Category: asparagus

How to Make Quiche out of Just About Anything

How to Make Quiche out of Just About Anything

French home cooks always seem to have a dozen wonderful things up their sleeves to make on the spur of the moment. Great ideas to use up leftovers come awfully naturally, as well, and they all appear to know about how to feed 6 people with a cup and a half of milk, 3 eggs, a bit of ham, and a handful of grated cheese. How DO they do it? These folks are always frying croutons, whipping up homemade hot chocolate, baking an apple tart using apples from the backyard tree, simmering cream soups or vegetable pastas, stirring up something tasty with canned tuna … or even making quiche! How is it that even carbs aren’t a problem for them? This is proven routinely by the unending ubiquitous photos of yard-long baguettes being carried home by slim citizens riding bikes down tree-lined sunny Paris streets. (Well, right now they’re limited to an hour out a day and can’t go far from home. Sigh.) Over the years I’ve been writing the blog, I’ve read and seen quite a lot about this phenomenon, but staying in France for two weeks a couple of years ago gave me a much more complete and definitely personal insight. I’m finding it all definitely useful in today’s cooking world.

Continue reading “How to Make Quiche out of Just About Anything”
Parmesan-Basil Scallops with Pasta and Asparagus

Parmesan-Basil Scallops with Pasta and Asparagus

It’s a cool thing to be married to a guy who says, “You don’t feel well. Tell me how to cook this new dish you’re thinking about and I’ll make dinner for us.”  So there I sat and told him what to do. Thanks, God.

Continue reading “Parmesan-Basil Scallops with Pasta and Asparagus”

Sheet Pan Dinner: Spicy Lemon-Tarragon Chicken and Potatoes with Asparagus and Some Ideas About Keeping the Meals Coming

Sheet Pan Dinner: Spicy Lemon-Tarragon Chicken and Potatoes with Asparagus and Some Ideas About Keeping the Meals Coming

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It’s one of the biggest challenges and conundrums of my cooking, blogging, writing, and teaching life.  Folks are so very interested in food, love to chat about it, are crazy about eating, and seem to know lots about ingredients and technique (Food Network and “Top Chef”, I guess).  But somehow they often have an awesome amount of trouble getting into the kitchen and actually cooking. There are myriad reasons and I needn’t name them.

Continue reading “Sheet Pan Dinner: Spicy Lemon-Tarragon Chicken and Potatoes with Asparagus and Some Ideas About Keeping the Meals Coming”

Asparagus for Lunch, Asparagus for Dinner…

Asparagus for Lunch, Asparagus for Dinner…

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I’m about to grab Dave, shove him on a plane, rent a car, and head for northern Michigan to watch spring arrive, drink wine with friends, hunt morels, and just sit around watching my favorite lake in the whole wide world. If it’s warm enough, we’ll spend a little time in a canoe or kayak.

While we’re gone, it’s asparagus time. I wondered if you might not like a roundup of the best of the blog asparagus posts so that you have something good and fun to cook for a couple of weeks. Scroll through and see what you like.  Enjoy spring cooking, get out the grill, and be well….  Catch you later when May flowers are blooming.

             Swordfish with Ginger-Asparagus Rice and Mango Salsa Continue reading “Asparagus for Lunch, Asparagus for Dinner…”

One-Pan Orzo “Risotto” with Asparagus, Fennel, and Cherry Tomatoes

One-Pan Orzo “Risotto” with Asparagus, Fennel, and Cherry Tomatoes

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Still have some openings in upcoming classes, which begin next Thursday, April 16, 5-8pm at Shouse Appliance in Colorado Springs.   There are  two available spots each in the FRENCH CLASS, April 16 and in the BRUNCH class (we’re learning how to make homemade sausage!), April 25, as well in the rest of the series.  Click at top on CURRENT CLASSES for list and registration info. Can’t wait to cook with you!

Orzo, the tiny rice-like pasta, and vegetables is a favorite combination of mine and you’ll see it on the blog a time or two. Or more. This particular comforting oh-so-green pasta dish, which is easily made vegan, seems to catapult spring vegetables such as asparagus, fennel, and baby spinach way up onto their long-awaited pedestal.  It also feels and nearly looks like risotto minus the questionably constant stirring, angst, and jaw-clenching risotto seems to engender. While it bubbles away nearly untended, you can look to other occupations like pouring wine, chatting,  setting the table, or if you’re like me, petting Rosie–just spayed and not too happy with it. Poor baby. She does like the pills that come all wrapped up in cream cheese for easy swallowing.

