Asparagus & Sweet Pea Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

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Hello– hope you had the sweetest kind of Easter with family and friends there.  We had the grand-girls and their equally grand great-grandparents.  And it involved lunch and a not so tranquil Easter egg hunt in the backyard.

Lunch included a salty ham, whipped sweet potatoes, hot biscuits and this salad.  It reminds me of a better version of all those “peas & carrots” we ate going up.  But it’s bright and fresh and tastes like springtime.  Wish I could say the grand-girls loved it!  But truth be told their favorites were the chocolate eggs.  Though if you’re over 10 years old, I think you would like this spring time salad just fine!

ASPARAGUS & SWEET PEA SALAD WITH CITRUS VINAIGRETTE
2 bunches asparagus (about 1 pound each)
2 cups sweet baby peas (frozen)*
1 orange
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tab. tarragon vinegar**
4 tab. of fresh orange juice
1 tab. grated orange zest
1 tsp. sugar or honey
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Crack off he woody stems of the asparagus and drop it into a baking dish of slightly salted water.  Pop it into the microwave for 3 or 4 minutes, until the asparagus is tender enough to eat but still crispy.

Defrost the peas in the microwave for just 1 to minutes, so they are tender, but still firm (no mushy peas!!)

Layer the asparagus and then the peas onto a pretty platter.

To make the dressing, grate the zest off of the orange and then juice it to produce 4 tab. orange juice.  Mix that with the olive oil, vinegar and sugar (or honey).  Shake it all up in a closed container with a tight fitting lid.  Then salt & pepper just enough to wake up the flavors.

Drizzle the dressing over the veggies when you are ready to set it all on the table.  Served at room temperature.  Makes about 8 big servings.

*If you can find fresh baby peas, all the better.  My grocery is not fancy enough for that.
**Whatever your favorite vinegar is fine– I would also use every day cider vinegar.

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Asparagus Lemon Chicken & Pasta

IMG_9462Hi all– Yet another pasta recipe.  I can’t help it.  I love a noodle-y meal.  This one tastes light and fresh for summer.  We had it for a Sunday lunch with the family– but I’m picturing a rerun on a summer evening out under the maple trees with a table full of hungry friends.

ASPARAGUS LEMON CHICKEN & PASTA
2 boneless,skinless chicken breast
2 tab. olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup parmesan-romano
grated rind from 1 lemon
5 tab. lemon juice
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 green onions, green parts sliced to bits
16 oz. pasta

Cook the your favorite pasta according to the instructions on the box. (I usually end up with angel fair– my fave)

Heat the 2 tab. olive oil in a skillet, while you cut the chicken into nice polite chunks.  Then cook the chicken in the skillet, dousing it with a few good shakes of salt and grinds of fresh pepper.  Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate for later.

Break the woody end off of the asparagus stalks. Cut off the tender asparagus tips and set aside.  The slice the stalks on the diagonal into small bites.

In the same skillet, cook the sliced asparagus stalks and the garlic  in the oil left from the chicken for just 2 or 3 minutes until they are tender.

Then mix in the asparagus tips, 1/4 cup olive oil, parmesan, lemon rind, juice, chicken and pine nuts.  Heat just a minute or two to warm it all through.  The stir in the green onion and serve it all up on a pretty platter over the cooked pasta.

Add in a bright summer salad and some sturdy bread, a glass of wine and some friends in the backyard.  Perfect.

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Spanish Asparagus & Potato Tortilla

IMG_9419Hi Music Loving friends–  Last weekend Larry and I trekked up to the Hollywood Bowl for the requisite picnic and a balmy summer evening out under the moon with James Taylor. We’ve been fans of his forever –a whole lot of nostalgia listening to all those songs…  Couldn’t have been more fun!

But back to the the picnic!– We nabbed a picnic table outside the Bowl and settled in for a Spanish picnic– salami, cheeses, olive, bottle of wine, olives… and of course, a tortilla.  Usually I stick to the classic potato and onion tortilla, but for our night out on the town, I threw in some asparagus too.

