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Posts Tagged ‘Asparagus’

Today’s recipe is another healthy, vegetable-laden dish– a fresh, simple soup that is brilliant served hot or cold.  See, I told you I was going to eat my weight in veggies.  This week the seasonal produce in my refrigerator– asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks– was just begging to be made into something wonderful.  This soup is the result.  It’s simple, though with seriously impressive flavors.  What I mean is, even though it comes together in about 30 minutes from start to finish (if you’re skilled with a chef’s knife), it tastes surprisingly complex.

From the first spoonful, you can distinctly taste each of the main vegetables.  Clean and crisp.  And the lemon adds that nice acidity that frames the flavors of the asparagus, pea shoots, and leeks.  As you stroll through the recipe, you’ll notice there are no herbs or spices (aside from salt and pepper).  For this soup, I wanted the pure flavor of the vegetables to stand out.  I also knew I didn’t want it packed with cream (though I love, love creamy soups).  Instead, I added a Yukon Gold potato to provide that smooth texture.

This soup is very good by itself– especially as a chilled Summer dish.  I also love it warm with a piece of toasted french bread and poached egg gently laid on top.  Magic happens where egg yolk meets soup.  Give it a try, you’ll see.  One last thing to keep in mind is that the balance of flavors in this soup stands or falls on how much lemon and salt you add.  As always, taste, taste, taste!

The Recipe: Spring Vegetable Soup

(Serves 4 — enjoy hot or cold)

1 quart chicken stock

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle

1 pound asparagus

1 large white onion, chopped

1 medium leek, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped

1 packed cup of pea shoots

squeeze of lemon

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

crusty french bread and poached eggs, optional

Prepare the asparagus by trimming the very ends.  If you have some thick ones, peel the last 1 1/2-inch of the stock with a vegetable peeler.  Cut off the tips of the asparagus and set aside.  Cut up the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup kettle, add the olive oil.  Over medium heat, sauté the onion, leek, celery and a sprinkle of salt and pepper until tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, potato, and asparagus.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes and asparagus are tender.  Then, put the pea shoots into the soup and cook for about 1 minute, or until the pea shoots have wilted a bit.

Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil.  Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove from water and place into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Set aside.

Remove soup from heat.  Use an immersion blender or carefully pour the soup into a stand blender (in batches), blend the soup until creamy.  Season with a squeeze of lemon, to taste, as well as salt and pepper.  Seasoning this soup properly is key.  A bit more lemon or salt can make all the difference.   Add the asparagus tips to the soup or serve as a garnish on top.  This soup is wonderful served hot or cold.   It is outstanding served with toasted french bread and a poached egg on top.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by Relishing It!  Have a fantastic weekend!

Laurie

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One of the best perks of late spring and early summer cooking is that so many dishes are quick and simple– there’s isn’t much fussing or preparation time.  This is a good thing– especially if you have little ones either underfoot or begging to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.  And even if you don’t have to keep one eye on the kids while you cook, who wants to spend these longer, warm days in the kitchen?  I know I sound like a skipping record, but I happen to be delighted that summer produce is starting to appear.  Aside from the fresh seasonal flavors, it’s easy– and that means more playtime.

This week, it’s time for asaparagus!  Yes, that sentence was worthy of an exclamation point.  You see, asaparagus isn’t around for long, so when it arrives, I go all out.  I have several simple asparagus dishes that I make this time of year.  This gorgeous tart is one of my favorites. And this one, which combines two fantastic seasonal ingredients– asparagus and morels, still makes me swoon. But the best of all is the dish in today’s post- roasted asparagus with balsamic browned butter.  It is, unquestionably, my favorite way to prepare asparagus.

I first made this dish years ago for my in-laws.  They loved it enough that they started preparing asparagus this way, too.  I think the chances are better than average that you’ll do the same.  This side is perfect because it relies on a simple flavor combination.  Browned Butter, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce.  That’s it.  These three ingredients pack an amazing punch.  So much so, that you don’t want your asparagus swimming in the sauce.  Less is more, here.

