Spring has a really different meaning for me these days. When I lived in California it didn't resonate with me or even make me take notice of anything around me. I just knew that that was when all the colors at the mall turned soft and pastel and that Easter was probably around the corner. Since I've moved to Portland all that has changed. I look forward to taking a walk down the street to see all the changes that have occurred seemingly overnight. Watching the cherry trees flower and the daffodils burst out of the ground, their vibrant colors so welcome after the dark gray of winter moves me in ways I never expected.
The arrival of the first flowers of the season reminded my how I always struggle trying to put a bouquet together so I saw that one of my favorite local shops, Ink & Peat was offering a flower arranging workshop and I decided to dive in and give it a try. It was so much fun, playing around with different textures and shapes and I have to say that I loved doing it. What do you think, should I add flower arranging to my ever growing list of hobbies? I enjoyed it so much that I'm planning on adding some more cut flowers to my garden this year so I can try to create some more beautiful arrangements to share with my friends. It's also a great opportunity for me to work on my photography skills, I have come a long way but there is still so much that I'd like to learn and get more comfortable with.
Spring also brings the arrival of the famers market of the year and with it the first flavors of the season. Delicate peas, and sweet grassy asparagus are some of my very favorite vegetables and they are all that more special because their season tends to be short. I love to eat asparagus any way I can, shaved raw into a salad, tossed into pasta or sliced paper thin on top of a pizza. This is a really easy pizza to put together, if you don't have the time or inclination to make your own dough you can use store bought dough and have this pizza in the oven in a matter of minutes. The garlic chili oil will keep for a few weeks and is delicious on top of eggs, mixed into pasta or combine it with some quinoa and some vegetables for a quick lunch.
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Asparagus and brie pizza
Makes 1 12-inch pizza
1 recipe pizza dough or your favorite pizza dough
1/2 pound asparagus
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 pound brie
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
for the garlic chili oil
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic finely minced or grated on a microplane
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
for the pizza dough:
▪ 1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
▪ 1 cup warm water
▪ 1 cup ice-cold water
▪ 1 tablespoon honey
▪ 1 tablespoon kosher salt
▪ 2 tablespoons olive oil
about 5 ¼ to 5 ½ cups bread flour
Pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees or to the hottest temperature setting. If you have a pizza stone place it on the floor of the oven before heating.
For the dough:
In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water, add the honey and let sit for 5 minutes until yeast starts to bubble and foam.
In another bowl, mix cold water and salt until dissolved; stir in oil.
In a heavy-duty standing mixer with a dough hook, place 5 1/4 cups flour in a large bowl. Stir the yeast mixture again to blend, then add to flour along with cold-water mixture. Beat with the dough hook on low speed until mixture is smooth and not sticky, 10-12 minutes. If dough remains sticky, add 2 more tablespoons flour and beat 2 minutes longer; if still sticky, add another 1 to 2 tablespoons flour and beat until nonsticky and smooth.
Scrape dough onto a lightly floured board; cut in half. With floured hands, pick up one portion of dough; pull opposite edges together toward center and pinch to seal. Repeat all around circumference to form a smooth, tight ball. Place each portion in a 1-gallon plastic bag. Squeeze out air and seal bag, allowing enough room for ball to double. Chill at least 10 hours or up to 3 days.
1 -2 hours before you want make the pizza, remove the dough from the fridge and let come to room temperature. (I usually take mine out in the morning and just leave it to rise on the counter until I’m ready to use it.
Prepare the chili garlic oil:
Place the olive oil, chili flakes and garlic in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, until the garlic starts to sizzle and the mixture gives on a nice aroma. The longer it sits the stronger the flavor will be. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Using a vegetable peeler hold the asparagus by the woody stem, lay it flat on a cutting board and shave slices by running the peeler from the base to the top of the stalk. Toss the peeled asparagus with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil with a little salt and pepper.
Assemble the pizza:
Roll or stretch out the dough to a 12-inch round. If you are having trouble stretching your dough, roll it out, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then try it again. Allowing it to rest relaxes the glutton in the dough and makes it easier to roll out. I like to roll out my dough on parchment paper so it's easy to transfer it to the oven. You can also sprinkle a baking sheet or pizza peel with cornmeal to avoid sticking.
With a spoon spread a tablespoon of the chili garlic oil on the dough trying to cover the whole surface. Cut the brie into one-inch pieces and distribute it over the dough, sprinkle the parmesan on top and then add the asparagus. Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are brown and the cheese is bubbly.