Archive for the ‘Asparagus’ Category

Asparagus Croque Monsieur

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

grassweb

Asparagus is still sticking up happy stalks at local farm stands, which makes me ecstatic. I try to eat it every day, if only in a salad. I know it will go away all too soon.

Naturally, I wanted to use it for my appearance last week on Mass Appeal. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it—and then suddenly I had a vision of asparagus in the middle of a Croque Monsieur.

I have always adored this French version of a grilled-cheese-and-ham sandwich. It’s my favorite thing to order in Parisian cafés—or it WAS in the days when I frequented those establishments. (Someday I hope to get back to Paris. It has been several decades, hélas.)

Here’s how I made the sandwiches last week. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure the sandwich needs the béchamel (white) sauce. It would be pretty good with just a little extra cheese. But then, when does one ever NEED béchamel? It does make the sandwich just a bit more decadent and French, however.

As I said on the air, a Tinky could conceive of grilled cheese with asparagus. It takes a French person to think of throwing béchamel on top. I have to admit that a French person might have been a bit more sparing than we were in the video below.

My television appearance on Thursday coincided with National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day. Local strawberries are just coming in so I happily made a strawberry-rhubarb crumble. If you’d like to make that, just use my friend Ginny’s rhubarb crumble recipe. Substitute strawberry slices for half of the rhubarb and omit the cinnamon. (I also like to substitute oats for part of the flour.)

P.S. You’ll note from the crumble video that I have now adopted the soubriquet “The Diva of Deliciousness.” This was suggested by Craig Hamilton, a delightful chef on the Jersey Shore. What do you think of the new name?

Asparagus does excited me!

Asparagus does excite me!

Croque Monsieur aux Asperges

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sweet butter plus butter as needed for browning bread
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup warmed milk
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 pinch salt
4 slices of good bread (I used King Arthur Flour’s pain de mie recipe.)
Dijon mustard to taste
2 slices of ham
4 thin slices Gruyère
4 pieces of cooked asparagus, cut to fit the bread
1/4 cup shredded Gruyère

Instructions:

In a saucepan over low heat melt the 2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour, and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hot milk. Cook and whisk until the sauce thickens a bit, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat, and stir in the paprika and salt. Set aside.

Begin assembling your sandwiches. Spread the slices of bread lightly with mustard. Top two of the slices with a slice of cheese, ham, asparagus, and another slice of cheese. Place the other slices of bread on top to make two full sandwiches.

In a frying pan melt a small amount of butter. Pop the sandwiches into the pan and lightly brown them, adding a little more butter if needed.

Put the sandwiches on a baking sheet. Top them with some of the sauce (you don’t have to use it all; I just like to make sure I’ll have enough!) and the shredded cheese. Broil them until they turn golden brown and bubbly.

Serves 2 decadently.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU9esxHVKME[/embedyt]

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-TRFqsio[/embedyt]

Asparagus Quiche

Friday, May 20th, 2016
It looks as though we're in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy—but we’re actually discussing diets.

It may look as though we’re in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy. Actually, we’re discussing diets.

After a wet couple of weeks we finally have enough sun to bring asparagus up in our area. I eat grocery-store asparagus in the winter from time to time. But I CAN’T STOP EATING farm-stand asparagus in the spring. To me the flavor of asparagus embodies this green, lush, delicious season.

I tend to eat asparagus plain, but as the many asparagus recipes in these pages attest I do also put it into other dishes. Yesterday on Mass Appeal Seth Stutman and I put it into a quiche I have served several times already this spring—first with sautéed dandelion greens, then with sautéed spinach, and now with asparagus.

I based it on the idea of a spinach salad so I wanted to add red onion and plenty of cheese. One could of course add a bit of cooked bacon as well—particularly in the spinach or dandelion versions. I’m not sure the asparagus version needed the bacon; it has plenty of flavor the way it is. In fact, another time I might try a milder cheese to let the asparagus flavor dominate more. I’m happy with the recipe as is, however. (I just like to tinker!)

Seth and I also made rhubarb bread. That recipe was adapted from Land O Lakes. If you want to try my version, add 1 tablespoon orange zest to the batter and double the streusel. And if you’d like to use three little pans as I did, bake the bread for less time than the recipe suggests. The mini-breads took 45 minutes in my oven, but when in doubt use that toothpick!

You’ll note from the rhubarb video below that I forgot to add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I also FORGOT TO ADD THE CHOPPED RHUBARB!

I’m sure all TV stars have days like yesterday. At any rate, I hope they do.

