Monday, June 12, 2017

Asparagus Flatbread

My cooking dreams are loaded with recipes like this one. All homemade. Somewhat sophisticated. At least a little gourmet. Sometimes it’s tough for me to make even such a small dream into a reality, since, just like everybody else, my time and physical energy aren’t always up to task. Time and energy managed to conspire in my favor last week, however, and I got a lovely Asparagus Flatbread with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts onto the dinner table. And it was so good!

Part of my success was due to applying a bit of efficiency to my overwhelming recipe wish list. There were two recipes on it calling for shaved asparagus. One was the asparagus pizza recipe in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. The other was a salad recipe from Fine Cooking magazine. I wanted to try out the concept of an asparagus pizza, but I also wanted to sample the flavors in the salad, and so I combined the two recipes.

My inspiration recipes directed the cook to shave asparagus spears with a vegetable peeler, but mine wasn’t effective enough (or I wasn’t patient enough), so I simply cut my asparagus into long, thin strips using a knife. I did the same with a couple of scallions. I used my usual Whole Wheat Pizza Crust dough as my flatbread base, (You can use what you like or find convenient.) and I put a thin layer of mozzarella on that, which not only tastes great, but also helps hold everything together. On top of that went the “shaved” asparagus and scallion, which I then sprinkled with some toasted and skinned hazelnuts.

After this flatbread was baked, I shaved some deliciously nutty aged Gouda cheese over it all. This time, I did use a vegetable peeler, which was great for the job. The aged Gouda melted just right over the still-hot flatbread. It’s what it did for the flavor of this dish that’s really exciting, though. It’s rich sharpness and nuttiness go so well with the asparagus, and help tie it to the dark and toasty goodness of the hazelnuts.

Roasted asparagus, aged Gouda and hazelnuts really make a fabulous flavor combination. That being said, other nuts and cheeses might be good here, too, such as almonds or walnuts with shaved Gruyere or Parmesan. I also think a light drizzle of roasted hazelnut oil or even good olive oil would be pretty fabulous.

I don’t really know who might agree or disagree with my personal nomenclature when it comes to pizza, topped flatbread, focaccia, and such. I like to think of pizza as a crust with a sauce, usually tomato-based, a pretty good shower of mozzarella cheese, and may be some other good, melty cheeses, and then some vegetable and/or meat toppings. A common American Friday or Saturday night thing. This asparagus-based dish with no sauce and less cheese fits into my “topped flatbread” category, so that’s what I’m going to call it. I’m also going to call it delicious. And I’m really hoping to call it over for dinner again soon!

Asparagus Flatbread with Aged Gouda and Hazelnuts

1 recipe Whole Wheat Pizza Crust dough, left to rise overnight in the refrigerator or for several hours at room temperature

½ pound asparagus spears
2 scallions
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup hazelnuts roasted, peeled (as demonstrated in this post), and chopped
½ cup shaved aged Gouda cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Return the dough to room temperature if it has been refrigerated. This could take a few hours.

2. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. On the lined baking sheet, stretch or pat out the dough into a rough rectangle, about 8 x 14 inches. Cover with a towel and let rest while completing the rest of the recipe.

3. Cut the asparagus into long, very thin strips, or shave with a vegetable peeler. Cut the scallions similarly.

4. Distribute the mozzarella cheese over the dough. Cover evenly with the asparagus and scallions. Sprinkle the hazelnuts evenly over the top.

5. Bake at 450 F for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the asparagus has softened and browned in places. Remove from the oven and distribute the aged Gouda over the top. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Let stand until the aged Gouda has melted. Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

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