Posts Tagged ‘asparagus’

The Accidental Salad

Warm Salad

For Meatless Monday this week, the Everyman was out of town on business, but flying home late that night.

I promised him I would set a plate aside for him, so the obvious question became what could I make that would keep relatively well for an indeterminate period of time?

After pondering for a little bit, I recalled 2 things.  One was the warm potato salad that we both loved at last year’s Outstanding In The Field dinner and the other was a potato and bean salad that I tested while reviewing Earth To Table.  I couldn’t remember much about either, except that a) they were warm, b) they both contained potatoes and c) they came with light, yet creamy dressings.

Given that I was in no mood to excavate my way through the stacks of cookbooks in my house to find Earth To Table (you know you have too many books, when…) I decided to improvise.

Both dishes used fingerlings but I didn’t have any, so instead I cubed a few yukon golds and quartered some shallots and tossed them in some coffee olive oil, then roasted in the oven for an hour.  When they were getting close to being done I melted a little high milkfat artisan butter in a pan until it foamed, then quickly sauteed half a pound of chopped asparagus until it turned emerald, then left it to get slightly blistered and browned.  Removing the pan from the heat, I sprinkled close to half a cup of freshly shelled peas in and let the residual heat of the pan turn them bright green, too.  Next I combined all the veggies in a bowl and tossed with a simple white wine dijon vinaigrette made puckery tart by the addition of a splash of barley vinegar.

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Wonderous Nature

Baby Asparagus

Growing up, I didn’t have much access to gardens, other than the occasional tomato plant that my mom would keep in her front yard, desperately trying to coax a few succulent red orbs out of the tiny patch allotted on her front step.  Like me, she didn’t have much of a green thumb, so more often than not the plants ended up shrivelling and dying instead.  For years I was convinced I had a black thumb because I killed so many houseplants, but once I started vegetable gardening, I finally found my niche.

As such, I (like most young urbanites, I imagine) have very little in the way of a frame of reference when it comes to what plants should look like when they grow.  I may have laughed astonishingly when they showed those children on Jamie’s Food Revolution who didn’t know the difference between potatoes, tomatoes, etc, but it didn’t occur to me until recently how hypocritical that was.

Last year when I grew artichokes on the roof, I had no idea what the plants would look like once they flourished.  Years ago when I first started gardening I wasn’t sure what seeds were a 1:1 ratio to their edible growth, and which ones would grow into bushes.  Carrots, beets, artichokes and potatoes were all in the past planted without the knowledge of whether I was going to produce a meagre or bountiful harvest because I just didn’t understand gardening.  The moral of the story here is that everyone can be ignorant about something occasionally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re dumb.  As someone who grew up in the city, and mostly in apartments to boot, I just never had access to outdoor spaces where I would ever be exposed to living, growing things, so how could I know better?

Which is why when I decided to order asparagus crowns from Vesey’s back in January, I had no clue how many would suffice for our garden on the roof.  Compound that with the fact that I didn’t even know whether a crown would produce 1 stalk of asparagus or 20, and you’ll understand why I opted to purchase 12 crowns.  Amazing even to me, but in 29 years I had never seen a real, live asparagus plant in person before.  Of course, I’d heard all about how they grew like weeds so I was prepared for rapid shoots, yet I still didn’t expect what came next.

As you can see from the photo above, each crown is producing stalks which in turn are diverging into numerous branches.  Honestly, I never knew.  And I’d bet good money that scads of other city dwellers would feel the same way too (if they weren’t worried about how stupid they might sound, that is).

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We Is Like Peas And Carrots

Mine

For Meatless Monday, I thought it would be fun to try meatless pizzas for a dinner that would be vegetarian without feeling spartan or limiting.

When the Everyman and I used to live at our old house, we did pizza nights all the time because we had a grocery store in the bottom of our building with hot and cold running toppings at our fingertips.  We still occasionally make homemade pizza, but prepping dough tends to require advance planning, so it’s generally not as often as either of us would like to.  Yet every time we do, I kick myself for not thinking to do it more often because aside from dough time it’s a quick, easy dinner that’s adaptable to any variety of tastes and styles.

