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Posts Tagged ‘Asparagus’

 So, here’s something you probably don’t know about me.  I’m obsessed with cults.  I once toured the Scientology mansion in DC just to get a look around and when the Texas Department of Child Services invaded that polygamist ranch, I was glued to CNN.  So when this article appeared in the East Bay Express a few months ago, linking a local raw food restaurant with a cult like organization, I was totally intrigued.  I still haven’t been to the restaurant yet and I’ve heard it’s very good, but I think I’d be too intrigued by watching out for cult things to care about the raw food.

If you don’t want your salad to come with a side of brainwashing, you can make your own.  Now, this has parmesan cheese, which probably isn’t raw.  But the asparagus is, which is unusual but totally delicious.  If you are used to roasted asparagus, this tastes nothing like that.  It’s fresh and mellow.  The cheese adds richness and the lemon makes it tangy and bright.

Grating the asparagus was a little tricky.  Don’t snap the ends off the asparagus before you grate.  I made that mistake and then had nothing to grip on to when I was using the vegetable peeler to shred it.  Either way, I imagine it will take a bit of time, but since it’s really the only thing you need to do, the recipe is fairly quick to throw together.   The recipe makes a ton – I made about a half a pound of asparagus and adjusted accordingly, since it was just my husband and me.

Shaved Raw Asparagus with Parmesan Dressing
Recipe by Mario Batali and adapted from the April 2010 Food & Wine

Ingredients
2 pounds large asparagus
1 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 ounces)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions
Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into long, thin strips and transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the Parmigiano-Reggiano with the lemon juice, water and olive oil. Add to the asparagus and toss to coat. Season the salad with salt and pepper and serve at once.

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This is my last Dark Days post.  I think a few die hards might be going one more week but this will be it for me.  So, I wanted to go out with a bang.  On Saturday at the farmers market I picked up some gorgeous asparagus.

and I got some of these…chanterelles.

I decided to make a savory bread pudding.  There’s a few of these recipes floating around and all winter I had in my head that I’d make a butternut squash one.  That never happened, so this is the spring version.  Because I blew all my cash on those chanterelles, I wasn’t able to get my cheese at the farmers market.  So I stopped by the grocery store on the way home in search of local cheese.  They had an aged, nutty goat cheese from Cypress Grove, which is in Northern California.  I  thought would be lovely.  Except now, I just went to their site to get the name of the cheese, only to learn that this particular cheese is made in Europe for Cypress Grove.  Gahhhh.  If I had known that, I would have just gone for gruyere.  Oh well, it was just four ounces.

This all came together really easily.  Nothing here is too precise and I think it’s fairly hard to screw up.  Just stale bread, a custard batter, cheese, and vegetables.  Simple and hearty.

Asparagus and Mushroom Bread Pudding
Recipe inspired by Epicurious and 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients
1 1-pound loaf  bread, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces.  I used Acme’s pain au levain, an earthy sourdough type of bread.
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths
1/2 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 shallot, leek, or spring onion, thinly sliced
6 large eggs
2 cups whole milk (I used one cup skim and one cup half and half because that’s what was in my fridge)
1-2 cups finely grated cheese, idealy gruyere or some aged, nutty cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

 So warm and hearty and satisfying.  We drank a lovely Sonoma chardonnay with it.  Perfect early spring dinner. 

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I’ve been curious about Nate Appleman of San Francisco’s A16 and SPQR ever since I saw him battle Michael Symon on Iron Chef.  Now that he just won a James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef, going to one of his restaurants is topping my list of things to do this summer.  In the meantime, however, this month’s Food and Wine magazine comes through with a couple of his recipes.

We got a huge bunch of asparagus in our farm share on Friday, so it seemed like a good opportunity to try his Smoky Glazed Asparagus recipe.  I never would have thought to marinade vegetables in a mayonnaise-based sauce before cooking them, but it works.  Most of the sauce cooks off as you grill them, so they don’t taste mayo-y at all, but rather, get this great creamy, charred taste to them.

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The recipe comes in two versions, so if you want to make Sean Hannity cry, you can opt for the fancy mustard flavor.

