Grilled lettuce and asparagus with feta cheese

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Probably the last asparagus of the season, as they are slowing disappearing from the supermarket shelves. So many recipes, so little time… Nevertheless,  I wish I had tried this one dish before. As easy as it seems, it is a very sophisticated plate of salad. And, these days, nothing seems as satisfying as the flavour of grilled asparagus, with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled liberally with salt… Happy moments in an ever so stressing last stretch before the summer break.

Grilled lettuce and asparagus with feta cheese (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • About 500g asparagus
  • 4 little gem lettuces
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Around 100g of feta cheese

Method

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and drop the spears into the boiling water. Blanch for a minute or two, until al dente. Remove from the fire and then drain. Let cool aside and pat with a tea towel until dry.

Meanwhile, cut the lettuces in half down the middle, leaving them joined at the root end. Add two tablespoons of olive oil, season generously and toss to coat, working the oil and seasoning into the lettuces a little with your hands.

Heat a ridged griddle pan or heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Add the lettuce halves cut-side down, cook for two minutes until golden brown and wilted on the base, then turn over and cook for a minute or two more. Remove from the pan and put on a serving dish.

Now add the asparagus to the frying pan and cook for about four minutes, turning occasionally, until tender and patched with brown. Put together with the lettuce.

Crumble the goat cheese and arrange over the grilled grennies. Sprinkle with a little more oil and serve at once. Serve while warm.

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Asparagus, red pepper and creamy goat cheese wheat salad

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To keep up with the asparagus season, an impromptu picnic by the lake presented itself as an ideal excuse to make this salad… An almost empty cupboard forced me to do a few wild tweaks to the original recipe, though. The feta cheese was replaced by soft goat cheese. Less salty, indeed, but it made the salad creamier with occasional bursts of flavour.  The quinoa was first replaced by barley (really bad idea) and then by wheat (much more successful). All, in all, it was a perfect dish for the a perfect summer day by the lake…

Grilled asparagus, red pepper, creamy got cheese and wheat salad  (adapted from the The 10 best asparagus recipes’ column on The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 250g wheat (Triticum turgidum)
  • 900g green asparagus
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, for drizzling
  • 200g roasted, marinated red bell peppers, drained and cut in to bite-size pieces
  • 200g soft goat cheese
  • 100g fresh coriander or flat-leaf parsley (reserve some leaves for garnishing)
  • Salt

For the dressing

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp roast cumin seeds, crushed with a mortar

Method

Rinse the wheat and prepare it according to the instructions in the packet.

To prepare the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Gently crush the cumin seeds with a pestle and add to the dressing.

Rinse and pat the asparagus dry and place on a plate. Drizzle olive oil over the asparagus and roll them until well coated. Season with salt. Arrange the asparagus in a hot griddle pan and cook, turning as needed, until nicely marked on all sides without being burned (it takes about 8 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine the quinoa, dressing, roasted peppers, cheese and  parsley in a large mixing bowl. Add the grilled asparagus and gently combine. Serve at room temperature.


Baked asparagus with a paprika and yogurt sauce

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Said it once: I don’t even like asparagus…  But, it just seems right to test the The 10 best asparagus recipes from The Guardian one by one. This one  is very easy, very tasty and very filling. Just the kind of stuff you want to eat over lunch with shredded chicken or a bit of rice, if you are feeling vegetarian. For the benefit of the bikini season, I have omitted the butter the original recipe called for. It is not as creamy, but still delicious.

Baked asparagus with a paprika and yogurt sauce  (recipe adapted from the The 10 best asparagus recipes’ column from The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 900g asparagus, trimmed (and scraped if using white asparagus)
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 300ml yoghurt
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 25g fresh breadcrumbs

 Method

Preheat the oven to 200 oC. Wash and drain the asparagus thoroughly. Simmer for 5 minutes in boiling water and drain. Pat dry with kitchen paper and arrange in a large, greased  oven proof dish.

In a small bowl, mix together thoroughly the sour cream or yoghurt, flour, egg yolk, salt, paprika and sugar. Pour this evenly over the asparagus. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and then dot with small knobs of the butter. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the top is golden.


Roasted new potatoes and asparagus with baked eggs

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Summer is apparently today, with a whooping 23 oC expected… And, oh praise the Lord!, it is a not a weekday! Before rushing to the lake, my favourite recipe for this season… Have already done it several times this “spring”-   not minor thing, considering I have a childhood trauma related to asparagus (swallowed hairpin, please ask my mother for details).

Roast new potatoes and asparagus with baked eggs (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s column in The Guardian)

Ingredients 

  • 600-700g new potatoes, cleaned and cut into small chunks
  • 5-6 whole garlic cloves, bashed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 400g asparagus
  • 4 eggs

Method

Heat the oven to 190 oC. Put the potatoes into a roasting dish with the garlic. Sprinkle over the oil, add plenty of salt and pepper, toss and roast for 30 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut the spears into 3-4cm lengths. When the potatoes are tender, add the spears, toss and roast for 15 minutes more, until the asparagus is tender.

Now create four little spaces among the veg for the eggs, arranging the potatoes and asparagus pieces into holes more or less stable. Working quickly, so everything stays hot, break an egg into each space, then return the dish to the oven for about four minutes, until the whites are set and the yolks still runny.

Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the eggs, serve.


Asparagus tart

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I found this dish by accident in Leite’s Culinaria. And it was just what I was looking for: asparagus are in season, a party was on the planning and if not edible, at least it was decorative. Truth to be said,it was a pretty good idea. It even passed the 11 year old test (minus asparagus).

Asparagus Tart Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 20 largish leaves), stems trimmed (optional) (I used 500g frozen spinach, prepared as in the packet instruction)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 pound phyllo, thawed according to package directions (used regular puff pastry, bought in the supermarket).
  • 1 3/4 cups grated Gruyere
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream (used soya cream)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Sea salt and finely ground black pepper

Method

1. To make the asparagus tart, preheat the oven to 175°C.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Plunge the spears into the water for just a moment to blanch it, then remove it and toss it into the ice water. Do the same with the spinach, if using.

3. Meanwhile, brush a 23cm square tart pan or a 36cm rectangular tart pan with a little melted butter and line it with a sheet of phyllo pastry, pressing the phyllo against the side of the pan and allowing the excess to hang over the edge of the pan. Brush the top of this sheet with more butter and top it with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat until all the phyllo is used. Trim the edges of the phyllo flush with the top of the tart pan. (Phyllo can me a nightmare to work with, and I was in a hurry. Just got some regular puff pastry from the supermarket, buttered the tart tray and put the sheet in).

4. Drain the asparagus and the spinach, if using, and pat them completely dry.

5. Setting the quiche:

If using spinach: Arrange a layer of spinach on the phyllo. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Add the Gruyere, a second layer of spinach, and season again. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered.

If not using spinach: Sprinkle the Gruyere over the phyllo. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a pitcher or bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered.

6. Bake the asparagus tart, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cover the center but not the edge of the pastry with the parchment or foil and continue to bake until the center of the tart is just set, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let the asparagus tart rest a few minutes before slicing. (I was not very precise with the paper foil, and the edges got slightly burn).