I wasn’t planning on posting another asparagus recipe this spring. Really, I wasn’t. But the local asparagus is still so gorgeous at the farmers market that I find myself buying it every week. Then this recipe landed in my in-box last week in a newsletter from Pizza Antica and all bets were off.
Chef and owner Gordon Drysdale is a pizza genius who’s turned his original pizzeria at San Jose’s Santana Row into a mini-chain with locations in Lafayette and Mill Valley. I’ll never be able to replicate his thin crust but I’m grateful that he’s willing to give out some of his recipes now that I don’t get into San Jose that often.
The secret of this recipe is great asparagus and preserved lemon, that marvelous salty, tart condiment from the Middle East. You can make your own, but it takes time. Or look for it in Middle Eastern markets. The pizza is best with the real thing but you also can substitute the zest of a lemon, as I did in the photo above, for a touch of citrus tang that sets off the fresh flavor of roasted asparagus. An extra sprinkle of sea salt will help balance the flavors.
Drysdale also calls for roasted garlic, which serves as a mellow, nutty backdrop to the asparagus and fresh mozzarella. If you want to skip that step, mince a couple of garlic cloves and use them instead. Just be sure to cover the minced garlic well with the other toppings so it doesn’t burn in the high heat of the oven. My garlic-loving spouse prefers this version.
For the asparagus, the chef advises slicing it thinly and I’m sure that works best with fat stalks. For slender stalks, though, it’s better to cut them into lengths of 1½ to 2 inches. They’ll cook through quickly in the oven.
I’ve included a pizza dough recipe from a previous post if you need one. Trader Joe’s pizza dough is good, too, and a bargain at about $1 a package.
If you’re running out of fresh ideas for spring’s best vegetable, try this pizza. It’s so good, I had to share.
1 10-inch pizza
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon roasted garlic puree
½ cup grated fresh whole milk mozzarella
1½ cups thinly sliced raw asparagus
1 tablespoon dried preserved lemon
1 teaspoon tarragon leaves, snipped
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone inside.
Roll out dough very thinly and paint with olive oil. Paint dough with the roasted garlic puree, leaving 1 inch from the edge.
Sprinkle a layer of grated fresh mozzarella over all. Place a layer of asparagus over the cheese, packing slices closely together but not on top of one another. Sprinkle Parmesan, salt and pepper on top and bake for 4-5 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.
Remove from oven, top with preserved lemon and tarragon, and serve.
Gordon Drysdale, chef and owner of Pizza Antica