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Spring is here and we can finally enjoy delicious—and healthy—fresh vegetable delicacies, like this Italian-inspired Spring Onion and Asparagus Crostata. What makes it really stand out is its crust—made from a rich cream cheese dough traditionally used in rugelach, the famous Jewish curled-up cookie. You’ll love this savory twist… with spring herbs and caramelized onions.
Spring Onion and Asparagus Crostata
1. Begin by caramelizing the onions. Slice your 2 yellow onions thinly. In a pan over medium heat, cook the sliced onions until they become translucent. Then, put the onions on low and cook for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally. While the onions cook, prepare your crust.
2. In a mixer, blend cream cheese and butter. Add in the sugar, 1/2 tsp. of salt and 2 Tbsp. of Parmesan. While this is blending, use scissors to snip the chives until you have 1/2 cup of minced chives. Add the all purpose flour and whole wheat flour to the mixer and stir on low so the flour stays in the mixing bowl. When the dough begins to come together, add in the chives. Once the dough forms a ball, take it out of the mixer and wrap it in plastic wrap to make 1 large disc of dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. You can also make the dough a day in advance if you prefer.
3. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Remove your caramelized onions from the pan and let them cool. With a mandolin, a sharp knife or the slicer on your box grater, thinly slice 2 spring onions. Set the onion aside.
4. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, 1/2 tsp. of salt and pepper. Take the dough out of the fridge. If you have chilled the dough overnight, it may need about 30 minutes on the counter before it is workable.
5. Trim the asparagus by snapping off the thick bottoms. They should snap naturally at the beginning of the tender part of the stalk. Cut the asparagus in half horizontally and then in half again vertically.
5. Cut the dough in half. Roll out one half of the dough into a circle. It does not have to be a perfect circle since a crostata is a rustic dish. The dough should be between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Spread 1/2 of the caramelized onions around the edge of the dough. Curl the dough over and tuck it into the base of the crostata crust. With scissors, snip little vents along the curled crust. Repeat with the second half of the dough and caramelized onions.
6. Top the crust with 1/2 of the ricotta filling. Layer 1/2 of the spring onion slices on top of the ricotta filling. Carefully arrange the asparagus over the onions. Repeat with the second crust and the other 1/2 of the ricotta filling, spring onion slices and asparagus.
7. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 45-55 minutes. The crust will become golden brown along the edges.
8. Serve with a spring salad. If you have leftover asparagus, you can shave the raw asparagus with a vegetable peeler and top with a homemade salad dressing or whatever dressing you have in your fridge. Look for pea shoots at the grocery store or farmer’s market; they make great spring salads as well.
These farmer’s market pizzas take some of the most beautiful gems from the day’s trip to the market and highlight them for dinner. On a hot day, the pizzas can be made with just the toaster oven and on the grill to keep the house nice and cool. Zucchini is plentiful this time of year so, I took the traditional Southern Italian practice of drying zucchini and modified it to get all of the concentrated flavor without the hours of drying. The twist for these pizzas, especially the sweet one, is that they are white pizzas inspired by a classic Jewish treat: the blintz.
Farmer’s Market Pizza
Savory Pizza with Dried Zucchini
1. To dry the zucchini, first wash and slice it into 1/8 inch slices. Then line a baking pan with parchment paper. Sprinkle some Kosher salt over the paper and lay the zucchini over the salt. Sprinkle the top of the zucchini with salt as well. Let the zucchini rest in the salt for at least 30 minutes.
2. After 30 minutes, preheat your oven or toaster oven to 150° F. Rinse the zucchini slices well under a running tap and place them on a clean kitchen towel to pat dry. Then, place the zucchini on a tray covered with tin foil and let it dry out in the oven for about two hours. If you are short on time, you can raise the oven temperature a bit and let the zucchini dry out for a shorter time.
3. Once the zucchini are fairly dry, almost rubbery in texture, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle a teaspoon of dried oregano over them. Do NOT add salt, but do grind fresh pepper over the zucchini to taste.
4. Preheat your grill to high or preheat your oven to 450° F. Split your dough in half and create two oblong pizzas on oiled heavy-duty tin foil or on an oiled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. You can use a spray oil but I prefer to put a teaspoon of Canola oil on the foil and spread it with my hands or a paper towel. Partially bake the dough. This should take 10 minutes or so.
5. Remove the partially baked dough and prepare your cheese.
6. In a bowl, add the 7 1/2 oz of farmers cheese, squeeze 4 cloves of farmer’s market garlic through a garlic press (or mince), add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper and then grate 4-6 Tbsp. of Parmesan to taste. Mix until uniform.
7. Spread the cheese on the two pizza crusts and then carefully arrange the zucchini slices over the cheese. Place back on the grill or in the oven until the cheese is heated through. Slice and serve.
Note: This pizza can be topped with any kind of squash, onions or other fabulous vegetables you find at the farmer’s market. Just prepare the vegetables by cooking them partially first in the oven or on the grill, then assemble the pizzas, heat and serve.
Sweet Farmer’s Market Blueberry Blintz Pizza
1. Prepare the dough as above, but before placing it to cook, brush water over the top of the dough and sprinkle with sugar.
2. Preheat your grill to high or preheat your oven to 450° F. Split your dough in half and create two round pizzas on oiled heavy-duty tin foil or on an oiled cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. You can use a spray oil but I prefer to put a teaspoon of Canola oil on the foil and spread it with my hands or a paper towel. Partially bake the dough. This should take 10 minutes or so.
4. Top the partially cooked pizza crusts with the cheese mixture and return to the grill or oven until the cheese begins to melt slightly and is heated through.
5. Take the pizza off of the heat and top with fresh blueberries. Sprinkle the entire pizza with a dusting of powdered sugar and finish with a little bit more lemon zest.
Note: This pizza can be topped with pitted and sliced cherries, fresh berries and stone fruit that is not too juicy. If you are using stone fruit, I recommend grilling the stone fruit halves separately first and then slicing before topping the pizza.