PAN-CHARRED VEGGIES FROM COOKING LIGHT

Cooking Light magazine, in their April 2014 issue published a nice article about pan-charring veggies for a boost in flavor. More than simply offering a recipe, they shared a general method to deal with veggies like asparagus and green beans. Veggies that can take the heat, so to speak. All you need to do is choose three basic components: the fat to coat the veggies after the initial charring, the acidic ingredient to brighten things up and the herbs added right before serving.  No matter which veggies you are dealing with, they will be ready in no time.  I know I sound like a broken record, but when I get home from work and it’s my turn to cook, the last thing I want is a side-dish that takes 45 minutes to prepare.  Give me something fast and flavorful, and I am game!

So here is my take number one on this method: charred asparagus flavored with lemon juice and fresh dill at the end… Before you accuse me of the capital culinary sin of non-seasonal cooking, let me say that this dish was made last May, not too long after I got the magazine. As usual, it takes me a while to go from table to blog. But, since last week I used this method to cook delicious green beans, I am taking the opportunity to talk about both dishes. Clearly, it’s all about the char…

AsparagusDill

PAN-CHARRED ASPARAGUS
(adapted from Cooking Light, April 2014)

Cooking spray
8 ounces asparagus, cut in pieces
1 + 1/2 teaspoons walnut oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
.
Heat a medium, heavy skillet (not nonstick) over high heat for 2 minutes.

Coat pan with cooking spray. Immediately add asparagus pieces to pan, shaking them into a single layer; cook, without stirring, 2 minutes or until asparagus is very lightly charred. Cook asparagus 5 more minutes or until crisp-tender and evenly charred, tossing occasionally.

Remove pan from heat. Let asparagus rest 1 minute. Add walnut oil; toss to coat asparagus pieces. Add lemon juice; toss. Turn on heat if necessary to evaporate most of liquid. Sprinkle asparagus with dill and salt; toss. Serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

And here is my take number two: the exact same method, using olive oil to coat green beans, a touch of apple cider vinegar as the acidic component, and fresh tarragon added at the end. Tarragon straight from the garden of our friend Cindy, who recently visited us with her husband. Remember, I am the lucky woman with the super generous friends…

GreenBeansTarragon2
Now, as I mentioned, this is all about the char… Look at these dark spots, aren’t they making you crave some green beans?

GreenBeansTarragon

Back in 2010 I  wrote a blog post about “Blasted Broccoli“, stove-top version. We loved that recipe so much that I went through a long phase of cooking it weekly. I can see that this method could be adapted for broccoli too. Or sugar snap peas.  Avocado oil, coconut oil, use your imagination (and your pantry) and play with this method.  You won’t be disappointed…

ONE YEAR AGO: Pomegranate Chicken Thighs and Carrot Mash

TWO YEARS AGO: The Many Faces of Kale

THREE YEARS AGO:  Short and Sweet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Ciabatta, a Classic Italian Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Magical Lamb Stew

 

MY RIO DE JANEIRO: A COOKBOOK REVIEW

Time for a cookbook review, the second publication by Leticia Schwartz.  Those who have been around the Bewitching Kitchen long enough might remember I reviewed Leticia’s first cookbook, The Brazilian Kitchen.   With this new book, she takes her favorite city in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, and professes her love by showcasing recipes from each different neighborhood.  I imagine that only two of them might ring a bell for those who never set foot in Rio: Ipanema and Copacabana.   Those are names made famous by Tom Jobim’s song Garota de Ipanema, and by images of beautiful women wearing bikinis that cover the bare minimum of their bodies. But Rio is a lot more than that, a collection of very diverse neighborhoods reflecting the immigrants who shaped them.

noname-7

I had a pretty tough time picking a recipe to share with you, but decided to make her Pasta with Shrimp and Asparagus in Coconut Milk because it is quite unique and brings many of the flavors of Brazilian cooking in a single dish.

Pasta with Shrimp and Asparagus in Coconut SaucePASTA WITH SHRIMP AND ASPARAGUS IN COCONUT MILK
(published with permission from Leticia Schwartz)

kosher salt
8 ounces tagliatelle, linguine or the pasta of your choice
8 ounces asparagus (about 1 bunch), tough parts trimmed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled (use shells for stock)
black pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 cup shrimp stock (or chicken stock)
1 cup coconut milk2 Tablespoons Cognac
2 Tablespoons chives, minced

Steam the asparagus for about 3 minutes, cool them quickly in a bowl of ice-water. Drain well and reserve. Cut in pieces before adding to the sauce.

