Tag Archives: asparagus

best of 2011

Drumroll please… the most delicious, memorable, must-make dish from our kitchen in 2011…

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

 

In case you didn’t catch it the first time around, here is the post again. Here’s to a healthy and delicious 2012!

 

There are things only some of us can do. Things that require unique talent and skills few possess (unless you’re my friend Mark, who actually has one of these rings at home).

Homemade ravioli is not among these feats.

A Pear to Remember is the place, after all, for deliciously do-able cooking. Homemade ravioli is impressive, elegant, divine in every way, but not impossible. Not even hard. Not even hours of work.

Pasta from scratch?? Not today. Won ton wrappers are these magical pre-cut pasta sheets Giant stores carry adjacent to the bagged salads. They are ever more common at grocery retailers, and Asian specialty stores would surely carry them, too. You can also make this without a food processor so it’s not such a fussy equipment endeavor. There are several steps, but few take more than a minute and a half. With a friend, these could easily be ready to go in 40 minutes. (Trader Joes, where speciality cheeses are not overpriced, also makes this an affordable meal).

This marks our most special meal to date. And, in my book, the most delicious by far. Here’s to memory-making on Monday nights!

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Fine Cooking (April/May 2011), serves 4

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved

6 tablespoon marscarpone

1/3 cup whole milk ricotta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

cut the tips at an angle for topping at the end

1/2 tsp. minced garlic (must be fresh, the jarred stuff is too harsh)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

36 wonton wrappers

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (using this same water for the pasta later maintains nutrients!). Have ready a medium bowl of ice water (if you have a colander to rest inside, this is one less draining step). Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon (thanks, Kathy!), transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels.

In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the marscarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Let’s stop for a sec to talk minced garlic.

I knew nothing about fresh garlic growing up; if this is your first encounter with it: welcome!

To mince garlic well, whack a single clove with the side of a wide knife—makes peeling a snap. To chop the garlic very, very fine, slice the clove a few times, sprinkle with a big pinch of coarse salt, and chop away. Just keep running over the clove with your knife; the salt will help mash it into a paste to blend beautifully into your dish.

You can also rub your garlic clove on a microplane for the same, quicker, effect! (Use the same zester for the lemon at the end; no need to clean between).

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface (a cookie sheet is perfect for both prepping and post-boiling) . Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t get too caught up in measuring).

Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat (ideally, the same pot with the blanched asparagus water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli, about 5 at a time, to the boiling water (I lowered the boil so the pockets would not explode; it worked). When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

Thanks to the Bitten Word for inspiring me to try (and conquer) this recipe!

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Filed under dinners, here to share, techniques, the basics

we can do this

There are things only some of us can do. Things that require unique talent and skills few possess (unless you’re my friend Mark, who has one of these rings at home).

Homemade ravioli is not among these feats.

A Pear to Remember is the place, after all, for deliciously do-able cooking. Homemade ravioli is impressive, elegant, divine in every way, but not impossible. Not even hard. Not even hours of work.

Pasta from scratch?? Not today. Won ton wrappers are these magical pre-cut pasta sheets Giant stores carry adjacent to the bagged salads. They are ever more common at grocery retailers, and Asian specialty stores would surely carry them, too. You can also make this without a food processor so it’s not such a fussy equipment endeavor. There are several steps, but few take more than a minute and a half. With a friend, these could easily be ready to go in 40 minutes. (Trader Joes, where speciality cheeses are not overpriced, also makes this an affordable meal).

This marks our most special meal to date. And, in my book, the most delicious by far. Here’s to memory-making on Monday nights!

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Fine Cooking (April/May 2011), serves 4

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved

6 tablespoon marscarpone

1/3 cup whole milk ricotta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

cut the tips at an angle for topping at the end

1/2 tsp. minced garlic (must be fresh, the jarred stuff is too harsh)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

36 wonton wrappers

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (using this same water for the pasta later maintains nutrients!). Have ready a medium bowl of ice water (if you have a colander to rest inside, this is one less draining step). Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon (thanks, Kathy!), transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels.

In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the marscarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Let’s stop for a sec to talk minced garlic.

I knew nothing about fresh garlic growing up; if this is your first encounter with it: welcome!

To mince garlic well, whack a single clove with the side of a wide knife—makes peeling a snap. To chop the garlic very, very fine, slice the clove a few times, sprinkle with a big pinch of coarse salt, and chop away. Just keep running over the clove with your knife; the salt will help mash it into a paste to blend beautifully into your dish.

You can also rub your garlic clove on a microplane for the same, quicker, effect! (Use the same zester for the lemon at the end; no need to clean between).

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface (a cookie sheet is perfect for both prepping and post-boiling) . Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t get too caught up in measuring).

Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat (ideally, the same pot with the blanched asparagus water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli, about 5 at a time, to the boiling water (I lowered the boil so the pockets would not explode; it worked). When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

Thanks to the Bitten Word for inspiring me to try (and conquer) this recipe!

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feta with friends

beauties

Last week, Andrew came home with the most incredible surprise for me. A fresh bouquet? Nope. Diamond earrings? Nope. A brimming sack of fresh farm vegetables? You bet. Of course, it included all of these luscious items like fresh mushrooms and asparagus and yams—foods that hardly entice my husband, to say the least.

When my friend Kerie came over last Friday, I was really excited to spend time with her. I also admit how thrilled I was to share my veggies with a friend! (Besides, I’ve been dying for an excuse to tell you about deglazing—my favorite cooking technique).

With some special De Cecco spinach linguine in the pantry, and those essential gotta-have ingredients around (olive oil, garlic cloves, parmesan), we made a superb meal together.

TOMATOES

Andrew brought home seven large, ripe tomatoes on the vine. And since this was a surprise, I just happened to purchase several small roma tomatoes earlier that day. What to do with all these tomatoes?

Roasted tomatoes sounded fantastic for my light sauce, but this wasn’t planned early enough for my favorite slow-roasted tomatoes. Though my slow-roasted tomatoes are great in pasta, I wanted rich and juicy tomatoes for this dish. There’s no stipulation for these tomatoes: even a short roasting time enhances the flavor so much, it’s worth popping them in the oven while you’re working on the rest of dinner.

I sliced my romas in half (this would work for any ripe, medium tomatoes), arranged them face-up on parchment paper with a light drizzle of olive oil and salt. I put them in a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes, which was perfect timing while prepping my other veggies and pasta.

PASTA

I started the water at this point, so it would be ready by the time my veggies were all cooked. At this point, Kerie grated about 1/2 cup parmesan reggiano, and crumbled 2 oz. of feta for a cheesy finishing touch.

MUSHROOMS

Ker and I agreed that mushrooms are such a treat when you’re married to men who loathe them. I had never had such fresh mushrooms before, and with this abundance of flawless veggies, I didn’t want to overcook or overwhelm any of these beautiful flavors.

hello, friends

I still have many questions about mushrooms myself, but here are a few helpful things to know. When the stalks are tough and woody, it’s best to break them off and save for veggie stock—or your compost bin, should you be so responsible. Now mushrooms tend to be dirty, and none dirtier than this fresh trio; resist the urge to rinse them. Mushrooms, a bit like eggplant, are sponges—among many great qualities—so they absorb water when rinsed. If you have a pastry brush, this is a handy tool to brush all the dirt from the nooks and crannies. I don’t have a pastry brush, so a damp paper towel works as an effective wipe.

I removed the stems, and sliced the caps. Into a hot (not nonstick) skillet with one tablespoon of olive oil, I seared the mushrooms about 3-5 minutes. It’s ideal when the veggies start depositing brown bits onto the surface of the skillet—there would be nothing to deglaze otherwise!

 

deglazing the pan!

As you see in the photo, the mushrooms have darkened in color and are cooked through. Before removing, however, I poured about 1/4 cup chicken broth into the super-hot skillet (with the exhaust fan on high!) and scraped the skillet gently to release the brown bits stuck to the pan.

It’s simple to deglaze with any clear liquid—water, broth, wine, sherry vinegar, etc. Be sure, however, that the flavor complements your meal.

Stir your veggies until the liquid evaporates (which happens in a matter of seconds). If the skillet still has delicious debris, add a tablespoon or so of liquid and gently scrape.

ASPARAGUS

Oh my beloved asparagus. Absolute favorite vegetable, without doubt. It didn’t even help that this was the most delicate and exquisette asparagus I’ve ever laid eyes on…

In case you’ve wondered for some time how to keep your asparagus cute and perky for a few days in the fridge, it’s imperative to store the stems vertical in a few inches of water.

I chopped off the woody ends of my asparagus and cut the bunch in half. Next time I would probably cut into 1-inch pieces, to fit easier into forkfuls.

After removing the mushrooms from the skillet, I set them aside. Even in a large skillet where these veggies would all fit, I prefer cooking them separately to ensure each is cooked thoroughly. And, like roasting, a crowded pan doesn’t allow for ideal cooking. It may sound like more trouble to saute veggies separately, but it’s more efficient when each veggie is cooking in just 3 minutes.

Between removing the mushrooms and adding the asparagus, I deglazed the pan.

All the asparagus goes right into the skillet, with the mushrooms hanging out on a plate nearby. Asparagus sears well when all of the pieces make contact with the surface of the pan, but this was a large bunch. I added in all the asparagus, covered the pan for a minute or so, and added chicken broth every once in a while to prevent the spears from burning to the pan.

