Week 2: May 8, 2013

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Emily’s notes:

When I tell folks I’ve brought five pounds of asparagus into my house each Wednesday for the past two weeks, they raise their eyebrows. It sounds like a lot, but those tender green stalks go fast in our house.

We eat most of them grilled. I sprinkle the juice of half a lemon, a good shake of olive oil, salt, pepper and maybe some garlic and crushed red pepper on about a pound of asparagus (washed, and with the ends trimmed). I mix everything together with tongs (or more likely, my hands), then put the seasoned stalks on a grill over medium-high heat (Use tongs here, not your fingers. Trust me on this.) You’ll want to watch them closely. The skinny stalks will cook faster than the fat ones, and I always remove those first, and they usually get eaten before anything hits the table. Turn them over as best you can without losing any through the grill grates, and take them off the grill after five to 10 minutes, or when they reach your preferred level of tenderness or char. To me, it’s hard to beat this preparation, and this is one of my favorite spring treats. (If it’s raining, you could do a similar preparation by just placing the seasoned stalks on a baking sheet and putting them in a 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Every time I oven-roast asparagus, I am reminded of how much more I like it on the grill. Add a sprinkle of parmesan before roasting to enhance the flavor.)

But if you want to go beyond grilling and roasting the whole stalks, try this recipe for creamy asparagus soup, from Simply Recipes, a site that I have always had good results with.

For another option, here is a recipe for a hearty grain and asparagus salad that would work great as a make-ahead to pack for work lunches, or for dinners on busy nights. This is a really flexible recipe that will work with many other vegetables, and leaves a lot of room for customization, depending on what’s in your kitchen.

Asparagus and bulgur salad

Asparagus bulgur salad from a previous season. I must have added carrots and red peppers to this one. It's flexible!

Asparagus bulgur salad from a previous season. I must have added carrots and red peppers to this one. It’s flexible!

Ingredients:

1 cup dry bulgur

1 cup boiling water

1 pound of asparagus, washed, ends trimmed and cut into one-inch lengths

2 spring onions (white and green parts), washed, cut in half lengthwise, and then cut cross-wise into one-inch lengths (If you don’t have spring onions, use one medium red onion, cut into wedges and then in half cross-wise.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

black pepper, to taste

juice of one lemon (and a bit of zest, if you like)

1/2 cup feta cheese (or more if you’re like me and live in constant fear of not having enough cheese)

handful chopped walnuts, toasted

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees while you’re chopping your veggies. Heat the water and pour it over the bulgur, along with a pinch of salt, and some lemon zest, if you like. Let this sit.

Arrange asparagus and onion pieces on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 10-12 minutes, until cooked and just starting to brown.

Check on the bulgur. Once it absorbs the water, toss it with the lemon juice. When the veggies are done, and still hot, toss them with the bulgur, along with the oil they cooked in. While the whole thing’s still hot, crumble in the feta. Enjoy hot, or pack up for office or school lunches.

Possible additional add-ins: Toasted walnuts, chickpeas, pesto sauce, cooked meat or fish, hard-boiled eggs, chopped fresh parsley or basil…you name it!

Asparagus season is also strawberry season, and this week’s box brings the first of these ruby jewels! I can’t imagine anyone needs help working their way through a quantity of ripe strawberries. Bake up your favorite pound cake or biscuit recipe, buy some good vanilla ice cream and whipped cream and you’ve got strawberry shortcake. Don’t forget that strawberries can also be great sliced over dinner salads (especially with goat cheese and walnuts).

Here’s a quick idea that would make a great accompaniment to a Mother’s Day brunch tray: Puree ripe strawberries and spoon the mixture into Champagne flutes. Top off with your favorite sparklink wine, and you’ve got fresh strawberry Bellinis. Cheers!

Cucumbers will bring an early dose of summer to our salads this week. We’ll get into more involved cucumber recipes later in the season, but if you’re looking for ideas, try grating cucumber into plain yogurt, along with some lemon juice and cumin for a quick sauce that resembles the Greek Tzatziki sauce. Some chopped chives or cilantro would also be good in here. For a simple sandwich, slice cucumbers thin and layer on toasted bread with cream cheese, salt and pepper. A little lemon zest would also perk this up.

Happy eating. This blog will publish occasional recipes during the week as I work my way through the box at home. See you at the farm!

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