roasted asparagus with pistachio nut purée

April 24, 2014 § 76 Comments

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This is a seriously delicious light dinner.   The recipe comes  from a local Seattle cook Michael Natkin.   He has a wonderful cookbook called Herbivoracious and a blog full of unique vegetarian recipes.  Here we have a pistachio nut puree although as he puts it  “puree isn’t quite the right word. It is more like a nut-based hummus; rich, creamy, slightly fluffy, but packed full of the flavor of roasted nuts.”

I n g r e d i e n t s

  • 1 cup unsalted, roasted pistachios
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water, or a little more as needed
For the asparagus
  • 1 pound fat asparagus spears, trimmed
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • flaky salt
  • fresh chives
For the pistachio puree

Combine the pistachos, lemon juice, garlic, salt, cumin, smoked paprika, and half of the olive oil in the blender. With the lid on and the blender running on medium low speed, drizzle in the remaining oil and then the water, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Blend until color lightens and fairly smooth but not completely textureless. You may need to add a little more water.
Taste and adjust seasoning; it will likely need more salt and possibly more lemon juice or spices, but don’t overpower the pistachio flavor. Reserve, with plastic wrap on the surface to prevent oxidation.

For the asparagus

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss the asparagus with a bit of olive oil and sea salt. Roast on a baking sheet until tender, about 10 minutes. Turn on broiler and cook until blackened in spots.  To serve, spoon the pistachio puree on a plate and place the asparagus on top. Garnish with the balsamic vinegar, chopped pistachios, flaky salt and snipped chives.

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charcuterie wrapped asparagus

April 11, 2014 § 85 Comments

Funny how you think about a certain food and next thing you know you are at the market gathering your ingredients then in your kitchen preparing it.  This happened to me yesterday.  Out of the blue I thought about proscuitto wrapped asparagus.  I have only had this delicacy once and it was quite a few years ago.  All I remember is the effort it took cooking a few dozen of them in a skillet.  A laborious task for my style of cooking, so I never prepared them again.

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Until now.  Now I realize your don’t have to toss them around in a hot skillet and watch them unravel.   Simply roast them in the oven until the asparagus are tender and the cured meat is crispy.   I like simple foods and I like simple ingredients.  Salty pork wrapped around fresh spring asparagus and roasted in the oven until crisp is not complicated.  And serving a warm soft boiled egg to dunk your asparagus into is perfection itself.

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This idea is not original, you can find many versions of these little delights also known as “asparagus soldiers” online.  Rather than proscuitto I chose a mixture of  salchichon (a Spanish salame),  Jamón Serrano (dry cured ham) and chorizo cantimpalo.

 I n g r e d i e n t s

  • one dozen fat asparagus stalks
  • 12 slices of proscuitto or other type of thinly sliced cured meat
  • 4 eggs
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 450° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Slice off the woody ends of each asparagus and discard. Wrap the asparagus stalks in charcuterie. Place the asparagus onto the baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until the meat is crispy. While the asparagus is roasting, soft boil your eggs. Fill a saucepan about halfway with water and bring it to a boil.  Decrease the temperature so that the water reduces to a rapid simmer and gently lower the eggs into the water one at a time.  Cook the eggs for 5-7 minutes: 5 minutes for a yolk that is still runny and 7 minutes for a yolk that is barely set.  Drain the eggs and run them under cold tap water for 30-60 seconds.  Use a knife or egg-cutter to take the cap off the tip of the egg and serve right away in either an egg cup or use a portion of your egg carton.

vegetable risotto (risotto di verdure)

May 24, 2013 § 48 Comments

In a previous post I mentioned my admiration for Tessa Kiros and her fine cookbook Apples for Jam.  I adore this cookbook and in my opinion it is written for me.  My particular copy is far from being gently used.  The dust cover is tattered and torn and many of its pages are a bit warped and spattered with the ingredients the recipe is calling for.  I thought about picking up a nice new crisp copy, but then realized I couldn’t possibly replace my characterized volume.   On a visit to the library the other day I acquired another one of Tessa’s cookbooks, Venezia. Looking through the recipes I stumbled upon this vegetable risotto.  With all ingredients in season I decided we would have this for dinner.  Being a borrowed book from the library I just better keep the pages clean!

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This risotto recipe was terrific.  It had all the substantial textures and flavor you want from a spring vegetable risotto.  The crispy artichoke was a impressive way to top it off.  When you prepare the artichokes I found it is very important to make sure you completely cut the tough parts of the leaves off.  Next time I prepare this I will use baby artichokes if they are in season.  I treasure baby artichokes because the whole globe is tender therefore no need to cut so much away and the hairy choke is nonexistent.

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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of asparagus (about 12)
  • 5 cups of hot vegetable broth
  • 1 large artichoke (6 baby artichokes)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 young zucchinis, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • all-purpose flour, for coating
  • light olive oil
  • handful of mint sprigs

Method

To prepare the artichoke, trim away the tough outer leaves and slice off the top.  Halve the artichoke and remove the hairy choke.  Cut into thin slices.  Place in a bowl with cold water and lemon juice to prevent them from darkening.

To simplify the process, have all your ingredients prepared and measured before you start cooking the risotto.

Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet and sauté the onion until softened.  Add the asparagus, zucchini and peas and sauté on high heat for a few minutes.  Add the rice, mix through the vegetables to coat well.  Season with salt and pepper, add the wine and allow it to bubble away.  Add 2 cups of hot broth, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the broth has been absorbed.  Add another cup of hot broth, stirring gently.  Do not allow the risotto to get too dry.  Continue to add a cup of hot broth when necessary as it is absorbed, for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.  Remove from heat and gently add butter, parmesan and parsley.

Just before your risotto is ready, drain the artichokes, pat dry with paper towels and lightly dip each side in flour.  Using a non stick skillet cover the bottom with olive oil and fry artichokes until golden and crisp on both sides.  Transfer onto paper towels to s0ak off excessive oil.

Serve the risotto with a heap of fried artichokes, fresh mint and extra parmesan.

Serves 4.

buon appetite!

asparagus potato soup with a lemony drizzle

May 16, 2013 § 20 Comments

Last week I was profoundly inspired while reading a beautiful post in My French Heaven.  Stephane’s Simple Crème d’asperge was magnificent!  I loved her minimal ingredients and simplistic method of cooking asparagus soup.  I happened to have asparagus in my refrigerator and decided right then and there we were going to have her soup.  Her recipe was indeed wonderful.  We loved every silky spoonful!

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Next trip to the market I was awe struck at the sight of a mountain of asparagus!  I had to buy some more.  I picked out a nice bunch and then noticed the price per pound.  I do not think I have ever seen asparagus so modestly priced.  Do you think I bought too many?  Obviously we are having a very productive asparagus growing season here in Washington state.  Our temperatures have been warming up for several weeks topping out at 80° for a couple of days.  This week the rain is falling and it has cooled off to a comfortable 65°…perfect!

This soup recipe is very different from Stephane’s.  Her soup was so smooth and much lighter.   And the nutmeg added such a nice subtle flavor.  Using a blender rather than straining gave this soup a heartier consistency.  I added a drizzle of lemon dressing to give it some zing.

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Ingredients

  • 2 large bunches of asparagus, remove tough lower stem, cut into pieces
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 quart of vegetable broth
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped fine

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Method

In a heavy soup pot heat butter over medium high heat and cook the onion until soft.  Add the potatoes, asparagus, salt, pepper and stir to coat well.  Pour the vegetable broth in and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and slow boil until potatoes are tender.  Blend the soup to desired consistency.

L e m o n y   D r i z z l e   D r e s s i n g

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • a pinch of salt

Mix all three ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a fork.  Drizzle on top of individual servings.

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Serves 4, with leftovers.

buon appetite.

asparagus rice soup with cacio d’roma (minestra di asparagi e riso)

April 22, 2013 § 9 Comments

One of the many reasons to love April is the availability of large tender asparagus, a sure sign of spring.  I pick up bushels of asparagus when it is in season.  One of my favorite recipes is a quick steam and a drizzle of olive oil and salt for a simple side dish or tossed in a salad.

The weather in Seattle has been gray, rainy and cold now for several days.  In weather like this I hunger for soup. Today I decided I would make soup with the asparagus I brought home.  To give credit where it is due, I pulled an old italian vegetable recipe book off the shelf…

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The asparagus-rice soup recipe I found in Verdura is remarkable.  Simple and satisfying.  It is a fresh springtime soup.  The arborio rice adds a pleasant chewy texture and the cacio d’roma cheese, which melts into the soup gives the soup a satisfying creaminess.

I made a few minor modifications to the recipe.  For one, the recipe called for a specific italian cheese, caciocavallo.  Caciocavallo is delightfully formed in a ball between two cheese forms and bound together with a rope.  You may find it in your specialty cheese market looking like a little teardrop hanging from a horizontal stick or branch.  It’s flavor is similar to provolone cheese.  Instead I chose cacio d’roma, another lovable southern italian cheese.  It’s made of sheep’s milk.  Quite mild in flavor, similar to Manchego, with a pliable texture instead of dry.  It is considered a very good melting cheese, which is why I chose it for this soup.

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asparagus rice soup with cacio d’roma

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 8 cups water
  • salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 3 ounces cacio d’roma cheese, shredded

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus.  Using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus about halfway up the stalk.  Cook the asparagus in 6 cups of salted boiling water.  When the asparagus is tender but crisp, lift it out of the water.  Reserve the water.  Cut the asparagus into 1 inch pieces and set aside.

In a large heavy bottom soup pot,  heat the olive oil on medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic and parsley for several minutes.  Add the rice and coat well.  Add the reserved asparagus water and bring to a boil.  Cook until the rice is al dente, stirring often. Gently add the asparagus and allow it to warm.  Turn the heat off and stir in the shredded cacio d’roma cheese.  Serve right away!

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Serves 4

buon appetite.

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