Nix butter for cream cheese in radish sandwich

It seems like the time should have long since passed for buying so much produce.

A slow start to the growing season means that our garden also is a bit behind schedule. And while we just harvested the first garlic and snow peas are starting to size up, I walk the rows a bit anxiously, wondering when we’ll really be able to fill our plates.

What we do have aplenty is radishes, my older son’s particular purview. He helps to plant them and has a very short window, of course, to wait until harvest. The ultimate kid crop, my mother-in-law says.

But radishes, nor any vegetable, aren’t exactly his preferred snack. I recently witnessed a glimmer of hope on the horizon, after I smeared the length of a celery stick with cream cheese, instead of the de rigueur peanut butter, to persuade him that “ants on a log” actually are a fun and tasty food.

Indeed, cream cheese has proven time and again to be the boy’s kryptonite. So I may have to employ it in the following fashion, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. Cream cheese is an alternative, of course, to the classic accompaniment of good-quality butter with radishes. A generous layer of butter always does the trick for my boys, too.

Blanching radishes, which softens their bite, is a technique that I’m considering adding to my repertoire.

Tribune News Service photo

French Breakfast Radish Sandwich

Spread 2 ounces cream cheese thickly on 1 side of a slice of lightly toasted rustic bread. Slice 3 or 4 French breakfast radishes (or regular radishes) thinly lengthwise. Layer radish slices over cream cheese. Slice half of a sun-dried tomato in oil in thin ribbons; scatter over radishes. Top with fresh arugula, then a second slice of toasted bread.

Makes 1 serving.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Plenty of room for improvement in chicken wrap

It’s the rare recipe that’s sacred, so fine-tuned that even the most creative cook brings nothing new to the format.

BLTs, the main course in this week’s food section, tend toward that untouchable recipe category. Don’t mess with the concept; just combine the best versions of the three defining ingredients that you can possibly find (see the June 7 e-edition).

Yet, the Chicago Tribune offered up some variations, notably lobster, that I certainly wouldn’t refuse. Perhaps that’s because I’m fairly ambivalent to BLTs, liking bacon just fine but not preferring it above other meats, consuming sliced tomatoes only when they’re garden-fresh and skipping lettuce on a sandwich almost without exception.

In that vein, it’s easy for me to heighten the appeal of a sandwich — wrap, actually — that’s become ubiquitous in the past decade or so, but which I think leaves much to be desired. The so-called grilled chicken Caesar wrap is a favorite of my husband, but most iterations are packed with chopped romaine lettuce and little else. Even if the chicken-to-lettuce ratio was more favorable, the one-note flavor of bottled Caesar dressing can’t redeem this dish on my palate.

So when “chicken Caesar wraps” found their way onto our week’s menu, I purposely bypassed the produce section’s romaine, intent on substituting the first tender kale leaves from our garden, “massaged” with garlic and lemon juice, two of Caesar dressing’s critical components.

If I really had my way, I’d skip the Caesar dressing altogether and whip up this chicken salad mixture, courtesy of the Tribune, to complement my shredded kale. I also prefer the flatbreads marketed as wraps, as opposed to tortillas.

Tribune News Service photo

Chicken Salad Wraps

In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt with honey; 3 tablespoons each cider vinegar and chopped, fresh tarragon; 2 tablespoons each olive oil and bacon bits; 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped; 1 small unpeeled Granny Smith apple, cored and diced; and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 2 grilled chicken breasts, in 1/2-inch dice.

Divide 3 cups baby spinach across 4 large flour tortillas; top with chicken mixture. Wrap ends around the filling and enjoy. Makes 4 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Sushi bowl’ is a simple way to savor seaweed

Outside of Japanese restaurants, seaweed, as acknowledged in this month’s Oregon Healthy Living magazine, is a novelty for many Americans.

Yet sea vegetables, in many forms, have become more mainstream as salty, savory snack alternatives to chips and crackers. Seaweed wafers provide much of the satisfying crunch when starchy foods are baked or fried but have a fraction of the calories.

Incorporating seaweed into your diet is easy in a deconstructed “sushi bowl.” This recipe, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, is vegan but also would be delicious with a few slices of very fresh, raw fish, should you happen to obtain it. I’d also add my favorite egg crepe, a paper-thin layer of egg cooked in a skillet over high heat, sprinkled with sesame seeds, rolled up and sliced into spirals.

