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
Salt
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.

Pear and Almond Clafoutis

~ Easy Pear and Almond Clafoutis ~

You’d think I slaved over this dessert, but I didn’t. And you won’t either. Clafoutis are an entertainer’s best friend. If you’re looking for an elegant dessert to finish a meal – something that’s comforting and rustic, but can hold it’s own on the finest china, following a fancy beef tenderloin dinner, than look no further than a clafoutis. Composed of the simplest of ingredients (sugar, eggs, cream) and showcasing the season’s peak fruit, clafoutis imply a heck of a lot more time and finesses than is actually required. In other words: they are an entertainer’s best friend. File this one the for holiday and party season.

Pear and Almond Clafoutis

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Ina Garten (who, frankly, is another best friend when it comes to entertaining). Feel free to substitute other fruit, depending on the season, such as summer berries and cherries, plums and apricots. Serves 6.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon all natural almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Pear brandy or Almond liqueur
3 to 4 ripe but firm Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Butter a gratin dish or deep tart pan. Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add flour, cream, milk, vanilla and almond extracts, salt and brandy. Stir on low speed to thoroughly combine. Arrange the pear slices, slightly overlapping, in the gratin dish. Pour the custard over the pears. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake until the top is golden and the custard is set, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with whipped cream.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood desserts:
Chocolate Orange Pots de Creme with Fleur de Sel
Pear and Cardamom Tarte Tatin
Apple Cranberry Crisp

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Egg and Chick Peas

Yes, I know it’s 100 degrees outside. It’s also hot in Tunisia, from where this recipe gets its inspiration. Shakshuka is a traditional Tunisian breakfast composed of simmered tomatoes, peppers, aromatics and poached eggs. It’s meant to be spicy which is a nifty DIY method for keeping cool in the Saharan heat. (The more you sweat, the more you cool off). As for me, I’ll take anything spicy for the sake of spice, regardless of temperature and geography – especially when it’s screams comfort food like this. The Tunisians call shakshuka breakfast, but I’ve added sausage, kale and chickpeas (why hold back?) and prefer to call it dinner. It’s delicious as is, served with crusty bread for mopping up the sauce and yolk. For a complete meal, spoon prepared couscous into shallow serving bowls. Make a well in the center of the couscous and ladle the ragout and and egg into the center of the couscous. All you need as an accompaniment is green salad, chilled wine – and a fan.

Sausage, Kale and Tomato Ragout with Poached Eggs and Chick Peas

Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 pound hot Italian or chorizo sausages, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 medium onion, chopped, about 1 cup
1 large garlic clove
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa or hot sauce, to taste
1 small bunch tuscan or green curly kale, tough stems discarded, leaves coarsely chopped
4 to 6 large eggs
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer the sausages with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Discard the oil from the pan, but do not rinse out the skillet.
2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onion to the skillet and saute over medium heat until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes, scraping up any brown bits. Add the garlic, paprika, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Return the sausages to the pan and add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and salt. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. If more heat is desired, add the harissa or hot sauce to taste.
3. Simmer the ragout, partially covered, over medium-low heat, to slightly thicken and allow the flavors to develop, about 20 minutes, stirring and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the kale and cook until slightly wilted, about 2 minutes.
4. Make an indentation or well in the ragout with a spoon. Crack one egg in a small bowl and gently slide the egg into the indentation. Repeat with the remaining eggs, taking care to not overlap the eggs. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the egg whites are set but the yolks remain runny, about 10 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat. Serve family style or spoon the ragout with one egg into individual serving bowls. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.

 

Swiss Chard and Kale Frittata

Swiss Chard and Kale Frittata

For the past month I’ve been receiving a box of organic produce each week from a new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the Bay area called Full Circle. They are the West Coast’s leading organic produce delivery service, and have recently expanded into Northern California, supplying farm fresh ingredients from local farmers to the Bay area community. They reached out to me with an invitation to try their service. Since I am a sucker for produce and buy organic as much as possible, how could I resist? Now, each Wednesday morning I wake to a carton outside my front door filled with a selection of fruits and vegetables supplied by local organic farms. It feels like Christmas. I never know what I will get (although, they are happy to supply any requests I might have), but I prefer the surprise. It saves me a few trips to the market, and my refrigerator stays full with just-fresh produce that I use for cooking inspiration.

I made this tart as an appetizer for dinner last night. It was a great way to use the Swiss Chard I received in my box this week. I also added kale, since I always have kale in my refrigerator. I served the tart at room temperature and cut it in random pieces that I arranged on a cutting board for everyone to eat with their fingers. It was a nice rustic presentation that tasted great with a glass of chilled rosé on a warm summer evening.

Swiss Chard and Kale Frittata
Loosely adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali

Serves 4 to 6 as a light course or 8 as an appetizer

2 pounds Swiss chard and/or kale, washed, tough stems removed
Salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup Italian parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (I use Panko)

Heat the oven to 350 F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chard and kale. Blanch until the greens soften and brighten in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the greens, then refresh under cold water. Lay the leaves on a kitchen towel and blot dry. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large (12-inch) oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, chili flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté until onions are limp and turning golden brown. Add the chard and kale. Sauté until the greens are wilted and all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Remove the skillet from heat.
Whisk eggs, 1/4 cup grated cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper together in a bowl. Pour over the greens. Gently nudge the greens around to evenly distribute the eggs. Mix the remaining 1/4 cheese and breadcrumbs together in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the tart. Bake in oven until eggs are set and the top of the tart is tinged golden brown, about 45  minutes. If desired, run the tart under the broiler to further brown the top, 1 minute. Serve warm or at room temperature.

In Season: Asparagus and Leek Frittata

In Season: Asparagus and Leek Frittata

Fritatta

I was serious when I mentioned that I cannot resist buying asparagus right now. Gloriously firm, upright and grassy-green, they are presently in season in California, and I am doing my best to overdose on these veggie wonders. So far there is no end in sight to my cravings.

Asparagus have an ancient culinary heritage. Popular with the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, they even have an entry in the oldest surviving cookbook. Nowadays, asparagus are enjoyed in cuisines worldwide. Ripe asparagus are mildly sweet and astringent with a hint of lemon and grass.Their growing season is in the springtime, and they are a good match with other spring ingredients such as lemon, peas, morels and favas. In addition to tasting great, asparagus are healthy to eat. They are low in calories and great sources of vitamins A, B6, E, and K, as well as calcium, magnesium, zinc and folic acid. What’s not to like about all of that?

This is a recipe I prepared over the weekend from the TasteFood archives. As it was Easter, there were handily many eggs in the house, so a frittata was an obvious choice for a light meal. In this frittata, asparagus and leeks are sautéed and combined with fresh eggs, Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for a rustic yet elegant one dish meal.

Asparagus and Leek Frittata

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 leek (white and green part only), halved lengthwise and sliced thinly – about one cup
1 lb./500 g. asparagus, ends trimmed, cut on diagonal in 1″ pieces
6 large eggs
6 oz. (175 g.) Gruyère cheese, grated
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven broiler.
Heat oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium heat.  Add leek and sauté until soft but not turning brown, about 3 minutes.  Add asparagus, sprinkle lightly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté until bright green and crisp tender, about 5 minutes.
Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl.  Add 3/4 of the Gruyère cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour eggs over asparagus, gently stirring to distribute evenly.  Cook over medium heat until bottom is set and top is still runny.  Sprinkle remaining Gruyère cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over top.  Place skillet in oven under grill.  Broil until frittata is puffed and golden brown, 2-3 minutes.  Remove and serve immediately or at room temperature.