8 quick ways with...
by Chris Halpin
Asparagus is part of the lily family and it has been cultivated for around 5,000 years, not just for culinary purposes, but also for its medicinal properties. Not only is it high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals; it turns out, that it also contains an enzyme that helps to protect the liver from the damaging effects of – alcohol! The French favour hand-snapping each asparagus, to remove the woody part, which does do the trick. However I find this to be quite time consuming. I say, keep them in a bundle and simply cut the bottom third off of the entire bunch. When I blanch asparagus, I place them in a large pot of rapidly boiling water just long enough to have them go from a dull green to a brighter green, about 30 seconds. This indicates that the bitter tannins have been removed and ensure that it is still crisp. Then I drain and cool under cold water, then blot them dry on a tea towel. In the following recipes, I will simply say “trim and blanch” and this is what I am referring to.
Asparagus, Artichoke and Raclette Flatbread
H OW D O YO U T U R N O FF T H E E V E R Y D AY S T R E S S ?
The flavours in this recipe do a most delicious dance between the three main players. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut 4 artichoke hearts, packed in water, into 6 wedges each. Take 1 bunch of asparagus, cut the tips off about 1-inch from the top, then cut the remaining spears quite thinly to about halfway down. Take a sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry and slice it in half on the long side. With a fork, poke it randomly for vent holes. Grind quite a bit of black pepper overtop the pastry, arrange the artichokes and asparagus up the centre, leaving about an inch on either side, on both pieces. Evenly arrange 1/2 c. grated raclette cheese on each and drizzle each with 1/4 c. heavy cream. Turn the long side of the pastry edge over onto itself and with your fingers, press down to crimp the edges. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is brown and flaky. As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle with salt. Cut into wedges and serve. Makes 24 little wedges.
Asparagus and Leek Potage YOU TURN ON THE S TOV E . When you’re standing in the kitchen, you’re finally able to focus on the smallest details. And the everyday grind, the daily commute, and that big presentation disappear beyond the horizon, while your taste buds venture off on a journey of discovery. The per fect companion? The per fect tool!
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This is a classical soup that is ready in a snap. In a large pot over medium heat, melt 1 T. butter, then add 2 leeks, thinly sliced, 1 t. white pepper, a pinch of nutmeg and sauté until the leeks are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add 4 c. chicken stock and 2 large potatoes peeled and grated, 1/2 t. ground sage, 1 t. ground ginger and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. When the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes, add 1 bunch of asparagus with the tips cut off about 1-inch from the top, and the remainder of the spears sliced thinly crosswise to about halfway down. Simmer for another minute, adjust the salt and serve. Serves 4.
Asparagus and Strawberry Salad This is my all-time favourite spring salad. Trim and blanch 2 bundles of asparagus. Cut them into approximately 1-inch pieces. Add them to a salad bowl, with 30 strawberries that have been trimmed and cut in half. To this add 1/2 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar, 1 t. ground coriander, 1 t. black pepper and 1/2 t. salt. Gently mix and serve. Serves 6.
CITYPALATE.ca MARCH APRIL 2018
The Flavour of Calgary’s Food Scene - The Travel Issue