Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CSA Week 3: Grilled Asparagus Soup with Dill Creme Fraiche

This is a springtime favorite, grilling the Asparagus adds another layer of flavor while adding lemon juice and zest brightens up the earthy Asparagus. It is very simple to make and has several variations like adding cream to make a bisque or if you do not have access to a grill roasting or blanching will also do (I would, however, recommend roasting over blanching for more flavor). Keep in mind that the ingredient quantities are not set in stone if you don't have a shallot, fine. If you have a white onion, fine. If you want to make a large batch to feed your friends - double it. I always try to use whats in my fridge and on hand so no good vegetable goes to waste. I also use extra onions in lieu of stock when I don't have it. Caramelizing the onions makes up for the flavor gained from using veggie or chicken stock. I welcome any questions or comments...

Ingredients to gather: Feeds 2 as a lunch entree or 4 as an accompaniment.
8 Asparagus Spears
2 Spring Onions
1 Green Garlic stalks
1 Shallot
1 Red or Yellow Onion
1 Lemon
Few sprigs of fresh Dill
2 Tablespoons Butter (optional)
Couple dollops of Sour Cream
Grapeseed Oil (or oil of your choice, I prefer Grapeseed)
Salt and Pepper

Items from my CSA share:
Asparagus, Spring Onions, Green Garlic, Dill

Extra items I had in the pantry:
Red Onion, Shallot, Lemon

Step 1: Grilling the Asparagus
Cut the tough bottoms off the Asparagus

Place in dish or tray and drizzle generously with oil, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly to make sure each spear is well coated with oil. I use my hands, they are less damaging then tongs or other utensils and I can feel the oil distribution.

Heat grill to medium-high heat and place Asparagus on grill.

After a couple of minutes you will need to turn them by taking your tongs and rolling them over. No need to pick each one up just roll one or several at a time.

After a few more minutes pull them off the grill. Remember the small ones will cook faster so they are the first you should turn over and the first to be removed. The Asparagus should have some dark grill marks on them and they should have a little give but not be totally limp. The Asparagus will continue to cook for a little bit after pulling them off the heat. Make a few extra if you have them for hungry snackers...

Step 2: Preparing the Green Garlic and onions

Slice the ends off the Green Garlic and Spring Onions (I accidently deleted my green onion pic) and slice the lower white portion into coins. Set aside.

Slice the each end off the red onion.

Make a shallow slice across the onion (perpindicular to the ends that you just cut).

And peel the outer skin off the onion.

Cut the onion in half,

then in half again

Hold the two quarters together and slice beginning at the bottom closest to the cutting board and working to the mid point at the top. At this point move the cut onions away and turn the remaining quarters around and repeat until finished.

Sliced onions.

For the shallot cut the ends off and peel like the red onion but slice into coins similar to the green garlic.

Mix all onions together.

Step 3: Combining the ingredients
Place medium soup pot on the stove on medium heat or just above. Add a tablespoon of cooking oil and a tablespoon of butter (or 2 Tbsp of oil and no butter) plus salt and pepper and sautee all the onions and the Green Garlic until soft and semi-translucent. While the onions are cooking follow the steps below...

chop the Asparagus, reserving a few tops for garnish.

Using a microplane (on my wish list) or the small grate on a hand grater, grate the entire lemon, then cut into quarter sections.

When the onions are softened add the chopped Asparagus and most of the lemon zest reserving some for garnish.

Squeeze the lemon wedges into the soup, if you want a less tangy soup use only half. I like mine tangy so I use it all. Be careful for the seeds. You may want to use a strainer just in case. I strain it through my fingers - in which case you will inevitably be reminded of some forgotten paper cut...

At this point add enough water or stock of some sort to just cover the ingredients, bring the soup to a boil for a few minutes then turn it off. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, finely puree the soup until completely smooth.

Step 4: Garnishing

Dill, sour cream, lemon zest

Mix sour cream, a little zest and about a teaspoon of lemon juice with a tablespoon or so of Dill until smooth and creamy. This is not a true creme fraiche, however the lemon adds a tanginess similar to that of creme fraiche.

Put creme fraiche in a squirt bottle (a ziploc bag with a very small section of the bottom corner cut out works as well) and zig zag the cream over the top of the soup.

Drag a toothpick or skewer over the cream in the opposite direction in order to create the design on the soup. Add the reserved Asparagus tips and sprinkle with any remaing zest.

