Spring Vegetable Pizza and a Memory

March 19th, 2013

Spring is actually showing signs of arriving.  I have received pictures from friends in North Carolina of the dogwood and red bud trees beginning to bloom.  I am ready for it.  We will be heading back from Florida to North Carolina next week and it is always such a soul satisfying experience to see nature renewing itself.   Here in Florida the changes are subtle.

Spring vegetables are always favorites.  The first fresh asparagus holds many memories for me.  In Michigan, where I grew up, asparagus was ready to pick at the end of April, as I recall.  I know I have shared this story before, but for those of you who haven’t heard it, I will repeat it.  The rest of you can skip ahead if you would like.  The year I was to graduate from high school, my best girlfriends and I skipped school one day.  There were nine of us.  We had a good reason.  Our friend Judie’s family farm had a problem.  The asparagus crop was ready to harvest but the migrant workers had not yet arrived for the season.  We thought we would help them out by picking the asparagus.  Believe me, that is not an easy job.  It was a day of back-breaking drudgery.  To complicate matters, a group of the senior guys got wind of what we were doing and decided they wanted in on the action.  Some ulterior motives might have been involved.  With so many of us absent from our small high school, it is no wonder that the principal took notice.  Our dear Mothers could not bring themselves to lie about the reason for our absences.  At that time you had to have a signed excuse from the parent for any days missed at school.  It was only when we presented ourselves to the office with our excuses the next day that were were confronted by Mr. Small, THE PRINCIPAL.  He had found out what we were up to and had decided that if we were truthful about our whereabouts, it would be an excused absence.  If we claimed  sickness or anything else, we would not be able to participate in the graduation proceedings.  He understood the farming community around us and was ready to concede the circumstances.   Our parents understood the imperative of honesty.  It was a lesson learned by all of us.  Everyone did the right thing.  But the biggest lesson I learned was that I never wanted to pick acres of asparagus again.  To this day,every time I look at a stalk of asparagus,  it all comes back to me.  But isn’t it a wonder that at one time we could actually pick our own?

In spite of the earlier experience,  I do love to eat asparagus.  This recipe for Spring Vegetable Pizza with Gremolata appeared in Cooking Light Magazine.  I adapted it to our tastes.  David likes a little meat on his pizza, so I added some diced and cooked chicken thighs.  The other vegetables are a fresh fennel bulb with fronds and peas.  The light sauce is a combination of ricotta cheese and pecorino Romano cheese.  The gremolata of parsley, lemon rind and garlic add another level of freshness.  Instead of a homemade pizza crust I used a purchased Stone Fired Crust.  It was perfect for this.

I loved this pizza.  David was not so enthused.  It probably had something to do with the lack of pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese.  But if you like a white pizza with light spring vegetable flavors, you will love this.  Think I’ve lost you Larry, Dave and some of the you other internet guys.  But the “Asparagus Picking Gals” would be proud.  See you all at our 50th reunion this September!  We still Rock.

 An update:  According to my high school friend, we had unexcused absences.  What our principal did was clear us for graduation.  I guess he did the right thing.  I just wish my version was correct.  Homer, you could have done better.


1 12-inch store bought Stone Fired Pizza Crust
1 fennel bulb with stalks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 1/2 cup (3-inch) pieces asparagus, cut in half lengthwise
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 skinless, boneless chicken thigh, chopped and cooked in a little oil with salt, pepper and paprika until done
2/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3 1/2 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 large garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

Place pizza crust on a round pizza pan

Remove stalks from fennel bulb; reserve 1 tablespoon fronds.  Cut trimmed bulb into thin slices.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add sliced fennel bulb slices and cook for at least 1 minute.  Add peas, asparagus and sliced garlic to pan; saute 2 minutes.

Combine ricotta, milk, pepper and pecorino Romano cheese; spread evenly over pizza crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border.  Bake at 500 degrees F for 5 minutes.  Carefully remove pizza from oven.  Top pizza with pea mixture.  Bake at 500 degrees for 5 minutes or until crust is browned and crisp.  Remove from oven; sprinkle evenly with salt.  Combine reserved fennel fronds, parsley, rind, and minced garlic;  sprinkle over pizza.  Cut into wedges.

Printable recipe


15 responses to “Spring Vegetable Pizza and a Memory”

  1. Susan says:

    Beautiful pizza and lovely story from the past. We are celebrating our 50th reunion this July. Started a FB page for our class and started posting lots of old, old pictures which has been fun to get us into the mood. Have a safe trip to NC. Perhaps, we can meet up there one day.

  2. Sprigs of Rosemary says:

    I love the pizza and adore the story, too! Even though it’s possible to find peas and asparagus year-round now, they still are harbingers of spring. I would have added chicken to a pizza like this for my Mr. Rosemary, but I suspect he’d have the same lukewarm reaction to it. Me? I’m saving this to savor later.

  3. Sam Hoffer says:

    What a fun story Penny. I think it’s nice when foods remind you of the past. Yep, this is definitely not a guy pizza.

    Have a safe trip back to NC and enjoy the pretty dogwoods.

  4. Karen says:

    Nice pizza… I haven’t seen those crusts… will have to look for them.

  5. Jane says:

    I really enjoyed your story, Penny. It must have been a humbling experience for all! And your recipe sounds delicious. My girls and I love pizza’s with fresh veggies but my hubby likes the sauce as does David. I’m going to try this, the fennel sounds great.

    Safe travels home.


  6. Susan says:

    That’s a wonderful story, Penny! I didn’t live in a farming community but I did grow up in a rural area where my mother and I would comb the roadsides for wild asparagus. Of course we would come home with enough for only one meal. Your pizza is a lovely tribute to spring and fresh veggies!

  7. Mary Sullivan says:

    That’s some story – remind me to never to pick asparagus, or anything that requires bending over for any length of time!!

    Great pizza – but I’d have to leave off the chicken!

    Pretty pics – and tasty too I’m sure.

    Happy Easter – Mary

  8. Gary says:

    I LOVE IT! It didn’t take me long to get used to pizza without sauce and it just widened my pizza making options. I can’t believe the story is you ditched school to pick asparagus. Your next high school story must involve the illicit drinking of beer or I will hold my head low in shame for you!!

    • Penny says:

      OK Gary. Another time, another me. You will never hear such innocent things from me again. It was all about the asparagus. Beer? Maybe. But it was also about raiding corn fields for the sweet corn and avoiding the wild pigs. You do what you have to do when you live in a farming community. I led an interesting life before I went to college. I like to think I am now “sophisticated”. LOL. Love ya.

  9. Larry says:

    I lived awhile in S . Jersey and watched big asparagus fields being harvested one spear at a time knowing I didn’t want the job. Your pizza sounds delicious to me.

  10. Barbara Williams says:

    I’ve purchased their naan, but never the pizza crust. I often use naan the same way. What a lovely garden pizza, Penny, plus a fun story that I guess I misssed when you first posted it. I always smile when I see asparagus growing….such an odd looking vegetable sticking out of the soil in a solitary manner.

  11. chezsasha.com says:

    Wow what a story. Usually kids skip school for much worse reasons 😉 You ought to be proud of yourself.

  12. Pondside says:

    Oh my goodness – I picked asparagus the first summer after my degree – I blogged about it some time ago. I never thought I’d know another woman who did such a thing – too funny!

  13. Kate says:

    I tried this pizza earlier this spring, when I first got the magazine, & found it disappointingly bland. I don’t know how to spice it up!

    • Penny says:

      Hi Kate, Obviously David agreed with you. One thing you could do would be to put dressed salad greens on top of it. Make a flavorful vinaigrette with garlic, mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dress the greens. Or you could just use a pizza sauce instead of the ricotta cheese.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.