asparagus

Appetizer, Side, Gluten Free, Spring

GRILLED ASPARAGUS PLATE + CILANTRO PEPITA PESTO

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We're home! We'll do a small travel post on Belgium/Amsterdam, but I have been anxious to cook in my kitchen. We had an apartment rental the last leg of our trip, so I was able to make a few simple meals, but it's just not the same as your home kitchen. My hope was that in time away, I would be inspired to cook and create. Taking a break, it being impossible to cook even if I wanted to (most of the time), seemed the very thing I needed. I want to read more books about nutrition, to test more ideas and see them through, I want to be fearless in the recipes I write and to stay curious about food by learning from other authors and chefs. I want this work I do to be a reflection of the boldness I am focusing on this year. There is a Henry David Thoreau quote I like, “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” 

I re-stocked our empty fridge the night we came home. It makes for a pretty hefty tab, but starting fresh feels so good. We are both in the mood for lighter fare after eating out so much (and in anticipation of a few work trips this month). In order to keep from salad burn out, I've been big-batching indoor grilled vegetables to have at the ready (you could very well use an outdoor grill, but ours is charcoal and I'm not up for that whole process quite yet). The sauce is the kind of thing I like keeping a big jar of in the fridge. I make more than I need and repurpose it through the week. It makes an excellent sandwich spread, tossed with noodles and tofu, or warmed grains. We had it on eggs or put a schmear under some avocado toast. I thin it with more citrus for an easy salad dressing. Clearly I like it and the recipe makes a generous amount. I haven't used pepitas in awhile and forgot what a wonderful flavor and crunch they have. Cheers to Spring produce. I welcome you.

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GRILLED ASPARAGUS PLATE + CILANTRO PEPITA PESTO // Serves 4

The given recipe will give you a full 16 oz. jar worth of sauce. Maybe that sounds like a lot to you, feel free to half it. I mention other uses above and when the weeks are busy, I am grateful to have something tasty to jazz up simple meals. It doesn't have any dairy in it so I believe it would freeze well, even in ice cube trays, for later use.

  • 1 bunch asparagus, about 1 1/2 lbs. (medium thickness stalks)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas
  • // cilantro pepita pesto //
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted pepitas
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 jalepeno (sort of seeded. you want a few for heat)
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder, to taste
  • one large bunch (about 4 super packed cups) cilantro, ends cut, stem is fine
  • juice of two large limes
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • splash of water

 Heat your grill, or indoor grill, over medium heat.

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Cut off the dry bits of the asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to gently shave the end stalks. Toss the asparagus in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Grill the asparagus, covered, turning a few times, for about 7-9 minutes. Time will vary based on thickness of the stalks. I like mine on the snappy side.

To make the pesto, pulse the garlic, toasted pepitas and sea salt in a food processor to chop. Add the jalepeno, chipotle, cilantro and lime juice and run the processor to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive olive and a splash of water. Taste and adjust as you wish. Add more chipotle for heat, citrus juice and/or salt to brighten it, water if you prefer it thinner.

Serve the asparagus on a generous pillow of the cilantro pesto. Garnish with the minced red onion and toasted pepitas. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Entrée, Breakfast, Spring, Summer

VEGETABLE EGGS BENEDICT

She really is a character all of her own. My mom doesn't really fit a stereotype, so I'm at a loss of trying to put her in a box for you. She was the mom who took us running through golf course sprinklers, and drove the getaway car for my boy crazy girlfriends when we'd go toliet papering in high school. She dressed my sister and I up in her old clothes, and sent us out to make mud pies when the backyard was a mess after the rain. I mean pies actually made from mud- she's never been much for cooking, but she makes up for that in how fun she is. I may not have recipes for 'mom's biscuits', but I have vivid memories of my mom starting the dance party with paper plates as props at my first boy/girl party. I mean, anyone can find a biscuit recipe, but only my mom can party with plates. I was her cautious child, and she always tried to loosen me up... she still does, actually. There is that cliche that says 'you don't understand the depth of a mother's love, until you have children of your own'. I'm sure this is true, but my mom has made her love crystal clear to us. It is deep, really deep, and I know this from her actions. You can say 'i love you' a trillion times, but it's my late night teary phone calls, the articles she sends me in the mail, or helping me plant my herb garden that speak louder than words.

And just because someone doesn't like to cook, doesn't mean they don't like to eat, and my mom loves things with sauce. Food is just her vehicle for more sauce. This is a great mothers day brunch idea. I was inspired by a sauce recipe I found in the Golden Door Cooks at Home Cookbook. It blends up so quickly and tastes lighter than the typical hollandaise you find on an eggs benedict. As soon as you crack the yolk, it marries the bell pepper sauce and serves as the perfect dipping agent for the rest of the stack. If you are not one for poached eggs, you could substitute a fried egg or even a heap of scrambled eggs as an alternative. Experiment with whatever vegetables you have, as I imagine any sauteed green could be used instead of spinach or some caramelized onions or leeks would be wonderful too. For the record: A. This is my new favorite breakfast and B. I love you, Mom.

