Asparagus Spears for Dinner

Asparagus with Portobello Mushrooms (CAWCOM) (1) This is the season for asparagus and if you’re lucky enough to have your own bed pick them when they are showing about four inches above the soil (three inches will remain below soil).  If you’re buying them in a store make sure they sit very cold or refrigerated or at least standing in a pool of cold water.  Store asparagus for not more than a day in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator with their stem end wrapped in wet paper towels.

Many people serve asparagus as an appetizer at room temperature and there’s nothing wrong with that.  However they make for a delicious vegetarian dinner when cooked with mushrooms as in this recipe.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths

1 pound portobello mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups red wine or water (more if necessary)

Freshly grated ricotta salata cheese

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat then cook the asparagus, mushrooms, and garlic for 3 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Pour in 1 cup wine, increase the heat to high, and cook for 20 minutes, adding lesser and lesser amounts of the remaining wine or water, to keep the food moist. When the asparagus are almost cooked put no more liquid in the pan and leave it to cook until all the liquid has evaporated and they are tender. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately with grated ricotta salata.

Makes 2 dinner servings or 4 antipasto servings

Canned Tuna Reborn

Spuma di Tonno sott'Olio (Umbria) (1) Canned tuna is one of those great foods that is undervalued and underappreciated. You need to think of it as more than cat food for humans. Canned tuna is more than something you dump mayonnaise into for a sandwich. Canned tuna can be the basis for some impressive and noble dishes.

You will need to think beyond the standard dried out albacore tuna sold as some kind of bland chicken from the sea. What you really are looking for is tender tuna packed in olive oil. This is what the Italians call tonno sott’olio. Its uses are many, and the Italians will incorporate it into toast points, salads and tossed with pasta. READ MORE

Down Home Turnip Greens, Italian Style

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Mick Jagger nailed one problem with turnip greens when he sang “Down Home Girl” in 1964: Lord I swear the perfume you wear Was made out of turnip greens And every time I kiss you girl It tastes like pork and beans. The songwriters, Jerry … [Continue reading]

Can’t Beet the Flavor

Beets with Orange Flower Water and Moroccan Spices

Everyone is concerned about healthy food but sometimes this can lead to some silly ideas. One summer my friend, cookbook author and fellow Zester Daily contributor Martha Rose Shulman, submitted her piece on beets for her NewYorkTimes.com column … [Continue reading]

Mussel Memories Make a Great Appetizer

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When I was a kid we would go to nearby Laurel Hollow on Long Island Sound and pick hundreds of mussels off the rocks throwing them into buckets to bring home.  I was only a teenager at the time and the way we cooked them was the only way we knew … [Continue reading]

Great Simple Dishes Simply

Escarole, Cabbage, and Spinach (2)

Everyone claims to want to cook simple food. As soon as we’re in the kitchen, things aren’t so simple. It’s actually hard to cook simple dishes because we cooks always want to fiddle or add things or just not stand around looking at “simple,” because … [Continue reading]

Cajun Oyster Stew

Cajun oyster stew

There are two oyster stews from Louisiana, Cajun-style and Creole.  The difference is that Creole cooking is typical of the city, that is, New Orleans and it is made with cream and milk.  Cajun-style is a country-style, that is, Bayou-style made not … [Continue reading]

Grilled Eel is the Best Tasting Fish in the World!

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The absolutely best tasting fish in the word is eel.  And a grilled eel is as close to piscatorial perfection as you can get.  The down side is that Americans don’t eat eel meaning it’s impossible to find.  Sometimes fish stores carry it around … [Continue reading]

Vindaloo for Cold Weather

Turkey Vindaloo

Cold is all relative.  When I lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts I thought a temperature of 35 degrees F in mid February was warm.  Now that I live in southern California, 60 degrees F is downright freezing.  Wherever you live winter does bring out … [Continue reading]

Scarlett Begonia in Santa Barbara is Stellar

Duck breast with roasted grapes

As a cookbook author, I’m often asked “what’s your favorite restaurant?”  I usually answer (take your pick): I’m a cookbook author; I’m too poor to afford going out to eat, or I write cookbooks, not restaurant reviews or I don’t eat out very often … [Continue reading]

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