May – Pickled Asparagus

May – Pickled Asparagus

I just can’t get enough of asparagus when it first comes into season! By the end of May I am looking for ways to preserve it for the rest of the year. Out of season asparagus is often shipped long distances and can be dry and lacking in that wonderful grassy flavor (not to mention enormously expensive and environmentally irresponsible). I want to take full advantage of the long spring season, there are so many ways of serving it. Have you ever thought of combining different cooking methods with the same vegetable? The combination of fresh asparagus and pickled ones in an inspiration. Think thinly sliced or finely chopped pickled spears combined with sour cream (or even better, creme fraiche) as a sauce for fresh asparagus cooked on the grill. You could add equal parts mayonnaise if you want. Serving it as a sauce elevates the vegetable to a new level. What about putting a poached egg on top, serving all on top of a slice of crisp toast? I could see a slice of crisped prosciutto somewhere in there as well or even a slice meaty bacon. Yum!

I am getting ahead of myself because a simple platter of grilled or roast asparagus with pickled asparagus sauce is delicious.

Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

But first you need the pickled asparagus. I have found jars in better grocery stores but they are the tiny grassy spears, and are quite costly. It is far easier to pickle your own when asparagus is in season.

For pickling you can use either thin or thicker spears, peel the ends of the thicker ones first. if you haven’t done this before you can find the tips here. I found large mouth quart canning jars so I could pickle the longest spears possible. But you can cut them into smaller pieces and use pint jars if that is all you have. Either way pack them with the tips up to preserve the shape as much as possible.

Start with 4 pounds of asparagus to ensure enough for 3 quarts. I purchased 3 large bunches, thinking it would be enough (it looked like an enormous amount) and was short a 1 quart container. You’ll need about 16 cups (hard to measure). At the end I had one unused sterile quart container and extra pickling solution…what to do? I found a head of celery in the fridge and remembered reading somewhere about the joys of pickled celery. Why not? Now I have a jar of pickled celery and will let you know how I like it.

Asparagus waiting to be pickled

If you have to buy your asparagus a day or two ahead, store them like flowers with the ends in cool water.

Pickled Asparagus

For 4 quarts:

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/2 cups of white wine or champagne vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of fennel seeds
  • 8 sprigs of fresh fennel fronds if available
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 16 cups of asparagus or 4 pounds

Method:

  1. First bring the water in your canning jar to a boil. I find this takes the longest and always start it at the very beginning of the canning process. You can use the water to scald 4 quart canning jars. Or, I find it easier to run them through the dishwasher, then place them open side down on a clean dishtowel until you are ready to fill them.
  2. In a dry small skillet, toast the fennel seeds on medium heat until they are turning golden brown and aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove and place on a plate to cool.
  3. Prepare the asparagus by measuring the length you will need for your jars, snap and peel the ends once the appropriate size. You really only need to peel the ends of medium or large asparagus stalks.
  4. Bring a large skillet of water to a boil. You will use this to blanch the asparagus. While it is coming to a boil, put a large bowl of ice water in the sink. Once it comes to a boil, add the asparagus in batches. Set a timer for 1 minute, then remove the stalks from the boiling water and drop them into the ice bath to cool quickly. Once cool, remove them to a clean dishtowel lined tray. Repeat as necessary until they are all blanched.
  5. In a pot bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil. This is your brine. Keep hot.
  6. In a small pot soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the seal.
  7. Now you are ready. Turn the jars right side up and add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 bay leaf, and 2 garlic halves to each jar. Pack the asparagus in tightly, tips up.
  8. Carefully pour the hot brine over the asparagus in the jars. Leave about 1 inch of head space. Check for air pockets and add more liquid if needed. Wipe the rims, add the lids and screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
  9. Place the jars in the pot with the lid, add water to cover the jars (by about an inch if possible). Bring the water back to boil, cover, and process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the jars for a few minutes. Remove the jars and let cool completely. Check to make sure the lid pops in, indicating proper canning.

And here is the lone jar of pickled celery.

Pickled Celery

The inspiration for this recipe came from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy. It is probably one of my most used books on preserving.

I think I will take this as part of my recipe for asparagus with pickle sauce to the party at Fiesta Friday #226, it will be lovely as part of the buffet. You can find the link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday blog here. Follow the listed links at the bottom to any of the blogs that interest you. Angie’s cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

If you are a blogger yourself, please add your link to the list.

TGIF everyone!

 

 

May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

May – Lentils and Roast Cauliflower with Almonds and Dates

This is a wonderful vegetarian or vegan main dish, or a side dish for a large party. It’s perfect when you have folks with different dietary needs, also being gluten and dairy free. And because it is served at room temperature, you can make it several hours ahead. It will only get more flavorful as the lentils absorb the tahini sauce. What more can you ask for? On one platter you have your greens, roasted vegetable and starch/protein. The dates add a sweet note while the almonds add crunch and even more protein.

