I know, asparagus is so out of season right now. The stocks are fat and woody. Still, I love asparagus. It is my favorite green vegetable.
What is Sabayon? That was my first question. I knew it was French, but that was about it. Turns out this rendition of a Bacon Sabayon isn’t your typical French Sabayon. A typical Sabayon is the French take on another classic Custard Sauce, Zabaglione. A true Sabayon, like it’s Italian Cousin, is made with wine, egg yolks and sugar. Zabaglione is made with a sweet wine such as Marsala. I’ve even used Zabaglione to create a Whipped Cream with Fruit dessert. A traditional French Sabayon is made with a white wine such as a Chardonnay. Both are usually dessert sauces.
Isn’t it amazing what a little char can do to change the textures and flavors of food? I especially love the nutty earthy flavor a little char will bring to a stalk of asparagus. Wow.
This has to be one of the most delicious way to serve Asparagus on the planet. But then, you gotta love Asparagus and Capers. The red pepper flakes also give it a nice little kick. So if that’s all to your liking, this is the dish for you. I know it is for me.
Remember when we talked about getting side-tracked when planning suppers? Such was the case with the Asparagus we kept buying at the market. One thing about vegetables in our house, they never seem to go to waste. While they might not always be transformed into their intended dish, we do manage to enjoy fresh asparagus.
You say Amandine, I say Almondine, any way you say it, a garnish of almonds over just about anything makes a simple dish sound fancy. Green Bean Amandine, Fish Amandine or in this case Asparagus Almondine. A little butter, a sprinkling of almonds and bam, what was ordinary is transformed into extra-ordinary.
I know you were expecting some sort of Lenten offering on this, the 31st day of the season. I got side tracks. All I can say is welcome to my mind. To the rest of the world, it might seem a dysfunctional, easily derailed environment. Yet for me the thought process works and it does make perfectly logical sense. Hubby would care to differ. I invite you to follow the thoughts that led to today’s posting to a wonderful, First-Class Asparagus “Salad” served on the final night aboard the Titanic. Although not a straight line, the string of thoughts aren’t totally random. Ready, set . . . here we go.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
So, I bet you are wondering what’s the difference between white asparagus and green asparagus? Is it a different variety? A close relative? Nope – asparagus is asparagus. White asparagus is nothing more than asparagus that spends its entire existence covered in dirty, not allowed to reach the sunlight that turns the spears green. It takes a little more tending than the green stuff. This extra tending is part of why white asparagus demands a higher price tag than the green variety. White asparagus is grown in South America and Europe, so it’s an “import” to the US markets. Hence the added cost. If you are lucky, these pale stalks make a brief appearance in early spring, so snatch them up when you can.
When you do, don’t treat them like green shoots. Deprived as they are of sunlight, the asparagus as a whole is changed. To begin with, white asparagus has a stiff stalk that will snap easily, and not necessarily at the “woody” ends like green asparagus. The thin outer skin is bitter, and must be removed prior to cooking. Once properly prepped, white asparagus can be cooked just as you would green asparagus. The most common is to boil the asparagus in a little water.
While I decided to boil the asparagus, salted water seemed a little boring, so I added some lemon juice to allow the flavor to penetrate the freshly peeled stalks.
The results were wonderful. The asparagus was tender without becoming “mushy”. The flavor of the asparagus itself is sweet. A little butter and season were all that were required to make a side dish that was beyond yummy.
Simple White Asparagus
1 Bunch White Asparagus
Salt (for water)
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Tablespoon Butter, Softened
1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Herb Seasoning
Rinse asparagus. While supporting asparagus spear in one had, gently peel outer skin from stalk. The asparagus will snap easily, so support while peeling is necessary.
Cut about 1 inch from bottom of each spear. Gather the asparagus, tie with kitchen twine at bottom, middle and top to create a nice bundle.
Place asparagus into a tall pot fitted with a lid. Fill pot with water to just below the tips of the asparagus. Remove bundle, set aside. Bring water to a boil. Season well with salt and lemon juice. Using tongs, add asparagus bundle to water, tip side up. Cover and let cook for about 15-20 minutes, depending upon thickness of stalk.
When asparagus is tender, remove from pot. Lay spears in a serving dish, remove twine. Brush spears with soften butter, sprinkle with lemon herb seasoning and serve.
Those of you who have been around a while might recognize this recipe for Asparagus with Lemon and Olive Oil. It’s a recipe I’ve shared before, as part of last year’s Bistro Style Birthday Menu. Italian foods are my all time favorites, although French foods are a very close second.
