Continuing along this week’s theme of Things Jenny Cooked from Cookbooks While on Assignment, I’d like to present to you one last mind-blowing recipe: Joe Beddia’s Asparagus Pizza with Lemon and Spring Cream from his new book Pizza Camp. I don’t think it should come as a surprise to you that we eat a lot of pizza in our house. Seven years ago, when I was just starting this blog, Jim Lahey was the one to convince me that making it from scratch — dough and all — could be almost as fast and almost always more rewarding than dialing delivery. Pizza was both a family-friendly vehicle to showcase farmer’s market finds as well as an end-of-the-week depository for whatever was left in the fridge. As long as you have some dough defrosted, it’s the easiest thing in the world to roll out, top with cheese (or no cheese) and the last of the vegetables (or charcuterie spread), and call it dinner.
But to be clear, the asparagus pizza recipe below, from Beddia’s Pizza Camp, is not one of these throw-it-together-and-hope-for-the-best weeknight numbers. Beddia, who runs Pizzeria Beddia in Philadelphia did not earn his around-the-block lines by seeking out shortcuts. (For way more info on him and his book, please refer to the full round-up.) This pizza took me more than a day to make from start to finish, mostly because it calls for the dough to ferment in the fridge for 24 hours, a step very much worth taking if you had the foresight to plan for it. But if you didn’t, don’t worry. Even Beddia concedes you can use store-bought dough (he recommends buying one from your local pizzeria) and following his instructions from there. Might I recommend making it this weekend, while the asparagus is still abundant and the weather won’t prohibit you from turning your oven to 500°? Might I also recommend making two of them because the first will go very fast?
Also, a nice little end-of-the-week giveaway: I’m offering a free copy of the book to one commenter at random. Contest ends Saturday, June 10 at noon ET. Good luck! Update: The winner has been notified. Congrats Angela and thanks for playing everyone!
Asparagus, Spring Cream, Onion, Lemon Pizza
From Pizza Camp, by Joe Beddia (reprinted with permission)
Regarding the asparagus: You need to make sure that you get rid of the woodsy, inedible bottoms. The freshest cut stuff that you find at the farmers’ market is always best. Slice the spears into little coins. The thinner the better.
Related: Beddia’s Nine Rules for the Best Homemade Pizza of Your Life
1 ball of dough (about 1-pound/304 g)
⅔ cup (165 ml) Spring Cream (recipe below)
3 ounces (85 g) fresh mozzarella, pinched into small chunks
2 cups (220 g) shredded low-moisture mozzarella (the kinds that come in bags)
About 2 cups (270 g) chopped fresh asparagus
Fine sea salt
3 tablespoons grated hard cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon wedge
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Place your stone on the lowest shelf of your oven, then turn your oven to its highest temperature. Most ovens go to 500°F (260°C) and some to 550°F (287°C). Heat your stone for at least one hour before baking.
If you’re taking your dough out of the fridge, give it about 15 minutes or so to warm up a bit so it will be easier to work with. It should have doubled in size in the fridge. If it hasn’t, let it sit at room temperature, covered with a slightly damp towel, until it does.
Lightly flour your counter and your hands. Flip the dough into the flour bowl so the top side of the dough ball gets dusted first. Flip it once more, making sure that the dough is completely coated. Press the dough down into the flour, then pick it up and place it on the floured countertop.
Pressing your fingers firmly into the dough, start by flattening the center and work your way out toward the edge to make it wider, until it’s about 7 to 9 inches (17 to 23 cm) wide. Pushing down on the dough will release some of the gas and actually begin opening up the dough. Be careful not to disturb the outermost lip. This will eventually become your crust.
The next step is a bit tricky. Your goal is to take this disc of dough and carefully stretch it to about 14 to 16 inches (35.5 to 40.5 cm) without tearing it or creating a hole. I pick it up with floured hands and begin to gently stretch it over my fists, letting gravity do most of the work.
Once you’ve stretched it enough, put the dough back on the counter, making sure there is a generous dusting of flour underneath. Take a few generous pinches of semolina flour and dust your pizza peel. Make sure it’s coated evenly. Gently lift and transfer your dough to the peel. Make sure both your hands and the peel are well-floured. You are now ready to dress your pie.
Cover the dough with the spring cream, then add the mozzarellas. Now I like to add a very liberal amount of asparagus. Season with salt.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 4 minutes. The crust will rise significantly. Then change the oven setting from bake to broil, cooking the pizza from the top down until the crust begins to blister. The residual heat of the stone will continue to cook the bottom. (If your broiler is at the bottom of your oven, skip this step and continue to bake the pizza as described.) I cook all my pizzas until they’re well done, which could take up to 10 minutes total (sometimes less). Just keep checking so you don’t burn it. Look for the cheese to color and the crust to turn deep brown. It may blacken in spots, and that’s okay.
Finish with the grated hard cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, a spritz of fresh lemon juice from the wedge, and the chives.
Makes about 4 cups
1 handful of basil (10 to 20 leaves)
½ cup (25 g) chopped fresh fennel fronds
½ cup (25 g) chopped fresh chives
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large clove garlic, pressed or minced
Fat pinch of red pepper flakes
4 cups (960 ml) heavy cream
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black
pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Blend until slightly emulsified. It will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.
Photo credit: Randy Harris