ASPARAGUS AND SNOW PEAS WITH WALNUT CRUMBS

Do you follow Lisa is Cooking? She writes cookbook reviews and is the person I blame for quite a few of my acquisitions, which are usually Kindle versions, so I feel less guilty. Her latest post centered on a book called East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing, by Meera Sodha. I ordered it within minutes of reading the blog post. I modified one of the recipes quite a bit, and share my version with you today.

ASPARAGUS AND SNOW PEAS WITH WALNUT CRUMBS
(adapted from Meera Sodha’s East)

1 bunch thin asparagus, tough ends trimmed
Snow peas (about 1/4 pound)
1/4 cup grapeseed oil, divided
1/3 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
1/2 cup bread crumbs, preferably homemade (Panko works too)
1 Serrano pepper, very finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
zest and juice of 1 lemon (I used Meyer Lemon)

Start by making the crumb component. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet and add the walnuts and Serrano pepper, season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for a minute or two, add the bread crumbs, cook until fragrant and getting toasted. Immediately squirt the juice of 1/2 lemon, mix well and transfer to a bowl. Reserve.

Add one tablespoon of oil to the skillet, and cook the asparagus, making sure they form a single layer in the pan with not much overlapping. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook in high heat for a couple of minutes, cover the pan, reduce the heat and allow it to cook in its own steam for another minute or so. Transfer to a bowl, and add a little more oil to the skillet. Now add the snow peas and cook in high heat for a couple of minutes. Add the asparagus and the reserved crumbs to the skillet, warm everything together moving it often. Squirt the juice of the remaining half of the lemon, adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you need inspiration to prepare vegetables in creative, unusual ways, this book is a must-have. But Lisa reviewed it in the best possible way, so just jump to her blog for details. I made the original version of this recipe that used peanuts and quite a bit more of the crumb component, but to my taste it was a bit much. I toned it down and also liked it better using walnuts in place of peanuts. I think a drizzle of walnut oil to finish the dish could be excellent, and I am kicking myself because I did not try it, as I do have walnut oil in the fridge. Best laid plans.

The book is full vegetarian and vegan, but I will use it mainly as a source for side-dishes. This delicious salad (she calls it a salad, although it is served warm), was enjoyed with juicy grilled chicken breasts, a recipe that quickly became a regular in our kitchen. It was a bonus recipe featured in this post from my recent past.


ONE YEAR AGO:
Yin and Yang Viennoise Bread

TWO YEARS AGO: Extreme Chocolate Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Sunflower Seed Kamut Sourdough

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

FIVE YEARS AGO: Auberge Pecan-Walnut Bread

SIX YEARS AGO:Gluten-free and Vegan Raspberry Bars
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EIGHT YEARS AGO:Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates
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NINE YEARS AGO:Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze
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TEN YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce
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ELEVEN YEARS AGO:Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

FROM MY HUSBAND TO YOU: ASPARAGUS STIR-FRY

Some veggies are so delicious that I tend to do as little as possible to prepare them, so they can shine on their own. But the other day the husband pulled an amazing dinner for us and the side dish blew my mind. Asparagus stir-fry that packed a ton of flavor and made us feel as if we were dining in a cool restaurant in Los Angeles. Just like we did during our sabbatical at UCLA years ago (it does feel like a previous life).  I insisted he should write a guest blog post about it, but he is quite busy wrapping up a review article, and food blogging is definitely not a distraction he needs. So, I did the altruistic, sensible thing, and composed the post myself. Because if you also have a soft spot for asparagus, you need this in your life…

ASPARAGUS STIR-FRY
(adapted from The Washington Post)

1 medium jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice,  divided
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
toasted sesame seeds

Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles on the surface. Add the jalapeno and olive oil, saute for a couple of minutes, until fragrant.  Add the asparagus. Sprinkle lightly with salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until the asparagus begins to brown around the edges, a couple of minutes more.

Add the soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice and cook, stirring constantly, until the asparagus is coated in sauce, but still firm, about 1 minute.

Add the lemon zest, the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and the ginger. Toss to combine and cook, continuing to toss for 1 minute, or until ginger is fragrant. Remove the pan from heat. Transfer the asparagus to a platter and toss with cilantro and sesame seeds. Serve right away, perfect with grilled salmon.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Looking at our served meal, you could conclude we love sesame seeds. And you would be 100% correct. They do go well with salmon and perfect with asparagus. This is a very simple and quick dish to put together, and would complement many main dishes, from beef to poultry.  Serve these asparagus over polenta and you can call it a great, satisfying vegan meal…

I have to say I am pretty lucky to have a partner who cooks dinner for us every other day. I love to cook, but it would get a bit tiring to do it every single evening.  We have different styles, I am always trying new recipes, whereas he tends to stick to his favorites. But every once in a while he finds a recipe and jumps on it. Like this one. It was a fabulous meal…

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THE QUASI-VEGAN QUICHE

As you know, we are members of the Omnivores Without Guilt Club, but what you probably don’t know is that I own many cookbooks on Vegan cooking. I like the concept and the challenge of preparing food that tastes great but is more limited in the ingredients used.  I had very good intentions to make a fully vegan quiche for our dinner, but ended up adding 1 egg to the filling. Oh, well. It turned out very good, and even the resident critic, who considers tofu to be penitence, loved it!