Tribune News Service photo

Sushi Bowl

1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, rinsed

3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided, plus more for serving

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced into half-moons

1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cubed

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon mild red or yellow miso paste

3 cups cooked rice (white, brown, sushi or a combo)

1 (0.7-ounce) package crisp seaweed

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Slice the tofu into 1/2-inch thick slabs. Set slabs on a baking sheet lined with a clean kitchen towel. Cover with a second towel. Weight with another baking sheet. Let drain for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, toss together the cucumber, avocado, carrot and scallion. Season with the salt, vinegar, sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce.

Whisk together the miso into 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce. Cube drained tofu and toss with soy/miso sauce. Spread out on an oiled baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven, stirring once, for 20 minutes.

Add the rice, roasted tofu and seaweed to bowl with vegetables. Toss. Add a little more soy, if you like. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 3 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Grill butterflied or spatchcocked bird in a hurry

Grill recipes calling for thinner cuts and delicate proteins, such as fish or seafood, are the main course in this week’s A la Carte.

Quickly caramelizing a tender cut of meat, piece of produce or underripe fruit has lost none of its luster, despite our family’s purchase of a pellet smoker several summers back. The smoker is ideal for hands-off, outdoor cooking of foods that need time to roast and render. But the planning it requires has become a stumbling block on more than one occasion.

Although the smoker produced the best turkey my husband and I have ever tasted, it required a good hour of cooking time beyond what we had estimated. Worth the wait on a quiet evening at home once the kids are in bed, but not so practical when we have hungry mouths to feed or dinner guests arriving at an appointed time. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion cranking the smoker up 100 degrees to put the rush on a roast chicken.

There is a technique that speeds poultry along considerably and promotes even doneness of both light and dark meat. Spatchcocking also could be termed “butterflying,” essentially cutting meat laterally so it will lie flat on a cooking surface. In the case of chicken and other small poultry, this requires snipping through the backbone and ribs — easiest with sharp kitchen shears — and then a bit of muscle to press down and widen out the chicken’s surface area.

More precise instructions follow in this recipe from Tribune News Service. Its sophisticated flavor profile calls for fig jam, which I always keep on hand but usually struggle to use up once a jar’s been opened. With the season for fresh figs still months in the making, plums could be a nice substitute here.

Tribune News Service photo

Spatchcocked Chicken With Fig Glaze

1 cup coarse sea salt

1/2 cup sugar

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons each coriander and fennel seeds

Zest of 2 lemons

1 sliced red chili pepper

1 large (4 1/2 pound) chicken

3/4 cup fig jam

3 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

14 ounces broccolini

4 large black figs, cut in half (I used pitted dates)

Olive oil, for cooking

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Prepare brine in a medium nonreactive saucepan by combining 4½ cups water with the sea salt, sugar, bay leaves, coriander and fennel seeds, lemon zest and chili. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring as you go to dissolve salt and sugar. Remove from heat and allow to cool before using.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and position on a stable cutting board, breast side down, and cut out backbone using kitchen shears or a sharp chef’s knife. Make a cut along 1 side of backbone, starting down near where thighs meet tail. Continue cutting, working your way around thigh joint until you’ve snipped through every rib bone and completely split chicken up to its neck. Turn bird over and press on it HARD to flatten. (You should hear a couple of cracks.)

Pour brine into a nonreactive container large enough to hold chicken and pour in enough cold water to cover. Leave in fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

To make glaze, combine in a medium-sized saucepan the fig jam, vinegar and 1/3 cup water; bring to boil on stovetop. Stir until jam has melted. Set aside.

Light grill and set for direct/indirect cooking. Lift chicken out of brine and pat dry with paper towels. Rub with one-third of glaze and season with salt and pepper. Place chicken, skin-side down, on grill in direct heat zone and cook for 4 minutes, to start caramelizing skin. Turn chicken over and transfer it indirect heat zone.

After 10 minutes, baste chicken with fig glaze and continue to cook for another 30 to 40 minutes, glazing it twice more during process. When it is ready, an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part without touching bone should register 165 F, and outside will be nicely glazed and caramelized. Rest chicken in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the broccolini with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in grill basket. Place basket in direct heat zone, along with the figs or dates. Cook for about 15 minutes until fruit is soft and sticky and broccolini is nicely charred and al dente.

Serve chicken on a platter with broccolini and roasted fruit.

Makes 4 servings.

— Recipe adapted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from “Grill Smoke BBQ” by Ben Tish (Quadrille, April 2017, $35).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hummus, other cold mezze dips also freeze well

My summer celebrations, particularly where kids are guests of honor, start with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies before chips and other salty snacks make an appearance.