Back in January, I shared with you a wonderful menu for Valentine’s Day that was all about the romance of surf and turf. What is it about a beefy steak and a sweet, succulent lobster tail that just naturally belong together? If your budget is like mine these days, why spend a small fortune to have someone cook something that you can do at home, for a lot less money and a lot more personal style. (And by style I mean you can come to the table in your PJs if you are so incline).
Then I got to thinking. While some of us love the combination of steak and lobster, not everyone does. No, really. There are people out there that don’t eat red meat or things that once swam in the ocean. To each their own. For my vegetarian friends, sorry, but I’m just not into creating truly vegetarian menus. I do create meatless dishes for my Catholic Fridays, but often those include seafood of some sort. And those that don’t swim do contain some form of animal product such as cheese or butter or eggs or – well, you get the picture.
For those who do not want a steak and lobster Valentine’s Supper, may I suggest my Chicken Piccata? I’ve shared the recipe with you before, so be sure to follow the link. I’ve coupled this awesome Lemon-Wine chicken with asparagus, another dish from the past. But don’t worry, I’ve come up with some new offerings to tantalize the taste buds. I’ve got a real “strawberry fields forever” thing going on. Since neither the salad nor dessert take a whole basket of strawberries, I’ve brought the two together for one special evening. No sense in wasting fresh, sweet strawberries, right?
So take a gander at this Romantic Menu and please let me know your thoughts. I love hearing from you.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!
Supper of Romance
Baked Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli
Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts and Strawberries
Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache and Berries
Baked Crab Cakes with Lemon Aioli
1 cup of good quality mayo
Meyer Lemon Juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Lemon, sliced for garnish
In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise with a little lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking.
Cover and keep chilled until ready to serve with the crab cakes.
Slice a lemon into thin slices or wedges for a garnish. Set aside until ready to serve.
½ lb. of cooked jumbo lump crab
¼ cup celery, finely chopped
1 or 2 Shallows,finely chopped
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon of fresh chopped basil
3 tablespoons Mayonnaise
¼ teaspoon of Dijon mustard
¼ cup of Panko breadcrumbs
zest of a ½ lemon
Creole seasoning to taste
Spray a small baking sheet or pie tin with olive oil spray. Do not use parchment or foil. Set aside until ready to use.
Gently flake crab meat, removing any shells. Set aside.
Chop celery, shallots and red pepper. Set aside.
Chop the parsley and basil. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard . Zest the lemon directly into the mixture. Season with Creole seasoning.
Fold in the celery, shallots, red pepper, parsley and basil and panko breadcrumbs.
Gently fold in the lump crab meat until everything is evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Place mixture into refrigerator for 20 minutes, setting a timer to remind you to remove after the chill time. This allows the panko to set up and hold everything together.
Meanwhile, set the oven to heat to 500 degrees.
Using a 3-inch ring mold filled almost to the top, form and pack down the crab cakes directly on the prepared pan.
Place them into the very hot oven for 8 minutes. Do not touch or flip cakes during this time. After the 8 minutes of baking time, remove cakes from the oven. Allow cakes to rest on the hot pan for one more minute before removing.
Using a fish spatula carefully lift the crab cake gently off the pan. When plating the cakes, flip them over so that the deeper golden side is now facing up.
Garnish with aioli and some parsley if desired for color. Arrange lemon slices or wedges on the serving platter in an attractive way. Serve and enjoy.
Angel Hair Pasta with Garlic-Parmesan Butter
1/2 lb Angel Hair Pasta
4-5 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 Tablespoons Butter, melted
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
Chopped Parsley, for garnish
Fill large pasta pot with salted water. Heat on high to rapid boil, lower temperature to a rolling boil and maintain until ready to use.
Heat a small saute pan over low heat. Add minced garlic and butter. Saute until butter melts and garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Keep warm over very low heat until ready to use.
Place pasta into boiling water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until al dente. Drain pasta well, return to pan.
Pour garlic butter over hot pasta. Toss to coat well. Transfer to serving bowl. Add Parmesan cheese, toss to blend. Sprinkle with parsley for added color and serve.
Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts and Strawberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Walnuts
Melt butter with brown sugar in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add walnuts, stir to coat.
Empty walnuts on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. Separate into individual nuts and let cool.
4 cups fresh spinach
10 Strawberries, sliced
Remove stems from the spinach. Roughly chop leaves and place in a large shallow bowl.
