Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shaved Asparagus Pizza with Green Garlic and Spring Onions

I shied away from making pizza at home for years, convincing myself that homemade pizza could never be good. It is a shame because I really do love pizza. After years of searching for good thin crust pizza in Chicago, a city obsessed with deep dish and stuffed pizza, the thin crust pizzerias around SF are a welcome change. We regularly get take out pizza from Zero Zero, endure the long wait at Pizzeria Delfina for a taste of wonderful goodness, and recently we discovered cracker-thin pizza at A16, where we sat in awe-struck silence at the kitchen table watching the chef artfully stretch dough, add toppings, and slide pizza after pizza into the hot, wood burning oven without ever missing a beat.  Given how much we love pizza, it is surprising that we haven't made it yet at Plate and Pour yet!

And now I am kicking myself for not trying to make pizza at home before because it really is simple and perfectly delicious!

Given the armloads of asparagus and green garlic I recently acquired in my CSA box, I immediately decided that my first homemade pizza should be topped with shaved asparagus and green garlic. Last year I raved about a salad of shaved asparagus tossed with lemon, olive oil, salt, pepper, and pecorino. Of course this perfect way to celebrate spring goodness would taste even more amazing on top of pizza!

Even after we took on task of making the dough at home, I feared that without a pizza stone the crust would be laughable. Boy oh boy was I wrong! Mario Batali has a wonderful recipe for homemade dough that actually gets crisp at home and doesn't require a pizza stone! The pizza dough is parcooked on a hot cast iron skillet before adding the toppings and going in the oven. The result: a simply perfect thin-crust with a light, crisp bite.

The steps are simple and easy to execute with or without a processor or mixer. Activate the yeast and let it become foamy, whisk it into the flour, and knead the dough lightly until smooth and elastic. Turn the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1.5 hours. Can't find a place warm enough? Turn your oven on to 150 degrees (or the lowest temperature setting). Once the oven is preheated, turn it off and let the dough rise inside covered with a clean kitchen towel for 1 to 1.5 hours until doubled in size.Trust me, it works!

Divide the dough into balls. Stretch the dough into a 9 or 10 inch round, working quickly and taking care not to overwork the dough. Parbake the dough on a hot cast iron skillet until tan and browned in a few spots, Transfer to a wire rack or baking sheet, top each pizza with toppings, return to cast iron, and broil it for 7-8 minutes until crust is charred and blistered in spots and ingredients are cooked through. You may need to move the pizza around so it doesn't burn. The cast iron retains the heat and gets hot enough to crispen the crust.

Shaved asparagus and green garlic pizza
6 asparagus stalks, shaved using a vegetable peeler
2 green garlic, shredded using the coarse side of a box grater or finely sliced
1 spring onion, sliced into thin rungs
1 cup mozzarella cheese, diced or shredded
1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan
olive oil
2 roughly 9 to 10 inch rounds from Pizza Dough recipe below

Lay the asparagus stalk on a flat surface and hold by the end of the stalk (the part that you would normally snap off). Using a vegetable peeler, shave off layers of asparagus. Once the stalk becomes uneven it will become more difficult to shave the asparagus. If you lay the stalk at an angle against the edge of the counter it is easier to shave off additional layers. It is OK if the shavings have different thickness- it adds a nice textural contrast!

Drizzle the shaved asparagus with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper. Toss to mix well. 

Sprinkle parbaked crust with parmesan cheese leaving roughly a 1/2 inch border. Arrange diced (or shredded) mozzarella cheese evenly across the crust. Scatter the spring onions and half of the green garlic. Top with shaved asparagus and sprinkle the remaining green garlic over the top.

Place pizza with toppings into the cast iron. Slide under broiler for 7 to 8 minutes until toppings are heated and cooked through and crust is charred and blistered in spots. Watch closely so it doesn't burn and move the pizza around as neccessary. Remove from oven, sprinkle with red chili flakes. Cut into slices and serve immediately.

Pizza Dough (adapted from Mario Batali)

1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 ounce package active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 1/2 cups zero zero flour
scant 1 tbsp salt (the original recipe calls for 2 tbsp, but I found it to be way too salty)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
semolina for dusting

Whisk the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl. Let stand in a warm place for 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk and combine gently for 5 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add yeast mixture and oil with mixer on low. Continue to mix, gradually increasing mixer speed to medium-high until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to lightly floured surface and finish kneading.

Transfer dough to a large oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1.5 hours, until doubled in size.

Punch down and turn dough out onto a well floured work surface. Divide dough into 8 pieces and shape each into a ball. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand 15 minutes before stretching.

Dust surface with semolina. Meanwhile heat the cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot (about 375). Using your hands, press and stretch the dough into a 9 to 10 inch round. Work quickly and take care not to overwork the dough, or it will become limp and sticky. Slope a slightly thicker rim all around the perimeter of the dough. You can use a rolling pin to roll out the dough if you prefer, and you may need to sprinkle the rolling pin with flour to prevent it from sticking.

Transfer the dough round to the hot cast iron and cook until tan on the first side and browned in a few spots, 2 to 3 minutes. As crust cooks, if any parts remain uncooked, press them against the pan so they cook. Flip crust over and cook until second side is dry and tan.

Transfer crust to wire rack or baking sheet and allow to cool. Repeat with remaining dough. Or store the remaining dough individually wrapped in plastic wrap in a freezer bag in the freezer and defrost the dough for a couple hours before using.

Place barbaked pizza in cast iron. Spread with desired toppings. Slide under broiler for 7 to 8 minutes until toppings are heated and cooked through and crust is charred and blistered in spots. Watch closely so it doesn't burn and move the pizza around as neccessary.

Makes dough for 8 roughly 9 to 10 inch thin rounds.


  1. Mmmmmmmmmm..... glad to see the CSA going to good use. Great recipe!

  2. I need this ASAP, yum yum

  3. Nowcraving- come on over for dinner! Craig- the CSA is amazing. This week I got fava beans and artichokes!


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