Monday, April 23, 2012

Shaved Close, more on asparagus

Some days, you just can’t get enough. You can’t get enough time... because you spent all evening on the Internet searching for teal jackets. You can’t get enough money, so you seriously consider entering a sleep study at ye olde local research hospital. And you can’t get enough asparagus. Even though you should really be trying to eat more variety.

So to mix it up you stop cooking the asparagus. And you shave it instead.
When you don’t have time and you do have shaved asparagus, let me suggest buying a ham and cheese croissant, tossing the pretty green ribbons with some pesto, and then stuffing them into the croissant’s buttery hollow.
This may be my greatest accomplishment. I’m not kidding. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell.) The ease level to delicious ratio is off the charts on this one. And it’s portable, which makes this stuffed pastry my new picnic sandwich.
When you’ve got more time, and less money, dress the strips in lemon juice and olive oil and serve alongside some classic budget-friendly cheesy baked mac. Raw veg, warm pasta, lemony zing, sharp cheddar, a flavorful textural delight.
I’m not reinventing the donut here, just offering some advice to my old friend lettuce—watch your back, cap.  Because raw asparagus is mad versatile and cray cray delicious.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Marvelous asparagus

If I’m not careful, this post is going to sound like, “Asparagus, asparagus, asparagus—spring? Asparagus. Eggs!”

So be it.
It’s spring! And asparagus is back! Crisp, green, vegetable, new, fresh—everything I’ve hoped for since I turned on potatoes last month. I’m buying five pounds a week at the market. It is marvelous.
Mostly we eat it roasted or blanched, with pesto or lemon or smothered in bright yolky runoff, which is satisfying and delectable. But I made brunch on Sunday using the recipe Paul Virant provides for the pickled asparagus we half succeeded in canning last week, and it was legit restaurant-quality flavor.
He starts with crunchy roasted asparagus, then calls for prosciutto and a runny fried egg, and tops it all with a vinaigrette made from pickling liquid, chopped pickled asparagus, dijon, and fresh spring onions. Bangarang. Flavor-splosion!
Prosciutto and asparagus and yolk? A-mah-zing. Obvs. But the star of this dish is truly the vinaigrette, finished with basil, in our case, it was sweet and tangy and complex.
I don’t mean to be super impressed with myself, I know all I did was follow instructions, but it’s exciting to have that level of food coming out of my own kitchen.

The countdown to our next Preservation Kitchen project begins now.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pickled asparagus, or The canner returns!

Oh blast. Here we go again. Like most sequels, this is the part of the story that ends on a low note, prepping the audience for a triumphantly epic third chapter, I hope.
I wish I didn’t want to be a canner. Or, I wish someone would write a canning book just for me. Using Weck jars, a Victorio water bath, and recipes with simple, local ingredients. Instead, I’m constantly corroborating instructions and methods, and solving life and death mathematical equations. It’s like NASA up in herre. Good news is I’m one out of three with my new canning book, The Preservation Kitchen. It’s the Weck jars that are really killing me, mostly because those Weck people have provided absolutely no information on pickling and I was left to the deep dark void of the third and fourth pages of a fruitless google search.
The result: my first canning fail. One jar of my first batch of pickled asparagus didn’t seal. That’s HALF of the batch. (I’m taking artisanal, small-batch canning to a whole new level.) 
The process was clearer than the Peach Panic of 2011, hot packing being the only method available to the pickle maker (no floating issues yet this year). And the faulty jar, now rescued to the fridge, provides the upside that I can try Paul Virant’s accompanying recipe for how to use pickled asparagus this weekend without breaking into my winter “store.”  
The pickles themselves are strong. They don’t taste briny so much as BAM! PICKLE! Though quite acetous on their own, I’m confident they will lend a bright bite to future collaborative dishes.  
Dill! King of Herbs is praised on high in our home right now. (Mind you, he took the thrown from his brother Basil, the rightful heir who, townsfolk whisper, returneth on swift winds.)
Pickling might not have gone super smoothly, but our recon cheeseburger consumption at Owen and Engine certainly did.  Meat: 1, Veg:…also 1.  (NASA-level math abilities, I’m telling you.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Inspiration, three ways

1. Dinner on the patio at the Purple Pig
What is better than outdoor dining on clean, terrific food? Tender neck bone gravy, mussel broth as elixir, and burrata, burrata, burrata!
2. New cookbook: The Preservation Kitchen
Canning this season looks like blackberry jam and pickled cherry tomatoes.
3. Spring market options
Asparagus. Spinach. Color.