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Roasted Asparagus With Romesco Sauce

 

This is the last time I’ll say it: Hurray for spring! Without a doubt, asparagus is one of the finest gifts spring has to offer, made all the more sweet by the relatively short time we have with it each year. I know, I know, your supermarket has asparagus all the time. Do me a favor – don’t eat it when it’s not springtime. Asparagus is just one of those things, like tomatoes, or watermelon, or scarves, that are meant to be enjoyed only at certain times of the year. (And yes, there are tomatoes in this recipe – but we are roasting them to extract some flavor. And if the tomatoes you find look terrible, by all means, substitute canned.)

Romesco is a Spanish sauce that tastes great on just about anything, which is good, because you’ll probably have some left over from this recipe. Dip raw vegetables in it, put it on fish, or just spread it on some toasted bread. Trust me, it won’t go to waste.

2 lbs asparagus
2 red bell peppers
3 roma tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 onion, quartered
4 oz raw whole almonds
1 dried ancho chili
2 T sherry vinegar
3/4 C plus 2 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion into a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper and place in a medium-hot wood oven to roast. Allow to cook, turning the peppers occasionally, until everything is very soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The tomatoes and onions should be beginning to char around the edges and the skin of the peppers should be blackened all over. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, trim off the ends of the asparagus. If you are dealing with thick asparagus, you may want to peel the bottom third of each spear to remove the woody outer skin. Anything pencil-thickness or skinnier should be fine without peeling.

Place the almonds in a single layer in a saute pan and toast in your wood oven until fragrant, about 5-8 minutes depending on your oven temperature. Right before you’re ready to take the almonds out, add the ancho chili to the pan and allow it to toast for about 1 minute. It should darken in color slightly and puff up like a balloon. Remove the chili and almonds from oven.

When the bell peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and remove the stem and seeds. Peel the paper off the outside of the garlic cloves. Remove the stem and seeds from the ancho. Place the peppers, garlic and ancho in the carafe of a blender, along with the tomatoes, onion, almonds and sherry vinegar. Blend until incorporated, then, with the motor running, drizzle in the 3/4 cup of olive oil. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

To roast the asparagus, toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place in a large roasting pan big enough to hold the spears in a single layer. Place in a hot wood oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus has begun to caramelize and is just cooked but still has a slight crunch when you bite into it, about 4-7 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with the romesco. Give me a plate of this and a glass of albariño and I’m good to go, but if you’re looking for a complete meal, add a nice piece of roasted fish and some rice and you should be all set.

 

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all of everything!!!!!!!!!!

i can’t believe how delicious all of your dishes sound and look!!! i love root veggies and will try the ones i can’t resist. i am alone so might have to use my “noggin” to pare them down to my size or else invite a guest. also i live in an assisted lioving community and will be forced to use a conventional oven.

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Roasted Mushrooms With Green Garlic

 

Here’s another recipe to celebrate a couple of spring’s here-now-gone-tomorrow offerings. If there’s one thing to complain about spring’s bounty, it’s that nothing sticks around for very long. Oh well – enjoy it while it lasts. This recipe will make it even easier, because it will take you about 2 seconds to make – three ingredients, and that’s it. If you can find them, use morel mushrooms, spring’s fungal grand prize. I used shitakes here because I couldn’t find them (shakes fist at capricious Lady Spring), and it was still pretty darn good.

In my experience, green garlic is a farmers market-only item, but if you have a really good local green grocer, you may be able to find it there. Green garlic looks similar to green onions, except that its green part is flat instead of tubular.

5 stalks green garlic
12 oz fresh morels or shitakes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Remove the root end from the green garlic. Peel off the outer layer of each stalk and discard. Cut on a bias into thin ovals. Place in a bowl of cool water and swish vigorously to dislodge any dirt stuck in the layers. Allow the to settle for one minute, then use a spider or slotted spoon to remove the green garlic. Allow to drain on a kitchen towel.

