Tag Archives: Asparagus

Mother’s Day Brunch – Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

I have plans to spend Mothers Day with my mom this year but I won’t have the opportunity to cook for her. For those of you that will, and with Mothers Day a little more than a week away, I wanted to come up with a couple of recipes on a brunch theme with just the touch of class that moms so much deserve.

This simple but classy salad will be the first of several Mothers Day recipes and although it is intended as a salad course for a brunch menu…with a poached egg perched on top (and a warm crusty baguette) this salad made for an elegant yet light dinner entrée for my wife and I last night.

After first slicing the whole tips off of the asparagus spears, I used a vegetable peeler to “whittle” the rest of the stem into shavings. This was a little awkward at first but once I got the hang of it I breezed through the bunch almost before the pot of water even came to the boil. Don’t fuss too much with this step; the rusticity of the shavings add to the appeal of this dish.

I make it a point to mention not to over-dress the salad because last night, I pretty much did just that. I think our dish would have been perfect with a little less of the dressing. This too isn’t complicated, just add the dressing a little at a time until the asparagus is “just” coated. This is also why I emphasize getting the asparagus as dry as possible after blanching it. The point is simply; this salad is best if you don’t drench it with the dressing…use a gentle touch and all will be good!

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto

1 Bunch – Asparagus (about 1 Lb.), tough bottoms trimmed away
1 – Med Shallot, diced small
¼ Cup – Prosciutto, thin sliced and cut into (roughly) 1/8” wide strips
¼ Cup – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of – 1 Fresh Lemon
1 Tbsp – Sherry Vinegar
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Asiago Cheese, for garnish
Green Onion, green parts only, for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil along with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Meanwhile, cutting at a sharp angle, slice the tips off of the asparagus then using a vegetable peeler, shave the remaining stems into roughly 1 to 2 inch pieces. Place all of the asparagus into a sieve or strainer (that will fit into the pot) and lower it into the boiling water to blanch for 1 minute. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water and rinse under cold water for at least 1 minute to stop the cooking process. Discard the water.

Spread the asparagus on a paper towel lined cookie sheet and pat dry then move the asparagus to another paper towel lined cookie sheet to make sure excess water is removed. Allow to air dry 10 to 15 minutes before placing it in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and when hot add the olive oil. Stir in the prosciutto strips and cook until dark (but not too dark), 1 to 2 minutes. Strain the prosciutto, reserving the oil. Spread the prosciutto on a paper towel to crisp and return the oil to the pan.

Sauté the shallots about 1 minute, until they just begin to turn transparent, then add a few good grinds of fresh black pepper and the lemon juice. Boil and reduce until the lemon juice begins to turn syrupy, about one minute more. Add the vinegar, return to a boil while stirring, then remove the pan from the heat.

Using a slotted spoon remove most of the shallots from the pan and transfer these to the bowl of asparagus. Set aside some of the prosciutto for garnish then stir the rest into the asparagus. Toss gently to mix the ingredients while adding just enough of the pan juices to moisten the asparagus throughout…do not over dress! (You should have just enough dressing to coat the asparagus but not enough to pool in the bottom of the bowl.)

To serve plate the salad, topped with a poached egg if desired. Garnish with shaved Asiago cheese, some of the crispy prosciutto and green onion tops sliced lengthwise into approximately 1-1/2 X 1/8 inch strips.

Enjoy,

Randy

Menu for Two – Pan Seared Sea Scallops with a Fresh Herb White Wine Sauce, Oven Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus Spears.

Last week my wife Kathy had a rough week fighting the cold that I probably gave her when I had it the week before. Since she was feeling somewhat better by Friday I wanted to cook her something special so I went browsing at Costco for something out of the ordinary. With a crispy salad and some crusty bread, these scallops fit the bill perfectly!

I shop at Costco or BJ’s often as bulk stores are a great way to stretch your grocery bucks. For instance, while you might find nice fat Sea Scallops (nearly always pre-frozen) at a local seafood market or grocery for 12.99 to 15.99 per pound, these came in just over 9.00 per pound for a two pound bag. Two pounds are enough for 3 dinners for the two of us and that boils down to about $6.00 per meal or $3.00 per person. Just try to find that kind of deal at a seafood restaurant!

