Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Fever!

Spring is in the air here in Seattle.  The flowers have started to bloom.  The tulip fields up north are filled with a plethora of yellows, pinks, reds, and every combination of colors imaginable.  The local markets are lousy with thick stalked asparagus and that means the arrival of Spring to me!  I love having the abundance of fresh vegetables the Pacific Northwest affords.  

While searching the inter-webs for new and exciting vegetable treats, I came across a recipe for Pistachio Crusted Asparagus with Feta.  Lovely!  I had just bought chunky local asparagus spears.  I had left over pistachios from little individual ice cream cakes I did recently.  (They were divine and I will blog about them shortly.) A match made in heaven!  The recipe calls for Feta and I am sure that would be very yummy but as I was Feta deficient so I opted for Parmesan. 

One of the best things about this recipe is the dressing drizzled on top.  As a food purist, dressings I can live without, but now I want to put this simple dressing on EVERYTHING!  It will be my "go-to" salad love from now on.  It was olive oil, 1 T of red wine vinegar, 1 T lemon juice, and 1 T of honey, add pepper and shake!  It is tangy, bright, and finishes with just a hint of sweetness. Perfect with the earthiness of the asparagus and roast-y, nuttiness of the pistachios - oh my I think I will make it again tonight!  

The hardest part of this recipe is shelling the darn pistachios!  If shelled pistachios weren't so expensive I would have saved so much time but I couldn't justify buying them naked.  Once you have shelled all those little suckers, pulse them in a food processor until they are finely chopped but not so fine as you have made pistachio butter - delicious but that's a whole other recipe.

Break the stalks on the asparagus or cut the bottom third or so off.  The original recipe calls for trimming the asparagus and if you like to do that. be my guest. but if you are buying fresh, in season vegetables, I don't find it necessary.  Place the stalks on a baking tray lined with a Tovolo Baking Mat and drizzle with olive oil.  Coat with the chopped pistachios and pop into a 400 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.  Right before I took the asparagus out, I sprinkled the Parmesan on top and let it heat for a few minutes in the oven.  

This is an excellent and elegant side dish.  Add some chopped hard-boiled egg and it would be great for lunch or brunch.  It will definitely make it into your everyday repertoire.  YUM!

Pistachio Crusted Asparagus with Feta
adapted slightly from Handmade Gatherings by Ashley English
serves 4
For the Asparagus:
2 pounds large asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup shelled roasted and unsalted pistachios
1 scant teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (tarragon is nice too)  
For the Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of sea salt
several grinds of black pepper
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Rinse the asparagus and cut about an inch off of the stem ends.  Pat the asparagus dry.
Place the asparagus on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake for about 5 minutes to dry the asparagus completely.  Remove from the oven and drizzle with olive oil.  Toss to coat.
Crush the pistachios in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment.  If you don’t have a food processor, you can crush the pistachios in a sealed plastic bag using a hammer or kitchen mallet.  Grind until fine.  Transfer nuts to a small bowl and stir in salt.  If your nuts are salted, use half the amount of salt.
Arrange the asparagus in a single layer.  Generously spoon the pistachio mixture over the asparagus.  Flip the asparagus (it might be a little awkward, it’s ok) and cover the other side in remaining pistachio.
Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender through.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
To make the vinaigrette, in a small jar or bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients.  Drizzle over the roasted asparagus just before serving.  Top with feta and parsley and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

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