Lemonized Asparagus Hummus

I used to think asparagus was disgusting. Slimy and stinky, usually served with cheez sauce (okay, probably real cheese but it looked a lot like cheez-whiz)- that was the asparagus of my childhood. My niece used to eat it straight from the can which might be the only thing more disgusting than covered in bright yellow sauce after being boiled to death.

Sometime in the last 5 or so years, I changed my tune. I believe this reversal occurred in a restaurant where I was served some asparagus dish, roasted perhaps, that I chose to eat because I was that hungry. A fortuitous hunger as it turned out to be unlike any previous exposure- it was tasty! Not slimy! And definitely not covered with cheesy sauce.

I do, however, carry the gene that causes an odor to be found after consuming asparagus. In an odd sort of way, I am intrigued by the phenomenon because it happens within a short time of eating, far quicker than a full digestion would take. Fortunately my husband doesn’t seem particularly sensitive to it because he’s a stinky boy as it is (kiss kiss honey, love you!!!). On a marginally related note, I am very glad I don’t have the genetic abnormality that makes cilantro taste like soap. Because if I didn’t cook with and eat cilantro, I am not sure Chris would have married me!

At the height of spring asparagus season, we’ve been eating a lot of roasted spears and occasionally steamed ones. I especially like to toss barely steamed asparagus tips with top-notch Parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper, good extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Last week, I saw this recipe on a food blog I rather enjoy and decided to make it at my first opportunity. Then Chris came home with the biggest bunch of asparagus I’ve ever seen- a good 8 inch diameter bundle.

Despite the overflow of asparagus, I still halved the recipe because Chris, while liking asparagus, claims to strongly dislike hummus. I do not entirely believe him but nonetheless, even half a recipe makes a whole lotta hummus.

The recipe, by way of Tammy @ Food on the Food* is actually found here at Yankee Magazine along with a recipe for pita chips to accompany.

Lemonized Asparagus Hummus

What I used

1 1/2 cup fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 7 1/2 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well (small cans found at Meijer!)
1 medium clove garlic
1 Tbsp. tahini, sesame paste
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half-lemon plus a bit more
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 1 Tbsp
salt & pepper

What I did

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Toss asparagus with 1 Tbsp olive oil and roast 15 minutes. Some spots of caramelization shoudl be apparent but the spears are still bright green.

3. Combine asparagus (set aside a number of tips for prettying up the bowl if you want to take a picture), chickpeas, tahini, 1/2 lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, a pinch of salt and couple grinds of pepper in a food processor**, puree until fairly smooth

4. Add olive oil, preferably slowly while food processor is running but that’s not required.

5. Taste and adjust salt/pepper and lemon zest to taste.

For best results, refrigerate one hour or longer to allow flavors to meld. To serve all pretty, top with a few asparagus tips and any remaining lemon zest. Eat with pita, veggies or um, you might just try a fingerful straight up. I don’t recommend this if you are sharing or presenting this as a party dip. Also, spread on a flatbread, combine with fresh tomatoes and cukes, maybe some falafel and call it lunch.


*I do like the Food on the Food blog but I struggle with feeling of envy when I read about the CSA and the Fish CSA and the whole living on the Eastern Seaboard thing. Its the kind of trigger that makes me nostalgic for our honeymoon in Vermont and sometimes leads me to check off states like Massachusetts, Maine and the like when I look at job postings (and I’m not even looking for a new job here!)

**I initially tried this in our blender. A very nice blender it is but not suited to blending this thick, relatively dry mixture. We have one of those $20 single speed food choppers rather than a nice fo-pro but it did the job, albeit at a slowish rate.

Summer Lovin’ Salad

 

It’s not summer yet, I know. In fact, I started this post while procrastinating on a trip to the backyard a certain someone in the house jumped the gun a bit and planted already in direct opposition to tonight’s frost advisory. I think most of what’s out there can handle the chill in the air but there are still some unplanted tomater plants that should be brought in for the night (where they are locked in the bathroom we have a plant muncher cat) 

It would be easy to forget about April lows in the 30s with the sunshine this afternoon and the beautiful colors of these tomatoes (from Canada!!) and bright green mint plus even some parsley from my own burgeoning herb garden. 

This recipe is from a special ‘magazine’ Meals Made Easy from Real Simple magazine, on newstands now1 now. I was able to locate the original recipe, here along with a ton of other chickpea recipes that share similarities. 