Yesterday I was on the ball (both literally and figuratively) and mixed up a batch of dough before leaving for work, so by the time we got home all that was required was to warm the dough to room temperature, preheat the pizza stones and determine what would make for a tasty veggie combo.  After discussing just that on the drive home, it sounded like a more prudent idea would be to make 2 individual pizzas suited to our unique tastes rather than trying to compromise on 1 larger veggie pizza.  While the Everyman ran out for some last minute extra cheese, I assembled a toppings bar for us to build our ideal pizzas.

My pizza (above) is like me; complex, off-beat and unique.  It begins with a blend of pesto and blue cheese forming a tangy green base, then it’s scattered with asparagus tips, smushed figs and bocconcini.  A shower of mozzarella shreds, cracked pepper and oregano finish it off.  It wasn’t until after the pizza was done that I realized I’d accidentally left off the shiitake mushrooms I re-hydrated.  No matter.  This pizza was a thin crust marvel, and though non-traditional, it struck just the right balance between savoury and sweet for me.

His

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Do Me A Fava, Will Ya?

The Raw Shit

When I was at the market this past weekend, 2 of the other luxuries of spring that I came across were fresh fava beans and fiddleheads.

To the best of my knowledge I’ve never eaten a fresh fava bean before; I’m actually trying to grow purple favas on the roof, but in the meantime these seemed like an acceptable substitute to test drive.  And we all know how much I love fiddleheads, so of course I had to buy some of those too.  Is there anything that signifies spring more than these dainty and curly ferns?

But soon after I paid for the goods, the question became what to do with such delicate beauties?

The asparagus bounty was easy enough to tackle, and in a move I’m not necessarily proud of (yet wouldn’t do any differently if I had to do it over) the Everyman and I consumed 4 pounds of the stuff in less than 72 hours.  In case you’re wondering, that’s a heck of a lot of asparagus salad.  It was only a pound that went into this dish, courtesy of our most recent Meatless Monday.

Over a gentle simmer I combined milk, veggie stock and water in a pot.  Then I added a cup and a half of polenta and began the furious stir.  As it approached a bubblingly critical mass, I briefly stopped churning and grated a few ounces of mixed cheeses (pecorino pepato, 1608, manchego and mozzarella) into a pile that was then incorporated into the polenta.  Allowing it to cool and firm up slightly, I sautéed a pound of asparagus with some fiddleheads, fava beans and a few sliced mini red peppers for colour.

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First Meals Of Spring

Figgy Deliciousness

Every year for Mother’s Day, the Everyman and I go to a brunch buffet with all of his extended family at his grandfather’s golf club in the K-W.

And every year, we come home from these smörgåsbords of deliciousness full of so much good food to the point of illness, as does most everyone else in the family.

Of course, this year was no different, and even I gorged myself on buttery soft rare roast beef, oodles of chilled shrimp and mounds of pea and asparagus salad.  Generally, after these events if we end up eating dinner, it’s bound to be something light.

Several hours after the feasting, the only thing I felt up to was the gentle taste of spring.  Luckily for me I’d made a stop at the St. Lawrence Market on Saturday, and picked up 4 pounds of asparagus and a few pints of figs, among other things.  Sautéing a few pounds of stalks in a beurre noisette until they bloomed a vibrant green, they were then tossed with salt, pepper, halved figs, parmagiano shavings and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.  If you wanted to add some more protein to it, you could always wend a few slivers of prosciutto around the spears, but personally, I love it just the way it is.

Vive le printemps!

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The Most Ambitious Project Yet

Garden 2010

After much deliberation (and a healthy dose of procrastination), I’ve finally selected and plotted my intentions for the 2010 garden.

It might seem awfully early to some, but seeds must be ordered, delivered and started before a springtime sowing in late May can be accomplished.

This year will be interesting for a number of reasons.

Primarily because I’m going to be trying to grow a couple crowns of asparagus for the first time, but I’m also attempting rare French strawberries from seed, as well as leeks, garlic and chard.

