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Tag: asparagus

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

I think spring is my favourite season – until I feel the same in summer, autumn, or winter, depending on my mood. Spring offers a lot of drama and surprises. The changeover from the cold season is so drastic, so abrupt. There’s so much energy around and inside me all of a sudden without even knowing where it’s coming from. The temperature rises, nature’s sprouting and flourishing at every corner, adding colour to a scene that was brown and grey only a few weeks ago. I welcome these changes with gushing excitement and open the doors to my kitchen for all those greens that are soon to come to my cooking space.

In the past couple weeks, the fragile leaves of fragrant ramps brought Mediterranean pesto back to our table. And crisp asparagus is next. The official harvest start of the white asparagus from Beelitz happened last week, so let the feasting begin! When I eat the white stalks, I’m quite a traditionalist. Young potatoes, ham, and Hollandaise sauce is all I need. But when it comes to green asparagus, I become more experimental.

This little lunch was as simple as it was stunning: I added the green stalks, boiled and very thinly sliced, to a plate of warm spaghetti, burrata (mozzarella di Bufala would also work), and ramp pesto. You could also go for a basil or arugula (rucola) pesto, but I enjoyed the subtle oniony flavour in my green creation. In case you disagree, you’ll find the links to all three pesto recipes below. Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Serves 2

For the ramp pesto
(here you can find alternative recipes for basil or arugula pesto)

ramps or ramson, leaves only, 1 medium bunch (around 60g / 2 ounces)
parmesan 30g / 1 ounce
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
salt 1/4 teaspoon

For the pasta

green asparagus, the bottoms cut off, 1 pound
spaghetti 150-200g / 5-7 ounces
olive oil
burrata (or mozzarella di Bufala) 200g / 7 ounces
ramp pesto about 4 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar

For the pesto, purée the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and season with salt to taste.

Cook the asparagus in plenty of salted water for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Using a slotted ladle, transfer the asparagus to a colander (leave the water in the pot), rinse the stalks briefly with cold water, and drain. Using a sharp knife, lengthwise, quarter each stalk into 4 long pieces (including the heads).

To cook the pasta, put the pot you used for the asparagus back on the heat, bring the water to the boil (add more water if necessary), and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, transfer back to the pot, and stir in a tiny splash of olive oil.

Divide the pasta and asparagus between 2 plates, folding the vegetable into the spaghetti. Break the burrata in half and place in the middle of each pasta plate. Drizzle with pesto and a few drops of olive oil (optional) and season with salt and crushed pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Pink and spring green! Today’s dish celebrates this vibrant colour combination and I can’t really say that I expected the result to taste that good. My green asparagus stalks found a perfect companion in a screaming pink hummus. I adjusted its colour and taste by adding a generous amount of boiled beetroots. At first I was worried that the roots’ earthy tones would dominate, so I started with one root for a small can of chickpeas. But there was no need to worry. The beetroot easily found its place in the nutty dip, in fact, it’s a fine sweetness that comes through the most.

Before the roots kicked in, I used my basic hummus recipe to start with. It perfectly balances out the flavours of chickpeas, rich tahini, sour lemon, and the punch of fresh garlic and ground cumin. It was a recently published cookbook that inspired my to turn my hummus pink. Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison’s book called Batch, a comprehensive collection of pantry recipes, caught my attention and made me wish I had a whole room and not just a shelf to store my jars of preserved goods. Their book covers various methods for canning, dehydrating, fermenting, cellaring, salting, smoking, and infusing. As I thumbed through the pages, I noticed that there are still a lot of preserving techniques I have to learn more about. I cook my own jams and chutneys, preserve my gherkins, lemons and other fruits and vegetables, I learned to make gravad lax from my mother (a recipe that comes to use at least once a year), but I’ve never made my own sauerkraut or smoked mussels.

Batch is a book that needs time and attention, a book that gives you lots of basic recipes to follow and not to experiment with. It’s about learning the right techniques to be able to fill the shelves in your pantry with pride and satisfaction. However, the duo also included quite a few creations that allow you to play with your preserving results and be creative. In the beet chapter, Joel and Dana write about a pink beet hummus, which is different to mine: they don’t add chickpeas, it’s the pure red root that shines. Below you can find both recipes, my chickpea and beet hummus and Joel and Dana’s pure beet hummus. Try both and enjoy. I just love my chickpeas. But don’t forget to add green asparagus cooked al dente, it’s too good. And use the leftover dip to spread on dark spelt bread.