Bring a large amount of salted water to a boil and start cooking the pasta until a little short of al dente.  As the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. Reserve some of the pasta water when you drain it in case you need to thin the sauce at the end.

Heat the olive oil in a large, preferably non-stick skillet on medium heat.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and saute until they start to turn orange, about 1 minute per side. Remove the shrimp to a plate, tent with foil, and reserve.  Add the shallots to the skillet, cook until they start to develop a golden brown color, about 3 minutes.  Add the stock and bring to a boil, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the coconut milk, bring to a gentle boil again, cook until the sauce starts to concentrate, thicken, and reduce to about half the volume (about 3 to 4 minutes).

Reduce the heat to low, add the cooked pasta, the reserved shrimp, and asparagus pieces. Toss everything together vigorously, if needed add some of the pasta cooking water, or a little more coconut milk to keep the dish creamy.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, stir the cognac, and add chives right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

IMG_3874

Comments: Making your own shrimp stock is not absolutely essential, you could use chicken stock or even vegetable stock, but it does add an extra something to the sauce. The seafood flavor is obviously intensified.  Leticia likes to roast the shrimp shells with a little tomato paste, I just sauteed the shells on olive oil, then added water and simmered them for 20 minutes with some celery, carrots, and onions.

I had never used coconut milk  in a pasta sauce before, I might try the light coconut milk next time, I don’t think it would pose a problem.  I could not find chives at the store that day, but a little cilantro or parsley sprinkled on top would also be wonderful. I only remembered that step after we were halfway through with dinner.  Such is the life of a blogger. You don’t always fulfill your own expectations.  ;-)

Spaghetti with Shrimp and Asparagus in Coconut Milk Sauce

Now, let me go through the book, chapter by chapter, so you can have a better idea of what it’s all about. I list just a few recipes from each chapter, as the book contains 90 recipes.  I should also mention that even though the chapters are divided according to each neighborhood of the city, in the index the recipes are listed by ingredients, making it very easy to find anything you might be interested in cooking.

LeblonEvening in Leblon

CHAPTER ONE: LEBLON. In this chapter, Leticia brings the type of food associated with “botequins“. A quote from the book: “A botequim is a simply type of restaurant that came to being in Brazil in the late 1800′s by and for Portuguese immigrants”.   The botequim actually reminds me of simple bistrots in Paris, not the fancy ones geared to tourists, but the small, usually a bit dark inside, where folks who live or work in the neighborhood meet for a simple meal, a drink, a coffee.  She opens the chapter with Sugar and Lime Cocktail, the Brazilian national drink, “capirinha“.   “Botequim” food is usually finger food, a bit like Spanish tapas.  You will find Golden Salt Cod Fritters (bolinho de bacalhau), Brazilian-Style Fried Chicken, in which the pieces are cut very small and heavily seasoned with garlic, and the wonderful Brigadeiros, like the ones I had in the blog  years ago.

GarotaIpanemaAn old photo of Helo Pinheiro (the original Girl from Ipanema)  & Tom Jobim.

CHAPTER TWO: IPANEMA. The opening part of this chapter is a nice tribute to Farmer’s Market, which are a must-visit in Rio (as well as Sao Paulo, says the “paulista” in me). She describes the hard work associated with getting the market ready, as at 7am every stand is open for business.  Grated coconut, coconut milk, fresh coconut pieces, those are ingredients that are part of many traditional Brazilian recipes, and as Leticia points out, no one wants to do that type of job at home, so the street markets have several stands in which people grate coconut the whole day, handing you a bag with the freshest possible product. Absolutely nothing to do with the stuff we get in grocery stores, dried up, often overly sweet.  Her first recipe in the chapter is for Yucca Cracker, and that brought me so many memories!  I grew up enjoying them, and honestly I had no idea they could be made at home. They are shaped like a bagel, but their taste and texture is absolutely unique. You can see them here. Pao de queijo is in this chapter too, her recipe more traditional than the one I blogged about in the past.  Some other recipes in this chapter: Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew), Duck and Yucca Shepherd’s Pie (be still, my heart!). and the recipe I shared with you today, Tagliatelle with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Coconut Milk.

