When I think of spring, I think of dark earth, smoke, and the rich colors of the season’s first intrepid buds and blossoms. The earth tilts back to face the sun, and the days grow lighter and longer. The soil is damp and far from still, moving with the work of roots and rabbits and leaves pushing up out of the dark into the chilly sunshine. The time of singing has come. And the time of feasting on the unique flavors of the season.
After the heavy fare of winter’s kitchen—stews and roasts and starchy root vegetables— I get green fever hard. It feels so good to eat those nourishing, vegetal shoots that are as light as the late March sky. It’s hard to pick and choose between kale and collards, chards and chives. I want them all. And this recipe is the perfect way to blend all the bounty of early spring into one hearty, delicious dish.
Farmers Market Pizza
My favorite way to make a pizza this time of year is to fire up the charcoal grill and flash cook the pizza to a smoky, bubbly finish. It’s especially wonderful if you grill the toppings before you cook the crust to get even more of that lovely wood-tinged taste. But this recipe will work equally well in the oven if you follow the baking instructions that come with your favorite pizza crust recipe.
All good pizzas start with a good crust. I like to follow the simple, reliable instructions from King Arthur Flour for both sourdough and yeast pizza crusts, depending on whether I have sourdough starter in my refrigerator. It takes a little planning—you’ll want to let the dough rise a couple hours before you get started, but otherwise this is a quick and easy supper that comes together on the fly, even on a busy weeknight.
As for the toppings, the beauty of the Farmers Market Pizza is the flexibility of the flavors. It’s the perfect way to play with whatever you find in the fridge, and to use up any ingredients that are getting close to compost time, since the grill or oven will crisp them back up. Here are a few ideas that will get you started on incorporating items from your share into a lovely spring pie:
Blend herbs like parsley, rosemary, garlic chives, or English thyme into your red pizza sauce, either pre-bought or homemade. It’s easy to whip up at home with a little tomato sauce, a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, a glug of red wine or splash of balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt, some minced garlic, and your favorite seasonings. You can make your sauce as mild or spicy as you like. Pizza sauce can be made to most any taste, so the only thing to keep an eye on is the thickness of the sauce so it doesn’t slide off the crust or make for an overly moist pie.
Herbs and earthy or spicy greens like kale, collards, and spicy Asian mustard greens are great blended together with olive oil, salt, and lemon juice for a bright spring pesto. Add in walnuts, pecans or Parmesan if you like—they’ll give the pesto a lovely creaminess. This recipe would work well.
Shred some chard or Red Kitten spinach to top your pie—it will wilt beautifully as the pizza finishes cooking.
Meat (if you partake)— sausages, chicken, pork, or a meat substitute would be lovely on the grill and pick up a smoky flavor that compliments the bright, earthy flavor of the vegetables.
Onions (green, red, or white)— diced, slivered, or chopped. Sauté or grill before you put on the pie. If you are grilling, place the onions on the grate in halves or fourths and char before you dice them. If baking your pie, chop and then sauté in a little butter or olive oil on the stove (especially with minced garlic).
Asparagus, artichokes, olives, nettles, and even broccoli can be great toppings that contribute to your green-hued spring pie. Avocado can be grilled in slices or simply blended in raw with your pesto.
Cheese— mozzarella and parmesan are traditional pizza toppings, but you can get inventive. On the pie pictured I used a good reblochon, but you can also try anything from blue cheese to brie to cheddar, depending on the other flavors.
If you are grilling your pizza, I recommend this recipe, in which you grill one side of the dough, flip it, and then quickly add your sauce and toppings that will wilt, melt, and blend as the bottom side cooks. It takes a little organization and careful timing, but it makes for a very quick pie, a crisp and bubbly crust, and a great smoky flavor.
If you are baking your pizza, you can be a little more leisurely. Follow the instructions in your recipe of choice for whether the crust needs to be pre-baked before you top it or if the whole raw pie can go into a hot oven and do its thing.