I stirred the missing ingredients into the batter in the pans before baking the bread and threw a little more brown sugar on top for color. The end result was delicious; the recipe is very forgiving.

quicheweb

My Quiche

Ingredients:

1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2 splashes of extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
2 pinches salt (divided)
3 cloves of garlic, slivered
1 large bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and blanched for 1 minute (about 2 cups of pieces)
4 eggs
1 cup cream
5 to 6 ounces crumbled blue cheese
1 9-inch pie shell

Instructions:

Sauté the onion pieces in a little oil until they caramelize (ideally, half an hour or more, but you can get away with 15 minutes if you have to). Sprinkle on a little salt, and remove them from the sauté pan.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Splash a little more oil into the pan, and sauté the garlic briefly (3 to 4 minutes) to soften it. Toss in the asparagus pieces, and sauté them just until they are warm.

In a bowl whisk together the eggs, the cream, and a pinch of salt.

Sprinkle two thirds of the cheese over the pie crust. Top the cheese with the onion, asparagus, and garlic pieces; then pour on the cream/egg custard, and top with the remaining cheese.

Place the quiche on a rimmed cookie sheet to prevent spillage, and bake it for about 40 minutes, until the custard is set and the top is golden. Serves 4 to 6, depending on appetite.

And now the videos….

[youtube]https://youtu.be/WLc_4fVmIu8[/youtube]

[youtube]https://youtu.be/qjw-slYXADc[/youtube]

If you enjoyed this post, please consider taking out an email subscription to my blog. Just click on the link below!

Subscribe to In Our Grandmothers’ Kitchens by Email.

Florette’s Rhubarb Tea

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

teaweb

This recipe appears in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook. (If you don’t have the book, feel free to order it!)

I had forgotten about the tea until last week when I was pondering what to prepare on my next segment on the show Mass Appeal. It was a hit with friends when I made it a few days ago—and it was a hit yesterday when I made it on the show. (See video below.) It is lovely to look at and refreshing to drink.

In case you skip over the recipe and go straight to the video, be aware that I made rhubarb crumble first! And … you should know that I forgot to mention on the air that one should cover the raw rhubarb with water BEFORE cooking it for the tea; otherwise the rhubarb will burn long before it simmers! (One does get a little carried away on live TV, but one is learning.)

The recipe originally came from my neighbor Florette, who is mentioned in the video. I have written here before about Florette. She was glamorous, eccentric, and occasionally maddening. She taught me a lot about rhubarb and a lot about life, and I’m grateful for those lessons.

The Tea

Ingredients:

for the rhubarb juice:

2 pounds rhubarb stalks chopped (about 6 cups)
3 cups water
1 pinch salt

for the sugar syrup:
2 cups water
3/4 cup sugar

for assembly:
1 quart strong black tea

Instructions:

In a stainless steel or enamel saucepan, cook the rhubarb in water, partially covered, over moderately low heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender. Stir gently occasionally to keep from boiling. Cool slightly. Drain the rhubarb in a sieve placed over a bowl and discard the pulp, reserving the liquid. Add the salt.

In another saucepan, combine the ingredients for the sugar syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and brushing the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan until the sugar is dissolved. Cook the syrup for 5 minutes, undisturbed, over moderate heat and let it cool.

To make rhubarb tea, combine 2 parts black tea, 1 part rhubarb juice, and 1 part sugar syrup. (You may change these proportions slightly according to your taste.) Serve in a tall glass over ice. As indicated, 4 cups tea, 2 cups rhubarb juice, and 2 cups sugar syrup make 2 quarts of rhubarb tea.

Store any leftover juice or syrup in the refrigerator. If you need a double amount of sugar syrup, make 2 separate batches.

And now the video:

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn951O2e5yc&list=UUhrpfuBCFEPoURYVpsi4iHw[/youtube]

If you’d like to see the quick asparagus dish I made yesterday before the rhubarb (one always eats one’s vegetables BEFORE dessert), here’s that video as well:

[youtube width=”560″ height=”315″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNC_nZJ-_lk&list=UUhrpfuBCFEPoURYVpsi4iHw[/youtube]

Grad’s Pantry Pasta

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

pasta with blossomsweb

My friend Grad in Savannah sent me this recipe months ago, but somehow or other it took me a while to make it. She says she always has the ingredients in her pantry. Unfortunately, they weren’t all in mine. The pasta was particularly hard to find. I tried numerous local grocery stores and finally gave up and ordered bucatini from Amazon.com.

Bucatini are long, thick strands of pasta that are slightly hollow inside—sort of like lengths of thick pipe. They hold their shape beautifully in the sauce. The word “buco” means hole in Italian; hence the name. Bucatini will be a staple of my pantry from now on.

