Asparagus Bisque

a1A few weeks ago I squealed with joy as friends of ours dropped off a big bag of freshly cut asparagus from their own garden. I get this tingling feeling in my whole body every spring when I know the asparagus is ready and the local farm stands will soon begin displaying these bundles of bright green beautiful stalks. A true perk to live out in the country. For me it’s the best part of the year. The kick-start for the fresh produce season. I fully indulge and eat as much asparagus as I possibly can during its rather short span and I’m sure I’m not the only one. The great thing about asparagus is that there are endless ways to prepare it. Fry it, cook it, steam it, roast it, bbq it, puree it, eat it raw – the list goes on and on.

One of my asparagus favourites is this oh so simple bisque. It’s delightful both hot, room temperature or slightly chilled, depending on the day. The asparagus takes centre seat while nicely backed up by fennel and cumin. A dollop of lemon crème fraîche tops it off. The bisque can be made a day in advance to make your lunch or dinner as enjoyable as possible. Perfect.

a2

2lb asparagus

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp olive oil

5-6 shallots, roughly chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

5 cups chicken broth

1 tsp lightly crushed fennel seeds

1 tsp lightly crushed cumin seeds

White pepper and salt to taste

1/2 cup crème fraîche

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Zest from one lemon

Cut off the bottom 1” of the asparagus and cut them in 2” pieces.

In a large heavy sauce pan, melt the butter with the olive oil. Sauté the shallots until soft ~ 5 minutes. Add the garlic, asparagus and spices and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer until asparagus is soft, about 10 minutes.

Let cool before transferring the soup to a blender. Purée for a couple of minutes or until very smooth. Pour soup through a sieve into a large bowl. Use the back of a ladle in the sieve to push the liquid through. Discard the solids.

Mix together the lemon juice with the crème fraîche and decorate each serving. Garnish with the lemon zest. Serves 4.

a4a3a5

Olive Tapenade Twists

t5Love them or hate them. Opinions regarding olives seem to be quite strong. It’s not often I meet someone who is neutral. Olives do have a very distinct smell and flavour and I have to admit I haven’t always been a big fan. I used to belong to the category that managed to find and remove any hint of olive on both pizzas or in salads or whatever other dish being consumed. Left on the plate at the end of the meal was a sad pile of rejects. Not quite sure when my palate changed, but it did at some point. I’m happy about that today. 

For those of you who love the above mentioned salty mediterranean fruits, these twists might be right up your alley. This olive tapenade can be used on its own as well. Just serve it with a pile of your favourite crackers. The twists are a little bit more work, but in return, olive lover’s eyes will twinkle a little bit brighter.

t4

Tapanade:

1 1/2 cup mixed, pitted olives

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves

4 green onions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tapenade and pulse until preferred consistency. I like some texture but it’s up to you how smooth you want it.

Tapenade Twists:

1 package puff pastry dough, thawed

1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F. Dust your counter with flour, and roll out the puff pastry dough until about 1/8 thick. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of the tapenade on top of the dough, making sure you cover it all the way to the edge. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut strips about 1” wide. Starting from the middle of the strip, twist in opposite directions until fully twisted, and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat the egg in a glass and lightly brush the twists before putting them in the oven. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

t3t1t6