Meanwhile, clean your mushrooms. If you got your hands on morels, split them in half lengthwise. Depending on how dirty they are, you may need to wash them in several changes of fresh water to remove all the grit. If you notice any worms or bugs, add a single drop of dish soap to the first change of water. This should dislodge any unwanted stowaways. (Morels are a wild-foraged product – there’s no way around creepy-crawlies every once in a while!) For shitakes, all you need to do is remove the woody stems. If any of the caps has a dirty spot, just wipe it off with a damp cloth. Toss the mushrooms with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Next, preheat a large roasting pan in a very hot wood oven. When it’s ready to go, add the mushrooms in a single layer and allow to roast undisturbed for at least 2 minutes. You want to develop delicious crispy caramelization, and stirring the mushrooms too soon is going to make them start to leach out their juices and steam instead. Stir once and allow to roast for another 2-4 minutes, until the mushrooms are nicely browned. Stir in the green garlic and allow to cook for one minute more, until the garlic has softened and started to frizzle around the edges.

Remove from the oven and adjust seasoning as necessary. Transfer to a serving dish and enjoy immediately. This would serve as a great accompaniment to an oven-roasted steak, or try throwing some inside a savory crepe with some cream sauce over the top.

 

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Yummm – cherries

I have to try this recipe. It looks tasty and not fussy. Besides, I love cherries! I also like the fact that you can make it immediatley after cooking a casserole in the oven.

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good topping

This is a great idea to finish the pizza night. You may like to serve it with strained Greek yoghurt and icing sugar.
Mix 1tablespoon of icing sugar into a 250g pot of yoghurt – goes great with strawberries and no as naughty as cream!

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Roasted Artichokes With Capers, Chevre and Herbed Breadcrumbs

Ah, spring. Yes, it’s getting warmer. Yes, the days are getting longer. But what I really get excited about is all the amazing produce spring brings with it. Finally gorging on asparagus, peas, morel mushrooms, green garlic, ramps, spring onions, rhubarb and more after a long winter of root vegetables here in the Midwest is a joy that never grows old.

This recipe is an ode to another springtime favorite, the artichoke. Supermarket produce sections have tricked us into thinking of artichokes as a year-round vegetable, but their peak is really in the spring. You won’t beat the flavor of a spring-harvested artichoke, and chances are they’ll be cheaper than at other times of the year, because production is at its highest.

4 globe artichokes, or 10-12 baby artichokes
Juice of 3 lemons
4 T dry breadcrumbs
1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
1 T vegetable oil
2 T capers
3 oz fresh chevre (goat cheese)

First comes the hard part – cleaning the artichokes. If you’ve never done it before, here’s a quick primer: First cut the lemons in half and squeeze 2 1/2 of them into a large bowl of cool water. Just throw the lemon halves in there too. (Save the last half for later.) Cut artichokes oxidize quickly, so you need the acidulated water to keep them from turning an ugly gray-brown. Next, start peeling leaves off the artichoke until you get down to the tender yellow inside leaves. Use a serrated knife to cut off the top of the artichoke right where the leaves turn from green to yellow. Next, use a peeler or paring knife to remove the fibrous outer layer from the stem and base of the artichoke. Keep peeling until you’re down to the tender, green-yellow flesh. Cut the artichoke in half through the stem. If you’re using large artichokes, you will need to remove the choke, the fuzzy, sharp blossom-to-be at the center of each artichoke. Use a spoon or a small knife to dig out the hairy stuff and any pointy leaves in each half. Baby artichokes may not have developed any choke yet, and should be completely edible once peeled. Cut each half into slices, or quarter baby artichokes, and hold in the lemon water until you’re ready to cook.

Mix together the breadcrumbs and the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. You may need more or less oil depending on exactly the type of breadcrumbs you’re using. When combined, the mixture should look like wet sand. Place in a small skillet and toast the breadcrumbs in your wood oven, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown and crispy. Remove and allow to cool, then stir in the parsley and thyme. Set aside.

Preheat a large saute pan in your wood oven. You want a pretty hot oven for this preparation. Drain the artichokes, add the vegetable oil to your pan and then add the artichokes. Season with salt and pepper, then place in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 10-12 minutes.

Squeeze the remaining half lemon into the pan. Stir in the capers and then dot with the goat cheese. Return to the oven and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the cheese has started to melt into the artichokes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.

This dish would be a great accompaniment to lamb, or as part of an antipasti spread. Go get some spring artichokes while you can, and enjoy!

