Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shaved Asparagus, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza

Yes, eating seasonally has become a very popular thing to do, and it's for a reason. When local fruits and vegetables are eaten in their prime of their life, they taste the best, have the most nutrients, and generally are at their peak in terms of appearance, some very ugly heirloom tomatoes withstanding.

Asparagus and purple asparagus are delicious in spring and early summer. It's lovely on the grill, seasoned simply with sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, a bit of good balsamic vinegar, and some shaved curls of parmigiano-reggiano wouldn't hurt. Buy it when it's in season, grown locally. The usual grocery store stuff probably has hundreds if not thousands of miles on it. That's not fresh.

The best part of the asparagus is the tip, from there you can bend the spear until it breaks, that is the point that usually yields to the tougher end. That part tastes like wood, which isn't so good. Then you could grill, roast, or saute in a skillet with oil. Here, we slice off the tips, cut off the bottom couple inches (approx. breaking point), and shave with a veggie peeler. Cut into thin ribbons, the heat from the oven will cook and thus caramelize the asparagus nicely, providing a sweet, nutty, vegetal flavor to your pie.

Shaved Asparagus, Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese Pizza-

For the pizza dough-
1 ts or one packet of self-rising yeast, 1 C of warm water, add 1 ts honey and stir well. Let sit until nice and bubbly, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile, add 1 ts kosher salt, 2 ts EVOO, 2.25 C bread flour (king arthur preferred) into the bowl of your stand mixer. Or a large bowl if hand kneading. Add wet to dry and stir to incorporate, then knead using the dough hook for about 5 minutes. The dough will become shiny and elastic. Turn out onto very lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 1-2 minutes, then shape into a ball. Rub or spray a little oil on the inside of the bowl, add your dough ball and toss around, then cover with a kitchen towel and place in a draft-free area for about 1.5-2 hrs, until the dough has doubled in size. Turn out and punch down, cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel until ready to use. Can be parked in fridge too, bring to room temp when ready. Don't have a stand mixer? Knead by hand for 10 minutes. Go buy stand mixer.

For the caramelized onions-(while the dough rises)
Peel, halve, and thinly slice a couple onions. Add a touch of EVOO or butter to a large skillet over low heat, add onion and stir to coat with your fat of choice. If you got a sizzle going, the heat is too high. This ain't no saute, it's a sweat. Cook over low heat, do not stir for the first 15-20 minutes, otherwise you will inhibit the browning process. You can stir a few times after that, and you want them to be evenly spread while cooking. Cook until nicely browned, about 45 minutes. A pinch of sugar helps if you want to speed up the process.

The assembly-
prepared pizza dough
1 bunch asparagus- tips removed, shaved
3/4 C caramelized onion
2-3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Freshly cracked black pepper
red chili flakes (optional)

This is really simple- roll out your dough, dock (prick to let gas bubbles escape) with a fork or small knife. Add to a pizza peel that has been sprinkled with corn meal. Coat lightly with EVOO, then add the caramelized onions. Layer the shaved asparagus on top, then the crumbled goat cheese. Season with black pepper and perhaps chili flake. Bake on a pizza stone (or inverted cookie sheet) in a 500F (preheated for 30 min) oven until crisply and bubbly, about 10-12 minutes. Shave some parm reg on top and devour.

And as a bonus, it might make your pee smell funny.

You know it's early June when you got some purple asparagus at the farmer's market and the Cubs are already 9.5 games back. 103 years and counting.....

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