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 – 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.

IMG_7552

Unpeeled Asparagus Stalks

IMG_7553

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 – Sous vide asparagus

May – Sous vide asparagus

Yes, you can use your sous vide machine for vegetables. It isn’t the answer for all vegetables though, you do need to be selective. So far I have cooked carrots and asparagus with wonderful success. We usually grill or roast asparagus, and it is delicious that way. Asparagus cooked by sous vide is similar to steamed but with a wonderful crunch and intense asparagus flavor. All the vitamins are intact and that green grassy taste jumps into your mouth with every bite. And sous vide timing is very forgiving, you don’t have to worry if you are distracted for a few minutes. Roasted or steamed asparagus will overcook in 30 seconds; turning drab, mushy and unappealing. Limp asparagus is not attractive. Sous vide asparagus stays bright green and crisp, the stem just as tender at the tips.

Sous Vide Asparagus

Method:

  • Preheat the water with your sous vide machine to 185 degrees F (85 degrees C)
  • Encase the asparagus in a vacuum bag or large zip lock bag (you may want to put a teaspoon in the bottom of the bag first). Try to get the asparagus in one layer. If you need to use two bags, separate the asparagus by size.
  • Season as desired. For example lemon salt, butter, coconut oil, mint, slices of lemon, etc.

    Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Sea Salt

  • If using vacuum, seal on the moist setting.

    Asparagus in Vacuum Bag

    • Once your water bath has heated to the appropriate temperature, add the asparagus to the hot water and set your timer for 10 minutes. Thicker spears may need to cook for longer, maybe 12 minutes. That is the reason for two bags if the spears in your bunch are different sizes. Squeeze the bottom of a spear to see if they are done to your liking.
    • Cut open the bag and slide the asparagus onto a plate. Or, cool in an ice bag for using cold or reheating later.

You may note that this bag does not have a teaspoon, big error. As the contents of the bag heat, the air expands, causing it to float. I had to put a weight on top to keep the asparagus under water. Next time I will add that teaspoon. Don’t make my mistake.

Sous Vide Asparagus

The photo is fuzzy because of the steam rising. We couldn’t wait for it to cool before eating. Yum!

March – The Best 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce for Green Vegetables

March – The Best 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce for Green Vegetables

That’s a mouthful of a title for something so simple and quick. But it packs a wallop of flavor in those four ingredients. You commonly find a sauce like this in Chinese Dim Sum restaurants, used to dress some kind of Asian green leafy vegetable. Yu choy is classic as well as Chinese broccoli.  I find it works equally well for asparagus or baby bok choy.

Yu Choy

yu choy

Chinese broccoli

Chinese broccoli

Baby Bok Choy

Baby Bok Choy

Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce

Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Chinese Sauce

This sauce will make your vegetables glisten and the sesame oil has a wonderful nutty aroma.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil

You can use any neutral oil, I’ve even used coconut oil and it was delicious.

  1. Wash your vegetables to get rid of any sand or grit, trim away any tough ends. Drain well.
  2. You can cook the vegetables by steaming, or blanching in a pot of water, or by roasting.
    1. If steaming: bring the water of your steamer to a boil and place your vegetables in the basket, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil, cover and steam until tender.
    2. If boiling: bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of oil to the boiling water. Add the vegetables and cook until they turn bright green, this could take only a minute or less. Taste a bit to see if they are done to your liking.
    3. If roasting: preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Add the vegetables to a large sheet pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and roast until tender, about 6-10 minutes.
  3. In any case, while the vegetables are cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small skillet, add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Whisk and bring the mixture to a simmer, immediately remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Drain the cooked vegetables well (especially if boiled), arrange on a dish and pour the sauce over. Toss carefully to coat.
  5. Taste if you need to add additional salt and pepper.
    Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Sauce

    Asparagus with 4 Ingredient Sauce

    I’m taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #113 hosted by Angie. Come check out the wonderful goodies being served. This week’s co-hosts are Sonal @ simplyvegetarian777 and Laurie @ ten.times.tea.

