morel & asparagus pizza
I spent a significant portion of my life steadfastly maintaining that mushrooms were for trolls. Most kids would have been content to simply wrinkle their noses and refuse to eat mushrooms, but I built up an elaborate justification for my distaste: namely that mushrooms are squishy and grow in wet, woodsy places. Where trolls live. And, what with my not being a troll and all, I couldn’t reasonably be expected to eat them. Of course, then I became a vegetarian, so I couldn’t reasonably be expected to eat cute little animals who had lived lives of suffering and misery either.
I can be rather difficult at times, which is probably why those who knew me in my troll-food days feel particularly vindicated when I call them to enthuse about an upcoming mushroom festival or to describe the day I spent helping a farmer inoculate logs with shiitake spawn or to report that I’ve just eaten an entire morel and asparagus pizza and boy was it yummy.
Really, it was. I’d actually never eaten a morel mushroom before I made this pizza. In fact, I don’t think I’d even heard of morels before I moved to Northern Michigan, where morel mania is so pervasive that for several weeks each Spring it is considered entirely appropriate to greet complete strangers with a cheerful, “Hey, did you get any this weekend?” (Because the any in question is mushrooms, not sex. Just so we’re clear.) One guy I know got ten pounds in three hours, none of which he offered to share. It seemed a bit rude at the time, but now that I’ve tasted the things I know he can’t reasonably be expected to part with his bounty.
Fortunately, asparagus is much easier to come by and, as the rest of the culinary world has already discovered, asparagus and morels are a match made in comestible heaven. Both are rich and earthy, each with a distinct flavor that complements the other while evoking the newness of springtime. The bright taste of asparagus combined with the intense meatiness of morels is nearly transcendent on its own, but add to that the sweet bite of garlic, the saltiness of parmesan, the creaminess of mozzarella and the crisp nuttiness of homemade pizza crust and, well, a girl can’t reasonably be expected not to eat the whole damn thing.
Morel & Asparagus Pizza
for the dough
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
6 T. warm water
3/4 t. active dry yeast
2 T. white wine
1/2 t. honey
1 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
½ c. all-purpose flour
½ c. whole wheat flour
½ c. bread flour
1) Place water in small bowl and sprinkle yeast over it. Let stand about 5 minutes, then whisk in the wine, honey, and olive oil.
2) Meanwhile, pulse salt and flours in bowl of food processor to combine. With motor running, add liquid in steady stream and process until the dough comes together in a ball. Process an additional 30 seconds to knead. Brush a large bowl with olive oil and turn dough ball into bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
3) Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a ball. Freeze one ball for later use. Place the other on a lightly floured surface and allow the other to rest for 10-15 minutes. Use your hands or a rolling pin to stretch or roll the dough out into a thin (1/8″) disc.
for the topping
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 T. unsalted butter
1/2 lb. fresh morels or 2 oz. dried morels
12-15 spears asparagus
4-6 oz. fresh mozzarella
¼ c. parmesan, grated
1) If using dried mushrooms, reconstitute them by soaking them in hot water for about 2 hours. Drain and blot dry.
2) Preheat oven to 500°F or as hot as it will go without being set to broil. Mix olive oil with minced garlic and set aside.
3) Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once foam has subsided, add morels and sautée for 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
4) Rinse and trim the asparagus, then steam in a covered dish in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, or roast in a 400° oven for 10-15 minutes, or do whatever you like to do to prepare asparagus.
5) Roll out pizza dough, sprinkle baking sheet or pizza stone with cornmeal and transfer dough to prepared pan. Brush the garlic oil mixture over the pizza dough. Top with mozzarella, then scatter the morels over the cheese. Arrange the asparagus in a pinwheel pattern over the cheese and morels, then top with grated parmesan.
6) Bake in preheated oven 8-12 minutes, or until crust is crisp and cheese is bubbly. Cut into wedges and serve.