White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce

What comes first, the chicken or the egg? I have been asked how I create recipes for Z is for zest. Not an easy question to answer. When I start thinking about recipes for the site, sometimes I daydream about creating a delectable dish and other times I envision the photo shoot. Each aspect is equally exciting to me. 

This week I volunteered at the Seven Springs CSA Farm. I witnessed the farmers returning from the fields where they had plucked lettuce, scallions, bok choy, radishes and mixed baby greens right from the ground. The volunteers, including myself were responsible for cleaning these items, bagging and delivering all the bags to a co-op here in Roanoke. There is something to be said about being apart of such a process. I can’t express with words how much I enjoyed being outdoors in a serene atmosphere, knowing what was in the ground that day will be in the hands of local families that afternoon.

After my time on the farm, this reinvigorated me to continue my goal of using “in season” ingredients in my recipes. With that said, I knew I wanted to do something with asparagus then I started fantasizing about the photo shoot. Nothing says Spring like yellow and white. I translated this color scheme to white asparagus with a lemon reduction. That my friends is how this recipe transpired and a tiny peek into my brain.

White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce
Serves: 4

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

1 bundle white asparagus, cleaned & trimmed
1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. shallot, minced
1/3 cup white wine
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
salt & pepper
1/2 T. butter
4 sprigs lemon thyme, picked

  1. Using a wide, deep pan bring enough salted water to cover asparagus to boil.
  2. Add asparagus and boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Dunk asparagus in an ice bath, dump out boiling water and place asparagus back in the same pan.
  4. Using a small saute pan, heat olive oil at medium-high temp.
  5. Add minced shallot.
  6. Saute for 1 minute, shaking pan. Be careful not to burn the minced shallot.
  7. Remove pan from flame and turn away from stove, add wine.
  8. Place pan back on burner and add lemon juice and lemon zest.
  9. Shake saute pan violently and continue to cook until reduced by half.
  10. Add a pinch of sea salt and a couple twists from a pepper grinder.
  11. Add butter and continue to shake saute pan until butter is melted and sauce is shiny.
  12. Drizzle sauce over asparagus and garnish with lemon thyme.

Cooking Notes:

  • Trick of the trade: Where do you cut off the ends of the asparagus? Take one stalk and towards the end gently break in half, it will break towards the end of the stalk. This is an indication where you should cut the other stalks.
  • Dunking asparagus or any other vegetable in an ice bath (a bowl with water and ice) stops the cooking process. If you skip this step, once you are done making your sauce your asparagus will be overcooked.
  • When deglazing (adding wine to sauteed minced shallot) you must be careful. I ask that you turn away from the open flame to avoid a potential fire.
  • Shaking the saute pan violently helps your sauce form and not “break” as they say in the culinary world. And, when I say violently I mean pretty damn hard.

Enjoy! From my kitchen to yours.

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White Asparagus with Lemon Pan Sauce

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

It’s been months since I baked a dessert.  That is no exaggeration and Dr. White has got to be tired of eating store bought cookies.  The original plan was to bake a strawberry rhubarb pie.  I asked my mother-in-law for a recipe and she obliged.  Her pie recipe originates from Canada and has been around for years.  I spent a better part of last week psyching myself up by chanting I think I can, I think I can.  Since I am not a very good baker, making a pie crust from scratch is daunting.  Makes me laugh just thinking about it.  In the end, I wanted to be realistic and let’s face it, a crumble is more my speed, read easy.

My new goal is use ingredients that are “in-season”.  I found this fruit and vegetable chart that has been useful in achieving this goal.  A big thanks to Nicole from My Karma Kitchen for giving me her recipe.  I made some slight modifications and this is what I came up with.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Serves: 6

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes

Filling
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 T. cornstarch
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered

Crumb Topping
1 cup flour
1/2 cups rolled oats
handful of sliced almonds
6 T. brown sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Using a medium sized pot, fill with water and bring to boil.
  3. Turn off heat and add rhubarb pieces.
  4. Mix all filling ingredients together with the exception of the rhubarb and strawberries, set aside.
  5. Mix all crumb topping ingredients together, set aside.
  6. Remove rhubarb from hot water and gently fold into the filling mixture along with strawberries.
  7. Grease 6 ramekins.
  8. Evenly add filling mixture.
  9. Evenly add crumb topping.
  10. Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes.