Wash and hull strawberries. Slice in half or quarters lengthwise depending upon size of berries.
Toss strawberries with the spinach and set aside.
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup crumbled feta (about 1 oz), optional
In a small bowl whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, and salt.
Drizzle 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and sprinkle the walnuts on top. Serve sprinkled with cheese (if using) and with the remaining dressing on the side.
Chocolate Torte with Chocolate Ganache
8 large eggs
3 cups 70% dark chocolate bar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray. Set aside until ready to use.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs on high-speed until fluffy and light yellow in color, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in 15 second intervals until just melted.
While the butter is melting and the eggs are fluffing, chop the chocolate. Once the chocolate is chopped, add to the bowl with melted butter. Return to microwave for 1 minute to microwave on high. Remove from microwave and stir until chocolate has melted completely and incorporated with butter.
Pour the chocolate mixture into the whipped eggs. Stir well to combine completely.
Stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, checking after 25 minutes to avoid over baking.
Remove Torte from the oven and cool in the pan on a baking rack for a few minutes. Run a knife around the edge and remove from pan once cool enough to handle. Leave on the rack, with a baking pan beneath. Spread ganache over the torte. Garnish as desired. Chill until about 20 minutes before serving to allow everything to set up nicely.
1 cup 70% dark chocolate bar
1/4 cup heavy cream
While the Torte is baking, make the chocolate ganache. Chop the chocolate. In a heat-proof bowl or top of double boiler, add the dark chocolate over simmering water.
When the chocolate has begun to melt, add the cream and mix well until smooth and silky.
Allow ganache to cool to the touch before pouring over the Torte.
To serve, garnish Torte as desired with strawberries and mint leaves.
I know, we are barely over all the holiday and New Year’s Eve Celebrations, and already I’m pushing head-long into Valentine’s Day. I guess I’ve got some explaining to do . . .
These yummy, beautiful crepes can be served as an appetizer, a beautiful side dish or main course for a light meal. Have you ever wrapped asparagus in slices of ham? This is similar, only better. I love the flavor of Prosciutto, don’t you? Anything wrapped in Prosciutto is great. Prosciutto adds that salty and flavorful kick. In the summer, I adore Prosciutto wrapped slices of melon. As for vegetables, asparagus is the perfect pairing with thin slices of Prosciutto. I know, asparagus is hardly a winter crop, but then that’s the beauty of foods grown ’round the world – with the exception of your local farmer’s markets, the mega stores have fresh asparagus even in winter. Some farmers grown asparagus in mini-tunnels, increasing the harvest time from spring to nearly year round. This type of farming is especially prominent in England, where the harvest season is from February to November. Not bad for a typical “spring” crop.
I love asparagus. I love asparagus steamed, grilled, pan-fried and just about any way in between including asparagus soup. While asparagus is generally an early spring crop, in most well-stocked markets, it can be had throughout the year. The younger, narrow asparagus render the best, most delicate flavor. The older, thicker stalks tend to be more woody, tough and somewhat bitter.
I know, asparagus are a spring crop. I know, tomatoes come to us in the summer. But hey, we live in a modern world with crops from all parts of the globe. And just look at this stunning combination – ruby-red tomatoes, the deep green of asparagus and the snowy sprinkling of crumbled feta. Come on, you’ve got to admit, this is a beautiful Christmas platter. This is so pretty, I might just need to create an entire menu around it. Suggestions anyone?
Roasted Asparagus with Bursting Tomatoes and Feta
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful Small Tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup crumbled feta
Snap woody ends from each asparagus spear. Set aside.
Heat broiler to high.
Cover a baking sheet with foil. Spread trimmed asparagus evenly on the sheet pan. Drizzle with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly.
Place baking sheet under the broiler about 4 inches from heat and broil for 3 minutes. Remove pan and give it a quick shake to rotate the asparagus. Add small tomatoes and sprinkle everything with fresh thyme leaves. Place under the broiler until tomatoes beginning to blister, about 3 minutes longer.
Arrange asparagus and tomatoes on a serving platter. Sprinkle with feta and enjoy.
This is a recipe I picked up a while back from everydayfrenchchef.com. It’s one of those recipes that you read, tell yourself “how simple” and file away, believing that the best way to serve asparagus is steamed with some sort of sauce such as Hollandaise. And then one day, you pull it out and cook it up. Much to your surprise, it’s not only wonderfully delicious, your non-asparagus eater (aka Kiddo) wants seconds.