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Posts tagged ‘Asparagus’

Spring Meals

We’ve had some sun and warmth, albeit fleeting, here lately in the Pacific Northwest. And while it isn’t really warm enough yet to ditch the socks and shoes I’ve been cooking differently. Against all the weather odds the farmers markets have beautiful produce and we’re eating asparagus and radishes several times a week. Below is a quick review of some of my favorites from the last 10 days.

Salad of avocado (not from the farmers market!), radishes, lots of cilantro, scallions and lime juice.

Asparagus Quinoa "Risotto"

I blogged about this dish last spring and had to make another mention of it. It’s not like risotto in that you don’t slowly add stock and stir as it cooks. In all other ways (excepting the grain itself) it is like risotto. It takes about 18 minute start to finish and is one of the most satisfying one-dish  meals I’ve had in a while. The quinoa is added to sautéed onions and a bit of diced bacon, then hot broth is added–cover the whole thing and cook for 10 minutes then spread the asparagus on top and cover again for a few minutes until tender. Then mix some grated parmesan and butter into the whole thing and voila!

Roasted cauliflower and asparagus, canned Oregon albacore, fried potatoes and salsa verde.

I make so many variations of this sort of meal. Roast or blanch or boil whatever veggies you have. Add some  good canned tuna and drizzle the lot with salsa verde.

Greens, beans, eggs, tuna, and cilantro yogurt sauce.

I guess this is the protein heavy version with home-cooked pinto beans, my favorite Oregon Albacore (from Stonewall Banks Seafood), hard-boiled eggs, greens and cilantro yogurt sauce.

All of these meals were fairly quick, last-minute kind of  meals and if you already have cooked beans and/or eggs all you have to do is make your sauce, dressing of choice or cook the quinoa and you’re set.

As much as I love to cook, this time of year I’d rather spend more time in the garden or have a beer at the neighbors watching all the kids in the neighborhood chase each other down the slide in the early evening sun!

Improvisation

Sunday was beautiful. The weather has finally turned warm here and we were all hanging out on a neighbor’s stoop Sunday evening. I had planned to make Barley Risotto with Asparagus (still trying to make that Barley Asparagus combo work!) and had actually measured out the broth, cleaned and sliced the asparagus and measured out the barley earlier in the day. Well now I found myself on said stoop with a beer in hand and children happily playing and just couldn’t tear myself away and head inside. So I stayed on the stoop, sampling said neighbor’s fresh bread with butter.

My son "Improvising" . . . since I don't have a photo of the improvised dinner I figured this would have to do!

When I finally tore myself away from the convivial, summer neighborhood fun I knew that the three-year-old, now over-hungry, was not going to wait for risotto. And I had a pastry-chef friend coming over to sample/critique a sample wedding cake after dinner so . . .What is the quickest cooking grain? I think it’s quinoa so that’s what was made. I basically treated it like I would have the rice (sans slowly adding broth and stirring) and we had ourselves the most delicious quick quinoa/risotto. I’m definitely going to repeat this technique and try other veggies as well.

Needless to say I did not remember to take a photo of the prep or the finished dish, so my son doing his version of improv it is!

Quick Quinoa “Risotto” with Asparagus

This technique is actually more like Spanish Rice than Risotto but whatever you want to call it, it’s worth trying.

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 slice of bacon, diced (optional)

1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends snapped off, and cut diagonally into 1-2 inch pieces

1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained

handful of grated parmesan or other hard cheese

3 cups veggies broth or stock (I used my homemade Veggie Bouillon)

olive oil

Heat broth in a small pan. Saute onion and bacon in large saute pan with 2 Tbs of olive oil until onion is translucent and soft. Rinse quinoa well and strain thoroughly. Add quinoa to onions and bacon and saute for a few minutes until dried out and slightly toasty over high heat. Add broth all at once. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and cover. After about 10 minutes spread asparagus over quinoa and cover again. Cook until quinoa and asparagus are done–about 3-4 minutes. Add parmesan and some more good olive oil and mix well. Voila!

P.S. I still have a few spots in this Saturday’s Cooking Class on Hearty One-Dish Salads and meal with Grains and Beans and lots of Veggies. It’s a fabulous class! Check it out and sign up if you’re interested.

Asparagus

Asparagus has arrived at the farmers’ markets here in Portland. In an attempt to work Asparagus into my upcoming “One-dish Grains and Beans” class I promptly overdid it. I made a warm salad of pearled barley, asparagus, feta, parsley and chives with a lemony vinaigrette.  Judging from my husband’s face as he ate I knew instantly that this was not going to be taught in class next weekend.

The mediocre Asparagus Barley Salad

It was fine, acceptable dinner fare, but it prompted a conversation with him and then on facebook about when to keep things simple. I am usually a big fan of simplicity and I think asparagus shines, with some exceptions, in simple preparations. So class will feature an asparagus risotto (which I consider one of the exceptions).

I clipped an asparagus recipe from the Oregonian’s FoodDay section years ago for braising asparagus with rosemary and bay leaves. I never would have thought to flavor asparagus with these herbs but it’s extraordinary and it falls squarely in the simple category. This is what I’m going to make with my second bunch of asparagus tonight.

Note: I have neither a rosemary bush nor a bay tree in my yard but both exist in great splendor on my block and both of these plants produce way more than a dozen families could consume. So, look around your neighborhood if you don’t have your own and see what you can find. And you’ll meet some new people in the process . . .

I can’t manage to find a link to that recipe so here goes:

Asparagus Braised with Fresh Rosemary and  Bay Leaves

16 plump spears fresh asparagus
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
several sprigs fresh rosemary
several bay leaves, preferably fresh

Rinse the asparagus and break off the tough ends. In a skillet large enough to hold the asparagus in a single layer, combine the  oil, asparagus, salt, rosemary sprigs and bay leaves. Sprinkle with several tablespoons of cold water. Cover. Cook over high heat just until oil and and water mixture begins to sizzle. Reduce the heat to medium and braise the asparagus, turning from time to time, just until the asparagus begins to brown in spots, 8-10 minutes (depending on the thickness of the asparagus). Serve immediately.

— From Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells

And speaking of the Oregonian, there’s an interesting article in FoodDay today about radical homemakers with profiles of some local folks. However radical (or not) you might be, the idea of cooking more at home and spending time with your family growing, procuring and making food, can be an awfully fun and certainly delicious way to spend time.

P.S. There is one spot left in my One-Dish Grains and Beans class on Sunday, April 25 so sign up if you’d like! And I promise there won’t be an barley with asparagus.