SPANISH ASPARAGUS & POTATO TORTILLA
3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled & cut into smallish chunks
6 sturdy stalks of asparagus*
1 yellow onion
olive oil
5 eggs
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

IMG_9435Peel and cut the potatoes into smallish chunks.  Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and then cut the stalks into tidy little rounds.  Peel and chop the onion to bits.

Heat a large nonstick skillet with a good splash of olive oil in the pan.  Drop in the potatoes and cook them , stirring now and then, for about 6 -8 minted, until they just start to brown.  Give them a sprinkle of salt and a few cranks of pepper as they cook.  Then add in the onion ad asparagus.  Use a bit more oil if the pan seems dry.

When the potatoes are nicely browned and the onions and asparagus are cooked through (about 4 -5 more minutes)  take the pan off the stove.  Transfer the potato mixture to a plate and wipe out the skillet.

Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl and liberally sprinkle with salt & pepper. Add the potatoes in with the eggs and let them sit for 5 minutes.

Put the skillet back on the heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When it’s hot, pour the eggs potato mixture into the pan.  Reduce the hear to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes until the bottom side is browned and set and the top is pretty firm.

Now here comes the tricky part.  Put a large dinner plate on top the the skillet and flip it over so that the tortilla falls upside down onto the plate.  Then ever so carefully slide the tortillas cooked side up back into the skillet to cook the bottom side for another 5 minutes or so until the whole thing is cooked through.  (You can use a sharp knife to dig in a test it.)

When it’s done, slide it onto a pretty plate and cut into wedges to serve with other tapa-ish foods for a summer supper under the stars.

*I usually like think asparagus with tender young stalks, but for this the thicker kind is best.

photoP.S.  Here’s our view midway up the hill at the Hollywood Bowl.  Super fun evening with 17,000 other James Taylor fans– by the second encore “How Sweet It is to Be Loved by You,”  we were all swaying and singing along.

Parmesan Asparagus

IMG_8203Hi there– It’s hard to go wrong with asparagus.  Fresh and crunchy– it tastes like spring.  Here’s a savory version we had for dinner last night with a rosemary & tomato pork dish.  It’s nice that it only takes 15 minutes start to finish — and it shared the hot oven with the pork and some sturdy bread.  I’m hoping you will like it as much as we did…

PARMESAN ASPARGUS
1 bunch medium size asparagus*
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts

Break off the woody ends of the asparagus and discard.  Lay the asparagus closely side by side on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle parmesan over the asparagus and then the salt and pepper.

Put them into a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes.  Then take them out sprinkle on the pine nuts and bake 5 minutes more.  Enjoy!!

*I usually love the smallest, pencil thin asparagus, crisp and tender, but for roasted, the medium thick stalks hold up better.

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Asparagus Salad

IMG_0193Hey there– I just think it’s just so nice that fresh asparagus season coincides with Easter dinner.  There were stacks of tender stalks at the grocers last week — and I totted a pretty plate of asparagus along with sweet peas and tender little lima beans**, all topped with crispy shallots– to share with the family at my brother Mark’s house.  Grandmas, aunts, uncles and all sizes of cousins were there for the Easter lunch– a lovely, delicious day together.

ASPARAGUS SALAD
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. tarragon vinegar
1 tab. parmesan cheese
3 shakes salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper
2 bunches of fresh asparagus
1 cup frozen baby lima beans**
1 cup fresh or frozen baby peas
2 shallots, sliced thinly
2 tab. olive oil

Shake together the oil, vinegar, cheese, salt and pepper in a container with a tight lid to blend thoroughly.  Snap the woody ends off the asparagus.  Cook in two batches — In a microwave proof container pour 1/2 cup water & a couple shakes of garlic salt.  Drop in half the asparagus and cook 4 minutes* in the microwave.  Repeat with the rest of the asparagus.  Drain it and spread it prettily on a plate.  Cook the lima beans according to the package directions. Drain.  Cook the peas just a minute.  Then sprinkle them both over the asparagus.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan and cook up the sliced shallots until they are browned and crispy.  Put them over the veggies. Top with the dressing.  Serve hot or cold.

