I realize my I-just-had-a-baby card is due to expire (or may have already) . . . but bear with me as I pull it anyway, one last time. On Monday, just after the rain stopped, I wandered into the backyard to assess the garden situation. One word: Bleak. It seems that last spring and summer, in the midst of my son's earliest and most dramatic months, the only thing I didn't mess up was the raspberry bush (phew!). The rest is a tangle of brown twigs and unruly weeds (some of which have pretty flowers, at least). And here's where that card comes in—I have zero interest in doing anything about it. Old me would have hastily pulled on weeding gloves and deadheaded with abandon. Instead, I took a few photos of the flowering weeds that currently stud (i.e. infest) our tiny patch of grass, then went back inside to relish the last hour of Jack's nap time. My subconscious nudged me later that night to create this primavera pizza, I assume as a mea culpa to the season I love the most . . . and to the garden I know I won't stay away from for long.
The only rule of any dish called primavera, according to the Food Lover's Companion, is that it has to feature fresh, spring vegetables. So here's my pizza take, with asparagus, leek, fennel, chives, and bacon (if you like that kind of thing). To mimic the white sauce in classic pasta primavera, I drizzled the pizza with heavy cream, then topped it with fresh-grated parmesan cheese before baking. The result strikes an ideal balance of creaminess and texture, letting the fresh vegetables steal the show.
Pizza Primavera (bacon optional)
- 1 small bunch asparagus ends snapped off and discarded
- 4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon roughly chopped
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large garlic clove very thinly sliced
- 1 small fennel bulb very thinly sliced
- 1 medium leek white and light green parts only, very thinly sliced into half-moons
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fennel fronds
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts toasted
- Place your pizza stone or steel (if using) on an oven rack in the middle of your oven. If you plan to cook your pizza on a baking sheet, just place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 500°F (or the highest temperature your oven will allow, if using a pizza stone/steel) and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes while you make the dough and/or prep the toppings.
To prep the toppings
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat, add the asparagus, and blanch for 2 minutes. When the timer goes off, immediately drain the asparagus in a colander and run it under cold water to stop the cooking and lock in the bright-green color.
- Place the bacon (if using) in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is cooked through but not crispy.
To stretch or roll out the dough
- Place the dough on a clean work surface and, using your hands, gently stretch it into a 12-inch circle or square, making sure that it retains an even thickness throughout. Alternatively, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle or square.
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel: Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet lightly with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel.
- If you’re using a baking sheet: Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the dough disk on the prepared baking sheet.
To top the pizza
- Brush the dough all over with olive oil, making sure to get all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then the garlic, fennel, and leek. Top with the asparagus and bacon (if using). Drizzle the cream evenly over everything and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
To bake the pizza
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel, 20 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, increase the oven heat to broil. Slide the pizza from the peel (or inverted baking sheet) to the hot stone or steel using quick shimmying movements. Broil the pizza until the crust is golden and the cheese begins to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Using the peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. If you are making more than one pizza, allow the pizza stone or steel to reheat under the broiler for 10 minutes before you cook the next one.
- If you’re using a baking sheet, do not increase the oven to broil. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Immediately after you take the pizza out of the oven, top with the fennel fronds, chives, and pine nuts, and season with a little more salt and pepper. Slice and serve.