Shaved Asparagus Pizza

Shaved Asparagus Pizza from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Asparagus has never been hard to cook. You could steam it or blanch it or roast it or grill it, or, if you're tired enough of cooking that day, will it to cook itself with the power of your own mind. Oh, you never do that? Huh. Nevertheless, I don't often tackle asparagus on my website, because I usually feel it's all been done before, and what hasn't been done - well maybe it shouldn't be (asparagus sorbet, anyone?). But two years ago, I was in a restaurant that served it shaved raw into ribbons, dressed with only lemon and olive oil, and Parmesan, and this changed asparagus for me. Never had it tasted so green and vibrant; never had it looked so little like logs on a plate, but rather an elegant heap of twisted ribbons. 

It wasn't long before asparagus landed on a pizza. It's true, if I love something I will eventually make a pizza out of it, which might be why my toddler sometimes looks nervous around me. Throwing things onto a pizza dough with cheese doesn't always make something transcendent (somewhere in my husband's future tell-all, there's a story about chewy white-bean pizza), but this one exceeded expectations: tangled and grassy, bubbly and lightly charred, accented with mild bites of spring onion, the raw asparagus wilted from the heat of the baked pizza. It became something to look forward to when the first stalks of asparagus appear after a winter too long, too cold, and too filled with formats of squash and greens, and it never kept you waiting for too long, either. Once you've made (or procured) your pizza dough, you can probably get it on your table in 20 minutes. See? Now you're listening. 

For how many? Makes 1 thin-crust 30cm pizza

Ingredients

  • 225g asparagus
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • several grinds of black pepper
  • 350g pizza dough, ready to go
  • 20g grated Parmesan
  • 225g mozzarella, shredded or cut into small cubes
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to its highest temperature - about 240c in most cases. If you use a pizza stone, place it in the oven. 

2. Prepare the asparagus. No need to snap off the 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. Use a vegetable peeler; a Y-shaped peeler works best here, but I've successfully made this with a standard old would also work, in theory, but I found it more difficult to use for this. With your peeler of choice, create long shavings of asparagus by drawing the peeler from the base to the top of the asparagus stalk. Repeat with remaining stalks, and don't fret if some pieces are unevenly thick (such as the end of the stalk, which might be too thin to peel); the mixed textures give the pizza character. Discard the tough ends. Toss the peelings with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and be sure to try one - I bet you can hardly believe how good raw asparagus can taste. 

3. Assemble and bake pizza. Roll or stretch out your pizza dough to a 30cm round. Transfer either to a floured or polenta-dusted pizza peel (if using a pizza stone in the oven) or to a flour or polenta-dusted baking sheet. Sprinkle the pizza dough with Parmesan, then mozzarella. Pile the asparagus on top. Bake the pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the edges are browned, the cheese is bubbly, and the asparagus might be lightly charred. Remove from the oven, immediately sprinkle with spring onions, then slice and eat. 

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