Speaking of buying frozen seafood; for a very long time I absolutely refused to buy frozen scallops or shrimp. While I wouldn’t consider myself a food snob…I simply did not care for the way the frozen ones tasted when compared to fresh. Then I came across an article about sodium tripolyphosphate . Sodium tripolyphosphate is a preservative that packagers will “claim” is used to “retain tenderness and moisture”. In fact it absolutely ruins the flavor and texture of certain foods, especially shrimp and scallops, giving the flesh a diluted, soapy flavor and an unpleasant spongy, almost waterlogged texture.

So why do seafood packagers use this additive, which is also used in household cleaners, laundry detergent, and paint? The simple answer is Sodium tripolyphosphate “can substantially increase the sale weight of seafood in particular”. Need I say more?

Fortunately, in the U.S., Sodium tripolyphosphate must be listed in the ingredients list on the package label. Also fortunately, Costco and BJ’s both carry frozen shrimp and scallops that do not contain Sodium tripolyphosphate! Do yourself a favor and read the ingredients next time you buy frozen seafood. For the same reason I also try to avoid the “fresh” scallops that are sold soaking in “their own” liquid.

Menu for two – Pan seared sea scallops with a fresh herb white wine sauce, oven roasted baby creamer potatoes and asparagus spears.

Note: Before I get started on the recipe there is one other tip that I must mention: WATER KILLS BROWNING! In searing and roasting the browning that occurs on the outside surface is where the flavor comes from. Searing your scallops while they are wet will prevent them from browning. To get the most flavor from your browned foods always be sure to pat them dry with a paper or dish towel before cooking.

For the Scallops you will need:

12 medium – Sea Scallops, thawed, rinsed, and dried well.
¼ Cup – Dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Juice of ½ – Fresh lemon
3 Tbsp – Butter, Cut into 6 or 8 cubes, and kept cold.
2 Tbsp – Shallots, minced
2 Tbsp – Fresh basil, sliced in thin ribbons ( see http://www.basilbasics.com/chiffonade.html )
1 Sprig – Fresh rosemary
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder
Olive Oil

For the Potatoes and Asparagus you will need:

12 – Baby Potatoes, I used half red bliss and half Yukon gold potatoes
12 Large or 16 Medium – Fresh green asparagus spears
Olive Oil
Italian Herb Seasoning Grinder

To Prepare:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse and dry the potatoes. Trim the stem end of the asparagus, rinse and dry. When the potatoes are dry toss them with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Spread them evenly in a glass 9 X 12 inch baking dish and roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus spears with just enough olive oil to coat, give them a good dusting of seasoning from the Italian herb seasoning grinder and toss again. Set the asparagus aside.

2. Warm 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 sprig of rosemary in a non-stick pan over medium high heat swirling the oil occasionally as it heats. Dust the scallops lightly with the Italian herb seasoning.

3. After 15 minutes carefully remove the potatoes from the oven. Carefully tilt the baking dish so that the potatoes move to one side allowing room to add the asparagus spears. Add the asparagus and place the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes longer.

4. While the vegetables finish roasting, sear your scallops: When the oil in the pan is hot the rosemary will begin to crackle and pop. Remove and discard the rosemary then gently place the scallops, one at a time, into the pan. You should hear a distinct sizzling as soon as each scallop hits the oil. Sear the scallops for two minutes on the first side, gently flip, and sear one minute more before removing directly to serving plates. Cover each plate with a paper towel or foil to keep the scallops warm.

5. Remove the vegetables from the oven and set aside to rest.

6. As soon as the last scallop is removed, add the shallots and the wine to the pan. As the wine comes to a boil swirl the pan and, using a wood or silicone spatula, scrape any browned bits from the pan. Reduce until the wine takes on a syrupy consistency then add the lemon juice.

7. Turn off the burner and allow the residual heat to reduce the liquid by half. Gently swirl in the butter cubes 2 or 3 at a time letting these melt before adding 2 or 3 more. Continue swirling the pan until all of the butter has been incorporated, swirl in the basil and spoon the sauce evenly over the scallops.

8. Carefully place the roasted vegetables on the plate and serve.

Enjoy!