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For other meals, I cook orzo separately and make a heartier dish or pasta salad, adding feta, tiny tomatoes, celery or peas, basil or parsley, and a vinaigrette. Either variation is easy to make ahead early on a warm day for a potluck or as a bed for that night’s grilled fish, shrimp, chicken or chops. You can find regular orzo easily in the pasta aisle of your B-flat grocery store, but there are also some brands that sell the whole-wheat variety, which adds fiber and protein.  Try this:

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ONE-PAN ORZO “RISOTTO” WITH ASPARAGUS, FENNEL, AND CHERRY TOMATOES

Continue reading “One-Pan Orzo “Risotto” with Asparagus, Fennel, and Cherry Tomatoes”

Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions

Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions

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When the first day that truly feels like spring arrives — as it did yesterday —  I’m likely to wander around wondering what to cook that feels like spring.  If Dave’s in on the conversation, he’ll be talking grill while I’ll be dreaming salad.  And not only will Dave be talking grill, he’ll be thinking hamburgers.  As I rarely eat hamburgers unless he cooks them at home, I jumped in the car and ran to the store for low-fat ground beef and whole wheat buns.

Continue reading “Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions”

38 Power Foods, Week 11 — Spinach — B"L"T Risotto

38 Power Foods, Week 11 — Spinach — B"L"T Risotto

Bacon, Spinach (the “L”), and Cherry Tomato Risotto
As a kid, spinach was not my thing.  It was that slimy stuff Popeye ate.  I didn’t care if he was strong.  If I had to eat spinach, I didn’t want to be strong.  I wanted nothing that slid whole cloth out of any can.
My own first child adored spinach.  By then, we’d reached the American culinary stage of  gorgeous gooey-cheesy baked spinach casseroles with crispy crumbled crackers on top.  Enabled by grocery store freezers filled with vegetables year-round, we chopped, mixed, added soup or cheese, and threw stuff into ovens to our heart’s content.  We were eating vegetables, weren’t we?  And we liked anything with cheese or sour cream or dried onion soup mix.

Fast forward to our awakening to spinach as a cold-weather vegetable.  To Fed-Ex produce departments continually full of the dirty stuff.  (Spinach was filthy then and still is if you grow it yourself or buy it at the farmer’s market.)  Press again and see the last few years of  clean “baby” spinach in plastic boxes we don’t know what to do with.  (Whole Foods recycles them, by the way; our own recyclers don’t.) 
However we’ve had spinach, it’s been pretty good for and to us.  Full of iron, vitamin C, folate, beta-carotene and vitamin K, this dark leafy, inexpensive and accessible green is beautiful!
Here spinach is mixed with baby kale for a powerful side.
I eat spinach nearly daily:
Herb-Spinach Egg White Omelet

If I don’t make an egg white omelet, I make salad or have spinach instead of lettuce on a sandwich or..

Alyce’s Tomatoed Cod on Fennel with Sauteed Spinach

 I might pair it with fennel as a side for my fish.

Yesterday, my tomatoes (volunteers left on their own for the summer) were picked by a neighbor and deposited on my back step.  She knew I’d been away; she’s a gardener.

These were volunteers from the yard and driveway.  I left them to see what’d happen over the summer. They took over the side bed.

Hybrids ready to eat; they were pretty tasty!

 Hot on the back porch, the tomato scent wafted dizzily through me when I reached down and picked up the container.  What to do with them besides pop one (ok, three) in my mouth as is?

My larder isn’t full yet; we’ve only been home from Colorado for a couple of days.  I did, however, have bacon in small packages in the freezer (one of my mainstays), rice in the pantry, and spinach (which serves as the L in BLT) in the frig.  Way back in the corner was an old chunk of Parmesan our house sitter hadn’t eaten.  B”L”T Risotto was born.  Need I tell you this was the risotto from heaven? (Neighbor got a bowl, too.) Try it today:

b “l” t risotto

2-3 pieces bacon, chopped into 1″ pieces
1T butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 cup arborio rice
Pinch crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1 cup white wine
4-5 cups chicken stock, low sodium
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 – 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach leaves

Set table before you begin.

  1. In a heavy 4 qt saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until nearly crisp and remove to a paper-towel lined plate leaving bacon fat in pot.  Set aside.   Add butter and onion to the saucepan.  Cook 4-5 minutes until onion is softened; add garlic and rice.  Stir in crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper.  Stir well to coat rice.  Cook 1 minute or so. 
  2. Add white wine; raise heat a bit.  Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until wine is absorbed. 
  3.  Add 2 cups warm chicken stock and cook about five minutes, stirring occasionally, until broth is absorbed.   Repeat.  Add last cup of broth (if rice is still too hard to eat–you want it between al dente and fall-apart tender.) Please relax about constantly stirring the risotto.  Pour a glass of wine, turn on the music, and stir only as necessary.
  4.  Stir in tomatoes, Parmesan, spinach, and reserved bacon. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  
  5. Serve hot with steamed green beans or asparagus. (See below.)   Pass black pepper at table. 