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Serves 3-4

For the beet and chickpea hummus

medium to large beetroots, unpeeled, 2
bay leaves 2
olive oil 2 teaspoons
drained and rinsed canned chickpeas, 240g / 1 1/3 cups
tahini 150g / 5 ounces
water 120ml / 1/2 cup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 6 tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
ground cumin 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon
fine sea salt about 1 1/4 teaspoons

green asparagus, the bottoms cut off, 1kg / 2 1/4 pounds
olive oil
flaky sea salt
white sesame seeds

Bring a medium pot of salted water to the boil. Add the beetroots (with their skin) and bay leaves, cover with a lid, and cook the roots over medium heat (simmering) for about 45-55 minutes or until tender. Rinse with cold water and let cool for a few minutes. Peel the roots and weigh 200g / 7 ounces, use any remaining beetroot for another recipe. Using a food processor or blender, purée the beetroots and 2 teaspoons of olive oil until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

For the hummus, using the same food processor or blender, purée the chickpeas, tahini, water, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and salt until smooth. Add half the puréed beetroot to the hummus and purée until well combined. Add more puréed beet until the hummus has the desired taste. I added the whole 200g / 7 ounces of beet. Add more lemon juice, salt, and cumin to taste.

Cook the asparagus in plenty of salted water for about 3 minutes or until al dente, rinse briefly with cold water, drain, and transfer to a large plate or divide between the plates. Serve warm or cold, drizzle the asparagus with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with sesame and salt. Dollop a few teaspoons of the hummus over the green stalks and enjoy!

Alternative beet hummus recipe:

Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison’s Beet Hummus 

from Batch, published by appetite by Random House

Serves 2-3

garlic, peeled, 3 cloves
tahini 120ml / 1/2 cup
ground cumin 2 teaspoons
sesame oil 2 teaspoons
fresh lemon juice 2 tablespoons (add more if you wish)
canned beetroots 1l / 1 quart-jar (you can find a recipe for pressure canned beets in the book, but you can also use my recipe above to boil the beets)
beet stock (preserving / boiling liquid) 60ml / 1/4 cup
olive oil (optional)

Place the garlic in a blender and chop until fine.

Add the tahini, cumin, sesame oil, and lemon juice to the blender. Scrape the sides to make sure the garlic is incorporated and blend for 10 seconds.

Add the beets and blend until smooth. Add the beet stock, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the hummus achieves the texture you like (you may not use the whole 60ml / 1/4 cup or you may have to add more). Chill in the fridge for a few minutes before eating (optional). Serve in a bowl and a drizzle of olive oil.

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

 

Green Asparagus with Beet and Chickpea Hummus

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

I got my first KitchenAid and I feel like a little girl on Christmas Eve. To call the current mood in my kitchen excitement would be a serious understatement.

After years of seeing – and admiring – these sparkly, polished beauties in the kitchens of my friends and family (my sister has two!), the time had come to get my own. At a certain age, one deserves these special treats. I’m a strong believer that it’s good to wait for things in life, it strengthens your character and makes you deeply appreciate what you have. But 20 years of waiting was more than enough, that’s how long it took me to finally see this powerful stand mixer on my marble counter tops.

In every period of my life, I had my favourite KitchenAid colour. In my young twenties, I loved the creamy white surface, followed by a fascination for the 50s and their soft pastels. Light blue, mint, or pink, I would have taken any of them. Then I got into puristic minimalism and only a black mixer would have made it into my kitchen. In my thirties, I fell for light yellow, but now, all of a sudden, I had to make a decision and decide which colour I would finally get and see for the rest of my life. It wasn’t easy and it took a few visits to various appliance shops. In the end, I had to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of cream, yellow, black, copper (which looks really hot), and brushed stainless steel. This process brought back lots of memories of the different eras of my life connected to each colour. After a couple weeks, my decision was made: brushed stainless steel is the winner! When the large package arrived I couldn’t wait to see my object of desire on my counter tops – I was almost hysterical, which is excusable in my eyes, it’s been 20 years after all. So here it is and it looks amazing. The mixer’s metallic surface fits perfectly to my white marble and brushed aluminium wall panels. I’m totally in love and can’t stop looking at it.