 

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Spicy Roasted Fennel With Basil and Pumpkin Seeds

 

Let us all now take a moment to appreciate the humble but supremely versatile fennel plant. Its bulb can be shaved and eaten raw, or cooked in pretty much whatever manner you see fit. Its fronds are used as an herb, its seeds as a spice. Beat that, other vegetables. I like the combination of fennel and spicy flavors, so that’s what we have here, along with basil, whose anise flavor complements fennel nicely.

2 large fennel bulbs
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, plus 1 tsp of the adobo sauce
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
6-8 fresh basil leaves
1 T olive oil
2 T roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
Salt and black pepper to taste

Use a peeler to remove the sometimes dry outer layer of the fennel. Cut each bulb in quarters through the root end. Then, cutting at an angle, remove the wedge of core from each quarter that is holding the layers of fennel together. Slice the fennel into a rough julienne shape.

Preheat a large saute pan or roasting pan in a hot wood oven. Meanwhile, mince the chipotle. For those not familiar, chipotles in adobo are jalapenos that are smoked and dried, then cooked in a rich garlicky sauce. Look for small cans of them in the Hispanic food aisle of your market. Slice the serrano in half and remove the seeds with a spoon, then slice into half moons. Cut the basil into a chiffonade: Stack the basil leaves on top of each other, roll them into a cigar shape, and then cut into thin strips.

When your cooking vessel is hot, add the olive oil and then the sliced fennel. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fennel is almost tender and nicely caramelized, about 8-10 minutes depending on the temperature of your oven.

Add the minced chipotle, adobo sauce and sliced serrano to the pan and cook for one minute more. Remove from the oven and stir in the fresh basil. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds over the top.

This would be a great side dish for roasted chicken or fish. It would even be a great topping choice for your next taco night. Try it with anything – it’s versatile.

 

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Kohlrabi Gratin

 

Kohlrabi is a delicious vegetable that is woefully underused here in the United States. A member of the cabbage family, kohlrabi has a sweet, mild flavor that is hard to pin down, but if I had to try I’d say it’s like a cross between broccoli, rutabaga and potato. When I reread that description, it doesn’t sound very good, but please don’t let it scare you away. Give kohlrabi a chance! For this recipe, I paired it with the flavors of horseradish and basil, which I think all played very nicely together.

3 lbs kohlrabi, with leaves still on
1 qt cream
8 oz mascarpone cheese
2 eggs
2 T freshly grated horseradish
1/2 C fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter for greasing your baking dish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, trim the leaves from the bulbs of the kohlrabi. Remove the woody center ribs from the leaves and then blanch the greens in the boiling water for approximately 1 minute. Remove from the water and allow to drain. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much water as possible and then give them a rough chop. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring the cream to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Reduce by half, then set aside and allow to cool.

Peel the kohlrabi using a knife or peeler. The tough outer skin can be thick; keep peeling until any signs of woodiness are gone and you’re left with the somewhat translucent greenish-white inner flesh. Using a mandoline or a sharp kitchen knife, slice the kohlrabi into very thin rounds. Blanch in the boiling salted water for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The kohlrabi should be more pliable but still have a crunch to it when you take it out of the water. Allow to cool.

Whisk together the reduced cream, mascarpone cheese, eggs, horseradish and salt and pepper to taste. Butter the sides and bottom of an 8×8 baking dish. Pour a small amount of the cream mixture into the bottom of the dish. Next, build your gratin in layers, alternating kohlrabi, blanched greens, basil and cream until you’re within a quarter-inch of the top of your dish. Top the gratin with more of the cream mixture and use your hands to press down the gratin in order to remove any air pockets and allow the cream to seep down between everything. (You may not need all of the kohlrabi or cream to fill up your baking dish, depending on its exact dimensions.)

Place the gratin on a rack in a low-to-medium wood oven. You don’t want to cook this too hot or the cream will burn around the edges. (To be honest, my first shot at this dish got a little scorched.) This is a recipe you’ll want to try after you’ve done your high-heat cooking and the oven is cooling down. Allow to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cream mixture has started to set up and the kohlrabi feels tender when pierced with a knife. If the gratin starts to get too dark on top, cover with foil and continue baking.

Allow the gratin to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. This dish would make a great accompaniment to a wood-oven roasted prime rib or beef tenderloin.

 

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