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I reached a point last night at dinner with friends, where we skipped the asparagus on the menu. We were having a lovely dinner at Bar Jules, anxious to sample just about everything, but happy to pass on the asparagus. We had been gorging on it now for a few months, and the corn soup was much more enticing.
But if you have a bundle still on hand, or haven’t quite tired of it yet, this pasta is the perfect segue from spring to summer. I read about the idea first on The Kitchen Sink, a jumble of barely cooked shaved asparagus tossed with al dente bucatini and topped with crispy garlicky breadcrumbs. For obvious reasons, that combination stuck with me.
So on a quiet Friday night with B out for a work event, I made a batch for myself – which was perfect to curl up with a few episodes of Homeland, and equally good as a bracing bite early in the morning before heading out for the day’s adventures.
I used the original recipe as a base, but adding shaved zucchini and summer squash to the asparagus (and helping the spring-to-summer transition) and whole-wheat spaghetti in place of the bucatini. I also swapped the ramps I had on hand for the garlic – the whites in with the veg and the leaves in with the toasted breadcrumbs (or panko, in my place/pantry). I loved it with the changes, but imagine it would be pretty great as is.
One thing is for sure, lemony-garlic breadcrumbs need to top many more things … tomatoes, we’re looking at you!
Whoops – thought this went up before I left for vacation, but apparently it did not. Well. enjoy while I sort out a few photos from Mexico… xx
If it is not yet apparent, friends & dinner is my favorite thing ever – and I particularly love the combination at home. On Saturday, we had a few friends over and did another version of spring favorites. You may notice that the many of the ingredients below mimic those found at the first “spring dinner” – some in a new way, some the same.
It was much warmer this time around, so the overall feel was a bit lighter, but definitely just as good.
We started with ...
Fresh Pea & Fava Puree and Ricotta with Lemon Zest
Great with grilled bread - eaten solo or piled together for the perfect bite. This is the same Jamie Oliver version as before (and several other dinners in the meantime), but with favas too, as they were available at my farmer’s market. Good ricotta doesn’t need much, but a little sprinkling of lemon zest and a drizzle of good olive oil takes it over the top!
And for dinner ...
Little Gems with Pickled Green Strawberries
I saw the green strawberries at the market, and decided to attempt the same method from a recent salad at Cotogna – with a quick pickle. I used the same recipe as when I pickled grapes, and added roasted beets and goat cheese to the little gems. As for the vinaigrette, I added a few smashed ripe strawberries in place of honey for sweetness, and love the ying and yang of it.
Spring Risotto with Preserved Lemon
When looking around for different versions of spring risotto, I found one on Food 52 that added chopped preserved lemons at the end. I loved that idea, and used it myself — I didn’t follow the whole recipe (which called for Pernod instead of the usual white wine) and just did a fairly traditional version with asparagus and spring peas, but I did sub green garlic and fennel for onions, which made it particularly “springy” too me.
yet, the pièce de résistance (in my book) was the ...
Whole Roasted Brazino with Caper Butter
I have never roasted whole fish before (grilled once) and must say, I am hooked. Super simple but so tender and delicious! I stuffed it with lemon, fresh rosemary & oregano and followed this technique. Served it with caper butter and it was perfect! Added bonus it comes across as quite a showstopper.
And for dessert ...
Yogurt Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries
A truly perfect dessert for spring and summer. In fact, it was such a hit that I had to make it again on Sunday when some friends dropped by. Suffice it to say, we will be following up with our own post on this one.
Have you had a chance to capture spring yet. What are your favorties? And can you believe that summer is almost here?
As salads go, spring versions tend to be lighter, showcasing baby lettuces or the new harvest of the season. This salad does both, but in an amped up way that nods a bit to the winter right behind us. This one was made by my friend Catie, and it may be my favorite yet.
First in are carrots (go for the thinner, new carrots if you can) and asparagus, roasted until golden, but still crisp, followed by pickled pink beets and shaved fennel. Lots of baby spinach and a big handful of dill add body to the mix. It all comes together with a mustard seed vinaigrette (or rather, a mustard-shallot vinaigrette with coarse ground mustard).
Added bonus is with all those vegetables, it doubles as a salad and a side – which hits a nice note in my book.