Here’s what Grad had to say about her dish:

This is one of those things my eldest son loved so much when I made it years ago, he now makes it himself, adding what he has on hand. Rather than a recipe, I think of it more a road map that allows side trips. Leftover shrimp? In it goes. Clam juice? Why not? A little bit of chicken broth left over from yesterday? Absolutely. How about that leftover asparagus? Or those little cherry tomatoes you want to use? You get my drift. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you have the anchovies, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, pepper flakes, olive oil and perciatelli (or bucatini) you can’t go wrong.

I hope you make this dish. It is even better the next day and I love it cold! Keep the basic ingredients in your pantry (along with a nice bottle of red wine) and you are ready for any foodie emergency—or for when you need a hug.

My minor additions (bell pepper and fresh asparagus) are noted below. With asparagus season over, I think I’ll try the pasta next time with a little sautéed zucchini and some tiny tomatoes. And broccoli would be divine in the fall. After all, we need hugs in many seasons….

bucatiniweb

Grad’s Pasta

Ingredients:

1 lb. bucatini or perciatelli (if both are available, Grad prefers the the bucatini, but either will do)
salt to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
6 peeled garlic cloves, minced (or more)
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced (added by Tinky)
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more if you like things hot
3 to 4 flat anchovies packed in oil (I chopped these up)
1 6-ounce. jar marinated artichoke hearts
1 4-ounce jar sun dried tomatoes in oil
1-1/2 cups blanched asparagus pieces (added by Tinky)
2 tablespoons of oil from the tomatoes
Parmigiana-Reggino or Grana Padano cheese to taste

Instructions:

Put the pasta on to boil in boiling, salted water. Meanwhile, place the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion gently until soft. Add the garlic and bell pepper; cook gently until they soften as well. Try not to brown the garlic.

Add the anchovies and cook gently until they disappear into the other ingredients. Sprinkle in the pepper flakes and heat them for a minute or so. Drain the artichokes, reserving the marinade. Slice them thickly, and add them to the skillet. Slice the sun dried tomatoes into thin strips, and add them to the skillet with 2 tablespoons of the oil in which they were packed. Cook gently. Stir in the asparagus pieces. Taste and sprinkle with a little salt if needed. (I just waited and added salt at the table since people like differing degrees of saltniness.)

Add a little of the artichoke marinade to the mixture. Taste and correct seasonings. Add 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, and bring the mixture to a boil to reduce it slightly. (At this point, Grad sometimes adds 1/2 cup of bottled clam juice or chicken broth. They are not essential, however.) When the pasta is al dente, take it out of the water with a pasta fork and add it to the skillet to finish cooking. Toss everything together with tongs. If it is needed, add a little pasta water one ladle at a time, tossing between additions, until the mixture is a nice saucy consistency. Take the pasta mixture off the heat, and sprinkle cheese on top.

Serves 4 to 6.

If you look closely at the pasta at the front of this picture, you'll see the little hole inside.

If you look closely at the pasta at the front of this picture, you’ll see the little hole inside.

Asparagus Hummus

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

My mother loved to tell a story about her introduction to olives.

Her mother brought a jar of the things home from the grocery store. Little Janice asked what they were.

“Olives,” said her mother. “Try one and see whether you like it.”

Janice tried one. She wasn’t sure. So she tried another. She still wasn’t sure. She kept trying. After a few minutes she still wasn’t officially sure that she liked olives. But she had eaten the whole jar.

That’s more or less the way I felt about this hummus. As I’ve mentioned before in these pages, I LOVE asparagus. If it were in season year round, I believe I would eat it every day. Now that it is in season I work on new ways to try it every day.

The other day I looked at some hummus and looked at some asparagus spears and thought, “Let’s put these together.”

I tasted the resulting concoction. I wasn’t sure what I thought. It was a lovely green. (It would have been even prettier if I had saved some pieces of asparagus to decorate the top!) It didn’t taste quite as asparagus-y as I had expected, however.

So I sampled it again. Like my mother before me, I was soon very full and out of my test food.

In the end I decided I’d publish the recipe. If you want more asparagus flavor, add more asparagus, or cut back on the tahini and water.

If you’re like me, you’ll probably eat the whole thing as it is….

Green Hummus

Ingredients:

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into small pieces (about 2 cups)
2 large cloves garlic
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup sesame tahini
2 tablespoons water
lemon juice to taste (I used about 1-1/2 large lemons)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more oil as needed
1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Boil the asparagus pieces until just barely soft. Drain and rinse with cool water and/or ice. Set aside.

In a food processor puree the chickpeas and tahini briefly; then add the asparagus, water, and lemon juice and puree again.

Add the oil and salt and puree briefly. Taste to adjust seasonings; then refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour. Stir in a dab of additional oil just before serving.

Serve with pita chips. Makes about 2 cups.