Memorial Day weekend was no different, kicking off Saturday with my younger son’s birthday party. Fresh strawberries and pineapple were an easy choice, along with the cucumbers that he recently has favored. I never would have guessed, however, that hummus would beat out ranch dip for his affections.

My homemade hummus is both more lemony and garlicky than commercially prepared versions, a fact that doesn’t impress my husband but apparently appeals to a 2-year-old who will gnaw a lemon wedge down to its pith. While commercially prepared hummus is handy, it’s many times over more expensive than spending 15 minutes to blend up a batch in a food processor. And because hummus, baba ghanoush and other dips of their ilk freeze so well, they can be prepared in quantity at the beginning of outdoor-entertaining season and frozen in smaller portions for use all summer.

A sweeter option to consider for your spread is this Hesandin Dip, a Kurdish dish similar to Syria’s Muhammara, a puree of roasted peppers and walnuts. This recipe comes courtesy of Nîroj Kurdish Cuisine in Agoura Hills, Calif. It’s a traditional component of a cold mezze platter accompanied with warm bread.

I particularly appreciate the instructions for easily peeling roasted red peppers, a maneuver that gave me a bit of trouble while preparing a salad for the holiday weekend.

Tribune News service photo

Hesandin Dip

4 to 6 red bell peppers

6 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped

9 ounces (about 2 1/4 cups) walnuts

1 garlic clove, peeled and finely grated

3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, or to taste

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper, or to taste

To roast the peppers, place on a rack set over a gas stove-top burner at high heat. Roast, turning frequently, until skin on all sides of each pepper is charred, for about 5 minutes. (Alternatively, roast peppers in oven using broiler setting until charred on all sides.) Wrap each pepper in plastic wrap and set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel skin (skin should stick to plastic wrap). Rub plastic wrap against skin to loosen and remove it. Do not rinse peppers to remove skin, as rinsing will remove flavor. Stem and seed each pepper.

In bowl of a food processor, place peppers, along with the carrots and walnuts; pulse until mixture is finely chopped.

Transfer pepper mixture to a bowl; stir in the garlic, molasses, oil, salt and Aleppo pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning and flavorings if desired. This makes about 1 quart dip, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

Makes about 1 quart.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blueberries bring brown betty to summer’s table

Since I blogged last May about my younger son’s de facto chocolate birthday cake, his tastes have emerged more clearly.

Berries, particularly blueberries, are a serious contender for his favorite food. And the kid will reduce a slice of fresh lemon to just a half-masticated chunk of pith. His needlelike, 2-year-old teeth prize both zest and pulp from the fruit more efficiently than any microplane.

So lemon was an obvious answer when my mother-in-law asked what the boy would prefer in his birthday dessert. Because pies tend to showcase berries better than cakes, we had almost settled on lemon-blueberry pie. But a change in plans disqualifies her as this year’s baker, and my homemade pie crust isn’t quite up to snuff.

This brown betty could be the answer. Baked in a 9-inch round pan, it almost mimics a single-layer cake. Layers of sugar, fruit and buttered bread crumbs define this preparation, which has graced American tables since Colonial times.

Although the brown betty tends to show up in fall as a backdrop for apples and pears, the Kansas City Star recently reinvented it for late spring and early summer enjoyment. I likely wouldn’t bother to purchase lemon-flavored yogurt and instead use Nancy’s plain whole-milk yogurt, which has staple status in my fridge. A bit more lemon zest, juice or even lemon extract would keep this dessert slightly tangy.

Tribune News Service photo

Lemon-Blueberry Brown Betty

1 slice whole-wheat bread

2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut in fourths

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Dash salt

1 (6-ounce) carton low-fat lemon yogurt

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray.

Tear the bread into quarters and place in thework bowl of a food processor. Pulse until bread forms even crumbs. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until evenly cut into crumb mixture. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the 1/3 cup sugar, the soda and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour yogurt mixture into flour mixture and stir until combined. Spoon into prepared pan and spread to coat bottom of pan evenly.

Arrange blueberries evenly over batter in pan. Sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Serve warm. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipe developed for The Star by Kansas City-based professional home economists Kathy Moore and Roxanne Wyss.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Refry beans in just a bit of fat for loads of flavor

A last-minute change in dinner plans last week saddled me with a husband craving nachos and a shortage of toppings.

Typically, I would load the chips and cheese with bits of whichever meat — chicken, turkey, pork or even lamb — that we’d roasted or smoked for the week. But I hadn’t managed to pull off that kind of advance meal-planning. So that left beans as our protein component.