I liked a crisp grassy Sancerre with this, but I like a crisp grassy Sancerre with almost anything.  Chardonnay, which is lovely with creamy dishes, would also drink.

    Note re seasonings:  The heat of the crushed red pepper is one that will build in your mouth as you eat the risotto; be careful not to add too much black pepper at the end.

    Cook’s Note:  For ease of preparation, here’s how I do the asparagus or beans in the microwave while the last cup of broth is cooking away in the risotto pan:

    Just 2 minutes for rinsed (no more water) asparagus on high:

    Beans will take a couple of extra minutes unless they’re haricots verts.  Add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of pepper.

    Sing a new song; eat risotto, too,
    Alyce

    38 Power Foods, Week 2 — Asparagus — Asparagus Soup

    38 Power Foods, Week 2 — Asparagus — Asparagus Soup

    Alyce’s Asparagus Soup a la Silver Palate

    Every Friday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be blogging one of the 38 healthiest ingredients from POWER FOODS : 150 DELICIOUS RECIPES WITH THE 38 HEALTHIEST INGREDIENTS by the editors of Whole Living Magazine. 

    38 Power Foods is a group effort!   Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available: 

    Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
    Jill – SaucyCooks 

    Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
    .
    As we go along, I’m guessing we’ll get some other writers involved.  If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com
                 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

    Read me regularly and you know asparagus is just about my favorite vegetable.  Maybe zucchini is first; I don’t know.  But I cook asparagus at the drop of a hat.  In lots of ways.  Here’s one of my favorite recipes, worth buying some gorgeous tiny bowls for (think antique store) so you can make this as a first-course.  I first made Asparagus Soup as a starter for the lunch celebrating my daughter’s baptism, and have been making it ever since.

    alyce’s asparagus soup a la silver palate
       4 main course servings         6-8 first course servings

    • 1 1/2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • 2T butter or olive oil
    • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
    • 1 large garlic clove, minced
    • 6T fresh tarragon (or 2t dry), divided
    • 1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
    • 2# asparagus, trimmed well and chopped
    • 1 1/2-2 quarts chicken broth, unsalted*
    •  3 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
    • 4-6 drops hot sauce (I like Tabasco.)
    • 1/4 c low-fat sour cream*
    • Lemon rind
    In  6qt stockpot, heat butter or oil over medium-low and add chopped onions and shallot. Saute about 10 minutes until softened; add garlic.  Cook another 5 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.  Add salt, pepper, tarragon, parsley, and asparagus.  Let flavors marry by cooking a minute or two, stirring and smelling as you go.  Oh, tarragon.
    Pour in 1 1/2 qts chicken stock and add the carrots and celery.  Add the Tabasco carefully.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 40 minutes or so until all the vegetables are very tender indeed.  As it cooks, add more broth if it seems too thick.   Taste and adjust seasonings. 
     Carefully puree in batches in blender (hold down top with a big towel) or in the food processor.   You can use an immersion blender if you have one, of course.
    Pour back into pan and serve hot or let cool and chill to serve cold.  Top with a spoonful of sour cream, a sprinkle of tarragon, and a grate or two of fresh lemon rind.
    *For a vegan version, use vegetable broth and leave out sour cream
    If you live in St. Paul, my tarragon is right off my back porch in a whiskey barrel; you’re welcome to pick some.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    about asparagus   
                                                                                                                 A. Morgan
      Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folacin has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year.

    Its wealth of nutrients, fiber and very low sodium and calorie content make asparagus a nutritionally wise choice for today’s health-conscious consumer.

    Asparagus is:

    • Low in calories, only 20 per 5.3 oz. serving, less than 4 calories per spear.
    • Contains no fat or cholesterol.
    • Very low in sodium.
    • A good source of potassium.(1)
    • A source of fiber (3 grams per 5.3 oz. serving). (2)
    • An excellent source of folacin. (3)
    • A significant source of thiamin. (4)
    • A significant source of vitamin B6. (4)
    • One of the richest sources of rutin, a compound which strengthens capillary walls.
    • Contains glutathione (GSH). (5)  
    • nutrition info:  courtesy asparagus.org
    other new projects – phew!
    Here’s my fast Clam Chowder.  Should it go in the new book???
    I’m SO excited:  I’m just starting to write a small cookbook called 30 Soups in 30 Minutes, and would enjoy some ideas you might have about what soups you’d like to know how to make quickly–or which soups from either blog you particularly like.   There’ll also be some simple accompaniments for the soups, wine pairings, and a few tiny (read instant) desserts.  It looks like I’ll be publishing through amazon on Create Space and then on to  Kindle.  Thoughts?  Anyone done this before?  I have July and August to work hard on it; I’m not directing a choir and only have some lessons and a seminar to teach.  If you’d like to test any soup recipes, let me know; I need testers.  The first recipe, Broccoli Soup with Toasted Brie, is ready for testing.   Someone once wanted to do wine pairings for this book.  Still up for it?!   I’m so grateful to each of you for your support over the last three years (or more) and can’t wait to show you the book!  Now that I’ve put it out on the blog, I’m gonna have to come through, eh?  Sounding real.
    Sing a new song; cook a new soup,
    Alyce
    Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

    Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

    Welcome spring!

