it to crack.

I make my pizza kind of rectangular to get the maximum usage out of my rectangular stone. The only thing I did differently than the recipe was to use thinly sliced shallots under the Parmesan cheese because I was out of scallions. I only used half the mozzarella cheese that was called for in the recipe because I don't like a lot of cheese on my pizza. Half a pound seemed like a bit much! I also brushed a little bit of olive oil on the crust before I put anything on it.

If you're looking for something new to do with asparagus, or you need a new dish for Lenten Fridays or Meatless Mondays, I definitely encourage you to try this!

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