Yet I couldn’t conscience black beans straight out of the can. I decided to add loads of flavor with just a tiny amount of meat. Spicy chorizo — the Spanish cured sausage, not the freshly ground mixture more common in Mexico — has been one of my recent addictions. A line of all-natural meats added to Food 4 Less’ inventory has tempted me enjoy a slice or two as a late-night snack for the past few months.

The ounce or so of chorizo, diced, that I had left on hand exuded a hefty dose of flavorful fat with just a few minutes in a medium-temperature pan. I skimmed out and reserved the crispy morsels of meat and mashed my black beans into the pork fat. And because the sausage was so well-seasoned with cumin and smoked paprika, I needed just a teaspoon each of Mexican oregano and smoked chilies to achieve the desired flavor.

After the beans cooked for 10 minutes and then cooled, they were firm enough to practically crumble over my nachos, topped with sliced jalapeno, scallions and the crisp sausage. Those results worth repeating, chorizo found its way into my shopping cart again this week.

Even lacking meat entirely, beans can soak up plenty of flavor from onion, garlic and spices. Here’s a vegetarian version that the Miami Herald touted last football season. With outdoor cooking season heating up, these would be delicious alongside grilled taco fillings or on crowd-pleasing nachos.

Tribune News Service photo

‘Nacho’ Average Refried Beans

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 jalapeño, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

Pinch cayenne pepper or chipotle powder, if desired

2 cups cooked pinto or black beans

1/2 cup bean-cooking liquid, reserved

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until onion is fragrant and translucent.

Add the minced garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until fragrant, for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the cumin, coriander, optional cayenne or chipotle and the beans. Cook, stirring together, then pour in the reserved bean liquid. Stir everything together gently then reduce heat to medium.

Mixture will seem soupy at first, then thicken as it heats through and bean mashing commences. Mash by hand, using a large wooden spoon or potato masher for about 10 minutes or until you’ve broken up beans and mixture comes together with a consistency slightly thicker than hummus. You can also mash using an immersion blender, but aim for a rustic texture, rather than a fluffy, uniform puree.

Season generously with the sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Top with the chopped cilantro. Serve with chips, stuff them into a tortilla or add to nachos or seven-layer dips.

Makes about 2 cups, or 4 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kitchen hack: peanut sauce from poaching liquid

The “hack,” as we’ve come to know it, implies that life is a series of chores to tackle inelegantly but effectively, eliminating yet another stumbling block in our way.

I never used to view cooking as a hurdle or pitfall, that is until I had kids. Four years in, the relentless cycle of maximizing the calories filling little tummies while minimizing food spilled or thrown on the floor has managed to suck the joy out of preparing a meal. And don’t get any parent started on the task of preparing wholesome foods that won’t be wholly rejected on the merits of their bright colors and flavors.

So beige food shows up on the plate more often than I could have ever anticipated. Recently, the plate was so monochromatic that I doubted even my skeptical kids would go for it. But the poached chicken, brown rice and peanut sauce was one of our biggest hits to date that didn’t incorporate now ubiquitous cheese.

A previous post mentioned poaching boneless, skinless chicken breasts for my kids’ inexperienced palates. But I didn’t share my latest kitchen hack: whipping up a quick peanut sauce right in the skillet from the poaching liquid. Who needs broth, after all, when you’ve just infused ½ cup water with chicken, lemon and garlic?

After removing all but the liquid from the pan, I simply stirred in about 2 tablespoons all-natural peanut butter with 1 tablespoon brown sugar, a teaspoon each tamari sauce and rice-wine vinegar and a dash of fish sauce. This was a perfect accent to slices of the poached chicken. I enjoyed mine with a bit of chili-garlic paste on the side.

Indeed, simple sauces, featured in last week’s A la Carte, can take any lightly seasoned meat, essentially a blank canvas, in myriad directions, while breathing life into leftovers. Here’s another variation that brings to mind my skillet-poached chicken and almost instant sauce.

Tribune News Service photo

Hacked Chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 whole clove garlic

1 chunk (1 inch long) fresh ginger, plus 1/4 cup fresh ginger matchsticks

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns

2 teaspoons sesame oil

4 scallions, white and green portions sliced into very thin, 4-inch lengths

1/4 cup peanut oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sherry

2 teaspoons sugar

Settle the chicken into a pot in a single layer. Fill with cold water to cover chicken by 1 inch. Add the garlic, ginger chunk, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a simmer; simmer for 5 minutes. Cover pot, pull off heat and let rest until warm, for about 1 hour.

