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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SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE

As some of you might know, I don’t like to apply the word “healthy” to a recipe. Just a pet peeve of mine. But it is hard to resist using it in this case. Sweet potatoes are full of nutrients that are good for you, and in this preparation they get the right amount of luscious that makes them almost festive. Cutting them into wedges makes them cook faster, so no problem considering this side dish for a weeknight meal.

SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in wedges
olive oil to coat potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sesame oil
water to thin sauce (adjust to your liking)
toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle over sauce

Heat oven to 400 F.

Coat the potatoes with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Try to massage the oil around them, so they are well coated. Spread them in a single layer over a baking dish covered with aluminum foil. Roast them for 15 minutes, move them around and roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, until fully cooked and starting to get golden brown at the edges.

Prepare the sauce by mixing all ingredients together and whisking very well.  The sauce will thicken as it sits, so don’t make it too thick to start with.

Place the potatoes on a serving dish, spoon the sauce over, and finish with toasted sesame seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I think tahini and sweet potatoes are another example of a match made in Nirvana. Save any sauce leftover and use it over other veggies like broccoli, or drizzled over roasted salmon (yes, another a bit unusual but nice move for tahini).

I visualize this recipe again, with some pomegranate seeds added to this party. Color and freshness never hurt.

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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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ROASTED CORN AND ZUCCHINI SALAD

You know that kind of recipe that shows up in one of your favorite food blogs and you just have to make it right away? This was it. I saw the picture, the list of ingredients, and fell in love with it. Plus, human beings who have braces on their upper and lower teeth live in a permanent state of craving corn on the cob. The type of pleasure that is far removed from their reality. This salad brings corn back into play. Still a bit hard to negotiate, but doable. Totally doable. Or I should say chewable… Sorry. Got carried away…

ROASTED CORN AND ZUCCHINI SALAD
(very slightly modified from Karen’s Kitchen Stories)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 ears roasted corn, cooled, and kernels cut off
2 zucchini, chopped into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Whisk the olive oil,  lime juice and zest together in a small bowl until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, add the corn, zucchini, jalapeño, and cilantro. Add the dressing and toss until combined. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours and up to 12 hours.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can grill the corn as Karen suggests, but also broil in the oven, which is what I ended up doing. Quick, easy, you just have to keep an eye to avoid burning the delicate kernels, in case you set up your rack too close to the broiler. I prefer to keep it about 6 inches below, which is a good compromise.  Simply rub the corn with a touch of olive oil, and set under the broiler, moving the cob to get all sides nicely charred. Once that is done, let them cool a bit and shave the kernels off to use in the salad.

My recipe was almost exactly like Karen’s, but I made half the amount, and reduced a little bit the proportion of olive oil in the dressing, making it slightly more lemony.  This was refreshing, light, delicious, it will be a regular dish in our rotation, as the husband already requested it for next week. He lives in fear that a dish he really likes might never show up at our table again. No risk with this one.  Raw zucchini, when cut in small dice and allowed to sit with the acidic dressing for a few hours, turns out perfect. I cannot recommend this recipe enough!

We enjoyed it with turkey burgers (my default recipe which we adore), sweet potato fries, and avocado slices.

Karen, thank you for being a constant source of inspiration in my cooking…

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ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH SUNDRIED TOMATO PESTO

One of the best acquisitions for our kitchen was the spiralizer. It is the type of gadget that requires a little bit of getting used to. When I first got it, the idea of dragging it out of the cabinet, setting it on the countertop, and getting my technique right so that the strands would be uniformly gorgeous… seemed a bit much. But trust me, the more you use it, the better you’ll be and the more you’ll fall in love with it. Now I don’t even blink, grab it, and try it on all sorts of veggies, broccoli stalks being the most recent. Stay tuned for that one… Should I call them “broodles?” Yeah, broodles. Mind. Blown. But anyway, zucchini is probably the number one veggie that everyone uses. They have the perfect shape and give super long and beautiful strands. Plus, they marry well with so many sauces: Oriental style like soy with peanuts plus a little fish sauce to hip-it-up, tomato based sauces, cashew cream, real cream, pesto, browned butter… Today I am sharing a recipe from a favorite food blog of mine. I’ve cooked many dishes from  The Iron You. Mike raved about the combination of sun-dried tomato pesto and zoodles. He is one smart cookie. It is superb! You must try it.

ZoodlesSundried11

ZUCCHINI NOODLES WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO
(adapted from The Iron You)

for the sun-dried tomato pesto:
½ cup  oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
⅓ cup roasted almonds
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese
small bunch of fresh basil leaves
salt to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil

for the noodles:
6 medium-large zucchini

In a food processor (or blender) add roasted almonds and basil and pulse until roughly chopped. Add sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, and Pecorino Romano cheese and process until a uniform paste has formed. Season with a little salt. With the food processor (or blender) running, stream in the olive oil and continue blending until the olive oil is emulsified into the pesto and the sauce looks uniform. Pesto can be stored in the refrigerator with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Using a spiralizer create zucchini noodles using your favorite blade, thin or thick, whatever you prefer.

Boil the zoodles in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and mix with the pesto sauce while still very hot.  Sprinkle with additional Parmigiano cheese before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:
Talk about a tasty pesto!  The texture of mine was not as smooth as the one Mike made, at least from the photos, but I don’t think that matters that much. If you prefer a smoother texture, process further and maybe add a little more olive oil.  I used roasted unsalted almonds, so I adjusted the seasoning with salt. Mike used salted almonds and he also used garlic, which I am sure most of my readers will enjoy too.  I fully agree that it was a match made in heaven with the zoodles.  We enjoyed it as a side dish with grilled pork tenderloin, but of course you could make it into a fully vegetarian meal if you add a few more goodies on the plate, like roasted asparagus, a big salad, or a crostini with a smear of goat cheese run under the broiler. Yeah, that sounds about right!

served11

Dinner is served!

 

Zoodles with Sundried Tomato Pesto

 

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