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

Testing its functionality was the next step, I had never used a KitchenAid before. My unbreakable hand mixer, a gift from my mother when I moved into my first flat two decades ago, has been a loyal partner during all my kitchen adventures. I was a little nervous and decided to start with two easy recipes – Sunday morning pancakes and Sunday evening pizza. This allowed me to get used to the three different attachments. My hand mixer only has two, but my new beauty offers a whisk, a paddle, and a hook –  I needed a conference call with my sister to figure out when to use what.

Before I switched on the power, I had to call my boyfriend for this special moment. And this was our maiden voyage: I – rather the mixer – started beating the egg whites with such calm, persistence, and firm perfection that I thought I’d never touch my hand mixer ever again (sorry hand mixer). My next project – pizza dough – gave me the same satisfaction. The yeast dough was well mixed, smooth, and ready to be kneaded with my hands for a few minutes, which I always do to turn it into a soft and silky ball. I thought I’d use the time while the dough was getting mixed in the machine to prepare the toppings, however, I couldn’t help but sit next to it with a glass of rosé wine in my hand and watch it work with elated enthusiasm.

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

Our first KitchenAid pizza was such a great success that I made another one only three days later, but this time it was an oily pizza bianca topped with green asparagus, Italian salsiccia, and mozzarella di bufala. On our latest Saturday leisure trip, we went to the food market at Markthalle Neun in Kreuzberg in Berlin and enjoyed a luscious piece of very oily pizza bianca at Sironi. The baker, Mr. Sironi, went for a topping of broccoli, sausage, and mozzarella. It was very minimal and very good and a reminder that it’s time for a white pizza in my kitchen. I find it lighter and quicker to prepare and it tastes just as good when it’s cold, which makes it perfect for summer picnics or easy dinners on the balcony or in the garden. I’m really impressed by the simple combination of greens, mozzarella, and sausage. Asparagus is in season at the moment, but feel free to replace it with broccoli, leek, zucchini or whatever veg comes to your mind. You could also add a little garlic oil, which I don’t find necessary. But we’re talking about pizza, so everybody should just follow their personal preferences. Enjoy!

Click here for more pizza inspiration.

Thank you KitchenAid for helping me make my little kitchen dream come true!

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

I start to prepare the dough 2 hours before I bake the pizza to give it enough time to rise and I bake it on a hot baking sheet, which has a similar effect to a pizza stone.

Makes 2 pizzas

For the dough

plain flour 350g / 2 2/3 cups
fast-acting yeast 1 (7g / 1/4 ounce) envelope
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
water, lukewarm, 180ml / 3/4 cup
olive oil 6 tablespoons

For the topping

olive oil
green asparagus, trimmed, 14 young stalks
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
large Italian salsiccia sausage (or any other coarse sausage), skin removed and cut into chunks, 1
mozzarella di bufala, torn into chunks, 125 g / 4 1/5 ounces

For the dough, combine the flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the lukewarm water and olive oil and knead on medium-high speed for a few minutes until well combined. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Transfer the dough to a table or countertop and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for about 4 minutes until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in the mixer bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 35°C / 100°F warm oven, for about 60 minutes or until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, prepare the topping: Heat a generous splash of olive oil in a large, heavy pan and sauté the asparagus, turning occasionally, on medium-high heat for about 7 minutes. Season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper to taste and set aside.

When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and divide into 2 parts. On a well-floured work surface or pizza peel, stretch or roll each piece of dough into a 28cm / 11″ disc. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 30 minutes or until puffy.

Place a baking sheet (or pizza stone) on the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to the highest temperature, 260°C / 500°F or higher.

Once the baking sheet is hot, carefully take it out of the oven, flip it over, and place it on a trivet or other heat-safe surface. Arrange 1 of the risen dough discs on the baking sheet and spread half the asparagus, salsiccia, and mozzarella di bufala on top. Push the asparagus gently into the dough. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a little flaky sea salt, and crushed pepper and bake on the bottom of the oven for about 10 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crisp and the mozzarella is golden. Repeat to make the second pizza and serve hot or cold.