Pull chicken out of poaching liquid, rinse and pat dry. Hack or shred into fine strips. Toss with the sesame oil. Heap chicken onto a serving platter.

Set a strainer over a small bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallions and ginger matchsticks. Cook, stirring, until bright and fragrant, for 30 seconds. Pour through strainer. Scatter ginger and scallions over chicken.

Return oil to saucepan. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Pour this sauce over chicken. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Chicago Tribune from “The Chinese Cookbook,” by Craig Claiborne and Virginia Lee.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Morels and asparagus are spring’s dynamic duo

Thick or thin, springtime asparagus has no better complement than spring’s most coveted mushroom.

Morels bring their distinctive, buttery earthiness to the season’s newly sprung herbs and vegetables. After a winter of heavier cooking, tender fungus and produce remind us that it’s time for a lighter hand. Pasta dishes are reliable repositories for just-cooked ingredients.

This one, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press, infuses the noodles with the essence of morels, captured in the water for reconstituting dried mushrooms. If you only have fresh morels — or conversely just dried —either could be used solo. But the duo leave no question of the morel’s singular status among mushrooms.

Tribune News Service photo

Pasta With Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus

1/2 ounce package dried morel mushrooms (about 5 to 6 mushrooms)

3 ounces (or more as desired) fresh morels

1 pound dry spaghetti

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling

6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

3 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped

1 pound asparagus, rinsed, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

3/4 cup vegetable stock

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Chopped parsley, for garnish

In a large bowl, cover the dried morels with 8 cups boiling water, set aside until morels are tender, for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, clean the fresh morels, placing them in another bowl of water and swishing them around to remove any dirt. Remove, pat dry and cut them in half (if some morels are small, leave them whole.)

Using a slotted spoon, remove reconstituted mushrooms (reserving liquid) to a cutting board and slice in half lengthwise.

Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour reserved soaking liquid into a large stockpot. Add additional water sufficient to cook pasta, bring to a boil. Season water with kosher salt, add the spaghetti; cook, stirring, until al dente, for about 10 minutes or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter in the oil. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute; do not let it brown. Add the shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Add reserved morels and fresh morels, plus the asparagus and stock, bring to a boil. Cook, covered, until asparagus is tender, for about 2 minutes. Uncover, stir in the cream, cook until slightly reduced, for about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and add cooked pasta, the lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and cheese. Toss until evenly combined. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sink your teeth into spring’s stout asparagus

Slender spears seek the sun’s rays shyly at first — twirling and curling from mulched garden beds.

As welcome as asparagus of any size is in a largely barren garden, I watch with barely concealed excitement for the thick, toothsome ones to thrust through the soil. Tender and juicy, these also come later to grocery stores after less-enthusiastic asparagus eaters have had their fill of thin, fibrous spears.

Perfect for grilling, stout asparagus spears make the season’s first cookouts feel almost decadent. Along with grilled chicken and potato wedges, asparagus was a natural vehicle recently for my husband’s favorite aioli, actually Best Foods mayonnaise enhanced with fresh garlic, lemon juice and seasonings. We always say this simple sauce makes anything taste good.

Similarly, crème fraiche is a sauce shortcut that embraces lemon, herbs and mustard, another household favorite. This version from the Chicago Tribune is inspired by Julia Child’s classic sauce moutarde and plays up the luxury of abundant asparagus.

Tribune News Service photo

Luxury Spears

2 pounds fresh fat asparagus

Kosher salt, as needed

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 cup creme fraiche

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped, fresh chives

Lay asparagus, 1 at a time, on a cutting board. Using a vegetable peeler, strip away skin from just below tip to bottom. Break off woody bottom. Rinse. Repeat.

Choose a skillet wide enough to accommodate asparagus. Fill half-full with water. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil; add asparagus. Reduce to a simmer. Cook, rolling spears once, until they turn brilliant green at tips and offer a tender bite, for about 4 minutes.

Use tongs to pull out asparagus, reserving cooking water. Drain asparagus briefly in a colander. Spread spears onto a clean kitchen towel (or 2) and roll up, keeping asparagus dry and warm.

Measure the mustard into a small bowl. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons of hot asparagus-cooking water. Whisk in the creme fraiche. Season this sauce with salt and pepper, a squeeze of the lemon and the chives.

Heap asparagus on a platter. Either pour on sauce (leaving points and an inch or two of bottom bare), or serve sauce in a bowl alongside, for dipping.

Makes 4 servings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
  • Blog Author

    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
  • Categories

  • Archives