Posts Tagged Asparagus
I’m a big fan of savory tarts. The broccoli cheddar tart is a winter favorite around here, and quiches filled with spices and greens crop up quite often as well. If I have a few scraps of cheese and a couple of different vegetables in the fridge, there’s a good chance they’ll be thrown together in a tart without any real recipe or planning.
All these things are delicious. Cheese, flaky crust, eggy filling; who could say no? But they aren’t exactly healthy. And that’s a shame, because there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.
So I tried for healthier. No more all-butter crust: I went with whole wheat flour, olive oil, ricotta cheese, and loads of vegetables. It could be leaner, with low-fat ricotta and broth or low fat milk instead of cream, but I didn’t go there. Honestly I’ve never bought a low-fat cheese in my life and don’t intend to. This recipe is easy to modify. Don’t like asparagus? Try greens, mushrooms, carrot coins, squash, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
For the crust:
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t white pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 T ice water
For the filling:
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup cream
1 lb asparagus
about 1/2 t salt
parmesan, to taste
For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the olive oil.
Stir with a spoon until the mixture is uniform.
Add the water and knead until the dough forms a ball.
Press the dough into a buttered tart pan or pie tin. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes.
Boil the asparagus for 3-5 minutes while the crust is baking.
When the crust is done, spread a layer of ricotta across the bottom of it.
Crumble the goat cheese over the ricotta. Mix the egg and cream in a small bowl.
Pour the egg and cream over the cheese, and top with the asparagus. Sprinkle the tart with salt.
Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes.
This crust is different, very crumbly and complex. I didn’t expect to like it; ordinarily I don’t even keep whole wheat flour in the apartment, because the texture annoys me. The simplicity of it with the olive oil, and the soft, rich filling offset that enough to make me go back for seconds on this one.
Pizza is not at all difficult to make. It requires a little planning, and a choice between a food processor and elbow grease. That’s about it. Make pizza at home, and not only will it be piping hot and crispy-crusted from the oven, but you can put any toppings you want on it, and any (or no) sauce.
I make pizza at home by necessity. While there are pizza places I can trust not to attempt tomato homicide (love ya, Urban Crust), for the most part pizza out just isn’t worth the risk or the expense. Enter pizza at home. You don’t have to have a pizza stone to make it–heck, my “pizza stone” is an old stone chess board I picked up for $3 (The chess pieces are my pie weights), and it replaces an 18″ square unfinished stone tile from Home Depot that snapped when we moved. Before the tile, I used a cookie sheet. Want a deep dish pizza? Use a cast iron skillet. Ignore people who tell you the only way to make good pizza at home is with expensive equipment. It just isn’t true, and you’ll miss out on good pizza if you trust them.
For the crust, I adapt Mark Bittman’s crust from How to Cook Everything. For the topping, I just use whatever I feel like at the time–in this case, asparagus, artichokes, and goat cheese. This recipe makes a small pizza to serve 2-3 people. Double it to serve more.
For the crust:
1 t instant yeast
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 cup warm water
2 T olive oil
For the topping:
1/2 lb grated mozzarella
4 oz goat cheese
1/2 lb cooked asparagus (steamed, roasted, however you like)
10-12 cooked artichoke hearts (sautéed in lemon butter is best; steamed, boiled, or roasted will work)
a pinch of salt
1-1 1/2 cups sauce of your choice, if desired
Pour the flour, yeast, and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
Pulse briefly to combine.
With the blade running, drizzle in the water and olive oil. As soon as the dough comes together in a cohesive ball, turn off the food processor.
Knead the dough briefly and form it into as round a ball as you can. Place this dough ball into a lightly oiled bowl.
Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise for at least an hour or up to two. If you need it to rest longer, put it in the fridge.
Turn the risen dough out onto a chess board/tile/cookie sheet that you’ve lightly dusted with a bit of flour or cornmeal. Preheat the oven to 500°F. No, that is not a typo. You need a really hot oven for pizza. it will cook fast and crisp up beautifully.
Punch it into a rough circle. (Full disclosure: my pizzas are usually unholy trapezoids, shapes that fit neatly into the dreams of great Cthulhu and are best not seen by sane men. This is the real reason I’ve never written about a pizza on here before. This one looks all right, though.)
Let the crust sit another ten minutes or so, so that you can smack it back into shape if that pesky gluten tries to contract and shrink your pizza. Add your sauce, if using, then cheese and toppings. I actually like to put the toppings underneath the cheese, because the cheese glues them down and keeps them from sliding around when the pizza is cut, but they look better on top. It’s up to you.
Bake at 500°F for 10-12 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt (and any other spices you like) and serve piping hot.
So good. Pizza you can eat on the couch, knowing it hasn’t been marinating in its own sweat for half an hour in the backseat of a delivery person’s car.
