15 September 2006

Raw Asparagus

I popped by Tekka Market just the other day to get some fresh basil. I had heard of Chia's Vegetable Supply and how Mr. Chia stocked a wide variety of herbs and vegetables, especially for a wet market stall. True enough, when I arrived and among other things, I saw boxes of arugula, frisee, dill, tarragon, mint leaves, generous packets of basil leaves still on their stems, and portobello mushrooms all neatly packed in fives and ready for sale. It was an incredible array of herbs that excited me.

One particular vegetable stood out however. Thick asparagus in a lovely green hue and purple tips. These had bases slightly more than an inch in diameter, and I could just imagine their crunch and juiciness as I stood there oogling at them. I was so awestruck at that shop that I was more than happy to wait a little longer to pay (they happened to be severely shorthanded on that day). I don't know what was holding me back, but I didn't ask for them until the very second before I had to pay. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was going to use them in at that moment.

When I got back and was randomly flipping through The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I saw a recipe for Lamb's Lettuce with Raw Asparagus, Pistachios, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Raw! Could I? And so I did. I was a little hesistant, but tried a little sliver and was hooked. It was absolutely crunchy and refreshing, with the delicate flavour of asparagus and images of large expanses of green fields flooding my mind. Did I say that I was hooked?

It is great to have mid-day, with mixed vegetable leaves, halved cherry tomatoes, a few pine nuts and big generous shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (Yes, I have eaten a lot of this cheese in the last few days but am not sick of it). The salad was paired with a simple sweet, tangy sauce made from olive oil, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt and some honey.

And for night time parties, I imagine that they would be great as starters if served in small slivers on top a 'crostini' of portobello mushrooms and caramelised onions. What am I talking about? They WERE great and super cute too. The asparagus lightened up the flavours of the 'crostini' and did not overwhelm the subtle flavours of the portobello. It also added some bite to the snack. They took just a little time to prepare, but might feel a little laborious because you'd have to prepare the four components to this fingerfood separately. Still, if you had to make a big batch of it to go around, it'd be worth it. Just get a few helpers to create an assembly line and they'd be done in a flash!

Portobello and Asparagus 'Crostini'
Serves 2 as starters


1 tbspn olive oil
4 slices of white bread (or 4 thin slices of baguette)

1 tbspn olive oil
half a medium white onion, chopped

1 tbspn olive oil+1 tbspn water
2 big portobello mushrooms, sliced into six pieces each
half an asparagus stalk, sliced finely into 12 slivers


If using white bread, use large cookie cutters to cut out one circle from each piece of white bread (use the leftovers to make bread crumbs).
Heat 1tbspn olive oil in a non-stick pan, fry each circle of white bread (or each slice of baguette) until golden brown on both sides.
Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbspn olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat, sweat the onions, adding water when pan has dried up.
The water should sizzle upon contact with pan, or your heat is not high enough.
Repeat until onions are soft and brown, almost the consistency of jam.
Season with a pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbspn olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat.
Add portobello mushrooms and water.
Season with 1/4 tsp of salt.

To assemble, divide onion jam into 4 portions, scooping one portion onto each toasted circle.
Place three pieces of portobello mushrooms topped with three slices of asparagus on each portion, neatly.
Serve with large shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano (using a vegetable peeler).


roxanne said...

u put a photo of me washing dishes?! oh the indignity! the shame!

Anonymous said...

tsk tsk, no dishonour in that!