Smoky Glazed Asparagus

Ingredients

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika 
1 teaspoon kosher salt  (The recipe called for 2 teaspoons, which was way too much.)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds  (I used 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin powder.)
1 pound thick asparagus, trimmed

Directions

Light a grill. In a shallow dish, whisk the mayonnaise with the oil, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, salt and cumin. Add the asparagus and toss; let stand for 30 minutes.

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Grill the asparagus over moderately high heat, turning, until tender and blistered in spots, 6 minutes; serve.

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Lately, I’ve been obsessed with stinging nettles.  I only ate them once, on a pizza at Chez Panisse a year ago, but they were delicious.  I thought it would be fun to cook them, and since they are a spring vegetable, I’ve been on a quest to find some.

I went to Berkeley Bowl, the local produce mecca, to try to find some.  This place houses every fruit and vegetable known to man and yet they did not have nettles.  Sigh…  Determined not to leave without some weird produce, I bought a handful of ramps.  I’ve never cooked ramps, but they smelled like they’d taste good and in any event, they’d be better than the durian they were selling.

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If you’ve never eaten ramps, they taste like a cross between a leek and garlic.  You can eat the entire thing – bulb, stalks, and greens.  They sound expensive (mine were $11.99/pound) but a little goes a very, very long way.  I only bought a quarter pound of them (about 25 stalks), and didn’t even use all of that for this recipe.  A quick google search reveals a bunch of different preparations for them, so if you can get your hands on some, buy them and cook them.  They are delicious, and from what I understand, only available in the spring.

To keep with the spring vegetable theme, I also bought some local asparagus.

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I decided I would make a white pizza with these vegetables.  Food and Wine has a recipe for ramp pizza that was the inspiration, though my end result differed significantly.  I was really happy with how it turned out, it was absolutely delicious.

A word of warning, however.  Most of the recipes for ramps or asparagus on pizza involve chopping them up into little bits.  I wanted a pretty pizza, so I didn’t do that and left them whole.  Well, there’s a reason chefs recommend chopping them up and that is that asparagus and ramps are both very fibrous vegetables, making them difficult to just bite into.  So, if you leave them whole, this wouldn’t be the most elegant pizza to eat with your hands.  You really need a knife and fork to cut through the vegetables so that you don’t take a whole stalk off with one bite.  So, think about how you’ll be serving this before you decide how pretty you want it.

White Pizza with Ramps and Asparagus

Ingredients

Pizza dough – I used this recipe, which is a little on the chewy side.  You can use a different one if you prefer a thinner, crisper crust.

4-6 ounces fresh mozzerrella, shredded or torn up into small bits
2-3 Tablespoons grated parmesan
15 or so asparagus stalks, woody ends removed
15 or so ramps
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 450.  If you want to preheat the cookie sheet or pizza stone as well, you can do that and you’ll probably have to reduce the cooking time by a couple minutes.  I’m not adept enough to transfer my assembled pizza to a hot pan quickly, so I don’t bother with that step, though I realize it probably results in a better crust.

In a pot of salted water, blanch the ramps for 30 seconds and then the asparagus for about 3 minutes.  Just remove the ramps with tongs and add the asparagus right in so you don’t have to heat up a second pot of water.  Toss both in a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Roll out pizza dough to a rectangle so it fits a standard cookie sheet and lightly brush a tablespoon or so of olive oil on it.  Sprinkle the pizza with the mozzerrella.

Place the asparagus on the pizza, alternating the tips with the bottoms, across the entire length.  Then place the ramps between each stalk of asparagus, alternating the white bulbs with the green leafs, across the entire length.  You should be able to get about 15 or so of each vegetable all the way across.  Sprinke the entire pizza with the parmesan and pine nuts.  

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Bake it in the oven at 450 for 10-12 minutes, until the asparagus is nicely roasted and the crust of the pizza is starting to brown.

Let it cool and cut it with a very sharp knife.

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The end result was delicious.  While I’m still on the hunt for nettles (anyone in this area see them for sale anywhere?), I’m very happy that I discovered ramps.

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