Asparagus Salad

Admittedly, asparagus isn't a favorite. However, thinly shaved and tossed with a honey vinegar dressing, I think asparagus and I could be friends.  This pencil-like vegetable is best in the spring and sourced from your farmer. The mizuna is a hearty green that can be eaten raw or cooked. It just adds some extra bulk to the asparagus.  Pick your favorite fresh herb, chop and sprinkle along with some cheese.

Shaved Asparagus Salad

Serves: 2
Adapted from Food52

1/2 bunch asparagus
1/2 cup loosely packed mizuna or arugula
1/2 teaspoon chopped lemon verbena or mint
1 teaspoon Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, thinly grated

Use a vegetable peeler to thinly shave the asparagus lengthwise to create strips.

Whisk together vinegar, honey, and olive oil. Toss with the lettuce and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Grate the cheese on top. Sprinkle the lemon verbena or mint as the final touch on the salad.

Strawberry Jam + Chiles

What to do with two gallons of strawberries? 

This is a redux recipe from last year.  I've been looking forward to making this strawberry jam again because there is nothing quite like fresh, ripe strawberries fresh off the vine.  This version of jam uses two kinds of sugar with the addition of a few whole black peppercorns for an extra kick.  No special canning required as this jam doesn't last very long in the refrigerator due to it's popularity.

Strawberry Jam with Chiles
adapted from Food52
yield: 2 to 2 1/2 cups

2 pounds sweet, ripe strawberries, hulled and halved (or quartered if large)
2 New Mexico chiles (or more) to taste
4 whole black peppercorns, optional
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup raw (demerara) sugar
Juice of 1/4 lemon

Place the strawberries in a heavy, medium-size pot. Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles (no soaking is required) and discard. Roughly chop the remaining dried chile flesh, and add it to the strawberries. Add the sugars and black peppercorns (if using).

Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil -- as the fruit begins to juice, the sugar will melt. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer and cook for about 1 hour. Gently stir every 10 minutes. Taste it every now and then to make sure there's enough chile heat and flavor.

As the jam cooks, use a spoon to lift off any scum that rises to the surface. The jam is ready when the strawberries are shrunken and lightly candied, and the syrup has slightly thickened.  Stir in the lemon juice and remove the pot from the heat.

Serve on toast, scones, ice cream, cakes or biscuits. Refrigerate any leftover jam.  Smile...you just made jam.

Three Onion Chowder

This chowder involves quite a bit of chopping: onions, leeks, garlic, shallot, celery, chives, and potatoes.  To save myself some time, I bought celery from the Whole Foods salad bar; when a recipe calls for so little, I never seem to find a solution to use up the left-over celery.  Another time saver is the Trader Joe's four ounce packages of cubed pancetta - I keep it in the freezer and throw the cubes into the pan without thawing.  Once all ingredients were chopped and ready to go into the pot, time flew by -- including the 30 minute waiting time with the heat turned off, the chowder took under an hour to make.  

Three Onion Chowder
serves 4-6 people adapted from Food52 

1 tablespoon butter
3 ounces pancetta, 1/4 inch dice
2 cups yellow onion, peeled and julienned
1 large leek, rinsed, white parts only, sliced into half moons
1 large shallot, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup celery, 1/4 inch dice
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, minced
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken stock + 1 cup water
2 cups half and half
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 dice
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

In a three quart Dutch oven, add the butter and pancetta and place it over medium heat to render the pancetta. Once some of the fat has been released add the onions, shallot and celery. Saute until almost golden. Add the leeks, garlic and thyme. Cook until the leeks are just becoming soft. Add the bay leaf, chicken stock, and water. Bring it to a boil and add the half and half and the potatoes. Bring the soup back to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow it to rest for at least thirty minutes.

To finish the soup reheat it but don't let it boil. Taste a potato to check and see if it is done and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If the potatoes are not done then cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the chives and then ladle into cups or bowls.