ALMOST VEGAN TOFU QUICHE
(inspired by The Minimalist Baker)

1 rectangular pie pan, 8 x 11 in

for the olive oil crust:
for the pie crust:
250g all-purpose flour (260 grams)
1/8 teaspoon salt
50g olive oil (50 grams)
125 g cold water

for the filling:
12.3 ounces extra-firm silken tofu (patted dry)
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp hummus
Sea salt and black pepper (to taste)
1 egg
2 medium zucchini (thinly sliced)
1 Tbs olive oil medium diced onion per 2 leeks)
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 stalk asparagus
Herbes the Provence (as much as you like)

Make the crust. Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl, then add the olive oil, stir with a fork until the flour gets coated with it, forming a crumbly ness. Slowly add cold water and knead gently just until the dough starts to comes together.  Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate one hour before using.

Roll it over plastic wrap lightly coated with flour, then use it to cover a rectangular pie pan (8 x 11 in) with removable bottom (or a 9-inch round quiche pan). Reserve in the fridge until you have the filling ready to bake. No need to blind-bake.

Make the filling. Roast slices of zucchini coated with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper for about 15 min in a 420F oven. Reserve. Add drained tofu to a food processor with nutritional yeast, hummus, egg, and a heaping 1/4 tsp each sea salt and black pepper. Process until fully smooth.

Spread the zucchini slices in the bottom of the pie crust. Spread the hummus mixture, gently spreading it over it with a small offset spatula. Distribute the cherry tomatoes over the filling, then the asparagus (if they are too thick, sprinkle them with water and microwave for 60 seconds to soften ever so lightly).

Bake quiche at 375 degrees F total of 30–40 minutes or until the top appears golden brown and firm. If the crust begins to get too brown, loosely tent the edges with foil. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you remember my previous post on a pie using olive oil crust, you will notice that I blind-baked it at that time. Now I tried without this step, and was quite pleased with the result. Omitting the blind baking makes this dish even easier to bring to the table. You can roll the crust hours earlier, or even a day before and keep it in the fridge, protected with plastic wrap.

I promise you, there is no “tofu-taste” in the filling. Until I added the egg, it seemed a bit too coarse and grainy, but the egg smoothed things out and I guess made it all a bit lighter during baking. If you want to make it fully vegan, just omit the egg. One interesting idea to lighten it up but keep it vegan could  be folding into the tofu mixture some whipped aquafaba. Hummmm… something to try. Leftovers were delicious on day 2 and day 3. After that? After that they were gone.

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INCREDIBLY SIMPLE: CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS

For a few years I’ve been blogging on recipes that are almost too simple to call as such (see them all here), but tasty enough to sit side by side in a blog with more elaborate concoctions. Normally I like to wait until I have several “incredibly simple” items to share in a single post, but spring is almost here, asparagus season is knocking at the door, and this recipe was too good to keep it a secret for much longer. I made it three times in two weeks. The delicate crunch on these babies? I am seriously in love.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed
olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
Herbes de Provence
1/3 cup almond meal

Heat oven to 425 F.

Mix enough olive oil and lemon juice (half and half) to give enough liquid to coat the asparagus well.  Add salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence to the mixture, eye-balling is totally fine.

Place the asparagus on a tray, pour the seasoned olive oil mixture over them, and move to coat well.

Place the almond meal in a separate tray, drop the asparagus coated in olive oil over it, move gently to make the almond meal stick to the surface.

Arrange them on a single layer on a baking dish covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Roast for 12 minutes, shaking them a bit halfway through.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Really hard to imagine a simpler recipe. Well, of course, you can omit the almond meal coating and still get excellent roasted asparagus that way. But this very minor additional step sends this side dish to a whole other level of deliciousness.

Change things around by using other spices, although you risk masking the flavor of the veggie itself. Still, if you are in the mood for it, add cayenne, smoked paprika, sumac (oh, that would be great), play with the whole concept and make it yours. Whatever you do, do not omit the lemon juice.

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PEARLED FARRO WITH ASPARAGUS COINS

A few years ago I posted a pasta recipe using tiny little asparagus coins as a component of the sauce. The other day I decided to roast them and ended up with a side dish that won me over. Added bonus: it is super fast to prepare. Pearled farro cooks a lot faster than the regular grain, and I did not detect any loss in flavor or texture. If you find it in your grocery store, stock on a few bags.

PEARLED FARRO WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS COINS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup pearled farro
asparagus stalks, cut in very small rounds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Herbes de Provence
squirt of lemon juice

Heat oven to 420F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the farro, cook for 15 to 20 minutes. If you like it with a bit more bite, check at 15 minutes and if it’s done to your liking, drain and reserve.

Meanwhile coat the asparagus coins with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence, amounts are flexible, just go with your intuition. For a regular size asparagus bundle I used 1/4 tsp Herbes de Provence.

Place the asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil to facilitate clean-up. Roast for about 15 minutes moving it around the baking sheet.  When they are done, squirt some lemon juice, adjust seasoning and mix with the warm farro.  Serve right away. Leftovers are great also. Even cold as a salad.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Many variations are possible here. If you don’t want to roast the asparagus coins, simply sautee them quickly in olive oil plus all the spices. Because the coins are so tiny, they cook very fast, so doing the top of the stove method, they can be ready in 5 minutes for sure. The roasted version has slightly more intense flavor. The second picture shows a similar approach (top of the stove), but using zucchini. Also very delicious.

I use farro a lot, but was a bit unsure about trying the pearled version, thinking it would not be nearly as good. I was wrong. It is a way to make farro a suitable option for a fast side dish after a busy day in the lab.

I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try.

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