And who am I to complain? Asparagus is like one of those luxury vegetables that rich people eat with their filet mignon. Or I guess this was my perception before asparagus season 2010 hit and we started getting bundles of beautiful asparagus in our CSA every week. Our household has greatly benefited from the opportunity to experiment with asparagus — Caro has crafted some delicious salads and pastas with the stuff and I’ve done some dabbling of my own. To borrow wording from the stock cover letter I like to spam potential employers with, “[asparagus] works well independently or as part of a team.” In the first recipe presented in this post, asparagus does indeed show that it is a formidable team player and can effectively play a supporting role to some other spotlight ingredient. In the next two recipes, asparagus stands more on its own, creating an entire dish/course centered around its unique flavor.
Asparagus and Balsamic Mushroom Pizza
About a month ago, Caro and I had a few people over and made a few different pizzas. Caro made the dough from scratch, using the recipe Matt and Jane always use. The pizza sauce recipe we used also comes from Epicurious. Caro grilled the asparagus on the grill pan with olive oil, s&p so that it was still crunchy and delicious when we put it on the pizza. It was really the balsamic mushrooms that added complexity to the pizza. To make those, I sauteed crimini mushrooms, minced garlic and chopped onion in some heated olive oil for 5 minutes or so. Then I seasoned them with s&p and some dried thyme and then stir-fried the shrooms in some balsamic vinegar. I used less balsamic vinegar than this guy recommends. The asparagus-balsamic shroom combination was straight up gourmet.
Crab Asparagus Soup
Just like my grandma used to make! I gotta give hella props to this Vietnamese recipe blog I stumbled upon right after moving back to the states after my year abroad. This is the third recipe I’ve made from this blog and all the recipes I’ve made so far have been practical enough to make on a week night and taste legit to me (though I wouldn’t expect myself to know shit)! This person really seems to know their shit. I followed this recipe pretty much to the letter.. the only addition I made was throwing some enoki mushrooms in the broth about 10 minutes before it was done. I could’ve done without them to be honest; they didn’t really add anything in terms of flavor or texture and kind of just blended in with the crab. Ryan and I were feeling cheap so I just used canned crab meat which in my opinion, was just fine.
Anyway the great thing about this soup is that it really does get most of its flavor from the asparagus. You essentially make an asparagus stock by boiling the dickens out of the bottoms of the asparagus stalks in some chicken broth!
This is the crab meat step. I find it quite amusing that we have two bottles of fish sauce in our house and both of them were purchased by the white people living there. Way to rep my heritage Caro and Ryan! My mom has this theory about how the cheaper fish sauces at grocery stores are just salt water and you have to buy the more expensive bottles for it to be legit. I guess the ingredients list on this fish sauce did just say ‘salt, water and anchovies’ (<– is that normal?) but I think the dish turned out okay, if not a bit salty. So I guess if you’re using one of the so-called ‘cheap’ fish sauces, then you should probably use a little less than the recipe calls for to avoid making the dish too salty.
You’re supposed to add the top parts of the asparagus and the crab mixture to the soup when it’s about ten minutes from being ready to serve. The color contrast between the asparagus used to make the broth and the asparagus added at the end was very pleasing to my eyes (which tend to be really appreciative of colors these days).
Immediately before serving you drizzle whipped egg whites over the soup. Did you know that the ‘chef’s way’ of separating eggs is to crack the egg into your hand and let the white drip through your fingers? That’s what this guy says. News to me!
Here’s a photo of the finished product taken with my old camera.
Last weekend Jane called me up and informed me that she and Matt were making cioppino with fresh pasta, and could I please bring a salad or starter? I was eager to try out a recipe from The Silver Spoon, which I had just received from Amazon along with the battery for my new camera, and was obviously too lazy to go the grocery store. So I decided to make an asparagus mousse of all things, which only required asparagus, lemon, cream cheese and eggs — all of which were already in my refrigerator! So here’s how you make asparagus mousse, in case you’re interested. The following photos were taken with my NEW CAMERA.
Now for the difficult part. You’re supposed to separate out an egg white and then whisk it until it forms firm peaks. This takes a lot of muscle (or a stand mixer). I actually needed to bring in Ryan’s manpower to get the whites to this point because my arms got too tired :/. This is how it’s supposed to look once you’ve whisked the egg white into submission:
By the way, the cioppino was fucking delicious. I believe Matt and Jane got the recipe from Epicurious. They also recently came into possession of a Kitchenaid standmixer and bought the pasta attachment to go with it. So jealz.
I’ll admit the asparagus mousse was a risk and I’ll admit that not everyone polished it off. The mousse would have definitely benefited from some crostinis or something to eat it with — on its own it was a bit intense. It was fun to make and document, anyway. And you know the funny part? Jane, completely independently, decided to make mousse on a whim as well! Hers was a raspberry mousse that we used to top this decadent olive oil cake we made for dessert.