Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup to Warm Your Heart

aparagus-vichysoise-2

For those of you who live in warm climates, I am envious. Canada and the Northeast U.S. has been pummeled with snow for the past few days. Our poor neighbours south of the border in Buffalo, NY had 4 feet of snow fall on them. Yes, you read that correctly, that was 4 feet not 4 inches. It is only November and I am already dreaming of flying to warmer climates. I often wish I could live in Canada during our warm season and New Zealand during theirs. It would be fun to switch hemispheres every 6 months.

Even with the cold, I am starting to get excited about the holidays! My grandson is in kindergarten and has his first school concert next month. The holidays are so much more fun when you see them through the eyes of a child. They still believe in the magic of the season. They believe that if they wish for something, it will come true.

In the spirit of the season I have 3 wishes:

I wish that we could truly have peace on earth.
I wish that those who are less fortunate are able to find warmth and food this winter.
I wish that we could each take time out from our day to do something good for someone else.

If you could have 3 wishes what would they be? If you could help someone this holiday season, what would you do?

To warm up from the weather outside, I made a wonderful version of my favourite soup, Vichyssoise. This is Yotam Ottolenghi’s version from his cookbook called Plenty which adds asparagus for even more dimension. Once you taste this version you may not go back to the original.

aparagus-vichysiosse

Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 leeks
1 pound asparagus
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 ½ tbsp. butter
2 ½ cups organic vegetable stock
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp. heavy cream
6 tbsp. Greek yogurt
Grated zest of ½ lemon

Directions:
Peel the potato and dice, roughly. Chop off and discard the green of the leeks, cut them in half lengthways, wash and slice. Cut off and discard the woody base of the asparagus, then cut into ¾ inch pieces; keep the tips separate. Reserve a few whole spears.
In a big pan, sauté all the vegetables, other than the asparagus tips in butter for four minutes, taking care they don’t colour. Add stock, sugar and a little seasoning, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, lid on, for 40 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and cook for and additional 10 minutes.
Once done puree the soup in a blender until smooth, fold in the cream and half the yogurt, leave to cool to room temperature, then chill. While it’s cooling, bring a pot of water to the boil, blanch the reserved asparagus spears for 30 seconds, drain.
To serve, pour the chilled soup into bowls, add a dollop of yogurt and swirl with the tip of a skewer. Place some blanched asparagus pieces in the centre of the soup and garnish with lemon zest.

Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

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Warm Spring Salad

strawberries-in-a-bowl

What a wonderful holiday weekend! The weather is beautiful and we have 4 days off to enjoy it.

I have been car shopping for the past few weeks and I must say that it is an arduous task. It takes days to compare all of the models and brands and then consult all of the review sites.

Do I buy new or save and buy a few years old?

Do I want a car to move things around or something more sporty?

Do I care about what colour it is?

All of these questions and more have been running through my head, endlessly. It’s driving me crazy!

Since I live in downtown Toronto I could almost get by without a car. There is public transit that will get me anywhere within the city. Then there are the car-by-the-hour places that can supply wheels to go, if I choose to venture further.

I have decided to walk away from the car shopping and the big decision, for a while. I will take my new bicycle for a ride. I will turn off the computer and get outside to enjoy the sun.

I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful season and that you are having a great weekend!

asparagus-on-marble

On holiday weekend like this, it is easy to over indulge on sweets and heavy foods so I try to serve healthy side dishes to my meals.

I am featuring a vegan recipe that is simple to make, beautiful to look at and delightful to eat.

I found this recipe on a local vegan blog called Oh She Glows. I modified it by blanching the asparagus and adding sugar snap peas which are also blanched. I love how blanching brings out the rich green colour while leaving a bit of a crunch in the vegetables.

The salad would be great as a side dish or as a main dish. Either way, it is delicious and healthy,

summer-salad

Warm Spring Salad

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 leak, sliced into rounds or half moons
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch asparagus, ends broken off and chopped in to 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced strawberries
¾ cup sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tbsp. pure maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Lemon zest for garnish, optional

Directions:
Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Fluff with a fork, remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
Blanch the snap peas and asparagus in separate batches by inserting them in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, sate leeks and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the asparagus and snap peas and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the parsley and strawberries. Heat for 1- 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

summer-salad-saute

Whisk together the dressing ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, ¼ tsp. sea salt). Pour dressing over the cooked quinoa.
In a large bowl, toss the quinoa and the skillet mixture together. Can be served warm or cooled.

Recipe adapted from http://www.ohsheglows.com

Poppy Seed Crêpes with Lemon Ricotta and Asparagus

A crêpe is a very thin, cooked pancake usually made from wheat flour. The word, like the pancake itself, is of French origin, deriving from the Latin crispa, meaning “curled.” Crêpes originate from the Brittany region in the northwest of France although crêperies can be found on many street corners in Paris. Whenever I am in Paris I enjoy a Crêpe Chantilly made with sugar and whipped cream.

I remember when they became popular in North America in the early 1970s. Julia Child had begun her quest to of teach American housewives to cook French food. When her books and TV shows came to Canada, Canadian housewives were very excited about trying out new and interesting recipes. At that time Crêpes Suzette was considered an elegant dessert to serve at a dinner party. I remember my mother making them for our guests. Since then we have tried numerous different fillings and flavours.

