Recipe Recap :: Asparagus Salad, Peppercorn-Crusted Tuna & Pestoed Polenta
Better late than never...as promised, here's a rundown of those recipes I whipped up last Sunday for an impromptu dinner with two of my girlfriends (my studio apartment can sadly only fit so many people!). Standard practice, I assessed what I had in the fridge that morning, built a menu around the fresh vegetables and herbs I had lying around and then picked up a gorgeous piece of tuna steak from Whole Foods for the main entree. All said and done, I knocked out this dinner (4 dishes including a simple fresh ricotta appetizer) in under an hour...a suprisingly relaxing end to a long weekend.
Asparagus Salad with Pickled Rhubarb :: & Australian Feta Cheese
Serves :: 4
2 stalks rhubarb, chopped into 1 - 1 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 black peppercorns
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Australian feta cheese *Australian is unbelievably creamy and mild tasting - you'll be an addict with just one taste!
Red wine vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar *I've been using the housemade red wine vinegar from the Meat Hook in Brooklyn - A-mazing!
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Pour 2 cups water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add in rhubarb and blanch for 1 to 2 minutes. Place in an ice bath to stop additional cooking.
In a mixing bowl, place rhubarb along with red wine vinegar, sugar, ginger, salt and peppercorns. Set aside.
Toss asparagus spears with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet and roast for 18 to 20 minutes.
Arrange asparagus on a serving plate, place rhubarb in a horizontal line over spears and crumble feta over top. Drizzle with about 1/2 the vinaigrette.
For vinaigrette: Add mustard, shallot, vinegar, salt and pepper to a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in olive oil until well-blended.
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Obsessing Over :: Rhubarb!
Rhubarb's peak season is fleeting, a couple more weeks and then poof, it's gone until next spring. Often under-appreciated, rhubarb is one of those ingredients that can make your eyes light up when spotting it at the market or featured on a menu. Versatile, vibrant and mellow in taste, it's certainly worth a test-drive if you haven't cooked or baked with it ever before. Last year, I dabbled with it's savory side, pickling it to pair with asparagus and creamy feta...totally out of this world for a stunning side dish. Strawberry-rhubarb crisp is always in the mix each spring and early summer as a not-too-sweet dessert that's crammed with fruit and topped with oats and brown sugar. Dab a dollop of brandied-vanilla whipped cream* on top and it's near heaven.
And just last week, I went the route of a rhubarb-vanilla simple syrup and compote. Shockingly quick and easy...and ridiculously tasty. Use the syrup to stir up a perfectly pink cocktail (prosecco+fresh lemon juice+rhubarb syrup or gin+rhubarb syrup+club soda+lime both come to mind) or even to give pellegrino and lime a little pop. The compote that's leftover after making the simple syrup is great to spoon into morning yogurt. It'll for sure start your day with a smile.
*quick little note on that brandied-vanilla whipped cream (cause it's spatula-licking fantastic)...add 1 cup whipping cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, the inside of 1/2 a vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons of brandy to a mixing bowl and either whisk with some major arm power or use an electric beater to whip until soft peaks form.
Rhubarb-Vanilla Syrup :: and Compote
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 stalks of rhubarb
½ vanilla bean, spilt in half
Bring all ingredients to a simmer until sugar is dissolved and rhubarb is soft, about 15 minutes. Strain syrup through a sieve and allow to cool. Place remaining rhubarb compote in a mason jar or air-tight container and refrigerate. Both syrup and compote can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks.
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Life’s Lemons and Asparagus Soup
Sometimes when life gives you lemons, an overflowing bucket full, all you can do is make some soup. Well, at least that's what I did this week. This week's gray weather, matched my gray mood perfectly. I turned to some asparagus and spring herbs to brighten both up and the outcome was a gorgeous emerald green soup that took no time to make and is incredibly light, fresh and full of fiber and antioxidants. Springtime is all about renewal and rebirth, and that's what I'm focusing on, with soup spoon in hand.
For the pickled rhubarb-ricotta crostini pictured with the soup, click here for the recipe.
And looking on to the weekend...the Kentucky Derby AND Cinco de Mayo are sure to kick up some trouble in the best way possible. Stay tuned on Monday for a delightful bourbon cocktail and cocktail nibble featured in the launch of an awesome new lifestyle journal that's going to take online mags by storm!
Asparagus Soup :: with Spring Herbs and Lemon
Serves :: 4
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped in 2" pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek (about 1 - 1.5 cups sliced)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 medium potato, peeled and cut in small chunks
1/4 cup fresh mint
2 tablespoons fresh dill
kosher salt and pepper to taste
mint, dill and minced chives for garnish
lemon slices for garnish
Blanch asparagus spears in boiling water until tender, about 3 minutes, and immediately transfer to an ice bath to retain color. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, add olive oil and saute leeks over medium heat until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes. Add in broth, potato, herbs, salt and pepper, increase heat to medium-high and simmer until potato is soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add asparagus back into soup and cook for another 5 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or transfering soup to a regular blender in batches), puree soup until smooth. Garnish with additional herbs and one or two lemon slices. If desired toss in some whole wheat garlic croutons.*
*For quick homemade croutons: Rub 3-4 slices of fresh or day-old bread with the open part of a halved garlic clove. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and cut into 1" cubes. Toast in a 375F oven for 5 to 7 minutes until crisp.