Thai-Infused Asparagus Soup

thai infused



Try serving this soup very chilled on a hot summer day!  Danielle served it hot on a chilly day at Brookside Gardens April 16, 2014.

1 medium onion, chopped
2 T unsalted butter or safflower oil
1 bunch (about 1-1/2 lbs) asparagus, trimmed of their ends
2 T lemongrass, finely minced
1 T ginger, finely minced
¾ C coconut milk (I prefer full fat but light is fine)
3 C vegetable broth
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped chives and/or cilantro, for garnish

Cut or break the trimmed asparagus into small pieces. Melt the butter in a 6 quart soup pot and add the chopped onion. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the lemongrass and ginger and cook another minute, until fragrant. Add the asparagus pieces and broth. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until asparagus are very tender, 10-15 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer another 2-3minutes. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. If the soup is very thick, add a bit more vegetable broth. Return soup to the pot to heat though. Just before serving add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Adjust to taste, garnish with chopped chives or cilantro. Serves 4.

Note: this soup can be prepared several days ahead of time, but add the lemon juice after you reheat.

Asparagus-Stuffed Eggs

asp eggs




We updated this retro recipe – from Julia Child in the 60s – with modern touches like a little hit of curry, cayenne and lemon zest.  These deviled eggs have spring written all over them and with addition of pureed vegetables, they pack a lot more nutrients than more traditional deviled eggs. A variation on this is to replace the asparagus with fresh or frozen peas.  For your flavorings, you’d want to go half mayonnaise and half creme fresh, trade in the curry for chopped fresh mint leaves and skip the lemon zest, but add a teaspoon or so of Marsala and another of Worcestershire for that devil kick. We demoed this at Brookside April 16, 2014. Yield: 24 stuffed egg halves

12 large eggs
12 asparagus spears, trimmed
2 T very finely minced shallot, scallion or chives
1/3 C mayonnaise, more as needed
1 t smooth Dijon
1 t curry powder
pinch cayenne
grated zest from one lemon
1-2 T whipping cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Hard-boil eggs using whichever method you prefer. I cover mine with cold water, bring it to a boil, then set a timer for 12 minutes. When it rings, drain the eggs, and plunge them in ice water until they’re fully cool. Eggs can be cooked ahead of time and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Prepare the asparagus: Remove tips and reserve. Cut stems into 1-inch pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, drop in cut-up asparagus stems, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender, four minutes. Remove cooked asparagus with a slotted spoon, reserving salted water, and plunge the pieces into cold water to stop the cooking. Drain thoroughly and lay them out on a paper towel to dry further. When dry, transfers chopped asparagus to a food mill or food processor; process until pureed or very finely chopped.  Pass puree through a sieve as necessary to drain of any excess water.

Bring salted water to a boil again and add asparagus tips; cook until crisp tender and bright green, about one minute. Remove and plunge into cold water. Lift out and drain well; finish drying the tips on paper towels.

Prepare eggs: Peel your eggs. For a cleaner cut, dip your knife in water before cutting each in half lengthwise. Shave a thin strip off the bottom of each so that it will not rock about in its dish. Remove the yolks and press them through a fine-mesh strainer to sieve them, or mash with a fork. Add asparagus puree, shallot or chives, mayonnaise, Dijon, spices, lemon zest and combine mixture until smooth. If the mixture is dry, add optional cream, or water, to achieve the right consistency. Season carefully with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

You can spoon the mixture into each egg half, or use a piping bag with a star tip for a fancier presentation. Decorate each stuffed egg with asparagus spear. Wrap tray in plastic and keep in fridge until ready to serve.

Salad of Spring Vegetables and Lemon Vinaigrette



This elegant salad is made even prettier with the addition of spring blooms — violets, pansies, violas, redbud, chive blossom.  It goes wonderfully with seafood or meat, such as lamb, and is an ideal Easter side dish.  This was another recipe we demoed on “Recipes from the Chef’s Kitchen,” a cooking show hosted by Lindsey Gustin early April 2014.  We made it at the US Botanic Garden April 17, 2014. The recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking.

