Cooking for your Health: Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa

Asparagus mimosa tastefood

~ Asparagus, Quinoa, Egg, Lemon, Mint, Olive Oil ~

As you can see, this is not a crazy savory cocktail to be confused with the brunch-friendly champagne and orange juice beverage. Mimosa in French culinary terms refers to finely grated or seived hard-cooked eggs frequently used to dust salads and vegetables or as a component of deviled eggs. You might understand why the eloquent-minded Français would prefer the term “mimosa” for such a preparation. Not only is it poetic and mellifluous, it’s also apt: the crumbled canary yellow yolk of the egg resembles the brilliant mimosa flower which blooms in early Spring. Spring is also the time for asparagus, and asparagus dusted with mimosa is a popular and elegant preparation. I took this recipe one step further and turned it into a healthy yet light main dish, serving the asparagus on a bed of nutrient- rich quinoa tossed with olive oil, lemon and mint. I dare say it would make a wonderful addition to any brunch menu – accompanied by champagne and orange juice (naturally).

Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa
Serves 3 to 4

1 cup red quinoa
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 large egg, hardboiled
Sea salt flakes

Place quinoa, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the quinoa grains are tender and release their white “tail”. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Heat oven broiler. Arrange asparagus in one layer on a rimmed baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Turn to coat. Broil on the top shelf until crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan once.

Add 1 tablespoon mint and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Spoon the quinoa onto a serving plate. Place the asparagus on top of the quinoa. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the asparagus and quinoa. Press the egg through a sieve with medium-sized holes over the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes, additional mint and lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

fregola tastefood

If you have never tried Fregola Sarda, then you should. Fregola (also known as fregula) is a semolina pasta hailing from Sardinia, Italy. It’s quite similar to pearl couscous which is made of wheat. It consists of tiny rolled balls which have been sun-dried then toasted, lending a satisfying and unique nutty flavor and mottled texture. Fregola is delicious on its own, served simply with olive oil, sea salt and a dusting of cheese, in  soups, or combined with vegetables and fresh herbs as a side dish or light meal.

Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

Serves 4

1 pound fregola
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 pound thin asparagus
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the fregola and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes or per package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, the lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss to coat.
Cut the stalks of the asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces while keeping the tips intact. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and chili flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the asparagus stalks and tips. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Saute until asparagus brightens in color, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus are crisp tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and add to the fregola. Add the Pecorino and toss to combine. If the fregola are too sticky, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve warm with additional black pepper. 

Roasted Asparagus and Prosciutto Spears

If you are looking for a too-easy-to-believe appetizer, then this recipe is the one. Requiring merely 3 ingredients, an oven and less than half an hour to prepare, the finger-licking results belie the ease. This recipe takes advantage of spring’s tender asparagus and salty prosciutto, which is always in season in our home. Baking crisps and coaxes the salt from the ham, while olive oil lightly naps the spears. Be sure to eat these warm straight from the oven – with your fingers.

Roasted Asparagus and Prosciutto Spears
Makes 12

12 asparagus, medium thickness
6 prosciutto slices, halved lengthwise
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 Lemon (ok, that’s a 4th ingredient, but it’s optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F. (190 C.)
Snap off the woody stems of the asparagus and trim the bottoms with a knife. Wrap a slice of prosciutto diagonally around the asparagus stalks, leaving the tips and base exposed. Brush the exposed bits of the asparagus with olive oil. Arrange on a baking tray. Roast until the asparagus tips are tinged brown and the prosciutto is crispy,  about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and arrange on a plate. Drizzle with a little lemon juice, if desired.

Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Linguine with Morels, Asparagus and Peas

Morels, asparagus and peas team up in this quintessential springtime pasta dish. Earthy mushrooms marry well with astringent asparagus and sweet peas. Famously delicious in sauces, risottos and pasta, these ingredients require little else except a nap of cream and a sprinkling of cheese to bind them all together, resulting in an easy yet elegant seasonal meal.

Linguine with Asparagus, Morels and Fava Beans
Serves 4

1/2 ounce dried morel mushrooms or 1/4 pound fresh morels, cleaned, sliced
1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed, cut in 1″ pieces
1 pound linguine
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 cup heavy heavy cream
1/2 cup shelled sweet peas
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare morels:
If using dried morels, place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit 20 minutes.  Drain and gently squeeze out any extra liquid.  Cut in half lengthwise and set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add asparagus and blanch until crisp-tender and bright green without overcooking, 1 minute.  Remove with slotted spoon and refresh under cold water.  Set aside.
Add linguine to same pot and cook until al dente or firm to the bite according to package instructions; drain.
Heat olive oil and melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic, morels and 1 teaspoon salt.  Sauté until garlic is fragrant and morels are tender, about 2 minutes.  Add chicken stock and cream.  Simmer until thickened and reduced by about half, 5-7 minutes.  Stir in peas and simmer until brightened and crisp tender, 1 minute. Stir in  the asparagus.  Add pasta to the skillet and toss to combine.  Season with lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a generous spoonful of grated cheese for garnish.

