springtime pizza party
A disclaimer: when we say pizza, we don't exactly mean pizzzzza. We've made this mistake before, and here I am making it again: you envision tomato, piles of sauce, topped with stretchy browned mozzarella and pepperoni slices. A beautiful, beautiful thing.
What I really mean is flatbread, but flatbread evokes the saddest, most 90s puffy pale bread gone stale excuse for a meal. So we call it pizza.
What it is in actuality is the perfect meal for a casual sunday dinner of four or six. A thin crisp base, a little parmesan, torn mozzarella, and then the most delicious, fresh toppings you can think of. In the fall we do seared mushrooms; in late summer peaches and honey.
But spring is my absolute favorite time for a pizza party, when everything is green, green, green and all it takes is some olive oil, a little lemon, lots of chili flakes.
The fun is that you can really use whatever you see that looks delicious, though I might argue thinly shaved asparagus (as inspired by Smitten Kitchen) is non-negotiable: I wait all year for it. This year, we also went wild with fresh peas, which might have been to be on regular rotation as well, which means we'll have to make pizza at least three more times this season.
To make the pizza dough
(Completely taken from Smitten Kitchen, except that I've halved the salt. Same as I used a few years ago in this peach & honey high summer version. Makes 2 - 3 ish pizzas pending your roll out ability; I usually double the recipe and make a million little ones to allow for more topping experimentatino.):
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Mix dry ingredients in a bowl with wooden spoon
- Add liquid ingredients
- Loosely mix and gently bring together as a ball
- Knead for a minute or two
- If the dough is too dry to do so, let rest for a few minutes and/or add another tablepoon or two of water
- Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of the bowl, then roll the ball around in it so all sides are coated.
- Cover the bowl with saran wrap and let rest an hour or two. The dough should puff up to roughly double in size.
- Dump the dough ball out on to a lightly floured surface. Press the air out of it and knead it once or so, and lump back into a ball.
- Let rest another 20 minutes or so.
An inexact science if there ever was one. For this springtime special, we prepped:
- Mozarrella, shredded by hand. I like to do rough pieces an inch or two wide
- Parmesan, grated
- Peas, shelled and then blanched for about 20 seconds
- Asparagus, shaved into ribbons (a vegetable peeler works well) if thick, or just ends trimmed if thin. Drizzle with olive and oil and sprinkle with chili flakes and let sit a little.
- Garlic scapes, quickly blanched
- Pea shoots (any and all tangly greens would be great -- just be smart about which should be pre-cooked vs cooked on the pizza vs fresh piled on top)
- Fresh snap peas, ends trimmed and blanched
- Fresh arugula (if going this route: bake your pizza sans greens, then drizzle greens with olive oila and chili flakes and pile on top)
- Chopped green garlic
- Green onions, sliced or diced
- Thinly diced guanciale (prosciutto or fried up sausage bits are great too)
- Fresh lemon (very necessary), lemon zest, or preserved lemon
- Fennel pollen
- Chili flakes
- Flaky sea salt
- We didn't have them this time, but blanched nettles are great, as is any type of pesto (basil, kale, ramp...)
To make pizzas:
- Preheat oven real, real high. We usually go to 500 and then turn on every fan in the house.
- Lightly dust baking trays with flour.
- Hand stretch or roll out dough (we've always gone the easy route and shamefacedly used a rolling pin; I was delighted to be informed recently this is a real and true Italian technique, somewhere in Italy, I don't know where, but I feel great about it, so authentic etc.)
- Sprinkle a little bit of grated parmesan (you don't need much)
- Pile on mozzarella, in the volume you see fit
- Determine your topping strategy. My favorite part of this meal is the constant decision-making: you make one, say with charred peashoots and lemon, all pile around tearing it apart, then vote on the next, which might be piled high with asparagus and then sprinkled with scallions.
- Whatever you land on, pop your pizza in the oven and cook until the bottom is lightly brown, the cheese melted, and the toppings look delicius. There is a lot of eyeballing that goes into this, especially pending your oven, but let's say around 10 minutes. Greens like peashoots or nettles are actually delicious a little burnt up, so don't stress leaving it in there for a bit.
- Once the pizza is out, odds are high you should sprinkle with more flaky sea salt, drizzle with olive oil and/or squeeze a little lemon over the top (especially for the super green ones).
- Drink wine, repeat, repeat, repeat, vote on your favorite, make two more.