    If you shop Trader Joe’s, you might know Israeli couscous–a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I’m always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what’s going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one’s yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site–if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe’s.

    I don’t know how you feel about Trader Joe’s.  People praise it to the highest heavens and you would have thought our lives were being saved from the plague if you listened to the around-town chat before the store opened on its tight corner with underground parking.   I was in grad school at St. Thomas that summer, and even I heard about it.   And this is a city with fine, locally-owned groceries we can walk to in nearly every neighborhood.  The beauty of Saint Paul!

    So I’m of mixed emotions over what’s there–inside Trader Joe’s, I mean.  First off, I’m not drinking that wine not no-how.  Not even in Sangria.  I mean, have you tasted it?   I’d rather drink Coke and be sober.   Secondly, the produce (even though you can get cool things like fresh English peas) looks a little sad, a bit used, and not real green in both its meanings.  I mean, why wrap Italian parsley up on paper plates and in plastic?  The other thing is I have the sense (with no reason, I think) that some of this food might be processed in ways I wouldn’t like or in China maybe.   I feel like a snob.  And guess I am.  I repeat:  I have no basis for these feelings or ideas.  I even looked on the boxes of a few things I bought.  The Israeli couscous, for instance, says “Made in Israel.”  Duh.  The canned salmon is wild from Alaska.  Huh.

    The chef is always right.  This sign is right by my main prep space.  Just cookin’.

    But I go.  Once in a while.  I’ll only go at very specified times.  Like 10am on Tuesday.  If you try and shop at our Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends, you just can’t get in and out of the parking lot or nearby streets.  The location, albeit the only one they could obtain in our city, is crowded, crowded.   While I’m there, I grab up stuff like sparkling pink lemonade in beautiful liter bottles, peanut-butter stuff pretzel chunks that are addictive, boxes of 100-calorie each scrumptious Belgian milk chocolate, and maybe even a plant or two.  Sometimes a little cheese, though I feel guilty not buying it at our local cheese shop, St. Paul Cheese, which is all of four blocks from my house.

    Just because I should, I did a little digging and, if you’d like, you can read a professional review–a bit dated– of Trader Joe’s here.  It’s all good.  Nothing to substantiate my weird, stuck up feelings.
    Well,  now that that’s off my chest…I can go on about the recipe.  Right?

    I tape upcoming recipes on the door.
    Things I’m testing or things I’d like to make sometime go up.  The couscous was up for a while before I got to it.

    A wonderfully simple all-in-one spring side dish (or summer-add whatever vegetables), we enjoyed this as a foil to a rosemary-roasted pork loin drizzled with homemade barbeque sauce for our second annual “Lilacs are Blooming” dinner party.  (A leek soup with a bit of bacon was the first course that night, but that’s another blog.)  Appearing and tasting something like  risotto, this is much easier; the couscous is cooked in only 10 minutes and the entire dish in about 15–no long-lived ladling and stirring.     My notes or changes are in red.   Try this:

    toasted israeli couscous primavera  courtesy WP/Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
      4 main-dish servings; 6 side-dish servings

    2T olive oil, divided
    2/3 c chopped scallions (1 bunch, white and light green parts)  I used ramps
    1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1 3/4 cups no-salt added or homemade chicken broth, heated just to boiling
    Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (2t zest, 2T juice)
    8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
    1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or blanched fresh peas
    2 oz baby spinach leaves
    Aleppo pepper to taste
    2T fresh parsley, chopped

    1. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 2-3 qt over medium heat.  Add the sallions; cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until just softened.
    2. Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.  Add the hot broth, lemon zest and juice.
    3. Bring to a boil and add asparagus and peas; cover.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked through.
    4. Combine the spinach, the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked couscous and vegetables and stir until the spinach has wilted.  
    5. Dust with aleppo pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve immediately.

    Author’s Notes:  Couscous cooks quickly, and when it’s done, it will stick to the pan.   Keep a close eye on it, and stir every few minutes.  After cooking, the couscou will clump together if you let the dish sit too long.  Serve immediately, or add more oil if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.  Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth if desired.

    My notes:  I didn’t add more oil, but I did add more broth to keep the dish moist.  I made it  right before our guests arrived for dinner, turned it off, and reheated it for serving.  It was tender,  moist, quite warm, and was not over-cooked even though I had kept it covered.

    Made Derby pies for a friend’s Derby party…

    Congratulations to Poor Man’s Feast--the blogging winner for the James Beard Awards!  Give a shout-out!

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce