Thursday, May 20, 2010

Allium Connection

I am totally guilty of proclaiming that spring is asparagus, ramp as well as the time for leafy greens. All very true but the real essence of this returning season is the dominance of one particular botanical family – alliums. These bulbous bottomed plants are found in our decorative vase Lily of the Valleys while they can be found, but most commonly they are go-to’s for starting most recipes.

Onions, garlic, chives, shallots, leeks, scallions, and the fleeting ramps are all cousins and have the similarity of attaching multiple layers at its root base that is sprouted from a bulb. They all produce a flower stem that is referred as a “scape” that offers a tapering bud that subsequently opens into a round clustered flower heads in shapes of purple, pink and white. Eat it all for the entire plant is fragrant and useable.

Onions Braised in Balsamic Vinegar - yields 6 to 8 servings
1 pound small spring onions or Vidalia onions - peeled and root trimmed
1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 pound unsalted Butter

Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a 9x4 shallow Pyrex or ceramic baking pan lay the onion in a single layer. Pour over the vinegar, wine, thyme, salt and pepper. Dot the onions with the butter and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 to 40 or until very tender. Serve hot or room temperature.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

First Tip

In the last ten days one of the foods I refuse to eat unless it comes locally has returned. Asparagus stands erect in the grocery all year long – Peru, Mexico, California all allocate generous plots of land for the tender tips of a potential fern. While I appreciate their efforts the eventual offering is lackluster. The cut bottoms tend to be scabbed over; their outer skin tough and fibrous. I just cannot eat these long-range stalks not to mention that, for me, they are decidedly more bitter then they should be. Plus they are definitely fatter then I will want them. That is not to say, that the more endowed stalks don’t have their merits – anytime I am going to puree the asparagus they are the ones I will seek. But nine times out of ten I like them no thicker than a pencil. There is a farmer who is harvesting an asparagus so thin it is more like the lead in the pencil – I love those. Under the broiler for a few minutes, and they are done.

Now, some complain that their pee smells after eating asparagus, and your point is. Yes, there is an amino acid compound that breakdowns with digestion, and is clearly water-soluble. Welcome to spring!!

Asparagus and Sorrel Soup – yields 4 to 6 servings
1-tablespoon olive oil
1-medium onion – diced
1-leek (white portion only) – diced and washed
2 garlic cloves – dice
1/2-pound Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and diced
1-pound asparagus – chopped (save the tips for garnish)
3-cups chicken or vegetable stock
1-packed cup sorrel leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat a 4-quart saucepan over medium flame, and add the oil, onion and leeks. Cook the onions until the onions loose their raw look. Then add the garlic and potatoes and cook for a few minutes. Then add the asparagus and stock. Bring the stock to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 to 45 minutes.

Puree the soup with the sorrel leaves. Pass the soup through a fine sieve and return to a saucepan. Warm the soup through, and season with salt and black. Serve garnished with the reserved asparagus tips.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


These are the salad days. Beautiful leaves recently sprouted after a season’s dormancy has started to overtake the market. Now, I admit that I love lettuce, and I would venture to confess that a last meal request would be a large bowl of young leaves – perhaps a mix of arugula, sorrel, oak and frissee all simply tossed with lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil. Absolutely simple I will admit, but grand in it subtleties and deep in its satisfaction. There has to a be an emotional component to this craving for my mother would nightly prepare a tossed salad filled with radishes, carrots, kohlrabi and that 70’s staple iceberg lettuce. A dosing of Seven Seas Green Goddess and I was complete. I am not such a purest that I will not add chopped vegetables, nuts or grilled chicken to my salad, but I am also contented with a simple mix.

My obsession with lettuce probably peaked with this past winter, as I just could not bring myself to purchase another dreary pound of whatever. I became addicted to charred romaine. I would just split the head in half lengthwise, wash it well, and under the broiler it went. It was the default vegetable on any given night. Think I will store that one from winter’s return.

For now, my salad spinner is earning its keep, and like my mother before me there will be a salad on the table nightly.

Green Goddess Dressing – yields approx. 3 cups
1-pound silken tofu
2-tablespoons olive oil
1-teaspoon lime zest
1/4-cup fresh limejuice
2-tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1-tablespoon fresh summer savory leaves
1/4-cup chopped chives
1-head spring garlic – roughly chopped
1/8-cup fresh chervil leaves
1-packed cup sorrel leaves – center rib removed
2-teaspoons salt
1/4-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne

Place the tofu in a sieve sitting in a bowl, and let the tofu drain out its excessive water in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Discard the water that the tofu has released.

Into the blender or food processor place all the ingredients, and blend until completely smooth.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.