A word or two about the preparation of the asparagus.  First, use fresh seasonal asparagus.  Don’t get me started on that asparagus you often see year-round in some grocery stores and restaurants.  Those oversized, tough, tasteless, shoots are not what I’m talking about.  Asparagus should be enjoyed when it was meant to be– for those few weeks in spring when it’s fresh and tastes amazing.  When looking for asparagus at the market, look for the tops of them to be tight and closed.  This indicates they were recently harvested.  Asparagus should be eaten as soon as possible after you buy it, as the flavor dissipates pretty quickly.  Also, I don’t follow the school of thought that you should snap huge chunks off the bottom of the stem to avoid the “woody” portion.  Instead, I simply use a vegetable peeler and peel the bottoms.  It becomes just as tender as the top section and you avoid wasting a fair amount.  Hope you enjoy this dish!

The Recipe:  Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Browned Butter

1 pound asparagus

olive oil, to drizzle

kosher salt

cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

toasted, sliced almonds, optional

shaved lemon zest, optional

Preheat an oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Wash and dry the asparagus.  Cut off the very bottoms with a sharp knife.  Use a vegetable peeler to peel the bottom 1-inch to 1  1/2 -inch.  Toss the asparagus with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Place on the baking sheet and roast for about 12 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, place the butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Stirring frequently, melt the butter until it is a deep golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Be careful not to burn it.  Remove from heat and add the soy sauce and vinegar to the pan.  Mix it together well with a wooden spoon, making sure to incorporate any brown bits in the butter.

Place the asparagus on a serving platter and pour the balsamic browned butter over the top.  Sprinkle with toasted almonds and a bit of shaved lemon zest.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Source:  Adapted from Cooking Light

Thanks for stopping in — have a wonderful weekend!

Laurie

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Too soon for another asparagus recipe?  Of course not.  Actually this recipe isn’t really about the asparagus, though it is beautiful and works well as an accompaniment to the real star– these gorgeous morel mushrooms.  Like asparagus, morels are now in season in Minnesota.  These rather odd looking mushrooms tend to grow in moist conditions and are often found around dying or dead Elm, Sycamore, and Ash trees.  Old apple orchards are another place to hunt for them.  Morels have an unbelievable, almost indescribable flavor.  As you’d expect, it’s very earthy, but there’s some other unique complexity there as well.  I can’t place it, but it is incredible. The texture is firm and meaty– there’s real substance.

I’ve always wanted to be a mushroom forager, but simply haven’t had the time– yet.  From what I can tell, foraging is both a science (separating the poisonous from the edible) and an art (instinct about where and when to hunt.)  There’s also mystery and secretiveness.  Foragers don’t like to share their hunting grounds.  Exciting!  Though perhaps this is more a reflection of my entertainment standards than anything else.

My husband surprised me with a small bag of morels this week.  He saw some at a Farmer’s Market for a better price than I’d found anywhere else.  Here’s the bad news:  morels are expensive.  Remember that “part science/part art” comment above?  There’s a cost for that.  Even so, you shouldn’t let the price deter you because you won’t need many to make a dish shine.  Their powerful flavor is apparent even in small quantities.  For this dish, I borrowed an idea from my friend Matt, who swears that sauteing them in butter is the best way to enjoy morels.  That’s what I did here, and it turned out beautifully.   This is less a ‘recipe’ and more me just combining three separate ingredients.  With morels, keep in simple in order to focus on the flavor of the mushroom.

