...increased asparagus photo-taking opportunities!
I don't know what it is about those spindly fronds with their layered, tapering points that makes me so camera-wieldy. Or perhaps that's exactly why. That said, things aren't exactly the springtime wonderland yet. Asparagus is still expensive. Rather than being nauseatingly rapturous about the changing of the seasons like I had anticipated, I frugally but committedly bought one small bunch. I did manage to make that small bunch go quite far over lunch on Sunday, via a one-two high kick of recipes from a favourite magazine of mine, Fine Cooking.
This salad uses shavings of asparagus to make a crisply raw salad. While I can't deny that scraping off strips of this particular vegetable with a potato peeler is not a job without its frustrations, the light leafiness of it all makes it more or less worth it, with the asparagus showing off its grassy-fresh flavour unfiltered by any cooking process.
I altered this recipe a bit, for example I didn't have the cheese specified - didn't have any cheese in fact, because of its fist-shakingly high prices - so I just left it out and upped the nut quotient instead. Either follow Fine Cooking's original recipe or my adaptation below.
Shaved Asparagus Salad (feel free to change the title too if you think it has unappetisingly hairy connotations for the asparagus)
1 tablespoon rice or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk altogether in a bowl that can hold all the salad and increase quantities of something to taste.
As much asparagus as you like - maybe around five spears per person for a side.
As much rocket or fancy lettuce as you like - around a cupped handful per person is good.
1/2 cup toasted nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts or macadamias.
Remove the tips and ends of the asparagus spears, discard the ends and throw the tips them in with the dressing. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove thin strips of asparagus from each spear, until you can't do any further, at which point just chop it finely lengthways. If you aren't up to peeling, you could just chop the whole lot up finely lengthways. Add to the bowl of dressing along with the leaves, then divide between plates and sprinkle over the nuts.
Despite the fiddly chopping it really is a simple recipe and delicious too, with the lively astringence of the dressing making nice with the toasty almonds that I used here.
What I made while the salad sat around, allowing the dressing to penetrate its pores, was this Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce. I don't have the mental energy to retype the recipe here so you might as well follow the link, especially since Fine Cooking did such a good job of it in the first place, and I didn't really deviate (apart from to leave out the anchovy paste and mascarpone and replace them with truffle paste and sour cream, and also to fold the wonton wrappers in half instead of sandwiching two together, and I didn't have any parmesan. And I just roughly chopped up the asparagus instead of blending it) (Oh, okay. But still.)
Whoever thought up using wonton wrappers to make ravioli deserves a hug and an autographed photo from their top three favourite celebrities, because it's an absolutely genius plan. A neat stack of ready-made squares, ready to be filled, which magically stick to each other and cook quickly in the boiling water to the extent that even I, the gnocchi-ruiner, can feel confident and calm about them. Yes, gnocchi-ruiner. If this hyphenated phrase intrigues you, then you might like to read the scoop on kitchen disasters and how to cover your tracks, which I wrote for 3news.co.nz.
Once each folded parcel has been quickly boiled up, the wrappers become meltingly silky-soft, their thin surface only barely containing the grassy-green interior. A triumphant combination of textures and flavours, this is rich but light, soft but crunchy, filled with asparagus but dripping with nutty, heat-darkened butter (as was my face after eating these, they're a bit floppy and ridiculous to wrangle with a fork but I can't see a better option.)
People of the internet reading this blog right now, I'd like to introduce to you...Tim's and my new pet goldfish, Snacks!
Snacks is calm and sure of hoof, with glinting fins that range from charcoal black to burnished golden. Snacks was donated to us by a person that Tim works with who had a slightly larger abundance of goldfish than was necessary. Snacks is also, not being overly sentient, really difficult to photograph so don't mind the blurriness here please.
We were also able to drive out to this person's house in the suburbs to pick up Snacks, now that Tim (a) has his restricted license and (b) is handily ute-sitting his dad's vehicle while he's overseas. It's so much fun driving round with Tim, and opens up a whole new world of what I call "car humour", that I'd never known before. For example, a really terrible, boring, slow adult contemporary-type song comes on the radio station. Turn it up loud in the middle of Tim's sentence, make air drums just before the (slow) chorus and yell "Sing it Tim", point an imaginary microphone at his face (keeping a respectful distance so he can concentrate on the road, of course) and if he does start to sing, interrupt him by yelling "this is such the song of our generation" or if it's a particularly slow, mid-verse bit of the song: "I love this bit!". Car humour.
Title via: That initially flopsome musical Chicago, which starred the magnificent and late Jerry Orbach (yes, the dad from Dirty Dancing and the old guy from Law and Order) and its song Razzle Dazzle. While the footage I've linked to is incredible, please also watch his hoofer peer, Cabaret and Wicked's Joel Grey (who, get this, is the literal father of Jennifer Grey who played Baby in Dirty Dancing) singing Razzle Dazzle with the muppets. Okay did you also know that Michael C Hall, aka TV's Dexter, also played Billy Flynn on Broadway? With awesomeness? So did Chuck Cooper but sadly for us all, but maybe luckily for the succinctness of this paragraph, there's no footage of that surfaced yet.
Is not Biology by Girls Aloud one of the most amazing and weirdest songs ever by which all other songs should aspire to? When you think about it? And if that isn't, then what about the Sugababes Freak Like Me mashup of Adina Howard and shiny boy Gary Numan? Which I'm either listening to or I'm not, by which I mean once I start it I have to repeat it about 12 times, I can't just let it pass me by once.
Next time: While asparagus is still pricey, rhubarb's become cheap as, so I bought up large on it over the weekend to put it all in a large cake (well that's my thinking so far) however I also found this super cool and also blisteringly hot chili sauce recipe that I liked the look of. Could go either way.
Also: I went to a Social Cooking class on Sunday and talked to the lovely Chef Philippe Clergue, which I'll be writing up and likely publishing on my next blog.
Oh, and: I've been editing a new HungryandFrozen tutorial video for you! Will upload it to YouTube tonight which will take approximately six weeks and all our bandwidth, once that's done I'll let you know about it.