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This golden Saffron Asparagus Risotto is delicate and aromatic, filled with al dente green asparagus, tender sweet peas and a touch of parmesan.asparagus saffron risotto rice

saffron risotto asparagus pea

I wouldn’t dare to call this dish “risotto alla milanese” since it contains some asparagus and peas but truth be told, it’s quite similar. Also, the original risotto alla milanese is usually made with beef broth and is the only risotto generally not served as a “primo”, first course, but as a sidedish. Usually serve with ossobuco, this risotto is the king of the North (…of Italy, not Westeros…). For this particular recipe, I consider it a “main meal” but it could also be served as a Primo or side dish. You can also make this dish vegetarian by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth and forget the parmesan. So…let’s talk saffron shall we?

Saffron-asparagus risotto

Saffron rules!

Saffron is the most precious, Gollum style, (my god… I’m in movie mode today…) of spices, the flower’s stigmas called threads are pick up by hand, one by one, and then dried up. Imagine, in a single pinch of saffron, which is about 15 threads, someone had to pick up about five flowers (saffron crocus) and take one by one each threads… before drying them. What a job! Just to make a single gram of dry saffron you would need about 150 flowers… so the reason it costs a pretty penny is clear. Another factor to its “preciousness” is its color, a really unique golden hue, that tint many traditional dishes from around the world from paella to biryani. It also tastes quite powerful with a unique hay tone, which can be quite rapidly overwhelming if you over do it, better go with modesty on this spice. For this particular recipe, the saffron shines though really well, I’ve used 2 small pinches only which I consider the max for a dish. No need for more, if you have a quality bright red saffron, that’s all you’ll need! The saffron is going to give this incredible golden color to your rice, plus the asparagus will help out a bit too! For a delicious and majestic golden risotto result!

Leaky or tight Risotto?

Saffron-asparagus risottoSometimes risottos are super creamy and leaky other times drier which holding better. I believe for this recipe, a leaky risotto wouldn’t work because of the big chunks of asparagus. I suggest to make it slightly drier, with less broth, this way it will hold the veggies better. As for the final touch, which is “the magic” of risotto, the butter will give the rice a great glossy finish, no need for much, and the parmesan will bind everything together. My secret to a good risotto is to add a sip of white wine in the end of cooking, just to give it a “pop”!

So let’s make this smooth dish!

 

 


Saffron Asparagus Risotto

Makes 4-5 portions | Difficulty: easy | Preparation: 30 minutes

Ingredients
  • 800ml of chicken or vegetable brothsaffron risotto asparagus pea
  • 320g of green asparagus
  • 300g arborio rice (any round grain rice)
  • 150ml of white wine
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1/2 a leek finely chopped
  • 2 pinch of saffron
  • 150g of frozen sweet peas
  • 15g of butter
  • parmesan to taste
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Start by adding the saffron to a little bit of warm water and let it infuse the water for 30 minutes
  2. Add the onion, olive oil and a pinch of salt to a large pan, let it cook slowly until translucent (about 10 minutes)
  3. Bring the heat to medium, add the rice and a touch more of olive oil if dry, move constantly with a spatula until the grains start “singing” or become transparent which is about 2 minutes
  4. Add the white wine, let it evaporate completely
  5. Add the broth, topping the rice and mix once in a while
  6. Repeat the last step as much as needed, about 4 times, the whole cooking process is 18-20 minutes
  7. 5 minutes before the end, add the saffron, asparagus and peas
  8. When the rice is to your liking, mine is “al dente”, add an *optional last sip of white wine (30ml, no more)
  9. Stop the fire, add the butter and parmesan to taste, check the seasonning (salt and pepper)
  10. Serve

 

Enjoy!

Saffron-asparagus risotto

A Spanish Style Salmon fillet on a bed of quinoa and green asparagus topped with a nutty Romesco Sauce is great way to bring a little Mediterranean sun to your plate.romesco sauce Bbq

Salmon on asparagus and romesco

Salmon Fillet on green Asparagus and Quinoa Bed topped with Romesco Sauce the perfect set of Spanish flavors. This gorgeous orange sauce is a rich, slightly nutty and ultra healthy one.  This recipe is suitable for the BBQ or the oven both methods are in the directions below.