CopacabanaSunsetSunset in Copacabana

CHAPTER THREE: COPACABANA & LEME.  A quote from the book: “Rio’s magical places have the power to inspire musicians and artist from around the world. Indeed music and passion are always in fashion at the Copa! Copacabana!” The chapters opens with a classic soup of Portuguese origin, Garlic and Cilantro Soup with Poached Eggs and Croutons (Açorda Alantejana), followed by Creamy Brazil Nut Soup (a heavy contender for featured recipe, by the way), and also brings some dishes with Middle Eastern influence, like “Esfihas“.  The recipe that made my heart miss a beat, though was Moqueca Blinis with Shrimp.  A fantastic twist on Shrimp Moqueca, in a recipe by Chef Rolland Villar, joining Brazilian and French cuisines.  I must make it! Here is a photo from the book, doesn’t that seem amazing? The moqueca flavors are in the blinis, and the shrimp sits on top of each delicious bite…

photo(2)CHAPTER FOUR: JARDIM BOTANICO, GÁVEA E LAGOA. A quote: “Cariocas are obsessed with exercise and Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas (a lagoon) is one of the most beautiful places in town to go jogging. … exercising in that setting it’s as if your endorphins double from the visual effects of Rio, and the result is a sense of pure happiness, elation and peacefulness…”  Some recipes from the chapter include Rolled Sausage Bread with Rosemary (a concoction from the very famous Pizzaria Braz), Chez Anne’s Cheese Empanadas, Brazilian-Style Veal Stroganof, and Cashew Fruit Ice Cream (trust me, this is to die for!).

SugarLoaf
CHAPTER FIVE: FLAMENGO & BOTAFOGO.
The famous Sugar Loaf is located in this part of town.  Leticia featured in this chapter some recipes from trendy restaurants like Nomangue and Irajá.  I was quite tempted to prepare the Hearts of Palm Soup, so soothing and creamy, but the Molten Brigadeiro Cake (which Leticia likes to serve with ginger ice cream) was also calling my name.  Real loud.

Cristo

CHAPTER SIX: SANTA TERESA, GLÓRIA, LARANJEIRAS & COSME VELHO: Dining with a view. Perhaps the most famous landmark of Rio, Christ the Redeemer, is located in this neighborhood. Leticia recommends two restaurant in the region, Aprazível, and a botequim-type place called Bar do Mineiro. By the way, clicking on the link to Aprazivel will bring up a beautiful Brazilian song, worth listening to. She features not only recipes from these places, but also some from caterers that often come up with incredible twists on classics.  A few examples: Plum Tomato and Bread Soup, Rita’s Fried Zucchini, Chicken and Chorizo over Jasmine Rice (the famous Galinhada), and Passion Fruit Mousse.

Carnival_in_Rio_de_Janeiro

CHAPTER SEVEN: CENTRO, LAPA E ARREDORES.  This is the neighborhood associated with samba and Carnival, where the “Sambódromo” is located, and the huge avenue where the samba schools parade for days, Avenida Marques de Sapucaí”.  Lots of great recipes in this chapter, like Feijoada Fritters with Collard Greens (a take on feijoada from the restaurant Aconchego Carioca), Slow-Roasted Pork Ribs with Guava Sauce, Polenta Turnovers (what a great culinary move!), and Tapioca Pudding with Coconut Caramel Sauce.

CHAPTER EIGHT: BARRA DA TIJUCA.  Well, that is a part of Rio very dear to my heart.  My Mom and my sisters were born and raised in that neighborhood, and so was Leticia!  Quote from the book: “To enter Barra, you have to drive through Rocinha, the largest favela of Brazil. Leticia grew up just a few minutes away, but never connected with this world – so close but yet so far away”.   That is one interesting aspect of Rio, and quite disturbing for foreigners, how close the opposites of society co-exist in town.  A common denominator, though, is food.  Some examples of recipes featured in this chapter are Yucca Fries (the best food in the known universe, if you ask me), Chicken Salad with Carrots and Chives on Whole Wheat (very famous sandwich sold at every beach in Rio, by vendors who scream as they pass by “Look, it’s the Natural Sandwich!”, Fresh Cod with Onions, Potatoes, and Broccolini, and the absolutely delicious Pulled Carne Seca with Butternut Squash Puree.

Buzios
CHAPTER NINE: BÚZIOS.
  Búzios is supposed to be a paradise on Earth. I have never been there, believe it or not, but one day I dream of spending a few days with Phil. It is a beach town, three hours drive from Rio. Enjoying seafood is a must.   How about Farfalle with Salmon and Caipirinha SauceTuna Sandwich?