As you can see from my crude 10,000 foot drawing, there are lots of different veggies being installed, as well as a small bee garden that I hope will attract a healthy amount of polinators to our rooftop sanctuary.  We had a bit of a problem with the lack of bees last year, though I’m not sure if it was due to colony collapse or the overall shitty weather, but it can’t hurt to encourage them with a pretty flower garden.

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Allioli… A New Form Of Kitchen Torture

Fin

As soon as I saw the recipe for this month’s Daring Cooks challenge, I knew I would have to make a few alterations, but I was ultimately intrigued.

The recipe that Olga selected was a rice dish with cuttlefish, mushrooms and artichokes by Jose Andres, an American chef who trained under Ferran Adria at El Bulli, one of the few culinary meccas I must visit some day.  With that in mind, I knew the dish would be robustly flavoured and hearty, so I set to work considering alternative ingredients.

Since the Everyman doesn’t eat seafood, and I am finding myself allergic to more of it every day, I first opted to switch out the cuttlefish for chicken and chorizo instead.  Next, I realized that even though we had half a dozen different specimens of rice in the house, none of them were the one I needed, so instead I chose to what I thought was most similar in properties, yet unique, a purple Thai rice.  Lastly, the Everyman eats neither artichokes nor mushrooms, so I had to omit those in favour of the last of our local asparagus and some corn.  I know that with all those substitutions you can hardly consider it the same dish, but I’d like to think that the spirit of the challenge stayed the same.

Sofregit

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Market Meals May

New This Week

I went to the market again this evening (as I do most Tuesdays once May rolls around) in search of my friend Seth from Forbes Wild Foods. I was hoping he’d have more dried elderflowers since I burned through them rather quickly over the weekend.  Unfortunately that was not in the cards today, though he did promise me a bag for next week’s market.  As a consolation prize I helped myself to some of his other tasty edibles; maple syrup, more ramps and some garlic scapes, with not an inkling of what I would do with any of them.

One of the things I love about market days is not planning out what’s for dinner.  I’ll arrive at the market and let what’s fresh and in season inspire me towards inner deliciousness.  This evening I prepared our second real market meal of the season, a sparkling green pasta with flecks of rosy guanciale.

Seasoning The Pan With Garlic Scapes

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Mother Always Said You Have To Eat Your Greens

The First Fruits Of Spring

I’m a bit of an odd duck.

Ever since I was a child I’ve loved to eat my greens (with the exception of green peppers, which I think are absolutely repulsive).  In fact, I’ve never met another person who prefers green vegetables more than any other kind (like I do).  I might even go so far as to say that I’d choose them over fruit.  Astonishing, I know!

Which is exactly why spring just happens to be one of my favorite times of year.  Sure, over the winter months you can get your fair share of (greenhouse) microgreens, broccoli and heartier leafy varieties (like kale, cabbage, chard and brussels sprouts) but none can compare to the pungent sweetness of the first ramps, fiddleheads and asparagus of the season.  For the other 10-11 months that asparagus is not in season I have extremely vivid dreams of nibbling on those pencil-thin nutty stalks and spears.  Clearly I’m slightly obsessive.

Earlier in the week our organic delivery service brought us a pound of fresh fiddleheads and a deuce of asparagus, plus I had the leftover bounty of topless ramps from the farmer’s market, and the clock was literally ticking for them to get used before they went bad.  Another thing to note about fresh, new spring greens; they have a shorter shelf life than your typical root vegetable.  But, if you just treat them simply, they’ll be the star of your meal (and possibly give you funny smelling pee!)

Over the weekend the Everyman and I returned to Czehoski on a desperate search for more of those divine tamales, (which we were unable to procure, by the way).  After 2 meals out (both at Czehoski, no less) in 72 hours, I felt the need for lighter, spring-inspired fare to combat the decadent cheeseburger and fries with bacon gravy I’d wolfed down at lunch.  The pile of green veg hanging out in the fridge seemed the perfect antidote to grease, bacon and fat, so I set to work cleaning the lot of them.

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