Spring in food (II): Asparagus

We continue with the series “Spring in food” with another great ingredient that appears with the spring: asparagus.

Again I will be updating this post as long as the asparagus are available.

Let us start with the recipes we are making this season:

    We begin once more with a favorite and a classic: Asparagi alla Bismarck, typical of the Lombardy region. This is a simple and great way of enjoying green asparagus. Eggs are always a great partner of asparagus! One similar recipe is found here.

    Asparagus and leek soup: a very nice recipe of Jamie Oliver. You could filter it if you want to make sure not to get any fibers in the soup. We had some lamb leftovers as a second course so we left the soup simple, but I am sure it is great with poached eggs and crostini.

Spring in food (I): Ramsons (Wild leek – Bärlauch)

There are so many things of spring that make us just feel right. The air, the plants awaking from winter, the little flowers popping everywhere…

Also in the kitchen we are grateful to greet a new season and enjoy some of the great ingredients that now become available. Some of these ingredients are now in season but only for a short time, so we try to take as much advantage of them now and I must say that we truly enjoy them. Probably even more than others because we now it is not lasting many weeks.

One of the ingredients I’m referring to is the wild garlic (Bärlauch, aglio orsino, allium ursinum or ajo de oso). I will be updating this post during the weeks we find it at our local market to report on the recipes we make with it.

    To start the Bärlauch season we made a Bärlauch pesto. It is one of our favorite kinds of pesto. I just love it. You can then have it with pasta, potatoes, rice, cereals, bread or in a salad. It really keeps all the flavor and aroma of the leaves. To make the pesto just add the coarsely chopped leaves in a food processor together with a pinch of salt, roasted nuts (we used pine nuts this time but it is also great with almonds, cashew nuts, etc), a bit of lemon juice, freshly grated Parmesan cheese and olive oil. You will probably have to add more olive oil during the process, and just taste it and vary the quantities as you like.

    This week we made Bärlauchspätzle. They are really good and easy to make (well it does take some more time than making a pesto). Just make the Spätzle with the recipe you like, but instead of water you add Bärlauch-water: with your stand mixer puree the Bärlauch-leaves with some water (just enough to get a smooth texture), you will then add more water if the dough needs it, but we do not want to leave out any of the precious Bärlauch-water. In this way the flavor of the Bärlauch is much milder, but on the other hand that is a great thing for smaller children.

FFwD: Mustard Batons and Bistrot Paul Bert Pepper Steak

Mustard batons for FFwD: such an easy and good . We used bavarian mustard which made them somehow sweet. Next time we will try with a strong Dijon mustard, or with tapenade. Anyway it will be good! The recipe can be found in Dorie’s blog.

Even more special has been the recipe we made today: the pepper steak. Very very nice! And great: it was our first flambé: the flames were over a meter high but it is really quick. The match lights the evaporated gas (we used Grappa, not Cognac), so you do not need to put it too close.

Quinoa salads and crumb-coated broccoli

FFwD in April brings again quite nice recipes to our table and a lot of fun in the kitchen. Here is the schedule for this month:

    April 1, 2011- quinoa, fruit and nut salad
    April 8, 2011- garlicky crumb-coated broccoli
    April 15, 2011- vanilla eclairs
    April 22, 2011- mustard batons
    April 29, 2011- bistrot paul bert pepper steak

We made the quinoa, fruit and nut salad for lunch at work. It was nice but as by the beggar’s linguine, it is not our favorite combination. Very good but just not our kind of comfort food.

The week before we had made another quinoa salad from WholeLiving (photo on the left). This one was soooo delicious. It is for sure a keeper, and we will include it regularly in our meal plans. Give it a try!

We have actually try recently this quinoa hash which is also superb.

The garlicky crumb-coated broccoli came also shortly after to our table. It is very good, not better than the usual dishes we prepare with broccoli, but for sure a good dish to alternate, and a great side dish.

FFwD: March

Today I am going to try to bring up-to-date our posts. We have been very busy lately and could not come to post anything.

Let us start with some of the dishes scheduled for march in French Fridays with Dorie. The schedule read:

    March 4, 2011- savory cheese and chive bread, pages 34-36.

    March 11, 2011- beggar’s linguine, pages 370 and 371.

