Spring Vegetable Polenta Pizza makes 2 thin crust 10-inch pies For the polenta crust: 1 ½ cups coarse cornmeal 1 teaspoon sea salt 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 ½ cups cold water 2 cups boiling water For the pesto: 1 cup pesto (see recipe below) For the topping: 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 2 large leeks, (rinsed well and tough greens and ends removed), sliced into thin rounds 1 fennel bulb (fronds and core removed), sliced lengthwise into 1-inch wedges ½ pound asparagus (ends trimmed), sliced into 2 1/2-inch pieces sea salt optional: 4 ounces crumbled plain or herb garlic goat cheese, to taste Combine cornmeal, salt, olive oil, and cold water in a small bowl. Have the boiling water on the stove in a saucepan, and whisk in the cornmeal mixture. Cook about 10 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. It will get very thick. Remove from heat, and let cool to the touch. Preheat the oven to 375F. Oil two 10-inch pie or tart pans. Add the polenta, and use a spatula and wet hands to form it into a smooth, thick crust over the bottom and sides of the pan. Brush the surface with olive oil, and bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium heat and sauté leek, fennel, and asparagus in the olive oil with a pinch or two of salt for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender and still vibrant. If they start to stick to the pan, deglaze it with a little water (as needed). Remove the polenta crust from the oven. Turn up the oven to a low broil. Spread the pesto onto the bottom of the baked crust; add the sautéed leek, fennel, and asparagus (followed by the goat cheese if using). Broil on the middle rack about 5 to 10 minutes, until the crust turns golden brown on the edges. Serve hot. Arugula Pesto makes about 1 1/2 cups 2 cups packed baby arugula leaves, washed and drained juice from ½ a lemon 1 garlic clove, optional 1/2 cup sunflower seeds 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil sea salt (to taste) Blend arugula, lemon juice, garlic, and nuts in a food processor until the nuts are ground. Drizzle in the olive oil, with the machine still running; process until you have a smooth paste. Season to taste with salt.
Over the past month, I've made at least a dozen of these polenta pizzas plus half that amount of rhubarb crisps. Say hello to springy goodness folks, this is it. What makes the pizza stand out is the thinly baked cornmeal crusts covered in arugula-sunflower seed pesto and sauteed asparagus, fennel, and leeks. At times fingerling potatoes or peas were interchanged for the asparagus and fennel and the whole pizza was daubed with goat cheese crumbles. Any way you dress these pies, they're sure to be knockouts. I wrote about the gingery rhubarb crisp at the start of spring fever, if you want to give that recipe a go as well. Add a salad to the two and you can call it a casual dinner party. You can see me cooking the pizza and crisp live on yesterday's TV segments (please excuse the ums and whatnot). I'm off to finish shooting a roll of film and prepping for an art show (the Film Ends series) I'm in next month. If you're in the area, stop by and say hi. We can make a toast and talk artsy fartsy stuff or hang out, dance, and tell bad jokes. Whatever suits you.