Real talk: this was a spur of the moment post, which is not usually how I roll. I have a few ideas sketched out for this month, but as this week was rolling along I wasn’t feeling motivated to work on any of them. But it just sort of happened organically, one of those situations where what I have in the fridge also happens to be seasonal and also jives with a bookmarked recipe I’ve been meaning to try out.
We’ve been picking up asparagus the past few weeks at the Memorial Centre Farmers’ Market because I really can’t get enough of it, plus it’s such a short season that we might as well eat it while it’s at its peak. The last time we were there, I noticed that the first stall we passed on our way was selling nettles. I’ve seen and heard of them before, but had never used them. I struck up a conversation with the woman running the stall, who gave me very clear instructions on how to safely handle and prepare them to remove the sting, and lots of suggestions for what to use them in. You can’t eat nettles in their raw form since they will cause an unpleasant burning (thus: stinging nettles) on contact with your skin, and cooking removes this property. I bought a bunch of nettles at the market last week and just blanched all of it at once for sake of ease, then put it in the fridge to use this week. Once they are cooked they are pretty mild in flavour, and so most often it is suggested to just swap them in wherever one might use spinach.
I had also recently taken out Sarah Owens’ book ‘Sourdough’ from the library, and wanted to make everything from it. If you bake a lot of bread and are looking for other ways to use your sourdough starter, this book is a great resource for making all sorts of seasonal baked goods. I’ve been on the hunt for a a good low maintenance pizza dough recipe, and hers seemed almost too easy that I had my doubts about how it would go. It handled beautifully and the crust came out perfectly in my opinion, so we will definitely be using that as our go-to recipe. As long as you keep your starter on the counter, you can have pizza the next night, which is ideal if you need a fast weeknight dinner.
This pizza was also inspired by Sarah Minnick who tosses up the most beautiful and seasonal pies on the internet. My apologies for the lack of precise measurements for the ingredients, but really: who measures out pizza toppings?
asparagus, nettle, and shiitake pizza (vegetarian)
makes 1 10″ pizza
1 batch pizza dough (my current favourite is from ‘Sourdough’ by Sarah Owens)
3 small-medium asparagus spears, very thinly sliced on a sharp bias
a handful of blanched nettles (see notes)
a handful of shiitake mushrooms (4 or 5), sliced in half
1/2-2/3 cup grated mozzarella (I used a goat’s milk variety)
2 tablespoons basil oil/pesto
a pinch of chili flakes
a couple teaspoons of minced chives, plus the blossoms
Preheat oven to 550F convection with a pizza stone on a middle/upper rack. Heat a small pan over medium with oil, and saute the asparagus with a pinch of salt for 2-3 minutes, until they are slightly tender but still bright green. Remove from the pan then saute the mushrooms in oil until they get a bit of colour (4-5 minutes), then season with salt and remove from the pan.
On a well floured counter, shape pizza dough into roughly a 10″ round by gently pressing from the centre outwards, or by lifting it onto your knuckles and rotating in a circle. Place on either a piece of parchment, or a peel dusted generously with cornmeal and flour, and give it a little shimmy to make sure it will slide off the peel when you’re ready to bake. Spread the pesto/oil on the dough, leaving a small rim around the edge. Sprinkle on most of the cheese, followed by the asparagus, nettles and shiitakes. Add the rest of the cheese and a pinch of chilies. Quickly slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake for 8-9 minutes until the cheese is melted and the crust has browned nicely. Finish with the chives and a pinch of flakey salt.
Cooking the nettles: using gloves or plastic bags over your hands, remove the leaves from the stems, and drop them in a pot of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain and put in an ice bath, then lay out to dry a bit on a towel, and refrigerate. Use anywhere you would use spinach.