The Recipe: Morels with Roasted Asparagus and Crispy Fried Eggs

(Serves 2)

1 bunch thin asparagus (ends trimmed, peeled if necessary)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 pound  morel mushrooms

4 tablespoons salted butter

2 free-range eggs

Flour, for coating the mushrooms

salt and freshly cracked pepper

To Prepare the Mushrooms:  Cut the mushrooms in half, lengthwise.  Place in a bowl of cold water with 2 tablespoons of salt.  This will kill any bugs that may be on the mushrooms.  Let them sit for a few hours or overnight.  Rinse with cold water when ready to use and pat dry.  Allow to air dry a bit, if time permits.  (Note:  People are quite divided on the subject of wiping them off with a damp cloth or submerging into water.  Do whatever you want.  This worked for me.)

To Roast the Asparagus:  Pre-heat oven to 400°F.  Place asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10-12 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile:  In a medium-sized skillet, heat the butter.  Lightly coat the mushrooms in the flour.  Place into the hot butter and saute for around 2 minutes on each side, depending upon the size of your mushrooms.  When finished, remove mushrooms and place on a paper towel.

In the same skillet, using the butter the mushrooms were sauteed in, cook the eggs to your liking.  I prefer mine over-easy.

To assemble: Place the roasted asparagus on a plate and put the egg on the top.  Then sprinkle with the crispy mushrooms.  Finish with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Enjoy!

I hope you enjoy the morels as much as I do.  For other inspirational ideas, check out my friend, Amy’s blog, “Green Your Plate”.  Thanks for stopping by today — have a great weekend!

Laurie

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I grew up on a farm in a very rural area of the country.  We had a big grove of trees right behind our house that was perfect for all sorts of adventures– not to mention a few fantastic tree forts.  As a kid, this ‘forest’ was our playground to explore– so long as we were mindful (due to constant warning) of not trampling the wild asparagus.  It grew in bunches right in the middle of the grove, and popped up in late spring.  I recall my parents (as well as my grandmother) ceremoniously harvesting the first asparagus of the year.

I don’t grow my own asparagus, though I wish I did.  Instead, I [im]patiently wait for it to show up at the local farmer’s markets each Spring.  And once it does we tend to go through an “asparagus fest” for the two weeks that its in season. I know, I know, it’s available almost year round at some grocery stores.  I’d rather not buy it unless it’s actually in season though, just as I wait for summer tomatoes and cucumbers to show up locally in July.  It’s just not worth it to buy transported asparagus in the winter– it’s not a winter vegetable, so it doesn’t taste the same.

This Asparagus and Gruyere Tart is so easy it’s almost embarassing to write a blog post about.  The ‘crust’ is made from puffed pastry.  If your not familiar with this little gem, you can either choose to make your own (which can take a little while), or you can buy it ready-made from the grocery store.  This is one of those few times where I recommend buying the pre-made product– it’s in the freezer section, and is generally high-quality and easy to work with.

When preparing the asparagus for the tart, choose medium to thick stalks.  Cut the stalk-ends off, and use a vegetable peeler to peel them about 1/2 way up the stalk.  This will ensure  that the asparagus is tender.  This vegetable pairs so beautifully with the gruyere cheese, while the ridiculously flakey puff pastry is a the perfect canvas to hold it all together. The flavor is incredible.  My husband confessed that he really wasn’t looking forward to this meal– but he ended up loving it.

The Recipe:  Asparagus and Gruyere Tart

(Serves 4)

Flour, for work surface

1 sheet frozen puff pastry  (thaw it according to package instructions)

2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (Emmentaler or Fontina cheese would also work beautifully)

1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus spears (bottoms trimmed and peeled for optimum tenderness)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.  On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16 x 10 – inch rectangle ( I had a difficult time getting mine to 16 inches — use your best judgement).   Trim uneven edges.  Place pastry on a baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, lightly score the pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle.  Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals.  Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from the oven, and sprinkle with the Gruyere cheese.  Place asparagus in a single layer over the cheese, alternating ends and tips.  Brush  with oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Bake until spears are tender, 20 – 25 minutes.   Can be served warm or at room temperature.

Source: Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

Thanks for stopping by Relish It today!  Hope you’re having a great start to your week!

Laurie

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