Tag Archives: spring

When Tart & Sweet Collide

It’s one of those days that our wood burner is too warm and the doors and windows are flung open to moderate the heat.  This is what happens when temperatures fluctuate 30 degrees in 12 hours.  But spring throws her curve balls with a great deal of dark humor.  The good news is that the farmers market is brimming with two definite signs that spring is indeed here: asparagus and rhubarb!  I have to hold myself back from purchasing more than I can use, swept away in  the enthusiasm of the moment.

Rhubarb is like a red version of the green celery. … They have thick fleshy edible stalks with a crispy structure resembling that of celery. Their leaves contain a very high level of oxalic acid and are therefore not only inedible, but poisonous. Rhubarbs are often confused with being a fruit because of their sour, tart taste.  But rhubarb is actually a vegetable.  No matter.  Typically Val and I are not sweet or desert eaters; but rhubarb is clearly an exception.  Spring rhubarb with its combination of sweet and tart is just the kind of desert I go crazy over.

Rhubarb is one vegetable that not only freezes beautifully, but will allow you to stock up when the stalks are at their very best.  To freeze, simply cut the stalks in 2 inch lengths, place on a sheet pan and  freeze individually in a single layer; then vacuum seal them in two pound increments until ready to use in tarts, crumbles, pies or in this case a light and delicious version that doesn’t hide its tartness or try to cover it up.

ROASTED RHUBARB WITH MAPLE YOGURT & PISTACHIOS 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pounds fresh rhubarb (look for the read varieties, with crisp red stalks), cut on the diagonal in 2 inch lengths
  • 1/2 cup turbinado (light brown cane sugar)
  • 1/2 cup crisp white wine (I use Pine Ridge  Chenin Blanc & Viognier)
  • 1 vanilla bean split or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 16 ounce container Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons organic maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons raw pistachios

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Set a rack in the lower third of the oven, and reheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put the rhubarb in a Dutch oven or other deep oven-safe pot.  Add the sugar, wine, and vanilla bean or extract, and stir to combine.  Bake uncovered for about 30-40 minutes, or until very tender, giving the pot a gentle stir about midway throught to ensure that the rhubarb cooks evenly.  Let cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, while the rhubarb is roasting, prepare the yogurt.  Whisk together the yogurt with the maple syrup.  Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
  4. In shallow bowls, spoon 1/2 cup of maple yogurt, then top with 4-6 pieces of rhubarb.  Spoon sauce over and around rhubarb and yogurt allowing for distinction for all ingredients.  Top with a few pistachios.

Serves 4-6

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“In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” 

Mark Twain

Cream Of The Crop

Spring seems to be dragging its feet around here.  One day it’s warm, the next day it’s cool, while the night’s plunge into the low 40’s and occasionally the 30’s.  It looks like our tomato planting is put off another week. Those 2600 little darlings will just have to wait it out in the hoop house until the night temperatures warm up.

The good news is that the rain and warm daytime temperatures are wonderful for glorious spring asparagus!  Do I see a pattern here?  Wasn’t I just making a pronouncement last week that it’s one of the few vegetables I will only use fresh?  Well, that was last week.  We bought 10 pounds to put up, taking full advantage of fresh Michigan asparagus while it’s plentiful now; and boy is it ever!  Nearly every stall at the farmer’s market is overflowing with the stuff.  I know that we will be reminded of our favorite veggie in this wonderful cream soup long after the season is over.

There are many approaches to asparagus soup, but typically the essentials involve asparagus, onions or leeks and chicken stock.  With spring leeks available, that choice was a no-brainer.  However the addition of garlic, fresh spring tarragon and vermouth kick it up a notch.  And of course there’s the cream.  Honestly, it’s decadence is worth the calories!

Cream of Asparagus Soup:

  • 2 lbs. fresh asparagus
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 small leeks, using white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Snap off the tough stem ends from the asparagus spears.  Cut the tips off a dozen or so and set aside for garnish. Chop the remaining asparagus into 1 inch pieces.

In a small saucepan, blanch the asparagus tips for 2 minutes, then plunge into ice water.  Let drain on paper towels.  Reserve for later.

In a heavy soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the leeks and garlic and saute until tender and translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

Fragrant leeks and garlic

Fragrant leeks and garlic

Getting better all the time

Getting better all the time

Add the asparagus and 4 cups of chicken stock.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the chopped tarragon.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth, about 2 minutes. Alternately, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender, then return to the pot.  Add lemon juice and heavy cream.  Reheat the soup to serving temperature.  Ladle in shallow bowls and garnish with reserved asparagus tips.

Tip:  This soup is also great cold, so pack it for your next lunch if you’re luck enough to have leftovers.

Serves: 4

Spring never tasted so decadent.

Spring never tasted so decadent.

“Worries go down better with soup.”