This week in the supermarket, I had a eureka moment while standing in front of a display of sleek, slim bundles of asparagus. Why not turn the tempting spears into a topping for pizza instead of using them as a side dish or tossing them with strands of cooked pasta– my usual methods of cooking this spring vegetable.
Within minutes, I had a plan. At the cheese counter I chose a piece of Taleggio, a soft creamy Italian cheese that melts beautifully. A package of those sweet little cippolini onions beckoned as well, especially since they were being sold peeled. To round out the toppings, I decided on brown (cremini) mushrooms.
At home it took less than half an hour to assemble the pizza. I topped a purchased large, thin crust with sliced Taleggio, then with a dusting of Parmesan. Next came a mix of sautéed mushrooms and onions and then a final layer of sliced asparagus and more Parmesan. This colorful pizza needed only 10 to 12 minutes in a hot oven before the cheese was melted and the asparagus roasted to a perfect tenderness.
Since neither Taleggio nor cippolini onions are available in some groceries, I made the pizza again using a good Italian Fontina and Vidalia onions, and it was just as delicious with this duo. Add a salad of your favorite mixed greens tossed in lemon juice and olive oil to welcome spring with a pizza night.
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Spring Pizza with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Sweet Onions
8 oz slim asparagus
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil plus more if needed
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 cup sliced cippolini or Vidalia onions (See note.)
5 oz brown mushrooms, cut through stems into 1/4 inch thick slices
Freshly ground black pepper
One 12- to 13-inch pizza round (See note.)
6 oz Taleggio cut into 1/4 inch thick slices with rind or 6 oz Italian Fontina, grated without rind (See note.)
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon, optional
1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Have ready a large baking sheet.
2. Snap or cut off and discard 2 to 3 inches of the tough ends of the asparagus. Then cut the spears on a diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place them in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt, pepper, and 1/2 tsp dried tarragon.
3. If using cippolini slice them into 1/4 inch thick slices to yield 1 cup. If using a Vidalia onion, halve a large onion, and then cut enough 1/4 inch thick slices to yield a cup.
4. In a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil until hot. Add mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels and then place in a bowl.
5. To the same skillet add 1 tablespoon more oil and when hot, add onions. Stir and cook until lightly browned and softened, 4 to 5 minutes for the cippolini and 6 to 7 for the Vidalias, adding more oil if needed. Transfer onions to the bowl with the mushrooms and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon tarragon.
6. Place a large baking sheet in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven to a heatproof surface and carefully (since the baking sheet is hot) place the pizza round on the pan. Arrange the sliced Taleggio or sprinkle the grated Fontina over the surface of the pizza. Sprinkle with half the Parmesan. Then spoon the mushroom/onion mixture over the cheeses. Scatter the roasted asparagus over the mushrooms. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the pizza and season with several grinds of black pepper
7. Bake the pizza until the crust is very crisp, asparagus are tender, and cheese has melted, 10 to 12 minutes or up to 15 for extra crispy crust. Remove and sprinkle with chives and if desired with tarragon. Cut into 6 slices. Serves 2 to 3.
Cippolini are small white onions with a beautiful sweet taste. Count on a few minutes to peel the onions before slicing them. My local Whole Foods sells cippolini peeled—a great time saver. Sliced Vidalia onions work just as well in this recipe.
Taleggio is a creamy, soft Italian cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind. It melts beautifully, but Italian Fontina tastes equally good.
For this recipe I prefer an extra thin crust, like this one called Top This from Whole Foods. If you use a thicker crust, count on a few extra minutes in the oven.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2016