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

Pizza Bianca with Green Asparagus, Salsiccia, and Mozzarella di Bufala

 

asparagussalsicciapizzabianca11

 

asparagussalsicciapizzabianca21

 

asparagussalsicciapizzabianca19

 

asparagussalsicciapizzabianca12

Spring Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

Yesterday’s excitement called for lots of carbs – and a glass of wine! It was a day packed with too many emotions to handle. After sharing the cover of my book and the Amazon pre-order links here on the blog, I felt overwhelmed by all the sweet emails and messages I got from all over the world. I needed good, solid, rustic food for dinner to calm me down. I made a dish that is so packed with carbs that it actually feels a little weird, but it’s also packed with flavour and comfort, so it makes sense. I baked a springy Maltese pasta pie, also known as Timpana. I introduced you to this Maltese street food classic a few months ago and the response to the recipe was crazy.

Timpana is basically short pasta stuffed into a buttery pastry shell. Usually, it’s enriched with Bolognese, which is nice but it can get a little boring if you’ve eaten it for years, so last time I made it I went for a meat-free Mediterranean filling of zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and basil. It was so good that I thought I’d never need another filling ever again. But then spring came around the corner with all its pretty greens. Wouldn’t it be nice to see green asparagus, sweet peas, and leek inside this pie beauty? I didn’t have to think about it twice. I went to the grocery store, put all the vegetables in my bicycle’s basket, and once home, I turned on the oven.

It’s still a little weird for me to look at this combination of penne and shortcrust in a rational way but maybe this dish shouldn’t be overanalyzed. It simply feels and tastes good, and after the first bite, my mind and emotions were at ease again: I felt so happy and thankful to have the eat in my kitchen blog and book in my life, both of them connect me with so many people all over the world and bring so many fantastic experiences into my life.

Behind the scenes of my Timpana on Snapchat: eatinmykitchen!

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

Spring Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

You’ll need a 20 1/2cm / 8″ springform pan.

Serves 4-6

For the filling

penne pasta 250g / 9 ounces
green asparagus, trimmed, about 500g / 1 pound
peas, fresh or frozen, 200g / 7 ounces
olive oil
leek, thinly sliced, 200g / 7 ounces
Dijon mustard 3 teaspoons
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
ground pepper
organic egg 1
Parmesan, freshly grated, 80g / 3 ounces for the filling plus 1 tablespoon for the topping
(or 100g / 3 1/2 ounces for the filling if you prefer the pie more cheesy)

For the pastry

plain flour 300g / 2 1/3 cups
fine sea salt 1 teaspoon
butter, cold, 150g / 2/3 cup
organic egg yolks 2
water, cold, 2 tablespoons

For the glaze

organic egg yolk 1
milk 1 tablespoon
a pinch of fine sea salt

For the filling, cook the penne in salted water until al dente, they should have bite. Let the pasta cool completely.

In a large pot, bring salted water to the boil and cook the asparagus for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Reserve 120ml / 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the asparagus and rinse quickly with cold water. Let the asparagus cool completely, then cut into pieces as long as the penne.

In a small saucepan, cook the peas in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the leek for about 10 minutes, stirring once in a while, or until golden and soft; let it cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

For the pastry, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter with a knife into the flour until there are just little pieces of butter left. Continue with your fingers and rub the butter into the flour until combined. Add the egg yolks and water and continue mixing with the dough hooks of an electric mixer until you have a crumbly mixture. Form 2 discs, dividing the dough roughly 2:1, wrap in cling film, and put in the freezer for 10 minutes.

For the filling, in a large bowl, combine the pasta, the reserved asparagus cooking water, mustard, salt, and a generous amount of ground pepper. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and mustard, then stir in the egg and mix until well combined. To fill the pie, the filling should be completely cool.

For the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, milk and salt .

Take the dough out of the freezer and roll out both discs between cling film, the large disc, for the bottom and sides of the springform pan, should be about 32cm / 12 1/2″, and the smaller disc should be big enough to cover the pie.

Line the bottom and sides of the springform pan with the large pastry disc. Spread 1/3 of the pasta mixture on top of the pastry, sprinkle with 1/3 of the Parmesan, 1/3 of the vegetables (asparagus, peas, and leek) and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue making 2 more layers. Pour any remaining liquid from the pasta mixture over the filling. Close with the pastry lid and gently push the rim with your fingers to seal the pie. Using a toothpick, prick a few holes into the top of the pie. Brush the top with the egg glaze and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of cheese.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 175°C / 350°F and bake for another 50 minutes or until the pie is golden and the pastry is baked through. Let the pie cool for at least 15 minutes before you cut it into pieces.

