19th April 2015
I am so happy it’s finally white asparagus season again. In Northern Europe, white asparagus season begins in mid to late April and only lasts until June. Compared to green asparagus, white asparagus is less bitter and more tender. They are so delicious that they’ve been deemed “the royal vegetable”, “white gold”, and “edible ivory”. This time of year I simply cannot get enough!
White asparagus grows away from direct sunlight so that photosynthesis never occurs and they stay white. It’s best to buy white asparagus as fresh as possible – normally you can tell by the ends. If you stick your nail into the bottom, there should be moisture. If it’s dry then they’re not fresh.
There is a bit of preparation that takes place before you can eat them. First you have to peel the woody exterior of the white asparagus. This takes time but it’s worth it! You also have to get rid of the ends. The best way is to break it off with your hands, because it will break naturally at the correct point.
There are many ways to enjoy white asparagus – boiled, steamed, in the oven, and as soup. This post includes my favorite recipe for white asparagus soup and a great accompanying spanakopita (spinach) quiche.
White Asparagus Soup, serves 2
- 500g white asparagus
- 50g butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 700mL chicken stock
- 70mL crème fraiche
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
- Sea salt flakes
- White pepper
- First peel each asparagus stalk from the tip to the cut end. Chop off the tips and set them aside, then cut the stalks into small pieces.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and sweat the shallot for about 5 minutes until translucent – don’t let it brown. Add the chopped asparagus stalks, keeping the tips aside, and sweat them gently with the shallot for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the stock and simmer until the stalks are very tender. This will take 20–30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks. Blend until very smooth, then pour the soup back into the saucepan.
- Bring the soup back to a simmer and add the reserved asparagus tips. Cook gently for about 5 minutes until the asparagus tips are just cooked through.
- Mix the crème fraiche and egg yolks in a small bowl. With the pan off the heat, stir this mixture into the soup and continue to stir gently for a couple of minutes until the egg yolks have thickened the soup. Warm through over a very gentle heat, stirring constantly and taking care not to break up the asparagus tips.
- Serve the soup garnished with a sprinkling of parsley.
Spinach Quiche with Oat Crust
- 97g oats
- 67g almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 4.5 tablespoons coconut oil or butter
- 4.5 tablespoons cold water
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Finely grind oats and almonds. Combine the oat and almond flours with sea salt in a bowl. Add the coconut oil and ice-cold water. With your hands, work the dry ingredients towards the centre until a dough forms. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap in clingfilm, then chill for about 30 minutes.
- Press the dough evenly into an 8 inch tart case. Trim the dough flush with the edge of the case. Prick the bottom with a fork and blind bake for about 10 minutes. While the crust is in the oven, prepare the filling.
- 3 eggs
- 150g feta or goat cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 spring onions, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 cups firmly packed fresh spinach
- Salt and pepper
- Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, whisk for 30 seconds, then crumble in the feta cheese. Stir in the oregano, chilli flakes, nutmeg and a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the spring onions and garlic and fry for about 3 minutes until golden. Add half of the spinach and a pinch of salt. Stir the spinach gently until it wilts, then add the rest and keep on stirring until wilted. Remove from the heat and pour into the mixing bowl containing the egg and cheese mixture. Stir well until everything is combined.
- Spoon the filling into the crust. Bake for about 30 minutes at 170C/325F until the filling is firm and golden. Let it cool for a while before serving.
12th April 2015
Every once and a while we have warm, sunny weather in Antwerp. During this time I am always craving Vietnamese summer rolls! Summer rolls are lighter and healthier than their fried brethren. The shrimp with rice noodles, crunchy vegetables, and fresh herbs combined with a spicy peanut sauce is so refreshing.
Making summer rolls requires quite a bit of prep work – cutting and organizing all of the fillings – but once that is done, they’re super easy to make!
This recipe comes from chow.com.
Vietnamese Summer Rolls
- 3/4 cup natural-style creamy peanut butter
- 1/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 4 and 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 and 1/4 teaspoon (at least!) sriracha
- 1 clove of garlic mashed into a paste
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
- 12 shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 oz. rice vermicelli
- 8 round pieces of rice paper
- 1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
- About 16 mint leaves
- About 16 basil leaves
- 8 cilantro sprigs
- 1 medium English cucumber, peeled and cut into small sticks
- 3 medium scallions, quartered lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-1/2-inch pieces (white and light green parts only)
- 8 leaves of soft leaved lettuce like Bibb
- Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until bright pink and just opaque, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board.
- Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, halve each shrimp horizontally. Place in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
- Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Place all of the ingredients in separate containers and arrange them in the following order around a work surface: rice paper wrappers, shrimp, rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, cucumber, scallions, and lettuce.
- Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with hot tap water. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel.
- Working quickly, lay 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Layer a scant 1/4 cup of the rice noodles over the shrimp, followed by a few bean sprouts, 2 of the mint leaves, 2 of the basil leaves, and 1 sprig of cilantro. Place 4 of the cucumber sticks and 2 of the scallion pieces on either side of the noodle pile. Roll one piece of lettuce into a cigar shape and place it on top of the noodle pile.
- Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top.
- Turn the roll so that the seam faces down and the row of shrimp faces up.
- Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.
5th April 2015
I love Sunday brunch. Sunday is the only day of the week that my husband and I are both off from work. So every Sunday we plan a special breakfast/lunch meal to enjoy after sleeping in.
My New Roots’ Veggie and Egg Tower of Power is one of my favorites. It combines so many delicious flavors – oven roasted tomatoes and sweet potatoes, caramelized onions, sauteed spinach, and poached eggs! Who wouldn’t want to start their day with this colorful dish?
Veggie and Egg Tower of Power, serves 2 very hungry people
- 750g of sweet potatoes
- 200g cherry tomatoes
- 4 big handfuls of spinach
- 2 medium red onions
- Olive oil
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- Salt, pepper, and chili flakes
- Start by caramelizing the onions. Peel and slice the onions into rounds. Heat some oil in a skillet, add onions and a pinch of salt. Stir occasionally (not too often, or they will not brown) until dark, soft and sweet – approx. 30-45 minutes. Do not wash pan after use.
- Preheat oven to 400 °F/200 °C. Slice sweet potatoes across their width into ¼”/6 mm round discs. Coat with a little oil, place in a single layer on 2 baking sheets, leaving one sheet with a little space for the tomatoes. Wash and slice tomatoes in half. Place on one baking sheet with sweet potatoes, and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or so, until everything is soft. Keep in the oven until ready to serve.
- Once the onions, sweet potatoes and tomatoes have all finished cooking, put a shallow saucepan of water on to boil, stir in 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
- Wash spinach, but do not spin dry, as the water will serve to steam the leaves while cooking. Add spinach to the onion pan on low heat and stir occasionally until wilted (3-4 minutes).
- While the spinach is wilting, poach the egg:
1. Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil, add one tablespoon of vinegar, and reduce to a gentle simmer.
2. Crack one egg at a time into a teacup and carefully tip it into the water bath. With a spoon, gently encourage the white to encase the yolk, if desired.
3. Set the timer for 4 minutes.
4. When the time is up, remove egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to remove any excess water. If you are cooking more than one egg at a time, keep the cooked ones in a little bit of poaching water to keep warm.
While the eggs are poaching, assemble the plate: place 6-7 slices of roasted sweet potato on the bottom, followed by the wilted spinach and caramelized onions. Scatter the roasted tomatoes around the base with a drizzle of good olive oil. Place the poached egg on top of the stack, sprinkle with chili flakes if desired, and a generous grind of sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately.