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White Pizza with Ramps

In the five-plus years that D and I have been together, I think she’d probably say she’s learned that vegetables aren’t half bad. Hell, she really does enjoy them sometimes. Does she love asparagus? No. Ditto brussels sprouts. But I make ’em, she eats’ em, and we all come out alive.

It’s not a one way street, either. D’s got plenty to teach me about the wonder of simplicity. I may love my arugula salads dressed with nothing more than lemon and olive oil, but that girl knows her mac and cheese. She’s got the Subway sandwich situation down to a science. And she’s the reigning expert on homemade pizza.

I never used to want to make pizza, but these days, I seemingly can’t get enough of it. I always used to marvel at what a wood oven and ten minutes could do to a lump of dough; since giving homemade pizza a whirl, I can marvel at the fact that my modest little oven produces a damn good pie.

I generally prefer red sauce pizzas, and that’s certainly D’s flavor of choice. But there are some pretty awesome-sounding pies out there, and when I read about their ingredients, I think I could eat them happily and not miss the red sauce at all.

Take the sardine pizza I had at Two Amys a couple weeks back. Okay, so it had tomato sauce. But you know what it didn’t have? Cheese. At all. And I absolutely loved it, which tells me that unconventional pizzas can be really great.

The idea of ramp pizza is certainly not new; Otto in New York is known for their version, a classic margarita pizza with plenty of charred ramps and (sometimes) a poached egg on top. I made two pizzas last night: the first was my take on Otto’s, with red sauce, fresh mozzarella, parmesan, and charred ramps. (that covered half of my red pie; the other half I prepared in my all-time favorite fashion, with tomato, basil, mozzarella, parmesan, and salt-cured anchovies….yea.) The other pie was a more pared-down version, a white pizza boasting three cheeses: stretchy mozzarella, tender ricotta, and nutty parmesan. The ramps themselves play a supporting role, giving the pizza a smokey flavor. And you know what? I’m slightly addicted to it. The best part? You don’t even need a pizza stone. Which is a good thing, ’cause I don’t have one.

White Pizza with Ramps
5 1/3 cups plus a couple tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon yeast
2 tablespoons sugar, honey, or agave nectar (I used agave)
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, room temp
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Combine flour, salt, yeast, honey, water, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in stand mixer or large bowl and mix, using wooden spoon or paddle attachment, for 1 minute or until blended. Let rest 5 minutes.

Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low speed 2-3 minutes (or continue mixing by hand) until dough is soft, and somewhere between tacky and sticky.

Spread 1 tablespoon olive oil on kneading surface and turn dough out onto surface. Stretch dough out and fold over itself. Do the same from the opposite end, then from side to side, for a total of four stretch-and-folds. Divide dough into the number of pies you plan to make: I initially divided into 5, as Reinhart recommends, then later realized I wanted 3 big pies instead of 5 personal ones. Form each piece into a ball and either put each into an oil-sprayed plastic bag, or set them atop parchment-lined baking sheets and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or upto 4 days, or freeze upto several months.

90 minutes before making the pizzas, remove dough balls from refrigerator. With oiled hands, stretch and fold each piece into a tight ball, then let rest on lightly oiled baking pan loosely covered with plastic wrap.

1 hour before baking, set a rack in the lowest rung of the oven and turn heat as high as it will go.

Meanwhile, prepare ramps: rinse in several changes of water, pat dry, and remove bulbs from leaves. Slice bulbs into thin disks, and slice leaves lengthwise into 2 or 3 slices. Heat a small pan with a couple inches of water over medium heat until water boils. Blanch bulb slices for 45 seconds, then leaves for 30 seconds, removing each immediately with slotted spoon and setting aside.

Coat your hands with flour. Choose one dough ball, sprinkle a bit of flour on top, then flip over onto baking sheet and use your thumbs to slowly coax the edges of the dough into a larger circle. Work from the edges, not from the middle; the middle will spread as the edges are drawn out. Keep turning and stretching, turning and stretching, about 13 times (according to my pizza hero Jim Lahey), until dough is quite thin. If dough resists or shrinks back, let it rest a few minutes, then return. Do your best to preserve the little gas bubbles in the dough as you stretch it; they’ll make lovely charred lumps in your pizza.

At this point, you’re ready to top your pizzas. Start with mozzarella slices. Then grate parmesan onto pies. Top with ramp bulbs and leaves, and dot fresh ricotta overtop. Finish each pizza with a swirl of olive oil and a light sprinkle of flaky salt.

Bake on the lowest rack of the oven for about 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Pies are done when the crusts are very charred and the cheese is bubbling (oh yes, it will bubble). Remove pies, and try to wait a couple minutes before taking a bite, or the roof of your mouth will not be happy!

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  • meg April 28, 2010,

    I have to being by saying that I am a fellow DC-ite. While I love home-making my pizza, when I’m not grilling my own, 2 Amy’s is my place of choice so I certainly identified with your love of their unconventional pizzas (the best i’ve had there was a spicy squid…) So I have to ask – what are your other go-to places in the district?

  • rivka April 28, 2010,

    Hi Meg! Thanks for writing. Truthfully, 2Amys is by far the best in the area. Comet Ping Pong is pretty good, and Paradiso is fine, but 2Amys is far and away the best.

  • Marty April 30, 2010,

    We practically live at 2Amys this time of year– how come we never see you guys there? BTW — after a much-too-long absence, an extraodinary meal at Komi last night. In Springtime, spots such as these (and Palena — tried the consomme?) are just an abundance of bursting seasonal deliciousness.

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