When we had this at Catie & Jimmy’s, she served it with herb roasted pork and duck-fat potatoes (crazy-good), but I think it would be equally at home with roast chicken or grilled salmon, on a weeknight or for dinner with friends.
But either way, you may need to finish it off with chocolate-chip bread pudding – she did, and plus, we gotta balance those veggies some how!
This past Saturday, we had a few friends over for an early Easter dinner. After a few busy weekends with work, it was my first foray into the kitchen since spring goodies started to pop up at the markets.
And seeing has how it had been almost a year since we last saw English peas, baby artichokes, and the like, I may have gone a bit overboard. But, truthfully, I hardly need such an excuse!
We started with ...
Fresh Pea & Mint Crostini
I essentially used this version from Jamie Oliver, but without the favas, as the one booth at my Farmer’s Market that had them this early sold out fast. Also, he recommends keeping the peas raw, which I find to be a bit starchy, so I blanch half and keep half raw to keep it super fresh.
and for dinner...
Roasted Leg of Lamb
It was studded with bits of garlic and chopped anchovy — a tip I saw in a cookbook while buying the lamb [alas, I cannot remember the name] and from this Food 52 recipe — and a rosemary, parsley, lemon zest crust. I am not sure if it was the anchovy or just Fatted Calf’s superb meat, but it was some of the best lamb any of us had ever had!!
Fried Baby Artichokes
So good – I rarely fry because it seems super decedent and what to do with all that oil – but wow, these were such a hit! There were six of us and 8 baby artichokes since there was a full menu, but I should’ve done 12 for sure. We could’ve all gone for more. This step-by-step from Food 52 (of course) also makes them super easy.
Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Made simply with olive oil and flaky salt (I skipped the rosemary, as there was plenty with the lamb), but with a trick I picked up from GOOP – first boil, then drain and shake with the lid on, to fluff up the outsides, which allows for the perfect little crust once you roast.
This traditional method keeps asparagus super simple but the additional of grated eggs and capers makes it particularly springy. You could wing it, but I used the recipe from Plenty (a favorite veg-centric cookbook).
Little Gems with Lemon Vinaigrette
This dressing from April Bloomfield is crazy good – and super puckery, which is a great balance to all the richness above.
and for dessert...
lest you think we ended there, in addition to the copious amounts of wine, dessert was a riff on this Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from 101 cookbooks. I didn’t think we needed a whole baked option, and rhubarb hasn’t shown up quite yet, so I turned it into a sundae of sorts.
Vanilla Ice Cream with Balsamic Strawberries & Black Pepper-Pine Nut Crumble
I baked the crumb topping on its own from the recipe, and used it in place of nuts for the crunch in the sundaes, and the ice cream was my favorite vanilla from David Lebovitz.
Such a feast, combined with good company (and perhaps an impromptu dance party) made for the perfect night!
So I made pizza – ramp pizza even – and it wasn’t the highlight of dinner. The winner was a salad. Are you kidding me? I liked a salad better than pizza – homemade pizza nonetheless? Granted, the crust wasn’t my fave, which started a weekend long odyssey to find my favorite crust recipe, but seriously, even with Mozza crust, this salad was killer.
I love tricolore salads, particularly with a good pizza (Delfina and Lil’ Frankies, I’m talking to you), so when I ran to the store to grab some yeast, I threw a head of radicchio and a few lil’ endives in my basket. I know they aren’t exactly in season, but I couldn’t help it. So to make it a bit fitting for April, I swapped the arugula for barely-roasted thin asparagus.
I’m not much of a balsamic person (I think in overloaded in the early aughts), but it is just a classic part of a salad like this, that I couldn’t help but incorporate it. But since I don’t use it much, I only keep the cheap stuff around, and I wanted something with a bit more substance.
The toughest part of this whole salad was reducing the balsamic vinegar into a syrup – which was no work at all.
Chop the lettuces and asparagus, coat them in a bittersweet slick of olive oil, honey and lemon and add sprinkling of course salt and pepper. Top it all with generous shavings of pecorino and drizzle the whole lot with the balsamic syrup.
Suffice it to say, I finished a very large serving and actually had the pizza for leftovers. A first, for sure… and it was good enough that something tells me it will happen again.