VEGETABLE EGGS BENEDICT // Makes 4

The sauce recipe is written using jarred roasted peppers. The yellow ones make a sauce that most resembles hollandaise. When bell peppers are sweet and in season near you, I am sure the flavor would be exceptional if you roasted them yourself. Though jarred will save you time regardless of the season. If you don't care for goat cheese, you could use cream cheese instead.

2 Whole Grain English Muffins

4 Large Eggs

5 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Zest of One Lemon

12 Spears of Asparagus

1 tsp. Garlic Salt

Fresh Ground Pepper

Fresh Parsley for Garnish

// BELL PEPPER SAUCE //

1 1/4 Cup Roasted Bell Pepper Pieces, drained

3-4 oz. Chevre/Goat Cheese (richness to taste)

1/4 Cup Milk

1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice

1 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard

Splash of Hot Sauce

Salt/Pepper

Oven to 500'

1. Start with the sauce. Warm the milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. In a blender or food processor, combine the warm milk, goat cheese, mustard, lemon juice and the drained roasted bell peppers. Blend until smooth. Cover and set aside.

2. Warm the olive oil in the pan, add the fresh spinach and lemon zest and saute until just wilted. Turn off the heat and let it sit, it will stay warm enough while you finish everything else.

3. Toss the asparagus with a bit of olive oil, garlic salt and some fresh ground pepper. Put in the upper third of the oven for 8 minutes (this all depends on the thickness of your asparagus, alter your timing to get tender but not soggy spears).

4. Bring one quart water + 1 Tbsp. vinegar to a boil, then down to a simmer. This is your egg poaching liquid, there are good directions on how to poach eggs here. If you are doing them one at a time, you can keep them in a bowl with some of the warm poaching liquid until ready to use.

5. Toast the english muffins and get ready to go. Toasted muff+spoonful of sauce+sauteed spinach+asparagus spears, halved+poached egg+another spoonful or sauce+maybe a lovely fruit salad on the side=perfection.

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Entrée, Side, Gluten Free, Spring

WARM ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH BASIL + MINT PISTOU

This was my first experience with a pestle and mortar. I envisioned it so earthy and rustic. I wanted to appreciate the fruit of my labor, more so than I would with an electric machine. I borrowed one from a dear friend, to see if this age old tool could stand up to it's reputation. However, the sight of me using all my arm strength to try and break through the fibrous basil leaves was maybe more rustic than I was capable. I felt so pretty, there in the kitchen with Hugh, while chards of garlic were spitting back at me and getting lodged in my curly hair. Super cute. I have read the praises of how much better pesto/pistou turns out with the smashing of the ingredients against the marble. I may loose culinary credibility, but I thought it was a mess and couldn't taste the difference. Go ahead, throw stones. Maybe if I were mega buff, coordinated and more patient, it would have been all it cracked up to be.

The means of how I got to this warm plate of crunchy green asparagus, rice and lentils is not the point (but haven't I intrigued you to want to get chards of garlic in YOUR hair?). I am partial to adding grains to my vegetables, because it keeps me full longer. This very well could suffice as a simple vegetarian entree, but is also a colorful side. I have sung my song of how I adore leftovers, so I put the chilled reminance over some salad greens the next day. The pistou dressed everything perfectly. The ingredients had marinated overnight, and was just as nice cold as it was warm. It made the garlic scented locks seem worth it.

WARM ASPARAGUS SALAD WITH BASIL + MINT PISTOU // Serves 4

I used a pestle and mortar for the pistou, but it would be less hassle in a blender or food processor. To save yourself time, you may purchase pre cooked brown rice in most freezer sections now. Any variety of lentil is fine, cooking times will vary.

2 Cups Cooked Brown Rice

1 1/4 Cup Cooked Lentils (I used Black Beluga Lentils)

1 lb. Asparagus

1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped, Fresh Chives

// BASIL, MINT + WALNUT PISTOU //

2 Cloves Garlic

1 tsp. Sea Salt

1/2 Cup Walnut Pieces

1/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice (about one lemon)

1 Cup Fresh Basil Leaves

1/3 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves

1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pepper and Red Pepper Flakes to taste

1. In a food processor or blender, add the garlic cloves, salt and walnuts and pulse a few times. Chop or tear the herbs into smaller pieces, and add them to the processor with the lemon juice, pulse until everything is coarsely combined. Add a generous pinch of pepper and red pepper flakes and the extra virgin olive oil. Again, a few more pulses to combine. I like to leave mine a bit chunky.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut the asparagus spears on a diagonal, about one inch pieces. Add them to a steamer basket (or to the boiling water, but they will only need about 1.5 minutes here) and steam for about 2.5 minutes. Prepare another bowl of ice water. Remove and add the asparagus to the ice water bath to set their color. After a few minutes, drain completely.

3. Prepare the brown rice and lentils according to instructions. While warm, mix them together in a large bowl. Add the asparagus and a few big dollops of the pistou (amount based on personal preference), and fold gently to coat everything in the sauce. Add the chives, fold again. Garnish with fresh chives.

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