Asparagus

A few years ago, while visiting the restaurant Boulettes Larder at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, I made a great discovery. Traditionally, there is a farmer's market every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday right in front of the building. When I saw the asparagus stand, I knew right away, I had hit the jackpot ...

Roscoe Zuckerman is the third generation farming asparagus and potatoes. His grandfather came to the area in the 1920s and fell in love with the Delta Region. The Zuckermans' farm is located on an "island" in the Delta formed by the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers flowing toward the bay. All members of the Zuckerman family have been part of the farm since the early 1930s.

Asparagus has been used for millenniums, cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, as a vegetable and medicine.

It is low in calories and in sodium.

It is a rich nutritive vegetable high in vitamin C and antioxidants.

At Café Collage we will be developing recipes around asparagus for practically every dish for the next few weeks. From asparagus-cauliflower soup, asparagus risotto, ravioli, paella and several other dishes.

Asparagus-cauliflower Soup

1 cup extra virgin olive oil to be drizzled on top of the soup before serving

1⁄2 cup olive oil

4 lb. medium size asparagus, ends trimmed and cut in 2 inch pieces

1 cauliflower head, quartered

1 large red onion peeled and thinly sliced

8 garlic cloves

1 bunch parsley, washed, dried and chopped finely

Kosher salt & ground pepper to taste

1 tbsp turmeric powder

16 cups hot water

Preparation

In a large pot, heat the half cup of olive oil under medium heat. Add the onions & garlic and sauté for 5 minutes until light brown. Add cauliflower and cook for another 5 minutes. Add salt, ground pepper and turmeric and start adding gradually the hot water. Cook over low heat (lid on) for 15 minutes and add the asparagus. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but not overcooked.

Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes and begin transferring the vegetable into a blender.

I use a Blendtec blender, which gets the mixture to a silky and creamy texture. Add gradually the broth from the pot until you get the desired thickness. The quality of the blender will often determine the smoothness of the soup, and there is no need to use a strainer.

Serve the soup warm topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley.

Asparagus wrapped with smoked salmon, topped with shaved hard boiled eggs & aioli-caper dressing

2 lb. medium size asparagus trimmed at the base

Fresh farm eggs (one or two per person) hard-boiled with one-teaspoon kosher salt

Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

1 lb. smoked salmon, slices

Half-cup extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Bring a pot of 8 cups of water to a boil. Add salt. Put the asparagus in boiling water for 5 minutes.

Remove the asparagus while they are still crunchy and run cold water to stop them for cooking any further. Use the same water to cook your eggs for 12 minutes. Wrap the asparagus with the slices of smoked salmon. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil lightly over the asparagus. Serve the asparagus room temperature topped with the shaved hard-boiled eggs and the aioli-caper dressing.

Aioli-caper mustard dressing

2 teaspoons minced garlic

One-fourth cup whole grain Dijon mustard

One-fourth cup traditional Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons capers

1 fresh farm egg yolk, see cook's notes*

Half-cup extra-virgin olive oil

Half-cup olive oil

One fourth cup Meyer lemon juice

*Cook's notes: It is optional to use a raw or coddled egg yolk. Generally, the pH level in the dressing mixture is thought to be acidic enough to kill bacteria contained in the raw egg. To coddle the egg yolk: Boil enough water to immerse the egg still in its shell. When the water is boiling, remove the pan from the heat and carefully lower the egg into the water. Let the egg rest in the water for one minute, and then remove the egg to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. When cooled, separate the egg and add the yolk to the food processor.

Preparation

In a food processor, combine the minced garlic and Dijon mustard. Add the egg yolk. Gradually add both extra virgin and olive oils. Process until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Add the lemon juice, capers and process until the dressing is firm and fluffy.

Recommended for you