Herban Life

Do you know how many half-drafts I've written trying to recap how my life has changed in the last couple months? Way too many. So I'm giving up on the long version.

Here's the down and dirty instead: Goodbye Pennsylvania. Hello Washington. New city. New job (new farm). New apartment. New (aka old, tiny) kitchen. New friends (pending...). Same boyfriend. 

If you still feel a bit in the dark about the whole thing, stay tuned. Details will be released slowly so as not to overwhelm you or me.

Oh also, I have a newfound obsession with homemade pizza night, inspired by newfound easy-peasy recipe for no-knead pizza dough. Why did I hardly ever make pizza dough before? It always seemed such a hassle, something to be planned ahead and fussed with. But no more! I hereby vow to have pizza once a week! Here's to new traditions!

Week one of the new tradition went swimmingly. The new farm doesn't have a lot going in the early spring season, but it does have some herbs that lived through the winter and are going gangbusters now (thank you temperate Pacific Northwest). My favorite new one is lovage, but that's a story for another post. This recipe was inspired by the vibrant chive blossoms bursting into the scene. Because, seriously, who doesn't want to eat pizza with purple flowers on it? 

Here's the trick. You do have to plan ahead...sort of. The pizza dough doesn't require kneading, but it does require a while to rise. The method that works best for me is to make it one evening, let it rise overnight, then shove it in the fridge right before I go to work the next day. It can hang out in the fridge (covered) for a couple of days. Before using, remove from the fridge, sprinkle with flour, shape into two balls,  and let it come to room temperature for an hour or two. 

Spring Herb and Asparagus Pizza

serves 4

STEPS

  1. Plan: Make dough at least 14 hours before you want to use it. Separate dough recipe into two balls.
  2. Prep: Chop up the fresh herbs and garlic. Mix with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Now you've got a rough pesto/herby "sauce." Chop asparagus into 2 inch pieces. Place in a saute pan with a little bit of water on high heat. Cover with lid and cook 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. Assemble I: Preheat oven to 400. Sprinkle two cookie sheets with cornmeal. Pat one dough ball into a disk shape, then lift it into the air and make like a pizza pro--stretch the dough into a large pizza shape over the top of your fists. Lay it down on the cookie sheet and gently pat/stretch it out to the desired size with your fingertips.**  
  4. Assemble II: Spread herby sauce onto dough. Top with mozzarella cheese, asparagus, parmesan cheese, and chive blossoms. Bake for 20 minutes. Increase the heat to 450. Continue baking until bottom of the crust is crispy and cheese is gooey. Top with a few more fresh chive blossoms. 

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Jim Lahey's No Knead Pizza Dough
  • 1 large handful chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, basil, and thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves (or 3 stalks green garlic)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • a sprinkle of coarse cornmeal
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • parmesan cheese, shaved or shredded
  • 1 handful chive blossoms, removed from stems and chopped roughly

**A note from Jim Lahey about shaping dough:

Treat it gently so the dough holds its character, its texture. When you get around to shaping the disk for a pie, go easy as you stretch it to allow it to retain a bit of bumpiness (I think of it as blistering), so not all of the gas is smashed out of the fermented dough... I offer you two approaches for shaping. The simpler one, executed completely on the work surface, is slower than the second, where you lift the disk in the air and stretch it by rotating it on your knuckles. Lifting it into the air to shape it is more fun, too.