Paraty
CHAPTER TEN: PARATY.
Now, THAT is a paradise I visited with Phil and a couple of great friends years ago.  We had a fantastic time, and also got one of the worst sunburns in the history of our lives… :-) Paraty is more or less halfway through Rio and São Paulo, and it is a historic city, full of churches from the Gold Era of Brazil, and also fantastic restaurants and hotels. Leticia opens the chapter with a drink, Coconut Cocktail, which I find as delicious or better than capirinha… Also in this chapter you can drool over her Roasted Garlic-Ginger Shrimp with Coconut and Fresh Herb Crumbs (the picture is enough to make me swoon).

CHAPTER ELEVEN: REGIÃO SERRANA. In this chapter, Leticia focuses on a town called Teresópolis, located in hills not too far from Rio de Janeiro. I would love to make her Spinach Crepes with Fresh Tomato Sauce (Brazilian crepes, called “panquecas”, are not the same as the French concoction), the Brazilian Tiramisu, or the Dulce de Leche Brioche Pudding (I gained a pound typing it, though).

CHAPTER TWELVE: HOME COOKING.  In my opinion, no better way to close a cookbook. She features recipes from her family, and surprisingly starts the chapter with her Aunt Sarita’s Moroccan Meatballs. It turns out her Aunt was born in Tangier, so you won’t be able to get more Middle Eastern than that…  One of the recipes in this chapter gave me a huge smile because it was part of my childhood, teenage years, and adulthood too: Ground Beef with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Olives. That is simple,  home cooking to the fullest, and I find myself making batches and batches to enjoy for lunch.  Also in this chapter, Baked Rice with Chicken and Chorizo (Arroz de Forno, each family in Brazil seems to have a version for it),  Brazilian Style Pot Roast, White Chocolate Mousse with Passion Fruit Gelee, and Brazilian Rice Pudding.

photo-1
Leticia, thank you so much for giving me permission to publish one more of your recipes!  I am sure My Rio de Janeiro will be a huge success, for Brazilians in Brazil, for those like us, living abroad, and for people all over the world who share a passion for food and like to learn about other cultures through their cuisines.  You did a wonderful job assembling these recipes, your love for Rio comes through in every page…

ONE YEAR AGO: Hearts of Palm Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

TWO YEARS AGO: Watercress Salad

THREE YEARS AGO: Curried Zucchini Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chocolate Bread

SPRING HAS SPRUNG!

To welcome one of my favorite seasons, a flash-back of recipes featuring one of my favorite veggies: asparagus!   Click on the title to see the original post.


(this post will be published during my trip to Brazil, in case of problems with links, I won´t be able to fix them until we are back)

ASPARAGUS ON ASPARAGUS
aspONasp

ASPARAGUS PESTO
AspPesto

ASPARAGUS BUNDLES WITH PROSCIUTTO AND CHEESE
AspBundles

SPRING PASTA
SpringPasta

SHAVED ASPARAGUS SALAD
ShavedAsp

SPRING ASPARAGUS QUICHEQuiche

LEMONY ASPARAGUS
lemony

PASTA WITH ASPARAGUS COINS AND TOMATOES
coins

THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB: ASPARAGUS QUICHE

The last Monday of each month arrives faster and faster, proving that Einstein got it right with his Theory of Relativity of time and space.  How else could we explain that I joined the SRC just a little while ago, blinked my eyes twice, and here I am, on my seventh post?

I had a complete blast with this month’s assignment: The Culinary Enthusiast!  A catchy blog name, by the way. Kelley lives in Chicago with her husband and a dog-child called Maddy, who gets to enjoy the many treats she cooks. See similarities between our households?   ;-)  Kelley has very creative recipes, and it took me a few days of “stalking” before I settled on my choice.   Asparagus Quiche.   Perfect for the season, perfect to remember Paris, perfect for a romantic weekend dinner.

SPRING ASPARAGUS QUICHE
(adapted from The Culinary Enthusiast)

1 recipe for pie crust (I used this one)
1 leek (white and light green parts only), halved and thinly sliced
salt and ground black pepper
1/2 bunch (about 1/2 pound) asparagus, tough ends removed, thinly sliced
3 asparagus stalks, trimmed and left whole (optional)
4 slices bacon, cut in large dice
4 large eggs
1 + 1/4 cups half-and-half
Ground nutmeg
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (4 ounces)

Prepare the crust of your quiche, using the recipe of your choice.  Roll it out to cover your pie plate.  Prick the surface with a fork a few times, cover the bottom with aluminum foil, and place dried beans to keep the crust down during pre-baking.   Bake in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes, carefully remove the foil, place it back in the oven for 10 minutes more.   Remove from the oven, and reserve.

