Springtime asparagus

Sunday, June 19, 2016

"Spring drew on ... and a greenness grew over these brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps."
- Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Here in Toronto, today feels like the middle of summer. But technically, it's the last full day of spring. So if I'm going to post my favourite new asparagus recipe, now's the time.

If you want to keep things super-easy for a weeknight meal, the asparagus is wonderful on its own, simply roasted in the spice marinade. The citrus dressing, yogurt and avocado dress it up beautifully for guests, or a leisurely weekend meal.

(By the way, you might think it's impossible to have "too much" asparagus. If you looked inside my fridge, however, you might think again. Apparently, I'll be happily roasting asparagus well into the summer.)

Spiced Roasted Asparagus with Avocado and Yogurt
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

For the asparagus

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil (first amount)
2 pounds thin-to-medium asparagus, ends trimmed

To finish

2 Tbsp olive oil (second amount)
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 large firm-ripe avocados, cut in thin slices
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover 2 baking sheets with foil.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl. Lay asparagus on baking sheets and drizzle with marinade, rolling until completely covered. Roast for 10 minutes, then flip and roast for another ten minutes until just tender.

Meanwhile, combine 2 Tbsp olive oil, orange juice and lemon juice in a small dish.

When asparagus is done, scatter with avocado slices, then drizzle with citrus dressing. Dollop yogurt over the top and sprinkle with seeds.

Tahini Roasted Cauliflower

Sunday, June 12, 2016

"And so, with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

A short post today - we've just dropped the girls off for another summer working at camp. My oldest will be one of the directors, while my youngest will be leading the L.I.T. program. They're both thrilled (and a little nervous) about the step up in responsibility. I'm excited for them, and know they'll rise to the challenge.

Earlier in the week, my oldest graduated from the University of Toronto with high distinction. And the week before that, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We have much to be grateful for and, yes, life does feel like it's beginning over again with the summer.

Tahini Roasted Cauliflower
(from Playing with Flour)

1/3 cup tahini
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp drained capers
6 cups cauliflower florets (from one medium size cauliflower)
Half a lemon
2/3 Tbsp chopped fresh parley
1/4 tsp kosher salt

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk tahini, olive oil and red pepper flakes together. Gently whisk in the capers. Add cauliflower and toss well to coat. Arrange cauliflower in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring about halfway through.

Remove pan from oven. Immediately squeeze juice of half a lemon over top. Sprinkle with salt and parsley. Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

The grad with mom and dad

June 1, 1991

Sugar-free desserts

Sunday, June 5, 2016
"Better a witty fool than a foolish wit."
- Feste in Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Finding a sugar-free dessert that tastes delicious can sometimes feel like a fool's errand. I'm usually dubious about that kind of thing - I'd honestly rather eat an apple than a dessert that sacrifices flavour to make health claims.

That's why I was intrigued by Baking with Less Sugar, by Joanne Chang. If anyone could succeed, it would be the owner of Boston's Flour Bakery, who set the bar with her delicious baked goods in two previous cookbooks. There were so many great recipes, it was hard to choose where to start, but I picked a winner with this fruit-studded fool. It's sweetened with an apple juice concentrate reduction, and we didn't miss the sugar one bit. Low-fat it is not, but if you want to cut back on sugar without giving up flavour, it's a perfect way to start.

If this is fool's paradise, I want in.

Berry Cream Cheese Fool
Baking with Less Sugar, Joanne Chang

One 12 ounce can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp kosher salt
4 cups mixed berries

In a small saucepan, bring the apple juice concentrate to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the juice reduces to 3/4 cup. To check whether it's reduced enough, occasionally pour the juice into a measuring cup; if it it's more than 3/4 cup pour it back into the saucepan to simmer until sufficiently reduced. Remove from heat and cool in the fridge until cold to the touch.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the apple juice concentrate (discard the rest) for 2-3 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl occasionally to incorporate the cream cheese equally. Add creme fraiche and whip together to combine. Slowly drizzle in the cream and beat, still on medium speed, for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until the cream thickens and combines with the cream cheese mixture. Whisk in the vanilla and salt.

Fold the berries into the cream cheese mixture, shaving a few spoonfuls of berries to garnish the tops. Portion into bowls or glasses and top with a generous spoonful of berries. Serve immediately, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to two hours.