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Entries in Asparagus (2)

Monday
May162011

Impromptu Market Inspired Dinner for 6 

Beautiful French Radishes from Lani's Farm

I went to the Farmer's market on Saturday, having no idea what I would be cooking for last night's dinner for 6 friends. I wanted the dinner to be special, but not too labor intensive--something I could prepare in a couple of hours. It was so much fun strolling through the market, building the dinner as I walked from stand to stand. By the end of my half hour shopping excursion, the meal was set.

At Lani's Farm, I picked up some gorgeous French radishes, sweet asparagus, cucumber and wild arugula. Then I spotted some big, brown eggs as I was checking out, and there was my first course: Asparagus Salad with Radish, Cucumbers and Arugula, topped with an Olive Oil Poached Egg and tossed with a Tarragon Vinaigrette. I also picked up a bunch of zucchini flowers which I decided I would stuff and fry to add to the salad. I didn't know what I would be filling them with just yet, but I knew the answer would soon present itself!

Asparagus, Radish, Cucumber and Poached Egg Salad

I wanted to do a pasta course but I didn't have time to make fresh pasta. So I decided I would make a simple, very creamy risotto, with ramps and little coins of sauteed asparagus. 

For the third course, I knew one of my guests loved lamb. So I headed straight for 3 Corner Field Farm, where they have the best lamb in the whole world. There were so many cuts to choose from, but I eventually settled on a bone in lamb tenderloin. They were also selling fresh sheep's milk ricotta cheese which I figured would be perfect to stuff my zucchini flowers with. 

I swung by another stand and picked up some German butterball potatoes, long graceful chives and then some very hearty spinach from Cherry Lane farm. Seared Lamb Tenderloin with Dijon Mustard and Balsamic Glaze with Paprika and Garlic Roasted Potatoes and Wilted Spinach.

This summer, try creating a dinner party like this by letting the farmer's market be your guide. It's a fun challenge and an exciting way to cook. You will impress yourself, and you will really impress your guests!

Friday
Apr222011

Ode To Asparagus

I spotted Asparagus at the Union Square Greenmarket for the first time today. There were rumors that Asparagus had made an appearance on Wednesday, but the restaurants came early and bought all of them. Today, I would not be thwarted. I got to Lani's Farm at 7:30 this morning (they've got some of the best produce in the market) and spotted the plump, purplish green stalks standing there in all their Asparagus glory. The weather outside may say otherwise. But Spring is definitely here.

As soon as I got home, I sampled one of the raw Asparagus. It is delicious: bright, sweet and crunchy (and a little gritty--make sure you WASH your farmer's market asparagus well by soaking it a couple of times in cold water--this ain't no squeaky clean supermarket produce). There is absolutely no comparison between local, seasonal asparagus and the bland, imposter "Asparagus" you can find year-round. Local asparagus is bursting with asparagus-ness. It is the very definition of what it means to BE an asparagus.

Asparagus is only in season for about a month or so. So get to the Greenmarket (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) and get there early! You've got to check these out. Luckily, there are many, many ways to cook and enjoy this vegetable. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Raw Asparagus Salad: Shave asparagus with a vegetable peeler (you'll need about 10 per person). Toss with very finely chopped shallot, lemon juice, crunchy sea salt and good, fruity olive oil. Top with shaved pecorino romano cheese.

Asparagus Crostini: Cut asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast in 350 degree oven until tender. Cut thick slices from a baguette (about 1/4-1/2 inch). Fry on both sides in butter and olive oil until golden brown. Lay pieces of asparagus on crostini and top with a generous dollop of Burrata cheese. Drizzle with truffle oil if you're feeling crazy.

Asparagus and Poached Egg: Steam asparagus until just tender. Lightly fry an egg (I love Knoll Crest Farm's eggs at the market on Wednesday and Saturday) in olive oil until just set. Toss some arugula or other hearty green (watercress or frisee would work well) in good olive oil with some finely chopped shallots. Place asparagus on greens and lay fried egg on top. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and sea salt.

Asparagus Soup Check out Emeril's recipe. It's fabulous.

Asparagus Risotto: Start making a traditional risotto. When you're 3/4 of the way through, stir in disks of roasted asparagus, sauteed shitake mushrooms and sauteed ramps. Finish off with lots of good parmesan cheese and butter.

Frozen Asparagus: You can preserve asparagus for a while (it'll take you through a good part of the summer). Blanch the asparagus, shock in ice water, then seal and place in freezer.