You can see in this second asparagus photo that the pan continues to brown even more. This is excellent. Be wary, at this point of browning, high heat will burn all that goodness to the pan. Turn the burner down to medium or even low heat (since the pan is very, very hot by now) to avoid burning the sauce and the asparagus.

COOK THE PASTA at this point!

MINGLING THE VEGGIES

Since it’s already time to add it all together, turn the heat all the way down to low or warm at this point. If you also love garlic, this is the point to add it so it doesn’t burn. Add the tomatoes, then a clove or two or garlic. You can see in the photo why you want the heat down. These tomatoes start to seep their juices, making a rich sauce for the pasta. Adding these tomatoes to a warm skillet prevents these juices from evaporating. 

 

 

 

 

I mince my garlic directly into the skillet with a microplane so it incorporates evenly into the dish. The garlic should golden in about 30 seconds, then add in the mushrooms and asparagus.

With tongs or a pasta fork, bring the linguine right into the skillet. The pasta water clinging to the linguine is important for the sauce, so don’t worry about drip-drying. Drizzle olive oil into the pasta, until there’s just enough to make the pasta slick. Toss the pasta with the veggies and oil, crushing the tomatoes.

If you are using feta, add this just before serving, whereas the parmesan can melt into the mixture. You can see I reserved a lot of cooked pasta on the side. Because this is a light pasta with little sauce, best to add a little pasta at a time. Too much pasta would be bland, providing a veggies only every 5 bites 😦

 

 

 

This dish turned out wonderful, especially with fresh parsley and plenty of basil on top. But do consider experimenting with the veggies you have on hand—toss a little parmesan or feta on top for a sprinkle of decadence.

best shared with a good friend

 

 

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why are goats so scary?

I tried feeding my hubby this earth-shattering goat cheese bruschetta without mentioning the scary-dairy phrase. But then he asked, I mentioned “goat cheese” and ended up eating his share.

Goat cheese is an acquired taste, and I only first tried it within the past few years. But now it’s impossible to remember a time before it tasted anything but surprisingly tart and creamy, distinctly delicious.

I have the Real Simple website on my recipe links over to the right—they really have a number of creative menu inspirations. I came across this alternative bruschetta, and loved the idea of enjoying it alongside a roasted asparagus linguine. If you haven’t combined asparagus, lemon, and goat cheese before, well, finish reading and get to it!

You know my affinity for roasting, especially when it comes to garlic. Roasted garlic sauce is delicious with a simple, delicate pasta. Just place an entire head of garlic—drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in a small packet of foil—on a baking sheet in a 400 (F) degree oven. After about 20-30 minutes, peak inside the foil for browning. Also, it helps to take a blunt knife or fork and press the side of the garlic—it should be very soft. Take it out at this point, and leave in the foil for about 10 minutes until it cools.

Once cool to the touch, slice off the top to expose the cloves. The flesh—which will be aromatic and golden brown—will squeeze out easily. Just combine with some olive oil, salt and pepper and mash around with a fork.

If you’re also roasting something else for your dinner (in may case, fresh asparagus and chopped onion), you could just place the foil-wrapped garlic on the sheet with your other roasted vegetables or meat.

The pasta is self-explanatory (combine linguine with roasted veggies and garlic oil, fresh cheese on top is delicious). Now onto the bruschetta!

Since there are just two of us in this wee apartment, slicing a baguette into dozens of slices would be a little much. I used a wheat artisan bread, and toasted large slices for the bruschetta. This vinaigrette begins the same as my favorite lemon-oil dressing.

A versatile dressing: lemon juice, honey, olive oil, salt, pepper, and shallots. Add some lemon zest for some extra fun—a bright addition to this pasta creation, too. Click over to my former salad post for amounts. this on its own is fantastic, so imagine how excited I was to discover a new flavor sensation with the simple addition of balsamic vinegar and fresh herbs.

Some chopped basil and parsley and–-wow. Drizzle over your toasted bread, crumble some goat cheese on top, and a last bit of vinaigrette over the cheese. A really surprising accompaniment to a spring supper.

If you think you have an aversion to goat cheese, please try this combination. Goat cheese is creamy and tangy, which is why it’s so enjoyable with lemon and balsamic. Just remember to taste everything as you go along, and season where it feels right. You can always add a little salt or pepper or lemon, but you can’t take away—the most important lesson I’ve learned in the kitchen so far!

goat cheese bruschetta with roasted garlic asparagus linguine

Please don’t fear the goats. They’re happy, hillside creatures who produce milk just like other mammals with whom we are oddly more comfortable. From this milk comes unique cheese that deserves a chance. Andrew gave this a few bites and decided it wasn’t for him. Maybe it’s not for you either. But I think if you allow yourself to enjoy creating something new in the kitchen, and stay open to flavors, you may find a new favorite on your hands. Or your plate.

find the original recipe here.

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