{SOUPE FROIDE AUX ASPERGES BLANCHES ET A LA VANILLE} While I know that the asparagus season is officially coming to a close, I wanted to sneak in one last recipe, as there are still bunches of white asparagus appearing in our farmers market, and next spring is a full 365 days away!!

Do not be fooled by my images…. what looks like a sumptuous vanilla cream is actually CHILLED white asparagus soup with the added touch of vanilla bean. This was an intentional trompe l’oeil  (AKA fooling of the eye), which demonstartes my love of taking ingredients, typically used in sweet recipes and using them in savoury ones (& vice versa). The outcome is an awaking of the senses!

Our senses need a wake-up call from time to time, as we all find ourselves EATING THE SAME THING week in week out - does this sound at all familiar???  The problem is not a lack of ingredients or imagination, but more of falling into the cooking comfort zone….  and while I love my traditional asparagus soup, things needed to be shaken up a little – so I removed the onion, added the vanilla bean + white pepper and dropped the temperature to a cool summer chill.  

Besides, it really is too HOT to cook, & heating a saucepan for 10 minutes is my outside limit at the moment!

WHITE ASPARAGUS FACTS

  • AKA spargel – the German name for asparagus (where most asparagus is white!)
  • Grown covered in soil to avoid photosynthesis preventing the shoots from turning green
  • This produces a less bitter, more tender, sweet taste
  • Season is from April to June

VANILLA BEAN FACT

  • Name : derived from the Spanish vainilla meaning “little pod”
  • Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid flower, grown in the form of a bean pod
  • Originated in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Now grown in Madagascar (3/4 world’s supply), Tahiti : see Chocolate & Zuccini blog, Mexico…
  • Over 110 vanilla orchid varieties
  • 1 variety, vanilla planifolia (Bourbon vanilla), produces the majority of commerical vanilla beans
  • Hand harvested, rinsed, & rolled in blankets to “sweat”, then gently dried in the sun
  • Uses: INSIDE – of the bean is used to flavour cakes, ice cream, sweets, drinks etc. PODS – Keep & dry, placing them in a container of white sugar, to give a vanilla perfume. POWDER – finely grind the dried pod and use in cooking!

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RECIPE

ARTICHOKE RECIPE

19 June 2008

{STEAMED ARTICHOKES -  ARTICHAUTS A LA VAPEUR} Artichokes are actually eatable flowers… which would explain their simple, natural beauty. I often find myself being wood by crates of these lovely globes, not only by their looks, but for their versatility in cooking. 

While the list of artichoke recipes is long & extensive (canapés, soups, salads, gratin….), simply steaming the choke & eating it leaf by leaf, dipped in a sumptuous vinaigrette- is a little bit of heaven. And it is here that the saying “It’s what’s in side that counts…” holds doubly true, as while the leaves are delicious, the piece de résistance, the whole reason for buying the artichoke in the 1st place, is for its tender heart.

ARTICHOKE FACTS

  • Name : derived from the ancient Northern Italian articiocco (modern carciofo)
  • A perennial thistle from Southern Europe & the Mediterranean
  • 16th century: artichokes were reserved for men as they were considered an aphrodisiac
  • Origin thought to be in Italy
  • Over 140 artichoke varieties
  • Peak season April thought to June
  • Select dark green, heavy, artichokes with tight (not open) leaf formation
  • Freshness test: squeaks when squeezed. Avoid brown tips.
  • Store in the fridge, unwashed, sprinkled with water, in an airtight plastic bag
  • Health note: artichokes are a powerful antioxidant

     

ARTICHOKE ETIQUETTE

  • Like asparagus, steamed globe artichokes can be eaten with your fingers!
  • Leaves : pluck each leaf off by pulling the pointed end
  • Dip the edible wider end of the leaf into the vinaigrette
  • Eating : put 1/2 the edible end in your mouth, and drag it between your teeth, scrapping off the flesh
  • The leaves will become progressively smaller, tender & white with purple tips towards the centre, and can often be eaten whole 
  • The Artichoke heart : is the centre or flower of the choke, covered in a thick bed of fuzzy, hairlike strands. Using your fingers or a spoon gently pry away the hairs revealing the edible choke, referred to as the ‘heart’. This is often the favourite part of the artichoke

