I was a very lucky guest at a knock-you-down-scrumptious dinner party last weekend. Good food was contributed and enjoyed by all, along with a certain amount of liquid refreshment. I had a great time, and I also enjoyed making an appetizer. All the parts are so pretty, and the result is so tasty – I can’t be selfish. Here’s how you do it.
Roasted Asparagus Crostini
2 bunches of pencil thin asparagus
3 cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
2 dozen crostini, or 1 large baguette, sliced
cheese for garnish
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash the asparagus, remove the tough ends, and snap them into thirds (about 2″ lengths). Crush the garlic and toss with the asparagus, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on baking sheets and roast for 6-8 minutes (I usually do this in two batches, but if your oven is large they can all go in at once). Take the sheets out and toss the asparagus to turn them. Roast for another 3-4 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green and tender, and the tips are a little bit brown (which gives them that magical nutty flavor, and a tiny bit of crunch). Toss the roasted asparagus in a large bowl with the lemon juice and toasted almonds.
If you’re using a fresh baguette, toast (or if you’re really ambitious, grill) the slices before arranging them in a single layer on a serving dish or cutting board. Pour off a little bit of the juice from the bowl of asparagus, and brush it onto the crostini. Then layer small bunches of asparagus onto each slice, and garnish with a curl of your favorite cheese (I used Cypress Grove Midnight Moon, because it’s the cheese of the gods. True story.)
Crunchy, nutty, and green. Delicious.
A few years ago, a friend introduced me to a great food blog called Orangette. It’s become a favorite of mine for charming writing, and diverse and pleasing foods. It’s also how I discovered Etsy, so I owe Ms. Orangette a huge debt of thanks for changing my life. But this post is not about Etsy. It’s about pickled red onions, which are just as wonderful.
I’m a pickle fanatic. Dill, bread and butter, beans, beets, peaches, you name it – I’m a fan. I’d wanted to try Molly’s recipe for a long time, but have always been daunted by the number of steps involved. (You can find the recipe on Molly’s lovely blog here.) Last weekend, I finally bought a big bag of organic red onions and rolled up my sleeves, and the results were amazing. The project suffered an early setback when I knocked over a full jar of black peppercorns. Did you know that when you vacuum black peppercorns off of a hard floor, the vacuum will act as a grinder and spray chewed-up bits of pepper at you? You didn’t? Well, now you do. You’re welcome! I do it all for science (and a pepper-perfumed apartment). Fortunately, I’d already measured out the 20 peppercorns I needed for the brine, so Project Pickle went ahead after a brief cleaning detour.
The recipe is easy, but it really does take forever. The three blanchings are necessary to get the right flavor and still keep the onions crisp, but next time I may try increasing the amount of brine by half and doing the blanchings in a single batch, instead of three batches per blanching. I love a great pickle, but I also love my time. All the steps are very simple, though, and these are basically mistake-proof. The pickles are a heavenly bright pink, sweet and spicy and crisp. They also have absolutely no salt in them, which is a huge plus. Mostly, I’m just eating them cold, straight out of the jar, but I have it on good authority that they’re also tasty in a roast beef sandwich. I’ve replaced the jar of peppercorns, and I’ll definitely be making more when this batch is gone. Yum!
I spent the better part of the day yesterday engaged in a labor of love that resulted, eventually, in a Pear Gruyere Pie. The recipe doesn’t belong to me, so it’s not posted here, but I’ve linked to it if you want to try it. The lovely and pie-centric Pushing Daisies aired its final episode two weeks ago, and Shana and I decided to save it until we had time to bake pies and celebrate/mourn properly. Yesterday was the day, so I made my pie and Shana made a sensational cherry pie and homemade vanilla ice cream. We had a simple dinner of cheese, bread and grapes, accompanied by a strictly necessary quantity of wine, and feasted ourselves on pieapalooza and grief as only true TV fans can do.
The weather in Chicago this week is pie-unfriendly, so I had the air conditioner on high and a couple of times I had to throw the dough in the freezer while I was working to keep it from absorbing too much moisture. There were a few places where the crust was too thick and didn’t quite crisp all the way through, and the filling could use some extra pow; next time I make it I think I’ll try adding some citrus to the poaching syrup. Still, all things considered, I think my pear pie turned out beautifully and I’m going to enjoy having both pear and cherry leftovers this week.
Au revoir, Pieman. Goodbye, Chuck and Olive. Kisses to Digby and Pigby and Aunts Lily and Vivian (I bought an eyepatch because of you). Emerson Cod, I hope to see you around. I’ll miss you.