Romesco Sauce

Salmon on asparagus and romescoThe idea here was to showcase the Romesco sauce and asparagus together. It could have been a piece of chicken, red meat on top or nothing at all and it would be as delicious. Romesco is Spanish sauce consisting of roasted tomatoes, pepper pulp, paprika and roasted nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) blended with a touch of olive oil and vinegar. Frankly this orange thick sauce bring any grilled meat to another level, plus the nutty touch is simply divine with asparagus. It goes without saying that it’s by far healthier than ketchup or BBQ sauce. So if you want to give your next Salmon fillet a nice sunny touch, go for the Romesco sauce!

 

Let’s start this grilling season with a Spanish twist!

 


Salmon Fillet on Quinoa and Asparagus bed topped with a Romesco Sauce

Makes 2 portions

Salmon on asparagus and romescoIngredients
  • 2 pieces of salmon
  • 20 green asparagus
  • Romesco sauce (check recipe here)
  • 200g white quinoa
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Salt and pepper the salmon, drizzle with olive oil
  2. Cook the salmon for 20 minutes at 180°C (350F) or on the BBQ for about 10 minutes depending on the thickness
  3. Cook the quinoa as instructed with a pinch of salt and a laurel leave
  4. Add the asparagus in the oven 5-7 minutes before the end of the cooking of the salmon or on the grill for 2-3 minutes
  5. Assemble with a drizzle of romesco sauce

 

Enjoy!

Salmon on asparagus and romesco

Asparagus, peas and bacon paella

Asparagus, peas and bacon paella isn’t quite a classic paella. Although originally, paellas were a rice with all the ingredients from under the nose of those making it on the rice fields would use; like mini eels, snails, rabbit, etc. So I do exactly the same, I add a few leftovers of bacon bits to finish and also a 3 days old bunch of asparagus, and finish it up with my rest of frozen peas. I mean, yes… it is a leftover meal, but it still all works together in the end, I don’t just throw all my fridge leftovers for the sake of finishing the food.

Asparagus, peas and bacon paellaPaellas are a great way to use your leftovers, also it’s a fairly easy and tasty meal. The secret of a good paella lays in the broth you add to it, which usually contains a little wine. The paellas, as opposed to risotto, should not move during coccion, so you won’t get the creaminess of the risotto here, you’ll get a defined texture of the rice. Also, I didn’t add any cheese nor butter at the end, like in risotto. The amount of fat is really low, it’s only a touch of olive oil, and the fresh bacon bits, although in small amount here,  this gives all the fat necessary to the paella. The recipe is suitable for vegetarian, only eliminate the bacon bits and add an extra tbsp of olive oil  at the beginning of coccion.

Paella rice or more precisely “bomba rice” is a round grain and it needs to be lightly fried in fat before coccion, usually olive oil. Then the warm broth is added, a little stir and that’s all! Be careful though, if you stir more during the coccion, it will release the starch of the rice and make the paella sticky, which is not the desired effect for a paella dish.

Let’s make that spring paella going!


Asparagus, Peas and Bacon Paella

Makes 4 portions

Ingredients
  • 10 green asparagus, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 200g of green peas
  • 1 leek finely sliced
  • 50g of fresh bacon bits
  • 400g of bomba rice
  • 500ml of warm vegetable broth
  • 100 ml of white wine
  • 2 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil
  • a few fresh basil leaves
  • salt, pepper
Directions
  1. Start by warming up the broth in a sauce pan
  2. In a big deep enough pan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and bring to medium high heat
  3. Add the leeks, bacon bits and salt and let the leek soften
  4. Add the peas (if frozen, let them get warm)
  5. Make a well (see pictures above) and add the other tbsp of olive oil in the center
  6. Add the bomba rice in the centre and mix all together, bring the heat to high, and mix for a 2 minutes
  7. Add the white wine and deglaze the bottom, for 1 minute
  8. Add the vegetable broth until it top the rice by max. 1 cm
  9. Add the cut asparagus, salt and pepper
  10. Let cook at high heat the first 10 minutes
  11. Then, low it down to medium high heat for the last 5 minutes, add a little extra broth if too dry
  12. When done, cover with a clean towel and let sit for 4 minutes before serving

Serve with a nice white wine and fresh basil leaves on top. Enjoy!

