Friday, June 4, 2010

Shaved Asparagus Pizza

The shaved asparagus craze continues!  Last Saturday, my dad prepared a fine shaved asparagus salad, as seen here.  It was doused in a lemony vinaigrette and crowned with dabs of goat cheese and cherry tomatoes.  There was no raw edge whatsoever!  A vegetable that I once only knew in its cooked form (and a lovely form it is!), asparagus has reinvented itself as a shaved and raw delicacy.  Asparagus is having a (unique) moment.  I will say that the shaved asparagus echoes a zucchini carpaccio I have known and loved.  I will have to dig that one up again when zuke season rolls around.  Any day now ...
 Smitten Kitchen also featured shaved asparagus this week, though hers was shaved but not raw, adorning a simple white pizza.  I thought this was some kind of divine suggestion, so I heeded and made the pizza last night, after returning home from a work-related party.  The preparation allowed the asparagus to really shine.  I've done my share of asparagus pizzas (remember this?), and they are tasty, but this elevated asparagus pizza to a whole new level.  The shavings, plus lack of sauce, created a delicate texture and a clean taste.  It was simple: asparagus, mozzarella, parmesan, green onion, and a smattering of red pepper flakes.  I wavered at first on the white pizza aspect, snagging a can of marinara to bring home with me in case I felt desperate and untrusting.  I am not one to respect a recipe.  But sometimes I just have to take a leap of faith, and I am thankful that I did.  I think the most this pizza would benefit from would be a couple halved cherry tomatoes, but even that would detract from the simplicity and clean flavors. 
 If you like asparagus, and if you are intrigued by the shaving phenomenon, I recommend this pizza!  One caveat - mine got pretty wet.  I think it was a combination of a mile-high pile of green veggies plus the fresh mozzarella.  Next time, to cut down on the liquid, I would use a regular mozzarella from the deli aisle, like the kind you would use for a killer twelve-pound lasagna, and eschew the fresh mozzarella.
 Also, a tip.  Shaving the asparagus isn't quite as labor intensive as one would imagine, assuming you employ an efficient technique.  Keep the woody ends of the asparagus attached, rather than snapping them off.  Use these as a handle, and use a veggie peeler to shave in one motion from woody end to tip.  I found it easiest to work at the very edge of the counter so that my hand didn't hit its surface in the middle of the shaving motion.  I also didn't obsessed over shaving down the last part as thinly as the first couple of strokes.  If the remaining stalk was a bit thick, I used my knife to slice it in half lengthwise, or just broke it in two pieces.  There is beauty in non-uniformity with this pizza!  The variety of texture adds interest to an uncluttered palette.

P.S. A quick search shows that I am, indeed, a bit tardy to the shaved asparagus party.  Food & Wine featured a shaved asparagus salad in June 2003.  Martha shared one in April 2007.  But it's new to me, so I'm going to continue to believe that asp. v. 2.0 is a novelty.
Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Adapted, just barely, from Smitten Kitchen
Note: You can use your own pizza dough recipe here.  This recipe makes one 12-inch pizza, so plan accordingly.  Of course I prefer homemade dough, but when you get home at 8 on a work night and didn't make it in advance, that's just not part of the narrative.  I used Trader Joe's dough because it has reliable, if thick, results.

pizza dough - enough for one 12-inch pizza (such as Trader Joe's prepared dough)
1 bunch asparagus, washed
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 pound mozzarella, sliced into small cubes or shredded (hint: try a low-moisture version)
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt & black pepper to taste
3 green onions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Pizza likes a hot blast when it goes in, so make sure it heats for at least 20 or 30 minutes; if you use a pizza stone, place it in the cold oven and then turn it on to preheat.

If your dough needs to rest for a few minutes before rolling out, do that as you prepare the asparagus.   Make sure you place the dough on a well-floured surface while it rests at room temperature.

To shave the asparagus, use a vegetable peeler; hold the woody end and shave from the woody end down toward the tip in one motion, repeating to create long shavings.  Any thicker remaining slices can be cut with a knife or snapped in half.  Use the tips!  They don't shave very well, and that is totally okay.  Shave your whole bunch and place in a medium bowl.  Add the olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste; stir using tongs.  Set aside while you prepare the pizza.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle.  Drape onto a pizza pan dusted with cornmeal or flour, or onto a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel if you will be using the pizza stone.  Sprinkle the parmesan over the dough, leaving a one-inch border for the crust.  Spread the mozzarella over the parmesan, then add the asparagus with your tongs.  Arrange it so that most of the surface is covered.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes.  Pop it in the oven and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and browning in spots, and the crust is golden brown.   Let it site for 2 minutes before slicing, otherwise you will have a melty mess on your hands!

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