Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dinner Challenge #6

Delectable Dinner using

- Walnuts
- Asparagus
- Pasta
- Apples
- Olive oil
- Garlic
- Blueberries
- Yogurt

Interestingly I had just downloaded a new recipe from Orangette for roasted asparagus with a walnut crema sauce to try the day Steph's ingredient list was posted. So I felt like I was starting off ahead of the game with three of the key ingredients used. Next I did a search on Epicurious for a pasta using apples and blueberries. I found one using apples and garlic, so we went with that. Topping of the recipe search with a simple fruit salad using yogurt.

Keenan and I then headed out shopping, en route we invited the neighbors to join us for our 'challenge dinner'. We couldn't find any organic blueberries at the store, so we substituted strawberries. Otherwise we stuck with the original list. My only changes: I didn't make the chutney as we had fruit salad and I didn't add the crab meat. I also grilled the asparugus instead of roasting it.

Our neighbors Charlene and Josh come over to participate. Charlene helped in the kitchen and Josh kept Keenan entertained so I could cook. Overall we give all three recipes a thumbs up, we particularly loved the Walnut Crema.


Roasted Asparagus with Walnut Crema and Pecorino
Adapted from A16: Food + Wine

The original version of this recipe calls for Pecorino Tartufo, a sheep’s milk cheese with black truffle, but barring that, any aged pecorino works nicely. I used Pecorino Romano. The original recipe also calls for finishing the dish with some toasted walnuts, but I skipped that part. The walnut crema carried plenty of nut flavor for me, and I thought that anything more was overkill. Maybe I’m weird. Either way, I finished mine with a squeeze of lemon, and it was a nice counterbalance to the richness of the crema.

This recipe is intended to serve six, and even if you don’t need to feed that many, I would go ahead and make the full amount of crema. It will keep in the fridge for a few days, and you can roast the asparagus as needed. (One bunch is perfect for two people.) Also, Brandon has a hunch that leftover crema would make a terrific sauce for pasta, tossed with fresh garlic, lemon, and a little Italian parsley.

For walnut crema:
Kosher salt
1 ½ cups raw walnuts
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)

For asparagus:
3 bunches fat asparagus (about 30 spears, total)
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 block Pecorino Romano or Pecorino Tartufo
Lemon wedges, optional

To make the walnut crema, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the walnuts, and blanch for 8 to 10 minutes, or until tender in the middle. (I pulled mine out after 8 minutes, thinking that they seemed tender enough, but I should have left them for the full 10 minutes. My finished crema was slightly grainy, probably meaning that my walnuts weren’t soft enough.) Drain the walnuts, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Set aside separately.

In a small skillet, warm 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt, and sweat for about 7 minutes, or until golden brown and softened. Remove from the heat.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, the reserved cooking water, and the onion, and process until creamy. Taste for seasoning: it will probably need a decent amount of salt. With the motor running, slowly add ½ cup olive oil, processing until blended. The crema should have the consistency of a creamy hummus. If it seems too thick, add a little water. Taste again for seasoning, and then transfer to a bowl or other container. Cover, and hold at room temperature. (Crema can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for a few days. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Snap the tough ends from the asparagus spears. Rinse them, and then dry them well. Spread them in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets. Drizzle them lightly with olive oil, and roll them around, smearing the oil with your hands, to coat evenly. Season with kosher salt. Bake for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until blistered, slightly charred, and tender.

To serve, spoon the crema evenly across the bottom of a platter. Arrange the asparagus spears on top. Working quickly, while the asparagus is still hot, shave Pecorino generously over the platter. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, and serve immediately, with a squeeze of lemon, if you like.

Yield: 6 (first-course) servings

Thai Curry Penne with Ginger-Tomato Chutney
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 cup dry Marsala
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 teaspoons fish sauce*
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste*
1 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk*

1/2 pound penne pasta

1/2 pound crabmeat, flaked
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Ginger-Tomato Chutney

*Available at Asian markets and in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets.

Melt butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, apple and garlic; sauté until onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in curry powder. Add Marsala. Boil until liquid is slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add stock, fish sauce and curry paste. Simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add coconut milk. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender but still firm to bite. Drain well. Return pasta to pot.

Pour sauce over pasta. Stir in crabmeat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Sprinkle with basil. Serve with chutney.

Bon Appétit
March 1999

Fruit Salad - Julie & Charlene on the fly!

1 Pint Sliced Strawberries
2 Granny Smith Apples, cored, peeled and sliced
1 C. Plain yogurt

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