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

Spring Timpana - Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Leeks, and Peas

 

asparagusspringtimpana9

 

asparagusspringtimpana11

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas and Leek in Mustard Sauce

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

This is one of my oldest, most beloved and often cooked spring/ summer recipes. It’s been with me for so many years and I still savour it as I did the first time I cooked it. It works both warm as a comfy pasta dinner with a glass of rosé wine, the windows wide open and the flowery smell of June in the air but also as a cold, summery picnic salad, enjoyed outside in the fields under the rustling leaves of a swaying tree.

I’m talking about the wonderful combination of the fine flavours of white asparagus together with sweet peas in their crunchy pods, leek and a light sauce made with spicy Dijon mustard. All this on top of a big bowl of pretty Farfalle pasta, little bow-ties of perfect size and shape to catch all these nice vegetables like a shovel!

This meal tastes fresh and light and is absolutely easy to prepare. You just need to cook the asparagus (green or white), sautée the young pea pods and leek (you could also blanch some peas), deglaze them with white wine or vermouth and mix everything together with the cooked pasta, some mustard and cooking liquid, salt and pepper – that’s it!

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas and Leek in Mustard Sauce

For 2 people you need

Farfalle pasta, 200g / 7 ounces
asparagus (white or green), peeled (if necessary), bottoms cut off, 500g / 1 pound
young peas in their pods, cut into bite sized pieces, 150g / 5.5 ounces
leek, cut into slices, 1/2
water used to cook the asparagus 150ml / 5 ounces
Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons plus more to taste
white wine or vermouth for deglazing
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

Cook the pasta al dente in lots of salted water.

Cook the asparagus al dente in lots of salted water with a pinch of sugar and cut into bite sized pieces.

In a large heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and fry the leek for a few minutes until soft and golden, add the pea pods and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Deglaze with a splash of wine, add the pasta, mustard and water used to cook the asparagus. Season with salt and pepper, add the cooked asparagus, mix and serve on big plates.

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

 

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

 

Farfalle with Asparagus, Peas, Leek + Mustard Sauce

Spaghetti with Green Asparagus Anchovy Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus Anchovy Pesto

Asparagus season could be extended for months if it were up to me! So many recipes bring out different sides of this vegetable, especially the green asparagus, it’s so versatile thanks to its strong taste.

This one is a pesto, light and fresh with a smooth texture, almost velvety. The preparation is the same as the broccoli pesto I made in March, the cooked vegetables are mixed with some of the water they are cooked in. I added garlic, fresh hot chili peppers, tarragon (my herb of the month) and anchovies. The fish adds a soft saltiness  which only makes this composition complete. I once made this pesto without as I had run out and it really wasn’t as good. I use 4 anchovies for 500g (1 pound) of asparagus, I originally started with just 2 when I made it the first time. I  thought they would be too strong for the pesto but sometimes in cooking you shouldn’t be shy, being brave is the key to success!

Spaghetti with Asparagus Anchovy Pesto

Spaghetti with Green Asparagus Pesto and Chili Peppers

For this meal it’s best to warm the plates in the oven.

For 2 hungry people you need

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
green asparagus, the woody bottom part cut off, 500g / 1 pound
water used to cook the broccoli 30ml / 1 ounce
olive oil 60ml / 2 ounces
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
anchovy preserved in salt, rinsed and dried, 4 fillets
garlic, crushed, 3 cloves
tarragon 12 leaves
fresh red chili pepper, finely chopped, 1, half for the pesto the rest for topping
salt and pepper

Cook the spaghetti al dente.

In a large pot, cook the asparagus in lots of salted water for 7 minutes. Keep the water, take the asparagus out with a slotted ladle and cut into 3cm / 1″ pieces. Set the heads aside and leave for the topping.

Purée all the ingredients for the pesto in a blender (except the asparagus’ heads and the chili peppers for the topping). Season with salt (carefully, I didn’t need to add any because of the salty fish), pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Arrange the spaghetti, pesto and asparagus’ heads on the warm plates and sprinkle with chili and crushed black pepper.

Spaghetti with Asparagus Anchovy Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus Anchovy Pesto

A Field in the Forest, Beelitz and Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

A couple weeks ago I had a conversation about asparagus with my aunt and uncle, we talked about the various tastes depending on the vegetable’s origin. The soil, the climate and weather have  such a big influence on these delicate stems. I’ve enjoyed great asparagus in my life, green and white, but we agreed that the best is from Beelitz, an area 50 km (30 miles) outside Berlin. I always wanted to visit to see the large fields covered in foil keeping them dark, to watch the harvest and buy my asparagus directly from one of the farmers.