Asparagus, peas and bacon paella

Mini asparagus quiches

Those mini crunchy asparagus quiches are a bite into spring! The beauty of this meal is: it’s polyvalence, whether you eat your quiche warm, or cold… or change the vegetable in it… if you feel like mushrooms or ham etc. Go ahead make those with whatever you feel like. A mini Quiche Lorraine maybe? the original one with smoked Mini asparagus quichespork belly bits, which is slightly less healthy… but Oh! so delicious! If your metabolism allows you, go ahead and make some nice mini lard and cheese ones. I’ve chose my favorite spring vegetable; the green asparagus, also a bit of leeks and gruyère to make it extra tasty!

You can prepare them in advance and serve them as tapas on a warm spring afternoon or pack them up for a picnic. I mean, those mini quiches are so useful.They are as delicious warm or cold.

For this dish, I’ve used the filo (phyllo) sheets, I love the crunch of filo sheet and it’s way healthier, which could surprise a few. First of all, filo pastry is from the Middle East cuisine, and it’s really not easy to make by hand because of it’s extra thin finish. Lucky us, filo sheets comes, in our days, in frozen packs. You’ll simply need to unfreeze the pastry 1 hour before using. The content of the dough is simply flour, water and sometimes an extra touch of vinegar, you are the Mini asparagus quichesone adding the fat (oil or melted butter) between the sheets, which is so little compared to the amount you’ll find in all the other basic pastry like shortcrust, puff, flaky or hot water crust. Back in cooking school, they showed us how to make them all, and let me say… I got traumatized by the amount of butter that can get into those doughs… some more than others… Although, with the filo pastry, it is up to you to add the oil in between sheets, which for this meal is about 30ml of olive oil, added with a brush, no more. If you feel lazy just buy yourself a nice olive oil spray and you’ll be done within a few minutes to assemble your filo sheets.

So let’s make those flaky, spring tasty bites!


Mini Asparagus Quiches

Makes 12 mini quiches

Mini asparagus quichesIngredients
  • 325g of asparagus (1 pack)
  • 250g (1 frozen pack) of filo (phyllo) pastry sheets
  • 6 eggs
  • 75ml cream
  • 50g gruyère finely grated
  • 1 leek finely cut
  • 30ml extra virgin olive oil 
  • nutmeg
  • salt, pepper
Directions

Bring the oven to 180°C (350F)

  1. Unfreeze your filo (phyllo) pastry
  2. Cut all your vegetables into small pieces (maybe reserve a few longer asparagus tips for topping)
  3. In a lightly oiled pan, medium high heat, cook “al dente” all the vegetables
  4. Add salt, pepper and reserve
  5. In a bowl, add the eggs, cream and beat the eggs with a whisk
  6. Add the grated cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the egg mix
  7. Make the filo pastry bottom by lightly brushing each sheet and adding them one on top of the other (until 6 sheets)
  8. Once oiled up, cut the filo (phyllo) pastry into about 14 cm large square sheets
  9. In a greased up muffins rack, add each of the filo square has a bottom, pushing down to have a nice flat bottom
  10. Add the asparagus mix to the bottom
  11. Then the egg mix
  12. Bake the quiches for 25 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven at 180°C (350F)
  13. Pick them out and leave them on a cooling rack for a few minutes
  14. Serve

Serve with a green salad and a hibiscus-grapefruit sangria. Enjoy!

Mini asparagus quiches

Asparagus soup

Asparagus are the spring vegetable by excellence, although with globalization it became an all year long available veggie. A favorite of many, like myself, this long green vegetable is simply irresistible. This soup is an onctuous one, as long as you don’t add too much broth, or water to it. There is absolutely not thickeners; no potatoes, no eggs, no starch, it’s simply plenty of asparagus. I’ve used a chicken broth with it, but it could simply be water or vegetable broth and it would be still as delicious.  I like to play with texture when I create a dish, so for this one I had a touch of slightly cooked and crunchy cured ham to accompany. I’ve used it timidly and it’s totally optional of course, but the slightly cooked cured ham with this soup is adding a whole new texture and welcomes salthy bite to the smooth green soup.asparaguspin
AAsparagus soup green soup like this one needs to keep the vivid green color… That means, you shouldn’t overcook your vegetable… Meaning for this particular veggie, usually 5 minutes is the max…always depends on the thickest of your asparagus. In this particular recipe, you’ll need to softens the leeks and onion before adding the asparagus in the end. When the asparagus is tender after those 5 minutes, just add the cream right away and blend, then it will slow down the coccion of your asparagus, help keep the soup greener.

Don’t forget to keep a few extra pieces of asparagus for extra crunch and decoration.

So let’s make this vivid green soup!


