Asparagus pie

Is this a pie? I’m not sure. I think pies are supposed to be round. But it’s not a pizza. It’s not a pizza because I don’t like pizza. I know. Sacrilege. Everyone likes pizza. But as with many incomprehensible peculiarities we find in others, and others certainly see in us (we often are blind to our own ridiculousness), this quirk originates from childhood experiences and circumstances.

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Both of my parents are good cooks, my mother particularly. And we grew up eating meals made at home most days. They were not elaborate, but always pleasing to both parent and kid.

But at the end of each week, parents war-weary, kids a highly combustible mix of hyper activity and exhaustion, we made our Friday pilgrimage to a place called Cici’s Pizza. Probably few people will know what Cici’s Pizza is, but in North Texas, where I grew up, it is practically an institution. Let me introduce it.

Cici’s is an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. In fact, Cici’s claims they invented the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. The price of admission for kids in the mid 1990’s was roughly $2.00 (I don’t think the adult’s was much more). They served every kind of pizza imaginable, and those that you wish had not been imagined (case in point, the Mac and Cheese pizza. Note it’s classified under “adventurous eats.” The understatement of a lifetime). The place was designed for tiny, hungry, crazed humans. It was more than just the vinyl upholstery causing your legs to stick to the booth as you attempted to leave for your third round of Mexican Ole pizza (another “adventurous” offering).

My brothers were oblivious to the fact that a dessert “pizza” drenched in chocolate-like goop was not good. My parents probably turned a blind eye. And I ate as little pizza as necessary, the 9 year old snob that I was.

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IMG_6994But after eating at Cici’s nearly once a week for many formative years of my childhood, I took up the notion that I didn’t like pizza and that pizza was not good food. And those ideas stuck around for a long time, until I started making it myself. Now I favor a kind of pizza/tart hybrid with a less pizza-like dough and a sauce somewhere between a white sauce and tart filling. I call it a pie. This keeps the Cici’s flashbacks at bay, and also lightens up the meal a bit.


Asparagus pie 

serves                  2-3
difficulty             easy
cook time           2 hours, includes rising time for dough

The recipe for the dough is based on one found at Smitten Kitchen. However, I wanted bring the doughiness of pizza dough down a notch and introduce a bit of the flakiness of a galette. Flakiness in a crust comes from fat, often butter, which is interspersed among the flour. So I changed out some of the water in the original recipe for olive oil. Also, as with almost anything involving bread or relating to baking, cooking by weight rather than volume is really preferred for the dough. However, I have included imperial volume measurements in case you don’t have scale.

Another improvisation I made was with sauce. I tend not to like bechamel sauce (aka white sauce) on pizza and it can be quite heavy. So again I created some weird hybrid of pizza and tart using eggs and yogurt. The egg sets the yogurt and creates more of a filling than a sauce.

This recipe can obviously handle almost any substitution imaginable, as can pizza. I just jumped headlong (and a bit prematurely) into spring and committed to the asparagus.

Ingredients
Dough

250 grams / 2 cups less 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
5 grams / 1¼ tsp yeast
50 grams / ¼ cup olive oil
120 grams / ½ cup water
½ tsp salt

Pie

1 egg
1/3 cup / 80 ml plain, whole fat yogurt (if using greek yogurt thin with 1 tbsp milk)
½ lb / 225 grams asparagus
3 ounces / 85 grams goat cheese
¼ lb / 110 grams pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Dough preparation
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, and salt. Stir in the oil then the water using a wooden spoon. Use your hands to knead the dough in the bowl for 2-3 minutes until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place for about 1½ hours, until dough has nearly doubled in size.
Pie assembley
  1. While dough is rising, wash and snap off the white parts of the asparagus at the natural breaking point (or just cut off where the stalk starts turning from green to white and feeling tough and woody). In a small mixing bowl, stir together the egg and the yogurt with a pinch of salt for the filling. Set asparagus and filling aside until pizza is ready to assemble.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit / 250 degrees Celsius.
  3. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a rectangle about 6 inches wide and 18 inches tall. Fold about four inches of the dough on the top and bottom back onto itself so that the dough is now a roughly 6 x 9 inch rectangle. Rotate the dough 90 degrees so that it is now ~ 9 inches wide and ~6 inches tall. Roll the dough out the rest of the way so that it forms a large, thin rectangle that can fit onto your baking sheet. You can pull the edges of the dough if you need to fix the shape a bit. The dough will bill in fine even if not perfectly even.
  4. Place dough onto baking sheet or baking stone. Create a little crust for the dough by folding about ½ inch of  each side of the rectangle down.
  5. Spread the egg and yogurt mixture onto the dough using a spoon.
  6. Place the asparagus on the pizza. Sprinkle the pancetta across the pizza. Crumble the goat cheese and distribute. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil across the pizza. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Bake for 12-16 minutes, until edges are browned, depending on desired crispiness of the pizza. You can also put the pizza under the broiler for about a minute if you want to further crisp up the pancetta.

Note: You’ll notice I haven’t done any precooking to the asparagus. I was able to skip this step because my asparagus were very thin and I knew they would cook quickly. If your asparagus are thicker, steam for 3-4 minutes before adding to the pizza, making sure they are dry before adding.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dr. Catherine Civello says:

    Thanks! I’m fixing this on Sunday, minus the pancetta. (I’m alone in my distaste for it.) We often fix pizza with spinach and broiled shrimp. I also have a recipe with dough made from cauliflower, but it’s just too weird for most people.

    1. The cauliflower dough sounds great to me!

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