Sunday, April 25, 2010

Anthony Bourdain and Basil-Oil & Asparagus Pizza

J'taime Tony! Ever since I read Kitchen Confidential a couple years ago, just about the time my love for all things culinary was really starting to blossom, I have had a growing obsession with Anthony Bourdain, the former chef-turned-travel-host and star of the Travel Channel's fantastic No Reservations.

If you haven't seen No Reservations, it's basically a raw, documentary-style travel show focused on Bourdain's travels around the world - Istanbul, Saudia Arabia, Singapore, you name it. It's wickedly well-written (by Bourdain himself) and compulsively watchable.

For lovers of the show (and all things Tony), seeing Anthony Bourdain on stage is a dream come true. He basically talks for about an hour, an hour and a half - very much in the style of his show, although sans bleeping - and then takes questions from the audience for another hour. He tells behind-the-scenes stories, but he also pontificates (hilariously) on everything from how not to piss off your host to why he thinks vegetarians are a-holes.

Perhaps most famously, he slaughters the Food Network and almost everyone on it (he is well-known for past diatribes against Rachael Ray, although he's left those jokes in the past since she sent him a fruit basket). He actually respects Ina Garten, Bobby Flay, Emeril, and Mario Batali (also one of his close personal friends) - but Sandra Lee: watch out. Tony no like. (And it seemed as though the audience couldn't agree more - we erupted in applause when he told tales of her "pure evilness." Actual quote: "Sandra Lee does to food what Hitler did to Poland." Cue audience hysterics.)

The thing I love about Anthony Bourdain is his deep respect for the sheer diversity of world cultures and the people who live, eat, and breathe those cultures every day. He urged us all to "be grateful, and try our best to be polite" as we explore all the world has to offer. That's a philosophy I can most definitely get behind.

Before I left for the show, I whipped up a sauceless pizza that captured one of Spring's best treats: asparagus. I dedicate a slice to the inimitable Anthony Bourdain. Cheers, Tony!


1 recipe hand-method pizza dough (or store-bought)
a few spoonfuls basil oil (recipe follows)
torn fresh basil leaves
small fresh mozzarella balls, halved
several asparagus spears, just the fluffy ends (reserve the rest for another use)
grape tomatoes, halved
freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes

Basil Oil:
~1/2 cup olive oil
~a dozen basil leaves, torn


Bring your pizza dough to room temperature and preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Make the basil oil: in a small saucepan, combine the olive oil and basil leaves over medium0low heat and cook until the basil looks fried. Strain the oil into a jar and discard the basil.


Roll out the pizza dough. Sprinkle your baking stone or pan with a little coarse cornmeal (to prevent sticking). Place the dough on the cooking pan. Spread a little basil oil over the dough's entire surface. Place the torn fresh basil leaves around randomly (as much or as little as you like - I used about 3 large basil leaves total).


Spread the asparagus ends, tomato halves, and mozzarella ball halves randomly around the pizza in a single layer. Grate Parmesan cheese over the top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Drizzle a little more basil oil over the top. Bake at 500 until the edges are browning and the cheese is browned in places. Cut into pieces, serve, and enjoy!

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