This weekend marks the twelfth year my husband and I have been together, so to celebrate I decided to cook us up one of our favorite things in the world: pizza. But being a nutritionist means that I can’t serve up some meaty, cheesy bread with little more nutrition than a Lunchable without self-destructing. So I headed to Berkeley Bowl and scoured the aisles looking for this week’s exotic veggie that would star in my nutritious-but-delicious anniversary pizza.
It just so happens that one of the things I love as much as pizza is alliteration (thank you IB English), so when I spotted those tender pea shoot leaves with their delicate tendrils in the Asian greens section, I simply smiled. Pea Shoot Pizza… now doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?
I first fell in love with pea shoots at Burma Super Star, where they stir fry them in garlic and white wine — delicious. I had never heard of them before, but they have been considered a delicacy in Asia for centuries and have only recently caught on in the U.S. Similar to the green garlic I featured a few weeks ago, pea shoots are another example of harvesting and enjoying a plant at various stages of its life. In this case, we are going to enjoy the hell out of the young stalks, leaves, and tendrils of the pea plant long before the peas are ready. Because green garlic and pea shoots are immature versions of their more popular, mature selves, you better act fast because these babies grow up quickly and are only available for a few weeks of the spring season.
Eating pea shoots is like taking a bite out of spring. They taste fresh, grassy, and mildly pea-pod-like, and are great raw or lightly wilted. They’re bunched into the “leafy green” family, which always gets the top grade in nutrition class. Packed with antioxidants, phytochemicals and vitamins like A, C, and E, but incredibly low in calories, pea shoots give you a lot of bang for your buck.
Since this pizza was to be our meal, I decided to add some protein in the form of a couple
cracked, gooey eggs on top and some chive and chili-flake ricotta spread over the crust. The balsamic onions add just the touch of acid it needs for blissful balance.
There are a zillion recipes for pizza dough, so take your pick. In my case, my full-time job and crazy week did the picking for me: Trader Joe’s pizza dough. But whether homemade or store-bought dough, make sure you use a pizza stone. There is really no excuse for making pizza on anything else.
Pea Shoot Pizza with Ricotta and Cracked Egg
- 1 lb fresh pizza dough
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 6-8 oz pea shoots, washed and spun dry
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 4-6 oz fresh mozzarella
- 3 eggs
Place the pizza stone in the oven and pre-heat to 450 degrees.
Place a large skillet on the stove over medium heat. Pour 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in the pan and add the sliced red onion. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the red onion begins to caramelize. Add the balsamic vinegar and sauté for another minute or two until the vinegar is absorbed into the onions. Turn up the heat to high and add the pea shoots and about a 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté the pea shoots with the onions until the shoots are just wilted but still bright green. Turn off the stove and set the pan aside.
On a floured surface, roll or stretch the pizza dough out to a thin, 12-inch round. Place the dough on a pizza board or cutting board dusted with cornmeal and brush the dough with some olive oil. Stir the chives, red pepper flakes, a good pinch of salt, and about 1 teaspoon olive oil into the ricotta and spread the mixture over the pizza dough. Next, spread the onions and pea shoots over the ricotta and place the thin slices of fresh mozzarella on top. Finally, make three indentations in the center of the piled greens for cracking the eggs into (but don’t put the eggs on top yet because they will run all over when you transfer the pizza to the stone).
Open the oven and carefully slide the pizza off the board onto the hot pizza stone. Quickly crack an egg into each of the indentations in the pizza and shut the oven door. Bake the pizza for 8-15 minutes, depending on how strong your oven is, how crispy you like your crust, how bubbly you like your mozzarella and how runny you like your eggs.
When the pizza is done to your liking, remove it from the oven, crack some black pepper over the top, and drizzle it with a little more aged balsamic if you wish (this is highly recommended). Enjoy it piping hot with a green salad.