White Asparagus Soup with Butter Poached Lobster Tails

Did you know that asparagus has been used as a vegetable and as an ancient medicine, due to to its distinct flavor, and in medicine due to its diuretic properties and its purported function as an aphrodisiac. It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 BC. In ancient times, it was also known in Syria and in Spain. Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season, and dried the vegetable for use in winter. Roman Epicureans froze its sprouts high in the Alps for the Feast of Epicurus. Emperor Augustus created the “Asparagus Fleet” for hauling the vegetable, and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action.

By 1469, asparagus was cultivated in French monasteries. Asparagus appears to have been little noticed in England until 1538, and in Germany until 1542. 

Asparagus was brought to North America by European settlers at least as early as 1655. Adriaen van der Donck, a Dutch immigrant to New Netherland, mentions asparagus in his description of Dutch farming practices in the New World. Asparagus was grown by British immigrants as well; in 1685, one of William Penn’s advertisements for Pennsylvania included asparagus in a long list of crops that grew well in the American climate. sparagus became widely available in America during Colonial times, and was a particular favorite of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson enjoyed  asparagus while he was Minister to France. Given how much asparagus grew in his gardens at Monticello, he often served it for dinner to his guests at his Virginia plantation.

White asparagus is so loved in Europe that its fleeting appearance in the spring from, April to early June, is a cause for celebration and rushing to the farmers market or grocery store to make sure you get a few bunches before they are gone.

I discovered a bunch of white asparagus in my freezer. I had purchased them early in the spring at a farmers market. Not wanting them to go to waste, I blanched them and froze them, thinking I would use them soon…..

When white asparagus is out of season or not readily available, you can also used canned white asparagus or white asparagus that have been commercially prepared and packed in a jar. For the most part  asparagus prepared this way has been  pickled and can be stored for several years. Some brands label shoots prepared in this way as “marinated”. You can also purchase marinated  white asparagus on line from gourmet specialty food shops like EuropeanDeli.com, which sells LANDSBERG WHITE ASPARAGUS . Personally, I like to use the Roland Brand of White Asparagus Spears. The asparagus is packed in an 11.6 oz tall glass jar. They are carefully chosen to ensure a smooth texture, but remaining firm to the bite and touch. Their color is slightly off-white, almost ivory in color. They make a delicious salad appetizer with a light vinaigrette. Use in quiche or alone as a side dish. Traditionally prized in French or German cuisine, white asparagus is now used in many vegetable, salad and seafood dishes.

But what is the difference between white and the more common green asparagus?

Compared to green asparagus, the locally cultivated so-called “white gold” or “edible ivory” asparagus, also referred to as “the royal vegetable” .White asparagus has a milder flavor, is more tender and is grown underground. As a result of applying a blanching technique while the asparagus shoots are growing  underground, the shoots are cultivated by  being covered with soil as they grow, i.e. “earthed up”.

Since white asparagus does not get any light,  photosynthesis cannot take place and the shoots do not produce chlorophyll, hence the unusual color .The apical meristem does not fully develop, leaving the appearance to be short and sometimes stumpy.

Only seasonally on the menu, asparagus dishes are advertised outside many restaurants, usually from late April to June.  Freshness is very important, and the lower ends of white asparagus must be peeled before cooking or raw consumption. For the French style, asparagus is often boiled or steamed and served with Hollandaise sauce, White sauce, melted butter or most recently with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Tall, narrow asparagus cooking pots allow the shoots to be steamed gently, their tips staying out of the water.

In Southern Germany, entire menus are dedicated to this springtime spear. During the German Spargelsaison or Spargelzeit (“asparagus season” or “asparagus time”). Schwetzingen , Germany claims to be the “Asparagus Capital of the World”, and during its festival, an Asparagus Queen is crowned. The Bavarian city of Nuremberg feasts a week long in April, with a competition to find the fastest asparagus peeler in the region; this usually involves generous amounts of the local wines and beers being consumed to aid the spectators’ appreciative support.

In Germany, roadside stands and open-air markets sell about half of the country’s white asparagus consumption. The asparagus season in Germany traditionally ends on the 24th of June.

An interesting way to use this treasured vegetable is in white asparagus soup or spargelsuppe in German. This soup highlights the delicate nature of the white flesh and is a great way to start any meal. In this version of spargelsuppe, the soup is made from puréed white asparagus and broth with some cream added.

To make the soup more interesting and suitable for serving as a special occasion meal, butter poached lobster tails was added to the dish.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
For the Parsley Oil:
1 bunch of fresh Italian Flat Leaf Italian Parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Asparagus Soup:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup vegetable broth
4 to 6 white asparagus
Salt, to taste
Ground white pepper, to taste
A splash of white wine

For the Lobster Tails:
2 uncooked lobster tails
2 tablespoons water
1 stick salted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces

For Garnish:
Blanched green asparagus spears
Watercress
Zest of 1 lemon

Directions:
For the Parsley Oil:
Blanch the parsley, stems intact, for 10 seconds. Drain and cool under cold water and dry on paper towels. Place in a blender along with 1 cup of the olive oil and blend completely.

Place a chinois over a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup. Pour the paste into the chinois. Using a spatula, press firmly on the paste to release the oil. Alternatively, you can arrange a coffee filter over another glass jar Secure the filter over the jar with a rubber band and use a ladle to carefully pour the parsley oil into the filter. Just know that the draining will take 24 to 48 hours. Pour the oil into a clean sterilized jar and cover tightly and set aside until ready for use.

Note: The parsley oil can then be used in a vinaigrette, in cold soup or to garnish chicken or fish. It will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week.

 

For the Asparagus Soup:
Trim about 1⁄2” from the woody ends of the asparagus. Lay spears on a work surface, then peel thin skin from each with a sharp swivel-blade vegetable peeler, starting 1 1⁄2” from the top and running the length of the spear. Spears are brittle and can snap when peeled in midair. Cut the asparagus into slices.

Heat a a medium saucepan over medium low heat; add the butter. Add the asparagus and gently sauté them in butter. Stir in the broth and the cream, increase the heat to a gentle boil and cook for 5 minutes or until the asparagus is completely fork tender. Season with salt and white pepper.

Puree the soup in batches in the blender. Place a clean kitchen towel over the lid and hold down the lid, so the hot soup does not splatter, and return the soup to the pan. Alternatively, you can use an immersion hand blender and puree the soup directly in the pan.

Add a few dashes of white wine if you think the soup needs acidity. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and white ground pepper, if needed. Cover and keep the soup warm.

For the Lobster:
Use sharp kitchen shears to cut shell of lobster all the way down its back. Turn over and cut bottom shell all the way down. Peel off shell and remove the tail meat.

In a sauce pan, bring 1 tablespoon of water to simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in 1 piece of butter. When butter has melted, add another piece. Continue with remaining butter pieces, one at a time. Make sure the mixture does NOT come to a boil, otherwise the butter will separate.

Keeping the heat on medium-low, add the lobster pieces and cook for 5 minutes, turning the lobster pieces every minute or so. Make sure mixture does not boil. Remove lobster from the poaching butter and set aside.

To serve, ladle soup into warmed bowls. Arrange three asparagus spears in the soup. Lay the lobster tail on top of the asparagus spears. Add a few drops of parsley oil. Garnish with spicy cress and lemon zest, if desired.

 

Cook’s Notes:
You can use fresh chives as a substitution for the parsley in making the oil, if desired.

 

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Pork Tonkatsu with Ponzu Cherry Compote

 

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Tonkatsu is one of the most beloved “western style” Japanese foods in Japan. A pork cutlet is dredged in flour, egg, panko and then fried. “Ton” is Japanese for pork, and “katsu” is derived from the word for cutlet. The best thing about tonkatsu is that it’s super easy to make.

The highlight of this dish is the ponzu flavored cherry compote. Ponzu (ポン酢?) is a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is tart, with a thin, watery consistency and a dark brown color. Ponzushōyu or ponzu jōyu (ポン酢醤油) is ponzu sauce with soy sauce (shōyu) added, and the mixed product is widely referred to as simply ponzu.The element pon arrived in the Japanese language from the English word punchSu () is Japanese for vinegar, and hence the name literally means vinegar punch.

