Asparagus Gratin

About 10 years ago I established an asparagus bed in my garden. Each year in late April through June I get a handful of asparagus out of the garden everyday. By the end of each week, I have 2-3 pounds in the refrigerator. Since the harvest time is so short, I freeze some for later, but we eat a lot of it while in season. Our standby is to drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with our favorite seasoning blends and carmelize it on the grill or in the oven.

This weekend, I decided I needed something with a bit more substance as the weather was unseasonably cold and my original plan of grilling was rained out. Having cream on hand, and dibs and dabs of cheese left from making homemade pizza few nights before, I pulled together this quick gratin at the last minute.

This is a great side with any roasted meat, or as a vegetarian main dish. Although it assembles in under 10 minutes, It can easily be made earlier in the day and stored covered and refrigerated until time to bake.

Ingredients

2 pounds Asparagus, trimmed
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1 cup blended Italian cheeses, such as Pecorino, Fontina, Mozzarella, Provolone, etc. (your preference)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Pour melted butter in the bottom of a 2.5 quart oval baking dish.
  3. Toss asparagus with lemon juice, and then add asparagus to baking dish. Add garlic slices, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients together so garlic and seasoning is evenly distributed. the butter will help these ingredients cling to the asparagus..
  4. Drizzle with heavy cream and sprinkle cheeses over the top.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until asparagus is tender and the cheese is melted.
  6. Set oven to broil and place dish under broiler. Broil 1-2 minutes, watching closely, until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven when desired browning is achieved.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Pop the flavor: add favorite herbs to this recipe, adding with the garlic, salt and pepper. Thyme, rosemary, sage, or parsely would all be good additions, individually or as blends.
  2. Turn up the heat: add red pepper flakes to taste.
  3. Explore cheese variations: Gruyere, Emmentaler, Gouda, or white Cheddar would work well in this recipe.
  4. Lower the calories and saturated fat: Use half and half in place of cream, choose low-fat versions of the cheeses, use avocado oil instead of butter.
  5. Keep warm: After broiling, remove gratin from oven and reduce heat to 250 degrees F. Gratin can be kept warm in a low-temp oven for up to 30 minutes, but some cooking of the asparagus will continue.

Smoked Cabbage with Siracha

There is a lovely person in my life who loves Siracha. Her love of siracha inspired me to try smoked cabbage with a little kick.

You can definitely add more siracha than I did here to ratchet it up even further. The smokey, buttery, garlic flavors are punctuated with some lively heat.

Ingredients

1 Head of Green Cabbage
4 - 6 Tablespoons of Butter, sliced into cubes while cold
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce or Tamari
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
3 Garlic cloves, minced
1/4 Cup Marsala Wine
1 - 3 Tablespoons of Siracha, to taste plus more for serving


Instructions

  1. Heat a smoker to 275-300 degrees.
  2. Core your cabbage with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut through the cabbage. Make a little well in the center. Reserve the core.
  3. Using a 18 inch length of aluminum foil, roll it up like tube and then shape it into a ring. This will help the cabbage balance while you prep it and on the grill
  4. Take another 18 inch lenght of aluminum foil, or one that will wrap the entire head of cabbage. Place the cabbage in the center and bring the foil up about 1/2 way. Initially, you will not wrap the whole head to allow the smoke to flavor the cabbage, and the extra juices to collect in the foil. Balance the wrapped cabbage on the foil ring.
  5. Fill the center well with cubed butter.
  6. Add garlic cloves and follow with the remaining ingredients.
  7. Insert reserved core to pack ingredients in.
  8. Place on smoker and smoke for 1.5 hours. Then close the foil to wrap the entire head and cook for another 1.5 to 2 hours.
  9. Remove from smoker and rest for 15 minutes.
  10. Slice cabbage and serve with reserved juices poured over and additional siracha on the side for those who love it.

Asparagus and Pine Nut Risotto

It’s a chilly Friday night, after a long week at work, some of it spent traveling. Spent my lunch hour shopping for a quick produce and dairy refresh before I do my real grocery shopping on the weekend. It’s starting to look like spring, but barely. Spring is for tender greens, sweet young peas, garlic shoots and asparagus. They haven’t poked their heads up in my high desert garden yet, but are making an appearance at seasonal pricing in all the grocery stores. Of course I had to grab two pounds asparagus. However, there is still snow on the ground and the evenings are still dropping below freezing point. How to warm the body, enjoy this seasonal treat, and get dinner quickly on the table after work? Risotto! A hot, steamy bowl of risotto. A simple one dish meal – creamy rice, toasted pinenuts and the delicacy of fresh steamed asparagus.

Ingredients

1 Pound Fresh Asparagus   
1 Shallot, Minced
4 Tablespoons, Butter, Melted
1 1/4 Cups Arborio Rice
1/2 Cup dry white wine
3 - 4 Cups of Chicken Stock
3/4 Cup Whipping Cream
1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/2 Cup Pinenuts, Toasted

Instructions

  1. Remove tough ends of the asparagus and cut into bite size pieces, and place in a small pan, cover with water.
  2. Mince the shallots and set aside.
  3. Mince the garlic and set aside.
  4. Grate parmesan and set aside.
  5. In a large skillet or deep sauce pan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
  6. Add Arborio Rice and stir to coat.
  7. Increase heat slightly and stir in white wine. Cook stirring constantly until liquid is mostly evaporated.
  8. Begin adding chicken stock, 1/2 a cup at a time. Cook stirring occassionally. As liquid from addition evaporates, add another 1/2 cup. Continue doing this until at least 3 cups of the broth has been absorbed by the rice, and rice is cooked to al dente, this takes about 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, bring asparagus to a boil for 2-3 minutes until tender but still crisp. Drain immediately and rinse with cool water to stop cooking action.
  10. Stir whipping cream, salt and pepper into the rice. Let whipping cream absorb into the rice. Here is where you can control the consistency of the rice. For looser rice, add additional chicken stock, for firmer rice, use less.
  11. Stir in Parmesan cheese and pinenuts. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Gently fold in steamed asparagus.
  13. Serve in shallow bowls topped with additional Parmesan as desired.