    March 18, 2011- salted butter break-ups, pages 400 and 401.

    March 25, 2011- scallops with caramel-orange sauce, pages 317-319.

We had already talked about the cheese bread And now is the turn of the other two savory recipes: beggar’s linguine and the scallops with caramel-orange sauce. Both are nice recipes but probably none of them will be repeated at home. Instead of linguine we made fusilli (see left photo). But regardless of the kind of pasta used, the recipe is too sweet for us. We added a bit of ham, but nevertheless it will not become one of our favorite pasta meals. For the second recipe we had to make some changes as we do not get here fresh scallops, which is really a pity. We decided to used shrimps instead, which can be a nice substitution. Again it was nice but the flavors not really convincing. Too much caramel??

Papas rellenas de carne y pesto de remolacha

The Challenge of March for the Daring Cooks was some Peruvian Food: Cheviche de pescado and Papas rellenas. We decided to skip the cheviche, as we don’t trust so much the freshness of the fish around here, but even if late we were determined to try the Papas rellenas. They are basically made out of a “dough”, which is basically mashed potatoes with one egg, and in the middle you put a filling that you like. We filled them with minced beef, cooked with raisins and olives. Just as the recipe describes it, but without adding any extra egg. Finally they are then coated (just as done with the traditional Spanish croquetas) and fried.

They were very good. It is for sure a recipe that will be coming from time to time in our weekly menus.

We served them with a simple salad and some beetroot pesto on bread, which is delicious. For the pesto just put together in the food processor the cooked or roasted beetroot, with some garlic and almonds, a pinch of salt and grated Parmesan cheese. For the quantities just follow your taste. It has to have a rather fine texture, so you have to blend it for several minutes, adding from time to time olive oil. We previously roasted the beet roots individually folded in foil at 200C, for about 45 minutes to one hour. They are really aromatic this way and do not loose any juices. You can see detailed instructions here.

DC: Tempura and soba noodles

The Daring Cook Challenge in February brought us to learn some Japanese dishes. We really loved the Sobe Noodle Salad. Soba noodles are buckwheat noodles, and I had never eaten them before. But since this challenge we have already made them several times. The recipe is really flexible and you can add any veggies you feel like. We never used dashi as we thought we would not use it much afterwards, and just substituted it with regular vegetable broth.

Another thing I liked a lot from this challenge was learning how to make these thin Asian omelette.

The second part of the challenge was to make tempura. This is a dish I have already tried several times and which I really like. The “dough” for the tempura is very easily done and there is no need for special flour mixes. But our homemade tempura came out to greasy, even if we had carefully measured the oil temperature. Maybe the dough was not cold enough as we did not have any ice at hand. The little one loved specially the sweet potatoes and of course the mushrooms.

FFwD: February

From the list of recipes for February by FFwD, I just came to do two of them:

Orange-almond tart: extremely good. The shortcrust pastry dough (Mürberteig/pasta frolla/pâte sablée/masa quebrada) is filled with an almond cream and topped with semi-dried orange segments. I freeze half of the dough to make a smaller tart. I was perfectly delicious. I would repeat it any time. The recipe can be found online here or of course in the book “Around my french table”. The dough can be easily exchanged by any similar recipe as for instance the one of Artusi. We just forgot to take any fotos 😦

Pancetta green beans: the recipe is described here, but we used bacon instead of the pancetta. They were very good but for us nothing special as we prepare quite regularly a similar recipe which we actually like even more as it is not so greasy. We make it both with green beans or with peas and we just add Jamón Serrano instead of the pancetta.

FFwD: Chicken b´stilla

This is actually a moroccan dish that has found its way into the french cuisine. Its sweetness recalled us of arabic meals. It has many components building the final flavors: tart, sweet and spicy at the same time. It was delicious and the crispy phyllo dough gives a nice touch. We omitted the cinammon-sugar on top, just because it sounded to strange to me on a savory dish. Our little daughter was not a fan of it even if she loves chicken. I guess it was a bit to unusual for her.

The house was filled with the fragance of saffron, which is something I love. We will keep this recipe for another time, but it is quite time-consuming, so that it will be kept for a special occasion. As always in FFwD the recipe is taken from the book “Around my french table”. There is a similar recipe in internet. Give it a try!