Step 5: Eat, Savor, Nourish...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

CSA Week 2: A Symphony of Flavors... Sorrel and Spring Greens Soup with Leeks and Miso

I would like to give a warm thank you to some personal chef clients of mine that gifted me with tickets to the symphony. I was able to take my daughter last night to her first symphony experience. And because it was Wednesday it was our CSA pick up night! Our evening began with a tasty fare of:

the Lettuce Wraps from Tuesday's post.

We then fancied up and headed to the Bad Seed to pick up our CSA share.
Autumn outside the Bad Seed with our share.
Then on to the symphony... My classical music education is minimal at best, but what I do know is that I trust my senses and how I experience those sensations. Music, like cooking, is layered creating dimension, depth, and subtle nuances that add such delight and are often missed by the easily distracted. Each instrument of the symphony or ingredient of a recipe is itself beautiful, yet when combined is extraordinary. Perhaps this is why the last piece performed last night was the most impressive to me. The title The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and also alternatively titled Variations on a Theme of Purcell was composed by Benjamin Britten in 1946 as a commission from the British Ministry of Education. Their request was for him to compose music for a film to introduce orchestra to children. His approach was to present each instrument individually -- think gathering ingredients, then each instrument gradually joined together -- think combining the ingredients, to the rousing finale of the assembled instruments -- the recipe is now a meal!!! As food nourishes the body this evening of music nourished my soul and left a lasting impression on my own young person... To this honor I offer my own nourishment to you:
Sorrel and Spring Greens Soup with Leeks and Miso
Ingredients to gather:
10-12 leaves of Tarragon
8-10 cups of chopped Spring Greens (Sorrel, Tatsoi, Bok Choi, arugula, spinach)
(more or less is fine this does not have to be too specific)
3 stalks Green Garlic
2-3 tablespoons Miso (red or mild yellow is fine)
2 small or 1 large Leek
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grapeseed or Olive Oil

Prior to Starting:
If you are using greens with thick ribs, the ribs should be removed for this soup. It is very easy to do. Just lay out the greens rib side up and cut down each side of the rib for easy removal.

Step 1:
Slice Leeks and Green Garlic and lightly sautee with oil in a soup pot on low to medium heat.

Step 2:
While the Leeks and the Green Garlic are sauteeing cut the bottoms off the Asparagus

then slice the stalks into 3/4 inch pieces. When the Leeks and the Green Garlic have softened, add chopped Asparagus to the soup pot.

Step 3:
Sautee the mixture for a couple more minutes and add Greens, Tarragon, and enough water to cover just cover the Greens. The Sorrel will almost instantly change colors. Slightly increase the heat to bring the soup to a strong simmer.

Step 4:
As soon as a strong simmer occurs turn off the heat, add the miso and stir until the miso is fully incorporated. Miso has many health benefits that are lessened by overheating so you should try to avoid boiling when cooking with Miso or reheating Miso soup.

I prefer South River Miso. It is the best quality and it is certified organic. However it is strong and for first timers you might try Miso Master's Red or Mild Yellow miso.

Step 5:
This step is not absolutely necessary, but I like to pulse the soup just briefly with an immersion blender (sometimes called a stick blender).

Oh yeah, be careful not to let the cord fall over any hot spots on your stove top. (If you look close enough you will see where this one has been taped!)

Step 6:
Plate and serve alone or with crackers or bread.

Take your time and enjoy...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

CSA week 1: Speck Wrapped Asparagus with Lemon Tarragon Aioli

I recently catered an event at the Review Studios where I served this appetizer to take advantage of one of spring's abundant delights. The salty smokiness of the speck compliments the Asparagus well. Speck is similar to prosciutto in that they are both the hind leg of the pig, but unlike prosciutto the ham is boned prior to curing in salt, juniper berries, and other spice combinations. Once the ham has cured for several weeks it is cold-smoked for about a week and then left to mature for about five months. You can substitute some local bacon for the speck for an equally lovely appetizer!

Speck Wrapped Asparagus with Lemon Tarragon Aioli
Ingredients to gather: For 4 appetizers or side dishes

8 stalks Asparagus
8 2" strips of speck or local bacon
2 tablespoons mayo
1 lemon wedge
10 leaves of Tarragon
grapeseed or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Step 1:
Preheat oven to 425. Cut the bottom off of the Asparagus stalks .