Bring the oven temperature down to 325 F, placing a rack in the lowest position.  In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy.  Set aside on a paper towel lined plate, allow it to cool, and crumble into smaller pieces.  Reserve bacon grease in pan and add the leeks, cook for a few minutes, until softened.  Add the asparagus pieces, season with salt and pepper. Cook until the asparagus is crisp/tender, maximum 6 minutes. Let the mixture cool down.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Place pie crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with half of the cheese; add the asparagus/leek mixture, top with crumbled bacon. Pour egg mixture on top, add the remainder of the cheese.

If you want to decorate the quiche with asparagus stalks, cook them slightly in a microwave for a minute, then place carefully on top.

Bake until center of quiche is just set, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

My main modification of the recipe was to pre-bake the crust, because I’ve had problems with the crust getting too soggy when I omitted that step.  I also did not use potatoes in the filling, but I know it would be awesome with them too!

As far as quiche goes, Phil and I had the perfect example at a small, unassuming place in Paris, called “Bistrot du Papa”.  Don’t go through the trouble of googleing it, it no longer exists.  We were in considerable distress when we attempted to go back on our last visit, only to find an Italian restaurant in its place.  Ever since enjoying that masterpiece, I tried to make it at home a couple of times, the traditional quiche Lorraine, but my versions had very little to do with the bistrot’s.

I must say this asparagus quiche was by far the best I’ve made!  Will I ever hit “Bistrot du Papa” level?  Quite unlikely.  They have a different type of cream, a different type of bacon, and then there’s the Parisian aura, hard to duplicate at home.  Oh, well…   We should have stopped there once a week for the duration of that magical sabbatical year!

We’ll always have Paris…
(great scene from Casablanca, 1942)

Kelley, thanks for a great recipe that brought the best gastronomical memories to our table!

Check out the other recipes in this month’s roundup  by clicking on the cute blue frog at the end of this post.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Spring Pasta

TWO YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango


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SPRING PASTA

Proving that there’s no such thing as too many recipes using asparagus, here is one more: a very tasty and healthy pasta dish to celebrate Spring, even if the season is already waving goodbye.  However, here in L.A. the warm weather is dragging its feet, temperatures barely hit the mid 70′s, and I still have to resort to long sleeves shirts.  It’s preposterous!

I got this recipe from a new food blog: Inspired Edibles, hosted by Kelly, where you’ll also find all sorts of articles related to nutrition and fitness, two topics I’m quite fond of.   Kelly got the recipe from  from Ellie Krieger, cookbook author and Food TV host. I made just a few changes to accommodate what I had around the kitchen.

SPRING PASTA
(adapted from this post in Inspired Edibles)

whole-wheat spaghetti (or pasta of your choice)
1 bunch of asparagus
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock (or water)
fresh parsley, chopped
Iberico cheese, grated (or Parmiggiano Reggiano)

Heat oven to 375 F.   Cut the tough stems off the asparagus and discard.  Cut the stems in half, and unless the stems are very thin, slice the lower half in half lengthwise.  Place them in a baking dish, coat lightly with 1 Tbsp olive oil, sprinkle salt, and bake for 12-15 minutes, until barely soft.

Start cooking the pasta according to the package instructions. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs olive oil on a large non-stick skillet and saute the garlic and the sun dried tomatoes for a couple of minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and the tomatoes start to soften up.  Season with a little salt and pepper. If the pasta is not cooked yet, reserve the sauteed mixture over very low heat.   Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the skillet together with the chicken stock, reserved asparagus, 3/4 of the walnuts, parsley and grated cheese.  Mix well, and warm it all together in medium-high heat for a couple of minutes.

Serve with the remaining walnuts and additional grated cheese on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  The more I eat whole-wheat pasta the more I like it. Barilla is my top choice, but this time I used a Trader Joe’s alternative and found that its beautiful brownish color faded quite a bit upon cooking.  Not quite sure why that would happen, but it tasted fine, maybe a little less “toothsome” than Barilla.

Surprisingly,  there was no Parmiggiano in our home, so I used Iberico, a delicious Spanish cheese, similar to Manchego.  Since it’s not a hard, grating type cheese, it melted almost instantaneously in contact with the pasta.  Nothing wrong with that, actually, we loved it!  But it is a bit messy to grate, next time I’ll stick with the classic Parmiggiano.