I had to make some slight modifications so this is my version. Also, I didn’t actually measure anything so consider the numbers approximations: 

Lemony Chickpea Salad with Tomatoes & Mint

Ingredients 

1 15 ounce can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in to wedges
1/3 to 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
5-6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped (or more, if you can)
3/4 package fresh organic mint, leaves only, rough chopped
3 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
salt
pepper
2 pinches cumin

Directions 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to combine and let sit for 20-30 minutes to let flavors meld. Adjust salt & pepper if necessary. Or maybe add a bit more vinegar if yours is really lemony like mine. 

 

To go with, I also ‘roasted’ some carrots and parsnip with red onion based on a different recipe in the maga-book. 

2 carrots, some red onion (the rest of the half I didn’t use above) and 1 parsnip. Parsnip and carrot cut in to long thin “fries”, seasoned with maple garlic pepper salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil until smoke-hot, add onions, cook a few minutes then toss in parsnips and carrots. Allow parsnip to get some color, reduce heat to medium and place lid on pan and cook 15 minutes. Remove lid and cook until softened to your liking (this will also vary depending on how thick your slices of root are. 

 


 

1 I bought this magazine during a “quick” trip to Walgreens that turned in to spending $40. Clearly there is something about that store which induces such behavior- I only needed some inexpensive facial moisturizera and a thermometer yet I somehow spent almost fifty dollars! After going to the car, I realized that this ‘magazine’ was priced more like a cheap cookbook. I considering going right back in to return it but did not. And I’ve used it 4 times already, 3 successes and one quasi-success. 

Bonus Picture: Look, its me, the theoretically anonymous author! What, you don’t see me? That’s my face, right there in the spoon!
 

a Walgreens (and likely others) have gotten very crafty with their product placement. The fancy-schmancy $20 and up facial treatments are all in the middle section. The normal, no botox-in-a-bottle varieties are either on the top shelf or the bottom, forcing you crane your neck, stoop down and look all over for some low-price SPF 30 lotion for your face.

Carrot Mushroom Barley Stew

Or, Mushroom Carrot Barley Stew. Or even Barley Stew with carrots and mushrooms.  Also includes kale, carrots, onions and ginger.

My Christmas Present!

Earlier this week, I tweeted about prepping for a pork stew in the slow cooker. I cut the veggies and combined things in plastic containers so that come morning, Chris could just toss things in, season the pork and set the crockpot on low. I would get home from work around 5 pm which would be the right time to take the pork out and shred it then serve.

It all worked perfectly. But.  But.

It was not tasty. Not at all.

Fatty/greasy broth and you could barely taste the aromatics (allspice and thyme plus garlic and ginger). This recipe was one of several I’d pulled from a copy of Food Network TV magazine. Last Sunday I’d made a chicken chili, using a recipe in an advertisement for crockpots and it was delicious. In fact, I’m going to make it again this week since my slow cooker is small and I had to halve the original recipe so I have extra everything.

But this pork stew was not good. We tried adding salt/pepper. We tried adding various acids to cut the fatty taste. I added fresh herbs. Nope, nada, nothing. I put the whole thing in the fridge as we were going to the movies. Now, its sitting in there, hogging my slow cooker insert with a not very appetizing layer of congealed fat on top. Mocking me.

So…. it was with great apprehension that I went forward with my plan to make this Barley stew tonight. I have been itching to use my new Le Creuset pot, I had all the ingredients and no real purpose for the shiitake mushrooms than this recipe. It was time to bite the bullet.

Now, I’m going to have to make a third recipe from the magazine to break the tie.

This soup was fantastic.

It smelled amazing in the pot, especially when I was toasting the barley and mushrooms.

This smelled divine!

The carrot added some sweetness which was balanced by the earthy mushrooms and just slightly bitter kale. This will defiinitely go on the repeat list.

Carrot-Mushroom Barley Soup

Ingredients

2 cups carrot juice
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup instant barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, including leaves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 medium carrots, cut in to 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups kale or mustard greens, leaves torn
1 tablespoon grated ginger
salt & pepper

Directions

1. Bring carrot juice, 3 cups water and mushrooms stems to a boil in a saucepan

2. Heat olive oil and two tablespoons butter in large pot over medium heat. Add mushrooms and barley, stirring to coat. Cook approximately 5 minutes, until barley is toasted.

