ASPARAGUS CRUST WHITE CHICKEN PIZZA
I love pizza! So I am always trying to make one that has tons of vegetables! And this springtime pizza hits the mark!
Everyone knows about cauliflower crust pizza, so I wanted to create a pizza using fresh, Michigan asparagus as the crust. The crust is made out of pureed asparagus, cheeses, spices and an egg. The creamy white sauce is the perfect compliment to the crust and it is topped with some juicy chicken, prosciutto, tender-crisp asparagus, leeks and peas. If that doesn't scream SPRINGTIME, I don't know what does. (The only thing missing could be a few fried eggs on top and you would have a delicious breakfast pizza.)
If you know me, you know that I love asparagus. I have been working with the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board for the last few years to help support and educate people about Michigan Asparagus. I grew up in a farming family here in Oceana County. My grandparents were farmers and my uncle still farms in our area. I am a currently writing a cookbook "Meals From The Mitten" and it will highlight all of the amazing fruits and vegetables that we have to offer here in our great state of Michigan. So, when I was asked to be a part of the Michigan Asparagus Virtual Blog Tour again this year, I was thrilled to be a part of it. There is also a giveaway at the bottom of this post, courtesy of Michigan Asparagus.
We started our asparagus tour at the Michigan Asparagus Research Facility in Hart with Executive Director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board (MAAB), John Bakker, explaining how asparagus is grown and the different varieties of asparagus they grow for research purposes.
Oceana County is known as the "The Asparagus Capital of the Nation" and produces two-thirds of the asparagus that is grown in Michigan.
Michigan asparagus is not only delicious, but very nutritious as well. It is low in calories, only 20 per 5.3 ounce serving, less than 4 calories per spear. It contains no fat or cholesterol and very low in sodium. It is a good source of potassium, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6, rutin and glutathione. One of the most important health benefits of asparagus? It is high in folic acid. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60 percent of the recommended daily allowance for folacin, which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. It's not only tasty, it's also good for you.
In 2014, approximately 40% of Michigan asparagus was sold fresh in supermarkets, restaurants, farmers markets and roadside stands. While the other 60% of the crop was frozen, canned, or pickled. 2015 was the first year that Michigan sold more fresh asparagus than processed. Compare that to 2002 when 90% of Michigan asparagus was sold for processing and only 10% for the fresh market.
Michigan is the only state to hand pick their asparagus. Asparagus is picked close to the ground, snapping off at the base. Stalks are referred to as spears and over 500 million spears are harvested by hand each season. It takes 4 years before a field is fully mature and fields last for approximately 20 years. A mature field is picked 25-35 times per season. 120 Michigan family farms harvest over 20 million pounds of asparagus each year. Michigan is second in the nation for asparagus production (California is #1 and Washington is #3). Michigan produces more than 300 commodities, making us only second in the nation for agricultural diversity with California being first. Michigan has a diverse commodity mix that is made up of about 60% crops and 40% livestock.
White and green asparagus are from the same plant. If they harvest the asparagus while still underground, it is white (because it hasn't reached the sunlight no photosynthesis takes places and therefor no chlorophyll develops which would give it its green color). Most asparagus in Michigan is grown in the sunlight, hence the green color. Purple asparagus is a different variety than green asparagus. It is also a little sweeter than green asparagus. It has a beautiful purple color when raw, but it turns green when cooked. So if you see white, green and purple asparagus at your farmers market, you'll know the difference between them. Green and purple asparagus can be eaten root to tip, raw or cooked but white asparagus needs the be peeled because it has a tough, bitter stalk. All asparagus needs to stay cold after it is picked.
Next up on our asparagus tour we went to an asparagus field and live streamed how asparagus is picked in the field. Dwight and Melissa Fuehring, of Fuehring Farms, are asparagus farmers and were gracious to show myself, another food blogger, Brenda of A Farmgirl's Dabbles, and the marketing team the ideal conditions for growing and harvesting asparagus.
After our field tour, the next stop on our asparagus tour was to head over to Todd Greiner Farms to see how asparagus is packaged and processed. Sarah Greiner gave us a tour of the facility and reminded us how important it is to keep asparagus cold when you bring it home from the store or farmers market. They have a new product this year that I love! It's asparagus packaged in a convenient microwaveable bag! Look for it in your local store. River Ridge also has a new microwaveable bag, so look for the Michigan label and buy local!
We finished our asparagus tour in my kitchen where I made my Asparagus Guacamole and my Asparagus Crust White Chicken Pizza. I have included the recipe below. We also live streamed the cooking portion of our tour and that can be viewed on the Michigan Asparagus Facebook page.
Oceana County is home to the National Asparagus Festival, every June in Michigan. It recently took place in Hart, MI on June 9-11, 2017. It is the longest running asparagus festival in the country. Mary Harris, the 2016 Asparagus Queen, recently crowned Vicki Platt as the 2017 Asparagus Queen. The Royale Parade was on Saturday, June 10th with Marijo Bakker as the 2017 Grand Marshall. Marijo is the wife of John Bakker, the executive director of MAAB. Some of the events surrounding the festival were a 5k run, arts and crafts fair, asparagus farm tour and an entertainment tent.
Michigan asparagus season typically runs from early May to late June. Even though asparagus is only grown here in Michigan for two months, most stores carry it year around. It is typically imported in from either Peru or Mexico. What I want consumers to remember when buying asparagus, is to look and see where the asparagus was grown. We NEED to support our local farmers and buy fresh and local, especially when in season. I have seen Michigan asparagus right next to Peruvian asparagus at our local grocery store and we, as a consumer, need to be aware of that and buy MICHIGAN asparagus when given the opportunity. So, be aware and check the labels.
Asparagus Crust White Chicken Pizza
2 cups cut-up fresh or frozen Michigan asparagus, blanched
2/3 cup grated parmesan
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon lemon pepper seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped leeks
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 cup cubed rotisserie chicken
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 cup cut-up fresh or frozen Michigan asparagus, blanched and seasoned with avocado oil and lemon pepper seasoning
1/4 cup chopped prosciutto
Fresh chives or basil for garnish
Preheat oven to 375º-F.
Add 2 cups blanched asparagus to a food processor and puree until smooth. In a large bowl, add asparagus puree, egg, parmesan, mozzarella and lemon pepper seasoning. Mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Press asparagus mixture into a circular shape on a parchment lined pizza stone (or baking sheet). Mixture will have excess moisture in it that needs to be removed. Press a layer of paper towel over the crust and gently press down to remove excess moisture. Repeat one more time or until paper towel is no longer absorbing excess moisture.
Bake for 12-13 minutes.
To make the white sauce, add butter, leeks and garlic to a saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Slowly whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add in milk, continually whisking, and cook until thickened. Add parmesan cheese, then take off heat and set aside.
Add white sauce to par-baked asparagus crust, then chicken followed by the mozzarella. Add peas, asparagus and prosciutto. Bake for an additional 5-8 minutes, or until cheese is thoroughly melted. Garnish with fresh chives or basil.
Lemon pepper seasoning substitute - lemon zest, black pepper and granulated garlic.
Enter to win a $700 Gift Card from the Michigan Asparagus Board! Good Luck!
Don't forget to check out A Farmgirl's Dabbles website. Brenda has some delicious recipes that you need to make. I can't wait to make her pickled pepper asparagus!
Need some more asparagus inspiration? Here are a few more of my asparagus recipes and tv segments.
This is a Michigan Asparagus sponsored post. All opinions expressed are my own.