A note about cutting pizza: I hate pizza cutting wheels, because there is not enough room in anyone’s kitchen for a tool that’s only good for one thing. I use a sharp knife and press down with a gentle rocking motion, without sawing or sliding, until it cuts through. The pizza gets cut, all the cheese does not slide off, everyone is happy. Well, everyone except the guy who was secretly trying to steal all the cheese.
I spent days gushing about this dish before I even made it to anyone who would listen. And I’ve learned something. Apparently asparagus is not for everyone. Apparently there are people out there for whom the bitter green vegetable of almost no calories does nothing. Maybe they have no taste. Maybe they just hate springtime. I’m not judging. (Oh, I’m totally judging. This stuff is awesome.) But even if you hate asparagus, even if you fear the tiny purple leaflets getting stuck in your teeth and the fact that asparagus has a lot of sulphur-based compounds, make this. It’s pillow-soft, marshmallow smooth, and tastes like a bite of spring. Plus, an asparagus spear has fewer than eight calories. So you can eat anything you want as a side with no guilt. Like a whole chocolate cake.
This recipe is adapted from Italian Slow and Savory. It’s an awesome cookbook. My only problem with it is that I can’t eat almost half of the recipes, which is an issue most Italian cookbooks and I have.
Ingredients (almost fills a 2 quart soufflé mold. Serves 4-6.)
1 pound trimmed asparagus (you’ll need about 1 1/2 pounds before trimming.)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup flour
4 eggs, separated
nutmeg and salt to taste. I prefer kosher salt because I like the little crunchy surprise it adds, but I’m a total salt fiend.
Butter for greasing pan.
Lemon wedge, for serving.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 2 quart soufflé mold. Boil the asparagus until very soft, about 10 minutes.
Place the cooked asparagus in the bowl of a food processor. . .
. . .and
do science to it pulse until smooth.
Transfer the purée into a large bowl and add milk, flour, salt, nutmeg, and yolks. Some white pepper would be good, too.
Stir the mixture together and set aside. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
Fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter (I couldn’t take pictures of this step because I only have two hands. I will happily volunteer for the necessary procedures to turn me into Doc Ock. Just putting that out there.) Pour the batter into the buttered mold, put that mold into an 8×8 pan half full of water, and bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes.
My oven got turned off
because I wasn’t paying attention and turned off the oven dial instead of turning on the burner under the teapot for some reason for about 10 minutes, and I blame that incident for the weird crack on the surface of my soufflé.
Still delicious. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a salad for a light meal, or with a hearty helping of chicken francese for a decadent one. Either way, lemon it up.
In order to get a bit more rise and a bit more flavor out of the recipe, I think next time I’ll fold in about 1/2 cup of finely grated grana padano or parmesan. It would be fun to fold in various fresh chopped herbs, or dried ancho chile flakes or (for the non-allergic) sun-dried tomatoes. I’m tempted to spoon it over a twice-baked sweet potato and brown it for the color and flavor contrast. This is definitely a recipe to play around with. It’s surprisingly rich, yet light and airy and quite hard to stop eating. Unless, of course, you hate asparagus.
I first had these rolls at a lovely Japanese restaurant near work. I don’t eat much sushi, especially here in Texas where I only half-trust the fish, so I order a lot of teriyaki and tempura dishes. When I saw beef asparagus rolls on the menu, I got pretty excited. A roll without fish? Genius! I had to have them. I was a bit surprised when they arrived, though, because they were not your traditional rolls at all. No rice. No nori. Just grilled asparagus wrapped in grilled beef and garnished with a hint of soy. So simple. So elegant. So easy to reproduce at home.
I’m very lucky, in that the Asian market near my apartment sells this amazingly thin sliced meat. Chicken, lamb, beef, you name it. The lamb is great seared and stuffed into some pita with tzatziki. The chicken makes some fun sandwiches. And the beef made these fun little rolls that I just can’t wait to make again. If you don’t have access to deli-thin raw meat, put a lean steak in the freezer for 20 minutes or so and carefully shave off thin slices with a very sharp knife.
I served them with tempura veggies and sticky rice pressed into happy little star shapes. It’s a meal I wish I could take to work, because every last bite of it makes me smile.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 pound asparagus spears
1/3-1/2 pound beef, sliced very thin
salt and soy sauce to taste
Steam the asparagus for a few minutes until approximately al dente. This took about 5 minutes for me, with my fairly thick spears, but yours may be longer or shorter depending on your taste and the asparagus you buy.
Take two or three spears of asparagus and wrap them snugly with a layer or two of beef.
Repeat until you’ve got a nice pile of rolls.