I served this to a large gathering, the leftovers the next day were still yummy (and didn’t last long).

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Lentils with Roast Cauliflower, Chopped Dates, and Almonds

The original recipe came from Food and Wine, but it came to me about a year ago via one of the members of my book club. It’s been hanging out just waiting for the right time to make it.

I have given two measurements for the spices. The original recipe used the smaller amount but I found it was not sufficiently spiced for my taste. Cauliflower is quite mild and can absorb a lot of flavor.

This recipe serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup beluga or green lentils, rinsed and checked for small stones
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch florets
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, briefly toasted in a dry frying pan
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 10 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups loosely packed arugula or baby spinach

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a pie plate or sheet pan and toast for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. When cool, coarsely chop.
  2. Increase the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Meanwhile heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the lentils. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and cool.
  4. Prepare the cauliflower. On a rimmed baking sheet toss the cauliflower florets with 1/4 cup of olive oil, the spices (cumin, cinnamon, ginger, salt, pepper. Roast until tender and slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. When cooked to your liking, remove from the oven and cool.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the tahini with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until smooth. Add the lemon juice, honey or maple syrup, and 2 tablespoons of water.  Mix well.
  6. Add the lentils to the bowl and toss to coat.
  7. On a large platter lay a bed of the lentils, top with the roasted cauliflower, dates, almonds, and sliced onion. Sprinkle the arugula or baby spinach on top and serve.

 

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May – Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

May – Roast Asparagus with Pickled Asparagus Sauce

Do you peel your asparagus? Except with the very youngest thin asparagus, you are wasting at least an inch of the flavorful vegetable if you are not. Most folks prepare asparagus by snapping the ends, which can remove as much as a third of the stalk. When it is peeled, by contrast, only about an inch is lost.

I use a vegetable peeler, supporting the stalk with a forefinger so it doesn’t snap prematurely. Peel the bottom third of the stalk, cutting a little deeper at the very end.

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Unpeeled Asparagus Stalks

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Peeled Stalks Ready to “Snap”

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Only About an Inch of Stalk is Lost

Then snap off the very end before cooking.

Save the ends, they make a wonderful asparagus broth for creme of asparagus soup. You can even pop a bag of them into the freezer for the future.

To oven roast asparagus, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Lay the stalks in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, spritz with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast 12 minutes for medium sized stalks, it will be shorter for thinner stalks and slightly longer for larger ones.

Let them cool slightly and serve. It is absolutely ok to eat asparagus with your fingers, dipping the stalks into a savory sauce or melted butter. Asparagus is also good served at room temperature, making it perfect for a dinner party or large buffet. I have made it several hours ahead and added a sauce just before serving.

My current favorite is a mixture of pickled asparagus, mayonnaise and sour cream (or creme fraiche). There isn’t really a recipe. I mince pickled asparagus into fine dice using either my food processor or a knife. Combine it with an equal mix of the mayonnaise and sour cream. Taste, add salt or extra pickling liquid if needed. Adjust it to your own liking. You can make the sauce a day ahead, just store it in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Oven Roasted Asparagus with Asparagus Pickle Sauce

Serve extra sauce on the side. I usually leave a few spears “undressed” just in case there are folks who prefer it plain.

Follow the links to see my recipe for pickled asparagus.

I think I will take this to the party at Fiesta Friday #226, it will be lovely as part of the buffet. You can find the link to Angie’s Fiesta Friday blog here. Follow the listed links at the bottom to any of the blogs that interest you. Angie’s cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

If you are a blogger yourself, please add your link to the list.

TGIF everyone!

May – Spicy Quick Radish Pickles

May – Spicy Quick Radish Pickles

What to do with an abundance of radishes left over from a crudite platter? That was the question that needed addressing this morning. The party was last weekend and those radishes needed a solution, there were simply too many of them to use up before they turned brown. The answer, a quick pickle. They will be wonderful with anything on the BBQ or as a quick snack with sharp cheddar cheese.

I found this recipe on the blog site COOKIE+Kate, it was originally posted in May of 2014. I modified it slightly by the addition of cumin seeds, with which I am slightly obsessed.

She slices the radishes very thinly, it makes the pickling process much faster. I don’t have a mandoline (must be one of the very few things not currently crowding my kitchen) and didn’t want to pull out the big food processor, so mine are not sliced quite so thinly. That’s okay though, I want them to have a definite crunch and don’t intend to use them for a couple of days. These will last several weeks in the fridge. IMG_7546 2

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large bunch of radishes
  • 3/4 cup of white wine or apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of honey or maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon yields quite spicy pickles)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole mustard seeds (optional, I didn’t have any handy)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (my addition)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (also my addition)

METHOD:

  1. Prepare the radishes. Cut off the tops and slice into rounds (thin ones will pickle much faster). Pack the radishes into a pint canning jar or larger container if you have more radishes…I had about two bunches and used a quart canning jar.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, optional mustard, cumin and peppercorns to the top of the jar.
  3. For the brine. In a saucepan (non aluminum) combine the vinegar, water, honey or maple syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Pour the hot liquid over the radishes in the jar and screw on the lid.
  4. Let the mix cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

If you have sliced them very thinly the pickles will be ready to eat in a few hours. They will keep well for several weeks but will gradually loose their crispness after a week or so (depending on how thinly you sliced them). One bunch will make about a pint jar, depending on how large they are. I had enough for  quart canning jar, a bit worse for wear, that had just been removed from the dishwasher.