3. Add onion, celery and rosemary, season with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

4. Add carrots and cook 2 more minutes.

5. Increase heat to high and add half of carrot juice, omitting mushroom stems. Bring to a boil and cook until most of liquid is absorbed, about 6 minutes.

6. Add remaining carrot juice, kale and ginger, stirring to combine. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.

7. Stir in remaining two tablespoons butter.

8. Serve!

Notes: Everything took longer than listed but that could just be me being conservative and trying to work out the best temp for my new cast-iron pot.

I added more rosemary, probably doubling to 1/2 teaspoon. I still didn’t notice it being strong in the end product but if you don’t like rosemary, stick with the original.

The recipe indicates this makes 4 servings at 333 calories each. I can’t imagine eating a full one-quarter of the pot-full of soup. Both Chris and I had big bowls and I still divided the rest up in to 3 more containers which felt like a lot of food per person. I also question the nutrition analysis based on this have 4 tablespoons of butter and two of olive oil.

Final Product- Look at those colors!

Ah-ha, I ran this recipe through Nutrition Data’s analyzer and it came back as 495 calories per serving, assuming we divide the total by 4. Thus, the calories listed at 333 are probably right for the size of serving I had and I would call the “serves 4” an error.

This was a great first dish for the Le Creuset- next up will have to be something from the newly arrived Art of French Cooking since Julie & Julia inspired the purchase to begin with.

**Full disclosure: those last two pictures are Photoshopped. I was playing with Actions and that last one, Sunshine, perfectly described how this soup stew tasted to me. Also, it counteracts the high noise levels becuase I was shooting in horrible light and had to boost the ISO.

Making it up as I go along, part deux

Now this, I really did just make up as I went along. I had to make a dish to pass for Thursday’s holiday luncheon at work. I planned to make something like the squash risotto but then I just did not feel like doing all the stirring required. And cutting up a hard, awkwardly shaped squash.

On our sign-up sheet I had marked “casserole” and US/Italy as the country (this year’s theme was international). A little departure from that but I definitely think I got the US of A part down!

All American Rice Casserole

Ingredients

1/2 bunch asparagus
1 small red onion
1 can creamed corn
5-6 cherry tomatoes, halved
Gouda cheese
brown rice (2 cups dry)
1/4 cup sliced almonds
chicken broth
nutmeg
sage
salt/pepper
1 mashed clove of garlic

Directions

  • I cooked the rice in the rice cooker first. Took about 40 minutes for 2 dried cups of short grain brown rice. I let that work its magic while we ate dinner (see Part 1). When ready, preheat oven to 350°.
  • Trim asparagus, set tips aside then cut stems in to 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Quarter the red onion then slice thinly.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds then add red onion. Sprinkle a little salt on the onions to encourage the water to come out.
  • Season onions with 1 teaspoon dried sage and 1/4 tsp nutmeg (I grated part of a whole nutmeg using a microplane grater). Reduce heat to medium-low and allow onions to soften and begin caramelizing.
  • Meanwhile, spread cooked brown rice in the bottom of a large casserole dish. Unless the rice is very moist, pour a 1/4 to 1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable) over it. Sprinkle generously with grated Gouda cheese. Spread 1 can of creamed corn over the rice and cheese. Season with 1 teaspoon dried sage and a dash or two of nutmeg.
  • When onions have just started to brown, add sliced asparagus stems to pan. Cook 2-3 minutes until asparagus turns bright green.
  • Spread onion-asparagus mixture over corn in casserole dish.  Cover completely with grated Gouda; get right up the the edge of the casserole dish.
  • Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove covering and raise temperature to 475 or turn on broiler. Scatter tomato halves, asparagus tips and sliced (or slivered) almonds over top of casserole. Cook 10 minutes more until almonds begin to turn light brown. I did this under the broiler, about 8-10 inches from the element. Closer in, I would say 5 minutes or less- watch for burning!
asparagus corn casserole
asparagus corn casserole

 


Since I really did just make this up as a I went along, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Then I was late getting in the buffet line today and wondered if I’d get to try out my own dish! But I did. It was about 1/2 gone (and completely gone by the time the serving was over). I’m pleased but I would say that this dish is best served hot from the oven with the cheese bubbling. Being reheated and held in the oven dries out the rice.