Kelly, thanks so much for the inspiration,  you obviously picked a perfect name for your blog!   ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO:  Ice cream melts for mango

 

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SPRINGTIME SALAD

The moment I saw this recipe in the latest issue of Fine Cooking, I knew I had to make it right away.  First, because it involves asparagus.  Secondly, because they are prepared in a novel way  – the spears are shaved as ribbons.    I am already quite fond of thinly sliced raw asparagus as in this farro salad, so I looked forward to trying this new (to me, anyway ;-)) method to serve them.

SHAVED ASPARAGUS SALAD
(adapted from Fine Coking magazine)

for the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons agave nectar  (or 1 Tablespoon honey)
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
salt and  black pepper to taste

for the salad:
1/2 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed
2 cups baby arugula
1/3 cup toasted cashew nuts
2 oz. thinly shaved aged Gouda

Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, agave nectar, shallots in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate if not using right away.

Remove the tips of the asparagus and put them in a large bowl. Using a vegetable peeler, shave a stalk discarding the first shaving, which will contain only the thick outer layer.  When shaving the first side becomes awkward, turn stalk over and repeat. Add all shavings to the bowl with the tips. Repeat with remaining stalks. Toss asparagus with 1/4 cup of vinaigrette and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  Add arugula and toss, adding more dressing if needed to coat the leaves.  Top with the shaved cheese and cashews, adjust seasoning and serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  This salad dressing is very close to perfection.  The original recipe used honey, but I’m so fond of agave nectar that whenever I have the opportunity, I use it instead.  Once you add the dressing to the shaved asparagus, the transformation is quite obvious: within a few minutes the ribbons start to soften up.   Don’t do it too early, or they will get mushy.   For obvious reasons, the salad won’t keep at its best for very long, so if you are serving it at a dinner party, keep that in mind.    The asparagus tips will retain most of their bite, adding a nice texture together with the cashew nuts.

At first, I thought about substituting parmiggiano or ricotta salata for the cheese component of this recipe. Aged Gouda is not a cheese we normally buy, but its slightly smoked taste worked surprisingly well with the arugula and asparagus.  We gave it two thumbs up!

I can see many variations of this recipe during Spring and Summer months.  And, I was not the only one who enjoyed it: browsing through “One Perfect Bite” the other day, I noticed that Mary also loved it.  Check it out by jumping here.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Indonesian Delight

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DOUBLE ASPARAGUS DELIGHT

Here’s a clever approach that Michel Richard published in his cookbook “Happy in the Kitchen” :  asparagus spears paired with an asparagus “vinaigrette.”   If you love green vegetables, as I do, you will delight in this recipe.  It’s a model of simplicity because it involves so few ingredients, but you must pay attention to the details, and above all, avoid overcooking the spears.  I can’t imagine a better way to welcome Spring!

ASPARAGUS ON ASPARAGUS
(from Happy in the Kitchen)

24 large asparagus
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
pinch of  sugar
pinch of salt

Set aside 4 whole spears for the dressing. Cut off the tough bottom ends of all asparagus spears and set those aside for the as well. With a vegetable peeler, peel the remaining asparagus starting about one inch below the tip.

Have a bowl with ice cold water ready.  Steam the asparagus spears for 5 to 6 minutes only, until they are just tender when gently pierced with the tip of a knife.  knife. When the asparagus is cooked, lift the spears with a pair of tongs and plunge them in the ice bath to cool, then remove and dry on kitchen paper or a towel.

Make the asparagus sauce: cut the 4 reserved spears into 1-inch pieces. Place them in a small saucepan with the trimmed asparagus bottoms and add ¼ cup water and the olive oil. Bring it to a simmer, cover, and gently cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is completely softened. The water should have evaporated, leaving the asparagus  stewing in only the oil.

Transfer the asparagus to a blender or food processor and puree it until completely smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and whisk in the mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve the asparagus on a platter, with the vinaigrette in a small dish or ramekin on the side for dipping or dousing the spears.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Peeling the asparagus may seem like work, but don’t skip it.   Use large asparagus for this dish, and the peeling will ensure a wonderful texture and even cooking.  I enjoyed them as a light lunch with homemade bread and a sunny-side egg, but the dish is also a perfect option as an appetizer at a dinner party.  The asparagus lovers among your guests will never forget it!

The sauce or dressing is an excellent adaptation for the tough ends of the spears, so consider making some whenever you cook asparagus.  I imagine that it will also complement other dishes, like grilled salmon, with a sprinkle of fresh dill on top.  Must try that soon.

The beginning of asparagus season always makes us happy!

ONE YEAR AGOSundried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

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