Asparagus with Citrus and Oregano

asparagusCombining three colors of asparagus makes an interesting and appetizing display and the citrus adds a lovely bit of color. The purple asparagus will turn green with cooking, but it will be darker, richer green than the green asparagus, which take a on a bright, vivid hue with cooking. Microwaving the asparagus helps retain their bright colors and ensures crisp texture. However, if you like them cooked a bit more, you could steam them, covered, in the olive oil-water-citrus peel mixture. Use a bit more water than the microwaving calls for. For the citrus topping, you can substitute clementines or sweet Meyer lemons for the navel oranges or use a combination. Combine all the juices when making the sauce.

2 oranges, preferably navel
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 t fresh lemon juice
1/8 t hot pepper flakes
½ t dried oregano or 1 t minced fresh oregano
2 scallions, finely chopped or 2 t minced chives
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
16 stalks asparagus, green, purple or white or a mixture (about 1 lb.)

Zest oranges; set zest aside. Slice off the ends of each orange. Working with one orange at a time, set an orange on end; with a small knife, slice off and discard the peel and the white pith. Holding the orange in your hand, use a knife to cut the orange segments away from their membranes. Place segments (supremes) in a bowl and set aside. Over a separate bowl, squeeze the remaining orange pulp to extract any remaining juice. Repeat with second orange. Whisk 4 t oil, lemon juice, oregano, and scallions into orange juice and season with salt and pepper; set dressing aside.

Prepare asparagus: Bend each stalk to snap at its tender part; reserve lower half for another use. Line up all spears and trim so they are reasonably similar in length. Transfer asparagus to a 9″ x 13″ microwavable baking dish. Sprinkle asparagus with half the reserved orange zest and drizzle with remaining oil and 1/4 cup water. Cover pan loosely with plastic wrap and microwave on high heat for 2 minutes. Rotate dish and microwave until asparagus is just tender, about 2 minutes more. Toss asparagus with reserved citrus dressing and season with salt. Top with orange segments and remaining zest. Serve immediately or at room temperature.


Festive Kebabs

These sweet little kebabs get their flavor from the rub and a kick from the herb-laced sauce, a tradition in Argentina where it’s served on steak.  Make the sauce in the morning so flavors have a chance to blend before your guests arrive. The meat will hold its flavor even if served at room temperature. Danielle demoed this at our holiday program at Brookside Gardens December 6, 2013. Read More


Grilled Eggplant with Red Pepper Relish

eggplant with roasted red peppers

This recipe will convert eggplant doubters into fans. Don’t overcook the eggplant – it should be grilled until done all the way through and pulled quickly before it begins to fall apart. And if you don’t want to grill, eggplant rounds can be oven-roasted. The relish, which can be made ahead of time to speed preparation of this dish,  really underscores the flavors inherent in the eggplant – the sweetness and nuttiness – while pleasing the palate of the steak lover.  I know this one is a winner because husband Joel – never a fan of eggplant – went for seconds.  This recipe comes from Fine Cooking, with modifications from us.

For the relish:

1 T dried currants
½ T red-wine vinegar
½ T balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
Coarse salt
1 large roasted bell pepper, plus juice from pepper
2 T pine nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1½ T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T chopped fresh oregano
Pinch cayenne; more to taste
3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

For the eggplant:

1 large globe eggplant (about 1 lb.), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 T extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
Coarse salt

Make the relish:

Combine the currants and both vinegars in a small bowl. Mash garlic and salt into a paste. Cut roasted  pepper into very small dice and put in a medium bowl. Add 1-2 T juice from the pepper. Add the currants and vinegar, garlic paste, pine nuts, olive oil, marjoram, and cayenne and stir. Season to taste with salt and cayenne.

Grill the eggplant:

Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire or use a grill pan, set at medium-high. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt. Grill until golden-brown grill marks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the eggplant and grill until tender and well marked on the second sides, 3 to 4 minutes more. The interior should be grayish and soft rather than white and hard. When ready to serve, stir the relish again and spoon it over the grilled eggplant, or serve it on the side. Garnish with parsley, if using.


Greek Platter with Fresh Herbs

naxos-harbor

Imagine yourself on a Greek island – Naxos, let’s say – in a tiny white-washed house with Cerulean blue shutters that overlooks the Aegean Sea.  Below your terrace, orange, yellow and cyan fishing boats bob in the small harbor and every few hours, a ferry bellows in on a plume of funnel smoke.  The great boat bellies up to port and expels small cars and trucks and people by the score, scurrying like ants toward the village fortifications, before raising anchor and ponderously exiting westward.  It’s late May and the sun on your tiled veranda is warm and brilliant. In the kitchen, beads of condensation sparkle on the carafe of pink wine that awaits you.  It’s time to eat.  This is what you are going to prepare.tomatoes Read More