Being relatively new to this whole food blog thing, I suspect that some of the finer points have yet to dawn on me. Still, one thing seems pretty clear: my food blog heroes, overall, seem not to use the same ingredients several days in a row, but rather give the impression that they have magical refrigerators that repopulate with a variety of fresh ingredients not only every week, but every day, and possible every meal. My mental image of Deb Perelman (of Smitten Kitchen fame) is that every time she walks into her kitchen, a cartoon sparrows alights on her shoulder, stop-motion animated boxes of fresh produce nip playfully at her heels, Vermeer’s milkmaid and a Jersey cow with a comically large bell emerge from her pantry, and Yann Tiersen appears out of nowhere to play the theme from Amélie on the accordion. And look, I’m not saying I have a problem with this. Not at all. Anyone who can make the Best Bread Ever, And That’s Including My Grandpa’s Challah (and my Grandpa is dead — total sacrilege!) is pretty much untouchable in my book, and can have the entire Santa Monica Farmer’s Market relocate to her living room with nary a peep out of me.
Still, I still need to figure out how to toe that fine line between being repetitive, ingredient-wise, and updating regularly. How do you all do it, heroes (and yes, if you’re reading this, you are also my hero!)? For my own part, I have decided to raid the deepest, darkest recesses of the crisper for inspiration — you know, that part of the drawer reserved for yellowing celery (because I only think I can drink more than two bloody marys in an afternoon), browning broccoli (because I only think I’ve gotten over my childish fear of its healthful properties), and gracefully aging asparagus.
Ah, asparagus. What a sibilant, guttural name and bizarre powder room consequence for such a lovely vegetable. And really, asparagus does age gracefully in the bottom of the crisper, somehow retaining its color and shape despite being forgotten underneath expansive leaves of withering chard. I bet if you asked asparagus how she did it, she’d just bow her crown modestly to one side and mutter, “Bone structure, my dear, bone structure.” Similarly, if you asked her how she manages to make pizza both look and taste delicious without making it more unhealthy, and then without ever getting much credit for any of it, she would stiffen with terror and beg you not to kill her, but it would be too late. And only a half an hour after you sent her and her lovely sisters to veggie heaven, you’d end up with something like this:
Secret Menu Asparagus Pizza
-1 bunch asparagus
-3 cloves garlic
-about 4 oz. goat cheese (not crumbled)
-the leftover half of that whole wheat pizza dough from JM’s pizza
-olive oil, salt, and pepper
Heat the oven to 375° and chop up that garlic. Now slice the bottom ends (the flat part) off the asparagus, settling them into a baking dish and promising them it’s not personal as you sprinkle a few tablespoons of olive oil, a bit of salt, and about 1/3-1/2 of the chopped garlic over the top and mix well with your hands. The asparagus should only take about 15-20 minutes in the oven, since it will finish cooking on the pizza. While the asparagus roasts, flatten out the pizza dough on a cutting board until it’s about 1/4-inch thick and rectangular (this will make sense when you look at the above picture again), and put some olive oil on both sides. Now put the rest of the garlic and a tablespoon or two of olive oil into a small bowl and set aside. Crumble the goat cheese into another small bowl. When the asparagus is ready, put it on a plate.
Now: fire up your gas grill (unless you have a charcoal one, in which case you should have done that an hour earlier)! This won’t take long. Bring your olive oil/garlic bowl, goat cheese bowl, pizza dough board, and asparagus plate out to the grill. Throw that dough on there and give it a little while (I closed the top and left the dough on there for 3-4 minutes for the first side). If you want to make sure it’s done, take a metal spatula and peek underneath — it should come off the grates easily, and have some nice grill marks. Flip the dough and pour the garlic and olive oil on there, smearing them around until the side is well coated. Now put about 3/4 of the goat cheese on the pizza, crumbling it on there rather than spreading it. Lay the asparagus spears lengthwise across the pizza in a way that makes the whole endeavor look a lot more difficult and artful than it actually was. Crumble the rest of the goat cheese over the top. It’s probably pretty close to done grilling but you may want to give it another minute or so.
Serve with a crankin’ or two of ground black pepper and a side of something starchy, like roasted turnips, to make it all seem like a proper Sunday carbfest. It’s really not as bad for you as you think. I mean, look, there’s asparagus on that pizza! It’s not like you’re eating chocolate cake. Live a little!