It’s May, the seasonal peak for asparagus and there’s no time to wait any longer! A few days ago we got on a train heading South-West to search for the famous Beelitz asparagus fields. We took our bikes with us to explore some of the quiet and hidden corners of the countryside, the forest and the fields and I can say that we found what we were looking for, asparagus heaven!

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

We got off the train at a tiny station,  an old timber framed house which seemed abandoned for years. We noticed that we were the only travelers on the platform, we were happy about that and enjoyed the silence. When you live in the city the absence of noise is one of the biggest luxuries! The early afternoon sun felt just right, soft and warm, we jumped on our bikes, excited to start our trip.

Beelitz is a small town, it’s peaceful and pretty. Old brick houses line the narrow cobblestone streets, little trees along the pavements blossoming in bright pink, a perfect picture book scene. It didn’t take us long to leave the town behind us. The world in front of us turned into a glowing green, majestic trees with fleshy leaves, lilacs blooming at every corner spreading their sweet scent. The grass on the wide meadows looked fresh and juicy. We crossed a river and filled our lungs with the cleanest air we smelled in months! We turned into a tiny path and met an old man gathering grass for his rabbits. We chatted for a little while before we continued our drive along endless fields, on hidden alleys and through lonesome forest.

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

After driving through a dark forest of pine and fir trees for about half an hour we noticed a sparkle in the distance. At that point we weren’t even thinking about asparagus anymore, we just enjoyed the peace and quiet, but there it was, right in front of us in the middle of hundreds of trees, an endless field of asparagus!

To keep the vegetables in the dark, they are covered with white foil which reflects the sun and creates a surreal, glittering scene, it felt like being on the moon! In the evening, on our way back to the train station we saw the pickers coming to harvest, creating dark shadows in front of a blinding white in the spotlight of the sinking sun. It was beautiful!

Behind the fields we spotted a farmer who offered thick and juicy white asparagus, the freshest I’ve ever bought. I filled my basket with the clean white stems knowing that I would turn a few of them into a delicious asparagus soup!

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

Asparagus Soup

For 4 people you need

white asparagus, peeled, the bottoms cut off, 1kg / 2 pounds
a pinch of sugar
water used to cook the asparagus 900ml / 2 pints
heavy cream 100ml / 3.5 ounces
nutmeg, freshly ground
salt and black pepper
tarragon, around 30 leaves for the topping

In a large pot, bring lots of water to a boil, add a pinch of sugar and salt and cook the asparagus for 20 minutes. Keep the water, take the asparagus out with a slotted ladle and cut into 3cm / 1″ pieces. Set the heads aside and leave for the topping.

Bring 900ml / 2 pints of the water used to cook the asparagus to a boil and cook together with the cream on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the asparagus and purée with a stick mixer or in a blender. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste and serve in deep bowls sprinkled with the asparagus’ heads and tarragon leaves.

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

 

Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

Green Asparagus with my Egg and Lemon Yoghurt Dressing

Asparagus + Egg Salad

Here is another variation on my raw green asparagus salad, I enjoyed it so much that I tried a few others since I wrote about it on the blog last month. This time I mixed the crunchy vegetable with boiled egg crumbles, chives and a sweet and  sour creamy dressing. After my Mediterranean style salad with cherry tomatoes and parmesan I felt like a fresh and Nordic combination. I sliced the green stems thinly with my cheese slicer, they curled up around the eggy crumbles and mixed well with the thick and creamy dressing.

As a starter for 4 or a lunch for 2, you need 500g / 1 pound of raw green asparagus (the woody bottom part cut off), rinsed and thinly sliced (lengthwise). For the dressing I whisked 3 heaped tablespoons of yoghurt, with 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice but you should adjust the ratio of milky and sour to your taste. Seasoned with salt, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, I dolloped it on the asparagus and finished it off with 2 hardboiled eggs, chopped and crumbled and a small bunch of chives, snipped on top.

Asparagus + Egg Salad

 

Asparagus + Egg Salad

 

Asparagus + Egg Salad

 

Asparagus + Egg Salad

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