For the dressing:

1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t honey
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 t champagne vinegar
¼ C light olive oil
½ t fine sea salt
¼ t coarsely ground black pepper

For the vegetable salad

¼ C kosher salt
1 bunch green asparagus
1 medium head broccoli
½ C shelled fresh green peas (or shelled frozen)
1 head Bibb lettuce or fresh mesclun greens
4 red radishes
Freshly shaved Parmesan

Make the dressing: Combine all the ingredients in a mason jar and shake well. Chill until needed.

Make the salad: To prepare the vegetables, bring a large saucepan filled with 4-6 cups quarts water and the kosher salt to a boil. Meanwhile, for the asparagus, trim off the lower third of the stems and discard. Halve the asparagus diagonally. For the broccoli, using a small knife, cut off the florets from the stem (halve the florets, if necessary, so they are all in bite-size pieces).

Once the water is boiling, blanch each green vegetable separately, transferring each with a slotted or wire mesh spoon to a colander and run under cold water or place in ice water bath. Let the water in the pot return to a boil between each blanching. Lay rinsed vegetables on paper towels to dry.

Separate the leaves of Bibb lettuce, discarding the large, tough outer leaves. Wash and dry completely. Shave the radishes into paper-thin slices with a mandoline.

To assemble the salad, in a large bowl toss the lettuce with about half the dressing.  Lay the dressed lettuce on your serving platter.  Add the vegetables to the large bowl and with the remaining dressing; arrange the vegetables on top of the lettuce. Top with shaved radishes and Parmesan.

Spring Vegetables Over Rustic Pasta

pasta primevera



We demoed this delightful pasta dish last week on “Recipes from the Chef’s Kitchen,” a cooking show hosted by Lindsey Gustin on Fairfax Public Access television.  The ragout takes advantage of early spring vegetables and herbs and burst with flavor.  Baby carrots, turnips and even radishes should be available at farmers markets in the next few weeks.  Sugar snaps and fresh garden peas will start appearing in supermarkets by late April and at area markets by mid-May.   You also can use frozen peas or edamame. If you can’t find baby turnips or carrots, trim down mature versions so they are bite-sized.  Organic carrots and turnips tend to have more flavor.   We made this for the folks at USBG April 3, 2014 and again at Brookside April 16, 2014. The recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking.

3/4 lb. fresh pasta sheets
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3 C mixed spring vegetables (such as medium-thick asparagus, baby carrots, baby turnips, spring onions, and sugar snap peas), trimmed as needed into 1- to 3-inch long by ½ – to 3/4-inch-wide pieces
½ C shelled peas or edamame
1/3 C loosely packed pea shoots or watercress sprigs; more for garnish
1/4 C loosely packed chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as basil, chervil, mint, parsley, and/or tarragon; more for garnish
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1½ t freshly grated lemon zest
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish (optional)

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. With a pizza cutter or chef’s knife, cut the pasta sheets into rustic strips about ½-inch wide. Cook the pasta in the boiling water until barely al dente, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain.

In a 10- to 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan, bring 2½ C water, the garlic, 1 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper to a simmer over high heat. Add the mixed vegetables and simmer briskly, adjusting the heat as necessary, until just crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate. Add to cooking broth peas or edamame, simmer until barely tender, 1-2 minutes, and transfer to the plate with the slotted spoon. Raise the heat to high and boil the liquid until reduced to 1 cup, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the cooked pasta, vegetables, pea shoots or watercress, herbs, butter, and lemon zest to the broth. Toss over medium-high heat until the butter is melted, about 1 minute.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with pea shoots or watercress, fresh herbs, and Parmigiano..

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard au Gratin


A great buffet side, this is a make-ahead candidate.  Prep it the night before, pop it in the oven an hour before you’re ready to serve and let it sit for 15 minutes before putting it out to keep it from being overly sloppy.  A great spring dish, it’s also deeply satisfying winter comfort food. Brookside Gardens March 12, 2014. Continue reading