Randy

Menu – Broiled Fish with Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa & Brown Rice

Several friends have asked me to share some of my “Clean Eating” recipes as Kat and I have been trying to eat better foods on a regular basis. Some are new to cooking so I thought it would be helpful to include the recipes for the entire menu including each step in the preparation. So here is a super quick, healthy, yet tasty menu that’s easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. I would love to hear some feedback on how you like the recipe written in this fashion. If you like them I will include more “menu” posts as my blog continues.

Broiled Fish w/Pesto over Mixed Greens, Roasted Asparagus, Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

Don’t let all my notes and stuff scare you…I just want to spell it our for my friends that are new to cooking. Start to finish this meal was uncomplicated and came together in about 1/2 hours time. (I almost typed 30 minutes…but we won’t go there!)

For the Fish you will need…

( Note: Figure on about 3 servings per pound of cleaned fillets. I haven’t been fishing in forever but I’ve been finding some really nice packaged fresh fish at Costco lately. Just check the “Packaged On” date and choose accordingly. The fresher the better!)

Fresh fillets of halibut (pictured), corvina, grouper, or tilapia if you must, sliced into 4 to 6 oz portions.
1 Tablespoon per serving, extra virgin olive oil
1 light sprinkle per serving – mixed dried Italian herbs in a grinder (I used McCormick’s).
1 Tablespoon per serving – jarred basil pesto (I used Kirkland brand from Costco).

For the Asparagus you will need…

(Note: These asparagus stems were about 1/2″ thick at the base. I clean the spears by grabbing the base with one hand and just below center with the other, then bend the asparagus until it naturally breaks. What you are left with at the base is generally the tough stringy part, and at the tip…the good stuff. I don’t always do it but you can blanch and freeze the bases to use in stocks or purees at a later time.)

6 to 8 spears per person – fresh large asparagus, cleaned and rinsed
1 Tablespoon – balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons – extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated black pepper

For the Mixed Greens you will need…

About 1 cup per serving of bagged baby greens
Just enough dressing to barely coat the greens. ( I used http://www.briannas.net/flavors/real-french.html )

For the Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice

(Note: I used http://www.seedsofchangefoods.com/our_foods/product.aspx?c=rice_grains&p=279 also from Costco. We love this mix and eat it once or twice a week. It’s ready in 90 seconds and it’s great plain or mix in anything you like from fresh chopped herbs and a little sautéed garlic or browned onions, to last nights leftover stir fry.)

About 1 Cup per serving Quinoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice.

To Prepare…

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. clean, rinse, and pat the asparagus dry. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and oil until slightly thickened. On a foil covered cookie sheet gently roll the spears in a single layer while drizzling with just enough of the oil to coat. Place in the heated oven for 15 minutes.

2. While the asparagus is in the oven place the fish on another foil covered cookie sheet and roll each piece while drizzling with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. With the fish skin side down, lightly sprinkle each piece with the spice grinder. Set aside until the asparagus comes out of the oven.

3. In a large bowl toss the greens with barely enough dressing to coat. (Note: Don’t overdo it! The idea is to just season the salad without drenching.)

4. After 15 minutes, carefully remove the asparagus from the oven and turn the broiler on high. Grate a little Parmesan and black pepper lightly and evenly over the spears.

(Note for step 5: If you have a conventional oven, leave the door cracked open an inch or so to the first stop. This will prevent the broiler from overheating and cycling off. The fish should be about 4 inches from the coils or flame.)

5. Allow the broiler to heat up for at least a minute or so then place the fish in the broiler and close. Broil the fish for 4 minutes per inch of thickness…3 minutes if it’s 1/2 inch or less.

(Note: You want the fish to cook fast and until the flesh is just becoming opaque (no longer transparent) in the center. The fish will continue cooking even after it is removed from the oven.)

6. While the fish is cooking nuke the quinoa and prep your plates with about 1 cup each of the dressed greens and a carefully placed serving of the Asparagus. Add fresh tomatoes if you like!

7. Remove the fish from the oven and carefully place each serving on top of the greens. “paint” each piece with about 1 Tablespoon of the prepared pesto.

8. Finish the plate with an approx. 1 cup serving of the quinoa and….

Viola! It’s time to eat.

Enjoy,

Randy