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PS There was left over canning liquid since I doubled the recipe. Not wanting to waste anything, I found half of a large red onion languishing in the produce drawer. I sliced it thinly, packed it into a pint canning jar, and added the pickling liquid on top. Quick pickled onions are amazing on burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches, not to mention anything Mexican.

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April – Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cherry Tomato Salad

April – Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cherry Tomato Salad

That’s a big mouth of a title!  But it belies the ease and absolute deliciousness of this dish. The tahini-marinated chicken thighs finish baking with a crisp coating  and the tomato salad is a preview of coming summer salads. I am finding very acceptable cherry tomatoes at the grocery store right now, even though summer tomatoes are months away. Even nicer, they are often of different types and colors, a good stand-in while we wait for that first amazing local vine ripened tomato.

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber Tomato salad

It’s been awhile since I have had a blog worthy recipe, but this is it folks. I am not sure where I originally found this recipe and apologize for not giving credit. It has been in my files for quite some time, at least a year.

We have been eating very simply lately and I don’t think the blogosphere needs another post for grilled chicken or clean out your refrigerator salad. But it does need this delicious and interesting marinade for chicken. I bet it would be wonderful on fish as well, maybe I’ll try that next time. But back to this one, I used chicken thighs, skin on. You could also use it with breasts or skin off thighs. Keep the bone in though, I think it really does make a flavor difference especially with an overnight marination.

I do recommend that you marinate the thighs overnight, which take a bit of planning. The deep rich taste will make it worthwhile. Use a good brand of tahini, the one I use was highly recommended. It was not in any of my local stores but I found it on Amazon. A good tahini sauce will make a big difference both to this recipe and others such as hummus.

Tahini Sauce – this is the brand I use. Recommended by Yotam Ottolenghi

I made a couple of small modifications from the original recipe. I substituted lime zest and juice for the lemon and used sliced red onion in the salad. Feel free to use lemons if they are handy. I had used up all my lemons making preserved lemons a few weeks ago and forgot to buy them at the market. The ones on my backyard tree are still green.

Tahini-Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated (I used a microplane)
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion (microplane again)
  • 6 chicken thighs, bone in

Method:

  1. Dry the chicken thighs with a paper towel. You could remove the skin if you want, I didn’t. Place them in a ziplock bag or bowl.
  2. Combine all the marinade ingredients, pour 3/4 of the mix into the bag or bowl with the chicken. Scrunch everything together so the marinade coats each thigh, this is easy to do in a ziplock bag. Keep in the fridge overnight. When I thought about it, I turned the bag over to remix. Reserve the remaining tahini mixture separately in the fridge.
  3. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade but try and keep as much sauce on them as possible. Place them on a foil lined baking sheet or in a roasting pan, try to leave a little space between each thigh. Sprinkle them with a little coarse salt. Discard any leftover chicken marinade from the bag or bowl.
  5. Roast for 30-40 minutes or until brown and done, the time will depend on the size of your thighs.
  6. Let the thighs rest while you make the salad.

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded if necessary
  2. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, different colors and types if possible
  3. 1/2 small red onion, sliced
  4. 1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  5. 1 tablespoon mint, roughly chopped
  6. 1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  7. 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  8. coarse salt to taste

Method:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and give them a toss.
  2. Serve with the chicken.

Drizzle the extra tahini sauce over the chicken when serving.

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato Cucumber Salad

The thighs were tender but lightly crisp.

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato Cucumber Salad

And the tomato salad could be a stand in for this summers coming tomato salads. In the bay area we often have to wait until August or September…a long way away. It wouldn’t hurt to add a chopped avocado if you happen to have one laying around, just saying.

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Tomato Cucumber Salad

This is a Fiesta Friday worthy recipe. It has been a few months since I joined the party and I think this is one the group will enjoy. This week is is Fiesta Friday #221.

What is Fiesta Friday? It is a gathering of bloggers with links to their posts, all hosted by Angie on her Fiesta Friday site. you can think click on any links that interest you. Angie usually have one or two co-hosts and this week it is Jenny @ Dragonfly Home Recipes.

Each week Angie and her co-host select four outstanding recipes or posts from the previous week’s group to feature. There are some amazing blogs out there!

Please stop by the party.