RECIPE

GRILLED ASPARAGUS

16 May 2008

{ASPERGES GRILLEES AVEC HUILE D’OLIVE ET SEL DE LA MER} With the spring time, comes the arrival of the one seasonable vegetable that is not considered a table etiquette ‘faux pas’ to eat with your finger…… ASPARAGUS  

Now the Frenchman, a true gourmand at heart, knows a good thing when he sees it. So it was to no surprise that this culinary delight was in abundance at the local Provencal farmers market last weekend. A crunchy treat for the taste-buds, excellent as a detox cleanser, the only thing to watch out for is the afteraffects of smelly pee…. my god yes I just mentioned urination in my blog post! But better safe than sorry :)

Moving swiftly on, I had the pleasure of eating wonderful grilled asparagus in a little tapas bar in Barcelona, and wanted to recreate the recipe. The olive oil adds flavour & visual appeal, while the grilling accentuates the natural flavours of the asparagus, while keeping the crisp texture and finished with a sprinkle of sea salt to give a little kick.

Helpful HINTS : 

  • when buying asparagus, the younger, thinner variety tends to be more tender, and less prone to tough, stingy outer skin (epecially towards the bottom of the stocks)
  • when cooking on the grill, place the smaller stalks towards the outer / cooler part of the pan, to cook all the asparagus evenly
  • don’t over cook the asparagus, otherwise it becomes overly soft & looses its bright green colour, crunchy texture and taste!

Facts: asparagus is a member of the Lily family! It contains elements that build the kidneys, skin, bones & liver - and a positive effect on our liver = a positive effect on our moods + ability to deal with stress 

RECIPE

Roasted root veggies

{LEGUMES ROTI AU MIEL}The temptations to leave winter fruits & vegetable behind has become increasingly strong with the 1st day of Spring only a week away (officially March 20th). Plump bunches of asperagus have started appearing at the farmers market, as have strawberries and thin crispy green beans. The only problem is that while this produce looks lovely and is a refreshing change from the winter blues, it is NOT LOCAL = and if it is not local that means that planes, trains & aeroplanes were needed to transport it from point A (ie Marco, Spain, South Africa….) to point B Switzerland, England, France … and beyond.

FOOD FOR THOUGH : It seems harmless when you look at each isolated incident – “these beans look nice … oh, they come from Maroco…. well just this once”, add all these one offs together and you have created demand which requires supply. This also impacts the well being of our local farmers, who cannot compete with large corporations. Here are two informative links on what is now coined as ‘food miles’ http://www.localfooddirectory.ca/foodshed/?q=node/486  http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20021123/food.asp

The solution is simple, eat seasonally and buy locally. So as we are technically still in winter, I bought a variety of winter root vegetables …. carrots, potatoes (sweet  & normal), turnip, beetroot and parsnip, at the farmers market this past weekend to make sweet roasted root vegetables. The sweetness comes from the HONEY marinade which also give the veggies a glossy caramelised exterior -  delicious, wonderful with couscous, stewed meats, or a roast!

RECIPE

SALADE DE BETTERAVES

13 September 2007

Beetroot salad web

{BEETROOT SALAD} STOP!!!! Please don’t leave ….. beetroot can also be delicious. No this is not a joke, and yes I too started out as a prominent member of the ‘tortured beet eaters’,  as my mother, a health conscious, vegetable loving woman used to serve her children cooked or pickled beets.  Now while nutritious I found them anything but delicious.

So you can imagine my anxiety when I first visited Olivier (my fiancé) in Geneva, and at the local farmers market he popped a bunch of freshly picked garden beets into the basket and said ‘je te fait une salade de betteraves, tu vas voir c’est délicieux’ (I will make you a beetroot salad, you will see it is delicious!) Delicious… is he crazy, oh god, can we give them back, can I sneak them out of the basket… how am I to get out of this. We left the market with the beets in tow and I prepared myself for the worst – that childhood feeling of being unable to swallow, the smell of pickled vinegar and that slightly odd texture.

However, a pleasant surprise was awaiting me – as the salad he made resembled nothing of the beetroot of my childhood. These beets were a vibrant red, shaved into thin strips, and served raw, glistening with vinaigrette. They tasted sweet and tart at the same time, with a crisp, crunchy texture. So good was this salad that I thought I would pass along my version of the recipe….

RECIPE

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