We finally had a fleeting glimpse of summer; it reached 89 degrees yesterday, and the mid-80s today. The garden is growing so quickly you can almost watch the leaves unfurling.
I’ve planted seeds for zinnias, cosmos, nasturtium, basil and parsley. Something is sprouting there, but I can’t tell yet whether it’s what I planted or a healthy crop of weeds (far more likely). I just have to wait until I can recognize what’s growing, and then most likely have a weeding marathon.
Speaking of weeds and gardens, I just finished proofreading Brett Laidlaw’s new cookbook, called Trout Caviar after his eponymous food blog. He finds delectable uses for some of the weeds in his garden (such as stinging nettles), but also cooks with food he grows, forages, and buys from local purveyors. He also happens to write like a dream; I was as
envious admiring of his essays on life in the Northwoods as I was of his mouthwatering recipes. Look for his book later this year.
Anyway, while I was buying the last of the bedding plants at the farmers’ market, I picked up a gorgeous bunch of local asparagus. A quick search for asparagus recipes sent me, as is so often the case, to Deb at Smitten Kitchen’s site, and her amazing shaved asparagus pizza. I had dough on hand, and the appropriate cheeses, and I’d only need the oven for a brief blast of heat.
The asparagus is peeled — and peeled and peeled, until you have nothing left but a beautiful pile of thin green and white ribbons. It’s tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few thinly sliced scallions, then piled on a cheese-covered crust and baked in a blisteringly hot oven. The result is light, beautiful, and full of flavor. The pizza is cooked so quickly that some of the asparagus retains its raw crunch, and some becomes brown and crisp.
I layered some shreds of prosciutto under the asparagus. It added a subtle saltiness and a hint of pink peeking out among the green shards.
It was fabulous as is, but I’d also try it with a bit of homemade ricotta and/or pesto as a base layer too. Black olives would be a great stand-in for the prosciutto, as would a bit of crisped pancetta. Give it a try, and let me know what you think. And thanks again to Smitten Kitchen for yet another fabulous inspiration.
Asparagus Prosciutto Pizza
dough for a 12-14-inch pizza
1 lb. fresh asparagus
1 tbs. olive oil, about
1 tsp. lemon juice (from 1/4 lemon), optional
1 good pinch sea salt
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
1 cup grated mozzarella
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper*, optional
2 oz. prosciutto
Heat the oven to 500 degrees F. If you’re using a pizza stone, put it in the cold oven to heat. If not, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.
Hold a stalk of asparagus by its thick, woody end and cut into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Unless you have really thick asparagus and the world’s best peeler, you won’t have flawless, Martha Stewart-worthy ribbons. Don’t worry about it — you just need the pieces to be fairly thin and flexible. Put the asparagus in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, squeeze on the lemon, and sprinkle with salt. Set aside while you prepare the crust.
Pat your dough out to a circle or rectangle and place on the cookie sheet, or on a peel if you’re using a stone. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the parmesan, then with all of the mozzarella. Add the Aleppo, then arrange the prosciutto over the cheese. Mound the asparagus on top, and finish with the last of the parmesan.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the crust is golden and the asparagus is browned and crisp in spots.
*I get my Aleppo pepper at Penzey’s. Aleppo is a dried chile from Turkey that’s a bit sweeter and smokier than your standard hot red pepper flakes. It contains no seeds, and is not as hot as that old Italian standby. I use a little bit in almost everything.