Hello Heavenly Spring Harvest! Pizza with Arugula and Fresh Asparagus…
Although it’s been nearly a decade since my last visit to Italy, I used to travel to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast every summer. During that time, I fell in love with the simple peasant-style pizza, (no red sauce or gooey cheese), I found along the coast. Fresh local cheese sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with barely wilted arugula or other greens, was all the deliciously chewy, crispy, hot crust needed to make pure magic for the taste buds.
These days, it seems like everyone I know has their own preferred method for baking pizza, and some even have a secret recipe for dough. One of my longtime friends regularly makes pizza on the grill for summer gatherings, and another adventurous pair I know went so far as to actually build a wood fired pizza/bread oven, (yes, their pizza and bread are both killer). But as far as I am concerned, homemade pizza with garden fresh toppings is delicious no matter how you bake it – and I never seem to get tired eating it.
In springtime, arugula, spinach and asparagus are plentiful in my backyard potager, as they are in most parts of the country, and right now, the leafy greens are particularly tasty and productive. Given the abundance, I have been enjoying fresh pasta or risotto with wilted greens on a near-nightly basis. Still, with my hectic gardening schedule -andÂ all of the intense physical work that goes with it- I have been craving something a bit more substantial for weeks. Finally, I found a couple of free hours to make two of my favorite springtime treats – arugula topped pizza, and an asparagus topped twin- a little bit of Italy, just in time for the weekend…
Pizza with fresh arugula, tomatoes and goat cheese. Pizza this light pairs nicely with a chilled sauvignon blanc, pale ale or, alternately a lively, classic chianti…
Homemade Pizza with Fresh Greens
Basic Pizza Dough (Makes two 14″ pizza crusts)
2 1/4 Â Â Â Â Â teaspoon active dry yeast, (one envelope packet)
1Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 Â Â Â Â Â cups warm water
3 1/3 Â Â Â Â Â cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 Â Â Â Â Â teaspoons kosher salt
3Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â tablespoons olive oil
3Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â tablespoons corn meal for stone/pan
Add warm water to a liquid measuring cup and combine with sugar and yeast. Allow mixture to stand approximately 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. In a food processor fitted with a dough blade, add flour and salt and combine. Pour yeast mixture through the liquid feed tube and combine for approximately three minutes. Pour olive oil through feed tube and process for five more minutes. When dough forms a ball, without sticking to sides of the bowl, remove to floured surface. If dough continues to stick to the sides of the bowl, add small amounts of flour, (no more than a tablespoon at a time), until the dough forms a moist ball.
Preheat oven, with a pizza stone if you have one, to 450 degrees fahrenheit, (with pizza stone in place if you have one)
Roll dough on the floured surface, kneading and turning until smooth and elastic. Coat with oil and set in a covered bowl to rise 30 minutes.
Press and roll out and rotate each dough lump until 15″ circles are formed. I like to form a ridge with my thumbs to define the edge of the pizza crust. Sprinkle the pizza pan, sheet or peel with cornmeal. Drizzle the surface each crust with olive oil and a bit of parmesan. Place in the hot oven.
Bake pizza crusts for 8-10 minutes, and remove from oven to cool while you cover with toppings, (crusts may also be refrigerated for later use).
1/2 cup fresh washed baby arugula
1 Â Â dozen or so lightly steamed asparagus spears
1-2 thinly sliced tomatoes
1/4 cup caramelized onions
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, (or sub feta cheese)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
good quality olive oil
balsamic vinegar glaze
(this pizza is also great with any other fresh from the garden topping, be sure to lightly steam or blanch tougher veggies before baking, since the oven time is short).
While pizza crusts are baking, gather toppings for one or both pizzas. I like to steam asparagus lightly and cut into thirds for topping pizza. With arugula, the heat of the pizza is usually all you need to release the intense flavor of the greens. Allow crusts to cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with olive oil and about a table spoon of fresh grated parmesan cheese per crust.
For asparagus pizza, arrange tomato slices across the crust. Sprinkle with 1/8 cup goat cheese, caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar or vinegar glaze, and olive oil. Arrange asparagus evenly across the crust and sprinkle with remaining goat cheese and a bit of parmesan.
For arugula pizza, follow directions above, (or optionally remove tomatoes and onions, it’s all flexible with pizza). Evenly spread the arugula atop the crust. Reserve a bit of arugula for final topping. Lightly drizzle and toss these remaining greens in a bowl with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Return pizza to hot oven for approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Upon removing, add remaining tossed greens to the arugula pizza and serve with fresh parmesan.
Words and Pictures copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All Rights Reserved.
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