Heat up a cast iron skillet or grill pan. Sprinkle a roll with salt and grill on the stove over medium-high heat, rolling the asparagus continually to cook all sides evenly and to keep it from sticking to the pan.
It’s not too different from cooking a hot dog. These are way easier to cook one at a time, so be patient with them. They take about 5 minutes apiece to cook to medium. Mr. B would have eaten them raw if I’d let him, so I didn’t cook his as long. Sprinkle them with soy sauce before serving. In the restaurant they were served sliced into bite-sized pieces, edible with chopsticks. I was too hungry by the time I’d finished cooking to bother, so I declared them finger food. Mr B didn’t mind.
Serve with rice and tempura and enjoy!
Stir fry is my go-to dish for last-minute dinners, quick hot lunch, and emergency solution for days when Mr. B and I just don’t want the same thing. Stir fry is fast, it’s easy, and it’s fun. I’ve been avoiding providing a recipe, though, because I don’t think we’ve ever made it the same way twice. Still, I make it all the time, and almost everything I cook can be wildly altered. I mean, that’s half the fun of cooking, right? Making stuff up as you go? So here it is: stir fry any way you like it. Just the basic principles here!
Ingredients (to serve 2)
3/4 cup of long grain rice
1 cup of water
1 T mirin
about a cup of mixed vegetables, or 1/2 to 3/4 cup of vegetables and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped meat
favorite seasonings, to taste
soy sauce and mirin, to taste
one egg, optional
You see why I was avoiding giving a recipe now, don’t you?
First, make rice. No, I don’t have a rice cooker. Tiny apartments are not highly conducive to owning a million gadgets, so I had to settle for half a million gadgets. Pour the rice and water and about 1 T mirin (rice vinegar) into a small saucepan, cover with the lid, and bring to a boil. Let it boil about a minute, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 12-14 minutes. Boring rice time is over, let’s play with veggies!
This is one I made for lunch a couple of weeks ago right before going to the grocery store. 1/2 a cup of frozen peas, diced sweet potato, sliced purple potato, and a dab of miso paste. I don’t usually go so carb heavy. Tonight, for instance, I used broccoli, asparagus, carrots, peas, and diced chicken. Mr. B had broccoli, ground beef, and egg. Just whatever’s in the fridge. Toss these ingredients in whatever spice you want. Chinese five spice, pepper, garlic, salt, curry powder, whatever.
So, heat your wok (or heavy bottomed sauce pan) on high, add 1-2 T of cooking oil once it’s nice and hot, throw in all of your ingredients and stir furiously with a spatula or wooden spoon for a few minutes (three to five minutes?)
At this point I usually turn off the heat and throw in a little mirin and/or soy sauce and toss a moment more before mixing with rice and serving. Mr. B likes to fry his rice, too. To do that, scoop all your vegetables to one side in the wok, crack an egg into the empty half, and scoop 1/2 of the rice you made into the wok on top of the egg. Count to 10 to let the egg start to fry, then stir furiously again for about 1-2 minutes before serving.
There you go. A simple and delicious way to use those last few bites of veggies lurking in the back of the fridge.
I don’t know what’s come over me. I’ve eaten asparagus about four times this week, and I’m still craving it. We had asparagus with duck on Monday, asparagus and peas in lemony pasta on Tuesday, asparagus beef rolls for an appetizer on Thursday, and now this.
This is proof that a sandwich needs no meat to be a filling meal unto itself. And it’s so easy! All you need are a few things.
Ingredients (serves 2 hungry people)
about 20 asparagus spears, trimmed of woody parts
2-3 ounces of nice stinky cheese, grated (we used raclette, but I’d love to try asiago or chaumes)
8 little slices of ciabatta or 4 bigger slices of a tasty sourdough or rye
a bit of butter or oil
Finely grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the bread. put that in the oven at 350°F while you cook the asparagus.
Heat a grill pan (or cast iron or nonstick skillet) over medium high and add a bit of butter or oil to flavor the asparagus and keep it from sticking. Cook the asparagus 4-5 minutes, turning over with a spatula halfway through to cook it evenly.
My grill pan is pretty tiny, so I did this in two batches. Pull out your cheesy bread and enjoy the smell of melted cheese. It makes everything better.
My ciabatta was store bought and way too holey, which is why I had to use the baking sheet. Not using a baking sheet is better, as it allows the oven to crisp up the bottoms of the bread slices. Asparagus packs a nice bit of crunch on its own, so this was still good, but there’s just something about crunchy bread that’s unmistakable and better than everything else. Moving on. Top 1/2 of the bread slices with asparagus spears (4 or 5 fit on these skinny slices), sandwich it up, and devour. Then take a moment to realize that you just made a delicious and fairly healthful lunch in only ten minutes. That means you’re allowed to have dessert, right?