*For thin aspragus–2 or 3 minutes in the microwave is good, just enough so it’s tender enough to eat but still crunchy.
** I didn’t like lima beans as a kid– those big dry tasteless things.  So I’ve pretty much ignored them the last 50 years.  But these tender little guys are good!  I think I’ve found a new food friend!!

Brie and Cheddar Mac-n-Cheese

IMG_9450Hey all-  Larry’s on his way home for dinner–listening to a books on tape, I’ll bet, for his long commute.  And what’s for dinner?  Well, I pretty much scavenged around the kitchen to see what I could team up with some leftover ham, just waiting to be eaten.  A bit of cheddar, a chunk of brie, and pasta–always in the cupboard (like at your house).  And some asparagus to freshen it up a bit.  I thought of calling it “Clean out the fridge Macn’n’cheese”, but that sounded less than appealing.  It’s in the oven and the pre-dinner sampling was delicious.

BRIE AND CHEDDAR MAC-N-CHEESE
8 oz. pasta (I used those tiny salad macaroni tubes)
1 cup ham, but to small bits
1 1/2 cups asparagus cut to short pieces
a few shakes of garlic salt
2 tab. butter
2 tab. flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup cheddar, grated
1 cup brie, cut to small bits
1 tab. bread crumbs.

IMG_9463Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain well.  Cook the asparagus in the microwave just 2 to 5 minutes (depending on how thick the stalks are)  in a dish of water sprinkled with garlic salt–until it is edible but still crispy.  Then in a nonstick pan, melt the butter, stir in the flour until it is a begins to bubble.  Slowly add the milk, stirring as you go.  When it’s all mixed and begins to thicken (about 5 minutes), stir in the cheddar and brie.  Then mix in the macaroni, ham and asparagus. and turn it all into a 2 quart baking dish that’s been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle on the bread crumbs and pop it into a 400 degree over for just 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden and the sauce begins to bubble around the edges.

There. Dinner and cleaning out the fridge all at once.  Two birds with one stone.  With an apple almond salad and some crunchy bread it was a fine meal when Larry made it home.

Pappardelle with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Hi Cooking Friends-  Dashing through Trader Joe’s I passed the pasta section and those Pappardelle noodles caught my eye.  With that in hand I grabbed a little box of crimini mushrooms and a bundle of the thinnest asparagus (along with a whole lot of other things) and imagined tonight’s dinner.  Don’t you love that store–the friendly checkers, those cheerful flowers to greet you at the door, the free sample lady…

PAPPARDELLE WITH ASPARAGUS AND MUSHROOMS
8 oz. package of pappardelle pasta
1 cup thin asparagus, cut into 1 inch bits
2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup roasted red pepper cut in bits
2 tab. olive oil
2 tab. butter (maybe a bit more)
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan romano cheese, grated

Cook the noodles in boiling water with a splash of oil and a dash of salt.  Meanwhile, heat a saute pan with the olive oil and butter.  Then cook of the asparagus until it’s tender– just about 2 minutes for thin asparagus.  Remove them from the pan and toss in the mushrooms and let them simmer a couple minutes as well.  Take them out and if the pan seems dry add in another couple tablespoons of butter.  Then 3 tab. flour.  Stir it up in the hot pan until it’s all combined into a paste and then continue stirring while you add your in the cup of milk.  Last mix in the parmesan.  Salt and pepper to taste (you don’t need much) and add in the cooked asparagus, mushrooms and red peppers.  If the sauce seems a little too thick, stir in 1/4 cup water or milk.  Serve over the drained pasta.

Dinner tonight:  This pasta dish along with greens and tomatoes from Larry’s garden topped with pine nuts and balsamic dressing– and rosemary sour dough bread.  Larry’s doing to dishes right now and then we’re going out to walk off our dinner.  Just right.