Cooking Notes:

  • Adding rhubarb to hot water, removes it’s bitterness. (tip from my mother-in-law, Queen of baking!)
  • The definition of hull still baffles me.  Yes, I admit I looked up the definition.  In laments terms, cut off the tops of the strawberries and quarter.
  • I had leftover crumb topping and next time, will add a small amount to the bottom of each ramekin before the filling goes in.
  • If you prefer to skip individual servings, use a pie pan instead.
  • The crumb topping should be golden brown and the filling bubbling.  If you find this is not the case, bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Enjoy! From my kitchen to yours.

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Before

After

Eat Wild, Live Free

After watching Food Revolution and Food, Inc., I am starting to look at food differently.  Both were eye opening to say the least.  I recommend viewing both.  I honestly never questioned where my food came from or how it was being prepared.  We put our trust in the government, partly because we always have and partly because we are too busy to care.  When the movie raised the question, why are we able to buy a fast food hamburger for 99 cents but not a head of broccoli?  You stop and think.  I now understand the true definition of supply and demand.  In order to tip the scales the other direction, we need to start taking care of ourselves and our families.  We can start by purchasing local and organic ingredients.  

I felt the movie did an outstanding job of raising awareness and dropping jaws however I didn’t think it provided enough information on steps to take if you were interested in making changes.  I thought Z is for zest is the perfect avenue for me to share the changes I plan to make and the trials I experience along the way.  Change is difficult, period.  Making changes in how I grocery shop and how I prepare food will not be easy.  I was talking to a girlfriend about Food, Inc. and she made a good point, it is all about your comfort level.  As a wife, Chef and friend, I want to make meals using the freshest ingredients available. 

The first step I took was to sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), a CSA allows you to purchase in-season vegetables from a local farm.  Since it is only my husband and myself, we purchased a half share for 8 months.  I plan to volunteer 8 hours of my time working on the farm, bagging vegetables and making deliveries.  Most farms offer working shares and this will enable you to save money.  Second, I also want to purchase our meat from a local farm.  I have contacted a couple farms and hope to make this happen within the next couple weeks.  Last but not least, I now have a lovely herb garden in my window sill.  I have 6 different herbs available all year long, God willing I don’t kill them. 

Now for the fun and most challenging part, cooking.  My original idea was to share a recipe using quinoa and vegetables.  Good idea in theory, however when I cooked the quinoa, I was not a fan.  I quickly realized I need to take baby steps.  It didn’t help that my husband was running around, that looks like bird seed and bird seed should be eaten by birds.  (I love that man!)  Not sure what I did wrong but the quinoa was bland so, I ditched the recipe and decided to make a pasta salad.

Please check back as I will be posting articles about my farm experiences and recipes using local ingredients.

Pasta Salad
Serves: 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

1/2 box whole wheat bow tie pasta
1 container fiddleheads, ends cut
1/4 pound pancetta, small dice
1 container sweet cherry tomatoes on vine, halved
1/2 yellow bell pepper, small dice
4 scallions, small dice
1/4 cup hard parmesan cheese, shredded
extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
2 T. flat leaf parsley, finely minced

  1. Clean fiddleheads by filling a bowl with cool water, place fiddleheads in a small strainer and dunk in water repeatedly. Replace water as needed and continue until water is no longer dirty.
  2. Using medium and large stock pots, bring salted water in both pots to a boil.
  3. Add fiddleheads to medium stock pot and boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Add pasta to large stock pot and boil until al dente, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. While fiddleheads and pasta are boiling, saute pancetta until crispy.
  6. Remove pancetta and place on a paper towel.
  7. When fiddleheads are done boiling, using a slotted spoon remove and place fiddleheads in the same pan used to saute the pancetta.
  8. Over medium to medium high heat, saute fiddleheads for 5 minutes, remove and cool.
  9. Drain pasta and cool.
  10. Place all your ingredients in a large mixing bowl, drizzle olive oil on top, season with salt and pepper.
  11. Gently mix together.
  12. Taste and adjust olive oil, salt and pepper, as needed.
  13. Sprinkle minced parsley on top before serving.

Cooking Notes:

  • If fiddleheads are not available, you can substitute with chopped asparagus.
  • It is imperative you use a high quality olive oil.  Since we aren’t masking the flavors of these ingredients with a heavy dressing or mayonnaise the olive oil needs to be a shining star.
  • I didn’t indicate how much olive oil to add because everyone is different.  I want you to feel comfortable adding ingredients, tasting and adjusting as needed.  Remember to use all your senses. 
  • Watch the amount of salt you add, pancetta tends to be salty and so does parmesan cheese.

 Enjoy! From my kitchen to yours.

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Fiddleheads

Sweet Cherry Tomatoes on Vine