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup

Nothing says spring to me more than the arrival of asparagus in the markets. Their green stalks fill the shelves, upright and dignified, like silent soldiers adorned with purple-tinged crowns. I can’t help myself: I grab one bunch, then another, heaping them in my basket, while eyeing others for even firmer, taller, more deeply colored specimens. If I see them, I’ll take them.

Once home, they need to be put to use – steamed with lemon and olive oil, oven-roasted for a little char, shaved raw into salads, and, of course, in soup. This recipe is simple and relatively minimal, as an asparagus soup should be. Too many flavors will overpower their subtle grassy flavor. A little cream is added to the soup for body and richness, and a sprinkling of Pecorino cheese for garnish adds that extra umami quality, begging for seconds.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 4-6

1 pound asparagus spears
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Trim and discard the woody ends of the asparagus. Cut and reserve 4-6 asparagus tips, 2 inches in length. Slice remaining spears in 1/4 inch pieces.
Melt butter with the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté onion until translucent without browning, about 2 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and sauté until brightened in color and beginning to soften, 2 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until asparagus are very tender, about 20 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, blanch the reserved asparagus tips in salted boiling water until bright in color, 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water; set aside.
Purée soup with an immersion blender or carefully in batches in a food processor. Return to soup pot. Add cream and black pepper and heat through to serving temperature. Taste for seasoning. Serve in bowls or glasses, sprinkled with pecorino cheese. Garnish with asparagus spears.

Asparagus and Prosciutto Pizza

Asparagus and Prosciutto Pizza

Asparagus Prosciutto Pizza 1

Simplicity rules with this delicious pizza. Asparagus, prosciutto and cheese are all that’s needed to create a salty, crispy, savory pizza. Cook the pizza on a hot pizza stone in the oven, or, better yet in the summer heat, cook it on the grill. To grill the pizza, place the stretched dough on an oiled grill grate. Grill briefly over medium fire, then flip the crust with a spatula or tongs. Add the toppings, cover the grill and cook until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Asparagus and Prosciutto Pizza

Makes 2 small pizzas or 1 large pizza
Pizza dough (see below)

8 ounces buffalo mozzarella, drained, sliced
4 ounces prosciutto slices
Thin asparagus (if using thick asparagus, slice in half lengthwise)
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
2 tablespoons grated parmesan

Assemble pizzas:
Place pizza crust on parchment paper. Lightly brush pizza crusts with olive oil. Arrange one layer mozzarella cheese over crusts. Top with layer of prosciutto. Arrange asparagus spears over prosciutto. Top with grated cheese. Slide crusts onto pizza stone (or on tray on lowest rack) in preheated 475 F. oven. Cook until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

For the Pizza Dough:

2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Stir yeast and lukewarm water together in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and semolina. Mix well. Let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes.
Combine remaining flour and salt in another bowl. Add to yeast with cold water and olive oil. Mix well to form a dough. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead with hands until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Or use a mixer with a dough hook, and knead about 5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Punch dough down, and let rise another 45 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal disks (or 4 if you would like small pizzas.) Let rest 30 minutes before shaping. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands, stretch the disks out to 10″ shapes.

Roasted Asparagus Crostini with Pecorino Cheese and Truffle Oil

Roasted Asparagus Crostini with Pecorino Cheese and Truffle Oil

Asparagus Crostini x

Recently I wrote about how much I like rustic desserts. Let me clarify that. I like rustic food. What is rustic food? It’s simple, local, seasonal food that makes use of available ingredients. Rustic cooking is a reflection of the countryside. It’s comforting and inviting, and it’s economical.

While crostini may conjure up images of dinner parties, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, they are quite grounded in rustic cooking. Bread that is no longer fresh, is lightly toasted and flavored with olive oil and garlic. The toppings can run the gamut, but are usually fresh, simple and composed with ingredients on hand.

These crostini were created as an impromptu starter for a barbecue this weekend. Day old baguette was efficiently put to use, while the asparagus were fresh from the morning’s farmers market. Pecorino Toscano and a little truffle oil were fished from the refrigerator and were the necessary finishing touches for this rustic and delicious appetizer.

Asparagus Crostini tf

Roasted Asparagus Crostini with Pecorino Cheese and Truffle Oil

Makes 16

16 baguette slices, cut 1/4″ thick
2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
Extra-virgin olive oil

8 asparagus spears, bottoms trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon truffle oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup shaved mild Pecorino cheese (Pecorino Toscano)

Prepare crostini:

Preheat oven to 400 F. (200 C). Rub baguette slices with garlic. Lightly brush with olive oil. Arrange on baking sheet and bake until golden brown. Remove and cool.

Prepare asparagus:

Toss asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange in one layer on baking sheet. Roast under oven broiler until bright green and slightly charred but still firm, 3-4 minutes. Remove. When cool enough to handle cut horizontally in thin slices. If stalks are thick, slice in half lengthwise and cut halves in thin slices. Transfer to a bowl and toss asparagus with truffle oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Top crostini with asparagus. Top asparagus with pecorino cheese. Serve immediately.