Posts tagged ‘asparagus’

May 13, 2009

Creamy Watercress Sauce over Pasta with Asparagus

What the heck do you do with watercress? Let alone, what is watercress?

I know this short, leafy plant likes to grow in wet, swampy areas and it has a very short growing season. At first I was throwing it into salads, mixing it in with other greens, but you don’t get a very clear idea of its unique contribution. Occasionally I would nibble on a leaf and notice it was kind of spicy (like the aftertaste of a radish or the kick of a leek – but not pungent, more fresh). At a loss for what to do with my watercress, I hunted through the internet for some delectable recipe.

I was inspired by a recipe I saw for Pasta with Creamy Watercress Sauce but lacked many of the key ingredients (namely the creme fraiche). I decided, however, to throw together my own version of a creamy watercress sauce based on a household favorite, the Bernardi Sauce.

The Bernardi Sauce is a basic butter, milk and flour roux, which Eric learned from his Italian teacher back in undergrad. It cooks up fast, and with that flour in the pan – you can barely leave its side. It’s fairly high maintenance, as far as sauces goes. It’s good to have your ingredients ready to go before you turn on the heat.

I started by roughly chopping up all of my watercress and putting it in the blender. I let it sit there, waiting for the Bernardi Sauce.

After thoroughly washing the asparagus (removing the gritty, sandy soil that gets caught in it), I cut the stalks into two inch pieces. I placed these in a small sauce pan and added olive oil. I sauteed them over a medium high heat for four or five minutes then added salt, pepper and garlic powder and reduced the heat.
With the asparagus well under way, I started on the Bernardi Sauce. Once I seasoned the white sauce to taste, I poured it over the watercress in the blender. In order to obtain a creamy sauce with a smooth consistency, I let the sauce blend for quite a long while. Meanwhile, I mixed the pasta and asparagus. Beautifully green, and blended to perfection, I poured the sauce over the pasta and sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top.

My only regret: sour cream. I wish I had added sour cream to the watercress before adding the Bernardi Sauce. Watercress’ peppery taste is a very back-of-the-mouth flavor, and I think a hint of tartness or sourness would have rounded out the flavors nicely. Otherwise – delicious! and repeatable.

 

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May 9, 2009

Morels, Asparagus and Rhubarb

I was sure to arrive at the Farmer’s Market early today. Last week all the morels and asparagus sold out before I got there. This week, however, there was an abundance of both. Rhubarb was less plentiful, but Mary Jo Benden from Welden Farm had beautiful, red bunches of rhubarb. And just in case the color alone wasn’t enough to convince me, Mary Jo uncovered a tray of rhubarb crumble, “It bakes up like this,” she says. Mmmm, rhubarb crumble!

Welden Farm rhubarb

Welden Farm rhubarb


I confess, I have never tried morel mushrooms. They are, however, considered a delicacy in the area. Like ramps, their growing season is brief (about three weeks), and at the Market people buy ’em while they can. The man I bought them from suggested (for newbies) cutting them in fourths and sauteing them in butter.
Morel Mushrooms

Morel Mushrooms


Several places sold asparagus, and not always for cheap. Four dollars a pound was a common price, but I found a couple of vendors who were selling for $3 or $3.50 a pound. I bought my asparagus from two different vendors.
Bountiful Asparagus

Bountiful Asparagus


Having enjoyed our last Market meat experience, Eric encouraged me to buy some more. I stopped by Fountain Farms and expressed how much we enjoyed last week’s skirt steak, but in the spirit of variety, I opted to explore other vendors. As I turned the corner, I stumbled upon Jordandal Farm, where to my surprise was the smiling face of Maria, a regular customer at the cafe I used to work at. Maria patiently talked me through the flavor and health benefits of Jordandal’s grass-fed Red Angus beef. I bought a pound of their ground beef, with plans for making homemade burgers.
Jordandal farmer Carrie Johnson and Maria

Jordandal farmer Carrie Johnson and Maria