Asparagus soup

Makes 6 portions

InAsparagus soupgredients
  • 900g (3 packs) of green asparagus
  • 700ml of chicken broth or water
  • 2 leeks thinly sliced
  • 1/2 onion thinly sliced
  • 200ml of cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1-2 slices of cured ham (prosciutto, serrano)
  • nutmeg
  • salt, pepper
Directions
  1. Soften the leeks and onion in butter, at medium high heat
  2. Add the broth and simmer for another 10 minutes
  3. Cut the bottom part of the asparagus and cut into small pieces of 2 cm (1 inch), *keep some tips for decoration
  4. Add the decoration tip to the soup about 3 minutes and take them out and rinse in cold water about 30 sec to set the color (keep the green vivid) Reserve
  5. Add all the asparagus and cook for 5 minutes or until soft (cover the pot, at first,to bring the asparagus to boil faster)
  6. Stop the coccion
  7. Add the cream
  8. Blend (I use an immersion blender)
  9. Add a topping of few asparagus tips and slightly cooked cured ham.

Enjoy on a spring night!

Caprese pasta salad

Everyone love a good Caprese salad (tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella with olive oil), so why not change it a bit and make it a pasta salad, and since it’s spring why not add a few green asparagus to celebrate that! This is such a simple idea, and takes no time to make. It’s a “feeling lazy today” kind of meal… Just need to cook the pasta of your choice (healthier versions too like quinoa pastCaprese pasta salada or kamut) a bunch of cherry tomatoes and those precious and fresh mozzarella balls, or the big balls of mozzarella do too, cut into small cubes. Although simple it’s so good and fresh. You’ll see you might end up doing it every other week this summer.

This is a dish with delicate flavours, which means… we can taste that great extra-virgin olive oil we always keep for big occasions. By the way, olive oil doesn’t last indefinitely, in just one year it loses a lot of it’s flavour… so good thing we have those dishes to highlight that good extra-virgin olive oil before it’s too late. So here is that easy and tasty Caprese pasta salad recipe.


Caprese Pasta Salad

Makes 4 portions

IngredientsCaprese pasta salad
  • 500g of pasta of your choice
  • 150g fresh mozzarella
  • 250g green asparagus
  • 350g cherry tomatoes
  • 2 good hands of fresh basil leaves
  • as much as you’d like Extra-virgin olive oil (minimum 30ml)
  • salt, pepper
Directions
  1. Add a big pot of salty water to boil
  2. Cut your asparagus into 3 parts, once the bottom part gone
  3. Add the asparagus to the boiling water for 2 minutes, (keep them crunchy) then drain and rinse into cold water (keep the color vibrant and the texture firmer)
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water, cook them as you like
  5. Cut the tomatoes, basil, mozzarella
  6. Drain the pasta, add to a big bowl with the rest of the ingredients and that good olive oil. Mix
  7. Salt it good and voilà!

Enjoy! In summer time… since it’s a cold meal. Also it makes great leftovers for the next day lunch.

White asparagus crepe

It’s season again, for those premature spring veggies! Those are one of a kind, I knew they existed but never had the opportunity to try them out, “well done” until I’ve met my in-laws. I’ve encountered my first white asparagus at my husband’s mom place, I remembered eating them once before but they were though and not tender at all. The mom although… she nailed it, I was baptised all over again, a new beginning for me, those delicate white asparagus were suddenly on my top 10 favorite veggies list. She made them simply with cooked ham, and little butter and it was fantastic! In Germany they have what they call the “Spargelzeit”, a period from april to early june I think… They have all those stands selling those white jewels on the streets, a bit like apple time back in North America.

White asparagus crepeAlso, I got the first seat while doing a bike tour through northern Italy a few years ago, in april. I got the chance to see them getting “picked-up” from the little mountains of soil where the tip of their head would just freshly come out. The guys on the field would rapidly pick them up from the soil with some technical skills I couldn’t describe with words here. A bit like going threw the soil with a sword…

Yesterday, I saw in the Spanish market, those white asparagus, grown in Spain- lucky me- and couldn’t resist… Also, I had to finish my leftovers of buckwheat crepe, so I did a little experiment with the white asparagus, I add them to a crepe with baby spinach and a bechamel sauce instead of a hollandaise sauce because it’s healthier and easier to do. The white asparagus have a pretty delicate flavour which can get overrunned by bolder ingredients so I didn’t add spices.

So let’s do that white asparagus crepe!