Step 2:
Roll speck or bacon around bottom of cut Asparagus

Step 3:
Place on baking tray and drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Step 4:
Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. While Asparagus are baking make the ailoi by mixing the mayo, lemon, and Tarragon until smooth add salt and pepper to taste.

Step 5:
Plate, serve, eat, repeat...

CSA Week One: Lettuce Wraps

Welcome to The CSA Chef Blog. My intention is to share with you recipes that I have created based on what treats and treasures I receive in my weekly CSA share. Although my CSA comes from Fair Share Farm, the recipes could be easily adapted to most CSAs in the area. I have been involved with local food and farmers for over ten years and currently make my living as a personal chef and caterer. The recipes that I post are original. From time to time I adapt other chef's recipes to my style. When that is the case I will credit the source of the original inspiration. To find out more about what CSA is visit or

Here is my first CSA share from Fair Share Farm in Kearny, MO...

This is a full share and includes 3 heads of Lettuce, Tatsoi (one of my favorites), purple and green Asparagus, Leeks, Sorrel, Chive Flowers, Green Garlic, and Mint. I have put together some recipes based on these items.

The first is Lettuce Wraps. I created this recipe for a catering some time ago and also served it for lunches at the Pi Gallery last summer. It is a favorite with my vegetarian daughter, but is loved by non-vegetarians as well. Grilled pork or chicken is an excellent accompaniment. This is a great recipe to start off the season and the spring lettuce abundance. It is easily shifted to accomodate different items as the season progresses. As you will soon find out, I create recipes and meals based on what comes in my CSA and what is in the fridge and hope this will help you if you get stumped on what to fix or feel overwhelmed. This recipe is a snap if you have a food processor and still quick if you don't. Below is the recipe with step by step instructions.

Lettuce Wraps:

These are extra items from my pantry and fridge that I included in the Lettuce Wraps that were not a part of my CSA.

Cashews, Carrots, Dried Basil, Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients to gather:
10 large Lettuce leaves
10 leaves of Tatsoi
4-5 medium carrots
3 Green Garlic stalks
handfulf of cashews
2 portobello mushrooms (or 10 crimini, shiitake, or oyster)
2 Mint sprigs
1 large Leek
1 Chive Flower
1 Tbsp dried basil (or about 7 fresh basil leaves)
Step 1:

Slice the white parts of one large Leek and three Garlic Chives and sautee on low to medium heat in about two tablespoons of oil - I use Grapeseed Oil.

Sliced Leek

Sliced Leek and Green Garlic in Cast Iron Skillet. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to the sautee pan to help "melt" your Leeks.

Step 2:
Once they have softened add a couple of generous pinches of salt and pepper, then add 3 diced carrots and dried basil and stir.

To dice carrots: Peel and cut in half, take one half and cut in half lenghtwise, carefully cut each half in half again lengthwise, cut the lengthwise quarters into matchsticks, then cut the matchsticks into small dice cubes.

If you have a food processor, peel carrots and cut into chunks, pulse until carrots are finely chopped.

Step 3:
Continue cooking on medium-low heat. Let carrots soften a bit then add diced mushrooms.

Break off stems and compost (they can be used to make veggie stock which I will post on at some point), with a damp cloth wipe off tops of mushroom, slice into strips, then chop strips into smaller pieces until diced.

If you have a food processor pulse until minced.

Leek, Green Garlic, Carrot, and Portobello mixture.

Step 4:
Continue cooking on medium-low heat and add Tatsoi chiffonade and diced cashews then stir. Leave the mixture on the heat for just another minute or two then remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

To chiffonade the Tatsoi, remove stems and stack four or five leaves, roll the leaves lengthwise, and slice across the roll to form ribbons.

Chop cashews until minced or pulse in a food processor.

Add to skillet and stir.

Step 5:
While the mixture is cooling, break off 8 to 10 leaves of Lettuce rinse and pat dry. Arrange the Lettuce on the edge of the plate and place the mixture in a mound in the center of the plate. Serve with chopped Mint, Chive Flowers, and soy sauce.

Sliced Green Garlic (lower left), Chive Flowers (top middle), Mint (right)

Voila!! Lettuce Wraps...

To wrap take the top portion of the lettuce (the rib makes it hard to wrap) and add a few spoonfuls of the mixture, drizzle some soy sauce, and sprinkle Chive Flowers, and Mint then wrap lettuce around mixture and eat!!! You can use the sturdy inner smaller pieces of the lettuce head like spoons!

Enjoy...there is more to come!