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Asparagus Potato Salad

It’s springtime and local asparagus is back in stores and at the farmers’ markets. Here’s an easy recipe for potato salad that includes delicious, fresh asparagus. I like this vinaigrette based version better than mayo for letting the flavor of the asparagus shine through. By following the method in the recipe (letting the onions marinate in the vinaigrette, then adding the hot potatoes) the onions are “cooked” to make them milder than raw onions added at the end would be.

This recipe is extremely adaptable. If asparagus is out of season, you can use blanched green beans, snap peas or any other green vegetable that you like. Or you can skip the green vegetable all together and add chopped olives and capers. You could also substitute thinly sliced fennel for the onions. A garnish of chopped boiled egg or bacon crumbled on top would also be nice

ASPARAGUS POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

½    pound             Asparagus
1      pound              Yukon Gold Potatoes–small
2      tspns               Dijon Mustard
1      tspn                 Salt
¼    tspn                Black Pepper
2     Tblspns           Sherry Vinegar
6     Tblspns          Olive Oil
½    medium        Yellow Onion—julienne
¼    cup                 Parsley, Chives or Dill—chopped (optional)

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• Cook asparagus by your preferred method—steamed, broiled or grilled. Just be sure not to overcook it. Cut into 1” lengths.

• Scrub potatoes and cut into ½” pieces. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 2 Tblspns salt. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until just cooked through—about 15 minutes. Drain.
• Meanwhile, make vinaigrette in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together mustard, salt, pepper and vinegar until combined. Continue to whisk while drizzling in oil. Stir in onions to thoroughly combine.
• While potatoes are still warm, mix with dressing and onions. Gently stir every 10 minutes or so until cooled to room temperature.
• Stir in asparagus and herbs.

 

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Continuing to Dress Better

As promised, a follow up to my last post about DIY salad dressings. In the midst of winter, flavorful tomatoes are in short supply. Sun-dried tomatoes are a good way to bring tomato flavor into the depths of winter.

Here’s a creamy, flavorful dressing that goes beyond the basic vinaigrette, but is still quick and easy to make.

SUN-DRIED TOMATO FETA DRESSING
(makes 2 cups)

Equipment:
• Immersion (or “stick”) blender, food processor or blender.

Ingredients:IMG_5444
4 each Sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
2 cloves Garlic – roughly chopped
1 small Shallot – roughly chopped
2 Tblspns Capers (optional)
⅓ cup Water
¼ cup Basil Leaves
1 Tblspn Maple Syrup or Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Rice Wine Vinegar
½ tspn Black Pepper
4 oz. Feta Cheese
2/3 cup Olive Oil

IMG_5457• Soak tomatoes in hot water for 15-20 minutes.
• If using immersion blender, place all ingredients except feta and oil, in a tall, clear cylindrical container or measuring cup. Blend until fairly smooth.
• Crumble feta and add to container.
• With blender running, slowly drizzle in oil.
• If consistency is too thick, blend in water, one tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Other herbs, such as marjoram, dill, parsley or chives may be substituted for basil according to your taste. This dressing works well on a traditional greens-based salad, but its bold flavor also works well when mixed with blanched and chilled green beans, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans and chopped Kalamata olives (as pictured below). You can substitute other green veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers or even kale) for the green beans. And cooked grains (farro, wheat berries, barley) or any other type of canned beans can replace the garbanzos.

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Resolve To Dress Better

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to eat more salad, why not go one step further and resolve to make your own salad dressings. It doesn’t take long, the ingredients you need are probably already in your pantry, and the dressings you make from scratch will taste much better than anything you find on the shelves of you local supermarket.

A basic vinaigrette is a great starting point. From there you can add ingredients to suit your tastes or that will complement the other ingredients in your salad. Vinaigrettes are just a combination of acid, fat and flavor in a standard ratio:IMG_5411
-1 part acid (citrus juice, vinegar)
-3 or 4 parts fat (oil)
-flavor (salt, pepper, chopped shallot, garlic, dried or fresh chopped herbs)

If you’d like your vinaigrette to hold together (emulsify) you can add a little dijon mustard or honey. You can also play with the ratio of oil-to-acid based on your personal taste and the boldness of flavor in the acid. If you like your dressing tart, add less oil.

You can whisk together the acid and flavor ingredients in a bowl and then drizzle in the oil while whisking. However, it’s much easier to just put all of your ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously until well mixed. Added bonus: no clean up!

You can use a high-end extra virgin olive oil in your vinaigrette, but in most cases the vinegar and flavorings will overpower the oil, so a decent mid-priced extra virgin oil with a flavor profile that you like will do just fine.

To balance out the flavor of vinaigrette that seems too strong, add a few drops of water and shake or whisk until incorporated. Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil may solidify in the refrigerator so you will need to take your vinaigrette out of the fridge an hour or so before you plan to use it and shake to reincorporate the oil.