White asparagus crepe

Makes 4 portions

Ingredients

You’ll need a non stick crepe pan for this

Crepe
  • 300g buckwheat flour
  • 500ml of water
  • 1 egg
  • salt
Filling
  • 20 thick and fresh white asparagus
  • few slices of cooked ham
  • few baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
Bechamel

you will need an extra, small saucepan for this

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup  (500ml) cold milk
  • nutmeg
  • salt, pepper
Directions
Crepe preparation
  1. Mix the salt into the flour
  2. Add the egg in the center
  3. Add water in the center slowly in a well and whisk from the center to the sides (to keep it smooth)
  4. Once all mixed, pass through a sieve to eliminate the unwanted lumps
  5. Let set in the fridge for 1-2 hours
White asparagus
  1. Rinse the asparagus, then peel them from the top to the bottom, 2 to 3 times (because the outside fiber is pretty thin) than cut the end tip
  2. Add water to a large pan, just large enough and deep enough to add all of them in. Bring to simmer.
  3. Add a butter, salt and sugar
  4. Add the asparagus
  5. Cook about 15 minutes, until tender, simmering
  6. Reserve
The Bechamel
  1. Add the butter to a saucepan to melt at medium-high heat
  2. Add flour when melted, cook about 1 minute until it smells nutty
  3. Add the cold milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk it until it thickens, add milk if too thick.
  4. Reserve
The grand final
  1. Bring your nonstick pan to high and add a little fat of your choice with a paper, really little
  2. Mix your base again, add a little base to the pan in order to test your crepes, not too much (because the first one is always just a test)
  3. When adding the mix, make sure it barely cover the surface, and it’s not too thick (you’ll see the holes forming right away if good consistency, always can add water if too thick).
  4. Add the baby spinach and white asparagus mix to the crepe with as much of bechamel you want, while it cooks
  5. Cook the crepe until light brown, fold it up, transfer to a plate

Enjoy with a nice Riesling or why not a Weiss beer!

 

 

asparagus pizza

Who is tired of the same old pizza topping? It seems like no more innovation is done with them, so here is one. Since it’s spring… let’s do something with a seasonal vegetable; the asparagus.  Who doesn’t love asparagus? They are to me the pinnacle of veggies. Mother nature engineered those delicate long tasty shoots to perfection. Strangely, white asparagus, which is asparagus pick up before they reach out from the soil (no photoasparagus pizzasynthesis), motto is, “the thicker, the better” while for the green asparagus, it’s the opposite; “the thinner, the better”.  This spring veggie comes from so far back, it was pictured as an offering back in to 3000 BC by the Egyptians.

Germans like their asparagus white, the French grow purple ones and for the rest of the world it’s the usual green shoots. Asparagus is a well known diuretic and is one of those studied mysterious vegetable for its … peculiar aroma when passing through… if you know what I mean. Which apparently not everyone have the capacity to smell, but when one does…oof! he does smell it quite good. Also, the smell is more present if you eat the white kind of asparagus. So let’s just forget about the only defect of that otherwise perfectly engineered veggie, and let’s make that pizza.

 


Asparagus pizza

Makes 2-3 portions

Ingredients
The dough
  • 2 cup of bread flour
  • 500ml of warm milk
  • 300ml water
  • 1 pack of dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds *optional
The toppings
  • a few heads of asparagus (if too much keep for a soup, omelette, etc)
  • 1 tomatoes finely sliced
  • 1/2 onion finely sliced
  • 1 fresh mozzarella (bocconcini) in cubes
  • few fresh basil leaves
Directions
  1. Add the yeast to the warm milk and sugar, set for a few minutes
  2. In a big bowl, add the flour, salt and sunflower seeds, mix
  3. Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast mix, the rest of the water and olive oil until nice, flexible dough
  4. Knead for a good 5 minutes until you push with a finger in the dough and it comes right back
  5. Leave in a covered greased bowl in the oven with the light on (no heat!) for 1 hour
  6. Cut all your toppings
  7. Take the dough out, bring the oven, with pizza stone*optional, to 200°C (400F) or higher
  8. Roll you dough onto a floured wood palette or baking sheet and add the toppings, salt and if not on diet, a bit of olive oil
  9. Cook the pizza for about 15 minutes, until light brown crust appear
  10. Let cool a minute, add the basil leaves

Enjoy that spring pizza with a glass of fresh lemonade or lemon flavored beer, as you wish.