My effort to cook seasonally is a relatively recent project. Attempting to be mindful of cooking with what is in season has made me realize that there are many fruits and vegetables that I have never even tried, let alone learned to cook with. The standard North American diet, as I tend to refer to the foodways of my childhood, consists of a shockingly limited variety of fresh produce. This limitation is especially unfortunate when we consider the emphasis that nutritional guidelines increasingly place on the general principle of variety. Learning to work with unfamiliar produce has come more easily for some seasons than for others and I have found spring to be the most elusive. This year, I wanted to tackle spring produce and I have started with this asparagus pizza with spinach and beet green pesto.
With the exception of a few grilled asparagus sandwiches M made for me in the early years of our relationship, I have never really eaten asparagus. It was too unfamiliar and too pricey to find its way onto my childhood table and by the time I was an adult I certainly did not know what to do with it. For this recipe I used early season, relatively thin asparagus. Had they been bigger I would have shaved them into ribbons and piled them on the pizza for more appealing visuals, but they tasted great chopped as well. At the moment I have another batch of thicker asparagus in the refrigerator with my vegetable peeler’s name all over them. They will be going into a spring vegetable carbonara I am making tonight for the second time.
In addition to the asparagus, this pizza involves another step outside of my cooking comfort zone - the pesto-like green base. This is the first time I have made, or eaten, a pizza without a red sauce. Granted, the pesto was not quite as “saucy” as a tomato-based sauce might be. However, it is delicious and makes for a great way to amp up the nutritional value of a pizza. The 3 small pizzas this recipe makes contain 2 ½ cups of greens. The “pesto” was made, not with herbs, but with a mixture of greens. I used beet greens, spinach and arugula, but any combination of greens would work. Around my house, greens have been known to find their way into the trash before being used up, so I am always looking for a good way to incorporate them into meals. My other go-to “quick use up these greens” dish is this cardamom chicken.