In Canada there are numerous crêperies, especially in the province of Quebec where the cuisine has been influenced by the French Canadian culture. We eat crêpes at any type of meal be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or as a dessert.

This recipe has a fresh, creamy taste with the lemon ricotta and would be perfect for a brunch or lunch dish.

Poppy Seed Crêpes with Lemon Ricotta and Asparagus

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup water
¼ cup melted butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. poppy seeds

Ricotta filling:

500g ricotta cheese
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon rind
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed to 5 inch pieces
1 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Crêpe Batter

In a blender, combine eggs, milk, warm butter, sugar and salt. blend until smooth.  Add flour and blend until smooth, scraping down side of blender if needed.

Once smooth, pour batter into a bowl and stir in poppy seed; cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Ricotta Filling

In a bowl, stir together ricotta, olive oil, lemon rind, nutmeg, pepper and salt until combined, set aside.

Steam or boil asparagus for about 4 minutes or until tender. Immediately rinse in cold water until chilled; set aside.

To make crêpes, heat a lightly greased 6-inch non-stick pan over medium heat. Add ¼ cup of the batter to pan and swirl pan to coat the base. Cook for about 1 minute or until edges are very lightly golden and surface of crêpe seams dry. Flip crêpe and cook second side for another 30 seconds. Repeat until all of the crêpes are cooked, lightly greasing the pan as needed.

To assemble crêpes, spread 1 tbsp. of the ricotta mixture on the bottom half of each crêpe. Place one piece of asparagus and 2 basil leaves in the middle of the top half of the crêpe with the top peeking out. Fold the crêpe up and over the asparagus then fold in half. Roll this piece in cigar style. Continue with remaining crêpes and serve at room temperature.

Recipe from Longos Experience Magazine

Risotto Primavera-a taste of Spring

It’s Saturday morning and the end of a long week. I usually spend my weekends cooking and writing and shooting photos. I will spend some time doing research and finding the right recipe for the evening meal or blog entry. Once it has all come together as a plan, I head out to my local markets to shop for the freshest ingredients.

I am very lucky to live in a neighbourhood that is full of great markets, cheese shops, butchers and fruit stands. Often, I can get whatever I need at the local merchants. In summer we have a farmers’ market in the park where we can get locally grown organic produce and baked goods.

All of this is in the heart of Canada’s biggest city, Toronto.

I have spent the last month taking you on a tour of Italy and writing about regional Italian cuisine. I have really enjoyed making all of the dishes that I featured because I love Italian food for its simplicity and great flavours. Italian cooking is all about the fresh ingredients. I also loved reliving my travels through Italy by sharing those stories. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have.

My last entry in the series is Risotto Primavaera adapted from a new cookbook called The Tuscan Sun Cookbook. The book contains wonderful traditional recipes and great photos of the Tuscan region. Because I used vegetable stock instead of chicken stock it makes a very tasty vegetarian and gluten-free dish. Cooking the peas in the wine and stock made them slightly mushy but full of flavour. In fact, the flavours were so well- balanced and delicious the leftovers were just as wonderful as they were on the first day.

Risotto Primavera

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup fresh or frozen peas
3 large carrots, peeled
1 bunch of asparagus
5 ½ cups vegetable stock
½ cup white wine
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. butter
½ cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

Directions

Break the asparagus stems where they naturally snap and steam or roast them until cooked but still crunchy.

Slice carrots in diagonal medallions about ¼ inch thick and steam them until cook but still crunchy.

In a large saucepan, heat the stock and wine to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer and add peas.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy 6 quart pot over medium heat. Add rice and onion and sauté couple of minutes , stirring to coat and brown the rice.
Add 1 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Gradually ladle in the stock one ladle a t a time allowing the rice the rice to absorb the liquid as you stir. Keep stirring and ladling in the rest of the liquid and peas until the rice is done, about 20 minutes.
Add 1 tbsp. butter and stir.
Remove from heat and add the zest and lemon juice and Parmigiano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve rice immediately in large shallow bowls with vegetables surrounding the rice.

Recipe adapted from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook by Frances Mayes and Edward Mayes

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

Well, we are 10 days into 2012 and I don’t feel any different. Do you?

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier and to exercise more. I am back at my aqua fit classes at the gym and have stocked up on healthy food. When I think of healthy food I think of fresh vegetables and fruit, fresh cheese, great flavours and bright colours.

This is one of my favourite recipes for a simple, tasty appetizer. In the past I was more likely to serve prosciutto with cantaloupe or honeydew melon; that is until I tried this combination. I love tasting the salty prosciutto as I bite into the sweet roasted asparagus.

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

Makes 6 servings

12 asparagus stalks, trimmed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 paper-thin slices of prosciutto, halved lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Peel the bottom half of each asparagus. On a heavy baking sheet, toss the asparagus with oil, salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool completely.

Wrap each asparagus stalk with one piece of prosciutto, exposing the tips. Arrange on a platter and serve at room temperature.

Recipe from the Everyday Italian Cookbook by Giada De Laurentiis