To make the dish even more Asian in flavor, mizuna would have been used in the salad.
Mizuna (ミズナ(水菜)which loosely translated into English as  “water greens” is also known as , shui cai, kyona, Japanese mustard, potherb mustard, Japanese greens, California peppergrass, or spider mustard is a cultivatedvariety of Brassica rapa nipposinica. The name is also used for Brassica juncea var. japonica. The taste of mizuna has been described as a “piquant, mild peppery flavor…slightly spicy, but less so than arugula. A vigorous grower producing numerous stalks bearing dark green, deeply cut and fringed leaves. They have a fresh, crisp taste and can be used on their own or cooked with meat. I Japanese cuisine, you will find them pickled. Highly resistant to cold and grown extensively during the winter months in Japan.

This dish is easy to make and takes less than thirty minutes to complete, from start to finish. The finish plate for each serving is a pork cutlet topped laying on a bed of dressed arugula and  with a cherry compote and a sprinkling of lemon zest.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup fresh  dark cherries*
2 cloves garlic
1  package of fresh argula
4 pork cutlets
2 Tablespoons ponzu sauce
3 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground Black pepper, to taste
1 Teaspoons mustard powder
1 cup  Japanese panko bread crumbs
1 egg
Zest of 1 lemon

Directions:
Wash produce. Roughly chop cherries, discarding pits. Peel and mince garlic. Place the pork between to sheets of plastic wrap; using a meat mallet, rolling pin or small heavy pan, pound to about an  ½ inch thickness. Remove pork from the plastic and  pat dry with a paper towel.

Prepare Ingredients:

 

To make the cherry ponzu compote: In a small bowl, combine the honey and ponzu sauce. Add  the cherries and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Set aside.

 

To bread the pork: In a large shallow bowl, combine flour, salt, and pepper. In a second large shallow bowl, whisk together the egg with mustard powder. In a third large shallow bowl, add panko bread crumbs. Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Add to flour, turn to coat, then shake off excess. Add to egg, turn to coat, then allow excess to drip off. Add to panko bread crumbs, pressing to adhere.

Bread Pork:

 

 

 

To cook the tonkatsu: Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add pork and cook until browned on outside, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from pan and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.

Cook Pork Tonkatsu:

 

While pork cooks, in a large bowl, combine  garlic, and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the arugula and toss to coat.

 

To serve, divide the  pork tonkatsu and salad evenly between plates. Spoon the ponzu cherry compote over pork; garnish with the lemon zest  and serve.

Enjoy!

Cook’s Notes:
If fresh cherries are not available, frozen dark cherries can be used in this recipe. Just be sure to thaw and drain any excess water before using.

Canned cherries can also be used, just omit the honey, if the cherries are packed in a heavy syrup or glaze

TODAY.com Parenting Team FC Contributor


Shaved Asparagus Salad With Limoncello Vinaigrette

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I love spring time produce and there is nothing more perfect than long green stalks of asparagus for a really quick meal.

What is trending in the food world right now is shaved vegetables eaten raw, like carrots, Brussel sprouts, and asparagus. And the best thing about shaved vegetables, you can eat them raw, making them the perfect ingredient for light salads that can be served for lunch and/or dinner.

In this recipe, a Limoncello vinaigrette is called for as a dressing for the salad. However, you can just use freshly squeezed lemon juice tossed with the shave asparagus for a truly paleo gluten-free salad.

Enjoy!

Serves 4

Ingredients:
One pound large asparagus spears, washed, trimmed and peeled

For the Vinaigrette:
1⁄4 cup limoncello
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dijon-style mustard
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste

Blood orange zest, for garnish
Lemon zest, for garnish

Directions:
Working with 1 asparagus spear at a time, use a vegetable peeler to shave spears into long, thin shavings. Transfer to a medium bowl. The the tips will snap off as spears get thinner, so add them to the bowl as well.

Whisk the limoncello, lemon juice, zest and mustard in a small bowl.Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt.

Drizzle vinaigrette over shaved asparagus and toss to coat. Divide asparagus salad among plates. Sprinkle orange an lemon zest over the salad and serve immediately.