April in the Kitchen – Teriyaki Salmon with Spring Vegetables

April in the Kitchen – Teriyaki Salmon with Spring Vegetables

Did you ever think there could be a “healthy” teriyaki sauce? Certainly one without MSG is making progress. But, what about one without granulated sugar? Impossible! Well, I’m going to give you an alternative…dates, yes dates. This sauce consists of medjool dates as the sweetener. What a brilliant idea, don’t you think? Simply soak them in warm water for a few minutes, then dump them with some garlic, ginger, soy sauce and rice vinegar into the jar of your blender. Puree all of them together with some of the soaking water from the dates until smooth. That’s all there is to it. It goes together very quickly.

I’m sorry to say I didn’t invent the sauce. I saw it in a post on the blog “A Pinch of Yum” for 30-Minute Sesame Mango Chicken. It was too good to pass up. If you are not familiar with that blog, it’s worth a visit as she posts some great recipes, many of them healthy and vegetarian.

This is a thicker sauce than my own “old” favorite using maple syrup. You’ll find that recipe here from an earlier post in February of this year.

I marinated some wild caught salmon steaks (the first of the season) in the sauce, then sautéed them quickly. They were still slightly pink in the middle, just the way we like them. Served with a quick stir fry of asparagus and snap peas with a spoonful of roast garlic lemon butter it was a quick and delicious mid-week dinner. You’ll find the recipe for the roast garlic and lemon butter here.

Salmon Steaks in Teriyaki Sauce

Salmon Steaks in Teriyaki Sauce

 Teriyaki Sauce

  • 15 Medjool dates, pitted and soaked in 1/2 cup of very warm water for 30 minutes
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce, regular or low sodium
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • Optional – pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Optional – 1/4 cup sesame oil 
Dates

Medjool Dates

  1.  Soak the pitted dates in the hot water
  2. Dump the dates and rest of the ingredients (including the soaking water) into your blender and blend until very smooth.
  3. Pour into a container until ready to use.
Teriyaki Sauce with Dates

Teriyaki Sauce with Dates

This will keep in the fridge for at least a week, we found it got “hotter” and spicier the longer it sat.

Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce

Grilled or Sautéed Salmon with Teriyaki Sauce

I sautéed the salmon steaks but they would be equally wonderful on the BBQ.

  1. Marinate salmon steaks or fillets in the sauce for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour in the fridge.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of peanut or other vegetable oil in your skillet on medium high heat.
  3. Add the salmon, skin side down.
  4. Saute on medium high heat for about approximately 10 minutes total for every inch of thickness. We like our salmon on the rare side and they weren’t quite so thick, so I started the steaks skin side down and turned them after 4 minutes.
Wild Caught Salmon

Wild Caught Salmon

Asparagus and Snap Peas with Roast Garlic and Lemon Butter

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, ends snapped and cut into pieces about the length of the snap peas. I used a spiral diagonal cut, turning the stalk a half way round after each diagonal slice. That exposed more of the inner part of the stalk to the heat, cooking is a bit faster.

    Asparagus

    Asparagus

  • About 3-4 cups of snap peas, stringed if necessary and cut in half lengthwise

    Snap peas

    Snap peas

  • 4 scallions, cleaned and cut in half lengthwise, then into pieces the same size as the asparagus and peas.

    Snap Peas and Scallions

    Snap peas and scallions

  • 2 tablespoons of roast garlic and lemon butter, (or 2 garlic cloves, finally minced, plus the zest and juice of one lemon, and 1 tablespoon of butter)

    Roast garlic and lemon butter

    Roast Garlic and Lemon Butter

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium low heat.
  2. If not using the roast garlic butter, add the minced garlic to the pan and saute until softened but not brown.
  3. Add the asparagus to the pan and turn up the heat to medium high. Saute for about 4 to 5 minutes until bright green and beginning to soften.
  4. Add the snap peas to the pan and saute for an additional 3 to 4 minutes until everything is bright spring green and slightly softened but still crisp.

    Asparagus with Snap Peas

    Asparagus with Snap Peas

  5. Finish with the roast garlic butter or add the lemon zest and juice plus the tablespoon of butter. Continue to heat until everything is coated with sauce.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Asparagus and Snap Peas

Asparagus with Snap Peas and Roast Garlic/Lemon Butter

Salmon, asparagus, and fresh peas…this meal is the essence of spring. What are you serving to celebrate the season?

I’m taking this to share on Fiesta Friday #66 hosted by Angie. If you would like to see what is on the menu, come pay a visit to the party.

Fiesta Friday

Fiesta Friday