Here’s a variation on the basic vinaigrette with an Asian twist. Fresh, crisp, raw baby bok choy is a great green for making salads and this dressing works especially well on bok choy. Teriyaki vinaigrette also makes a good marinade for tofu, chicken, fish, beef or pork

TERIYAKI VINAIGRETTE
(makes 1 ¼ cups)

Ingredients:IMG_5421

¼ cup Soy Sauce
2 Tblspns Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tblspns Orange Juice
1 Tblspn Honey
1 clove Garlic—minced
2 tspns Fresh Ginger—grated (or 1 tspn dried ginger)
½ tspn Hot Sauce
2 tspns Orange or Lime Zest
¾ cup Canola Oil

• Whisk together all ingredients except oil until well combined.
• While whisking, drizzle in oil until blended.
• Alternatively, place all ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously until combined

I’ll go beyond basic vinaigrette with a couple of blended dressings that will help shake up your winter salad repertoire in my next post.

Asparagus and Mushroom Lasagne

       I’ve always loved asparagus season in Central California. I like that it’s a finite season, and it’s an agro-culinary treat you can really look forward to. Resisting the urge to buy those nice looking spears that come from Mexico a month or so before the California season begins, I patiently wait for the local product to finally arrive. I’ve been enjoying this year’s crop in the usually ways: grilled, sauteed, broiled, in salads,  etc. , but wanted to create a recipe that included some of my other favorite flavors. While asparagus has a distinctive flavor, it lends itself well to a variety of cuisines and applications. This recipe for lasagne  has lots of steps, but isn’t difficult to make. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

 

8          ounces              Lasagne Sheets

3          Tblspns            ButterP1040299

½         small                Onion – small dice

3          Tblspns            Flour

1 ¾      cup                  Milk

½         tspn                 Salt

¼         tspn                 Pepper

1          Tblspn             Olive Oil

1          Tblspn             Butter

8          ounces            Crimini Mushrooms

½         tspn                 Salt

¼         tspn                 Pepper

2          tspns                Fresh Thyme (1 tspn if using dried)

1          Tblspn             Olive Oil

8          ounces            Spinach

8          ounces            Piquillo Peppers – diced

12        ounces           Asparagus

1          cup                  Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

4          ounces           Goat Cheese

1          tspn                 Lemon Zest

2          Tblspns          Basil—chopped

1          large                Egg

½         tspn                Salt

¼         tspn                Pepper

  • Cook lasagne according to package instructions. Cool and set aside.
  • Melt butter in medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and butter is just beginning to brown.
  • Reduce heat to low and add flour. Stir with a rubber spatula to combine and break up any lumps. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes.
  • Slowly add milk while stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Add salt and pepper and stir frequently until mixture is thick. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Trim tough ends from asparagus. Add asparagus to water and cook just until crisp/tender—about 3 minutes.
  • Drain and immediately dunk in ice water to stop cooking. Drain again and set aside.
  • Cut mushrooms into wide, chunky slices—about 3 slices per mushrooms for medium-sized caps.
  • Add olive oil and butter to a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and salt. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until mushrooms have softened and released their juices. Add pepper and thyme and cook one more minute. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Wipe out pan and add 1 Tblspn olive oil to pan over medium-high heat. Add spinach and sauté until just wilted, but still bright green in color. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, goat cheese, egg, zest, basil, salt and pepper.
  • For lasagne assembly, spray a 9” square baking dish with cooking spray. Place a layer of noodles in the bottom of the pan. Top with about 2/3 of the béchamel sauce. Add mushrooms in an even layer.
  • Add another layer of noodles and top with sautéed spinach and about 2/3 of the piquillo peppers.
  • Add another layer of noodles and top with 2/3 of the ricotta mixture. Lay in the blanched asparagus spears in an even layer and top with remaining ricotta mixture.
  • Add another layer of noodles and top with remaining béchamel sauce and piquillo peppers.
  • Cover with foil and bake in a pre-heated 350° oven for 30-40 minutes or until heated through and bubbly.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Whole Wheat-Sage Rolls

ImageI love baking bread. So I was excited when I was asked to bring rolls to Thanksgiving dinner. I knew that I would make plain white pillowy dinner rolls using that tried-and-true Basic Rolls recipe from Craig Clayborne’s The New York Times Cookbook, but thought it would be nice to have a whole wheat option, too. After pulling several recipes from various cookbooks and the net, I came up with this version. These rolls were even better the next day as a vehicle for leftover turkey!

1          Tblspn             Yeast

1 ¼      cup                  Water

¼         cup                  Butter

1          tspn                 Salt

2          Tblspns            Fresh Sage–chopped

¼         cup                  Honey or Maple Syrup

1          large                Egg

1 ½      cup                  Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½-2   cups                 All-Purpose Flour

Put water and butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 45 seconds. The water should be just warm to the touch. In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients except all-purpose flour. Add a cup of all-purpose flour and stir. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a well floured pastry board or clean counter top. Knead dough until smooth and elastic–6-8 minutes. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover. Let dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size–about an hour should do.

Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured board. Divide dough in half, then divide each half into 8 equal pieces. If you have a kitchen scale, each piece should be about 2 ounces. Roll each piece on the board using a circular motion with your hand in a claw position. Use your palm and fingers to form a tight skin on each roll. If the rolls are slipping on the surface, use a dab of water to help them stick a little to form that tight skin.

Place rolls evenly apart in a lightly greased 8″ x 13″ brownie pan or quarter sheet pan. 15 rolls fit perfectly, so you decide what to do with that extra roll. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 350. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on the top. For even baking, turn the pan half way through cooking. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to a wire rack to prevent the rolls from getting soggy on the bottom. If not serving immediately, put the rolls back in the pan, cover with foil and re-heat in a 350 oven for 5 minutes.