Tuesday, May 31, 2011

flash-cooked cold asparagus with middle eastern dip

this is barely a recipe - it's more like a technique plus a notion that come together into a great snack or side dish. the asparagus i used here were tiny thin ones, but you could also use fatter ones - just allow them to cook longer.

basically, bring some salted water to a boil (there is actually a recipe for this - the comments are pretty entertaining). add your asparagus. this is totally not difficult, but you do want to make sure you use a pot big enough for it to all fit in there without breaking, of course.

let it cook until it's as tender as you like. the stalks i used were so tiny that they got bright green almost immediately. i think i left them in for about 45 seconds or so, and they were still pretty al dente, but pleasantly so.

the next part is the important part - using tongs or something, put them immediately into a bowl of cold water with ice. this stops the cooking more quickly and keeps them that nice verdant green. once they are cool, you can store them in the fridge until you are ready for them. i put mine in a tupperware thing on some paper towels to help them dry out more. you could also use a clean kitchen towel, of course, and thus be less wasteful, but i didn't have one.

for the dip, i was feeling like something kind of middle eastern, so i used 2/3 greek yogurt to 1/3 mayonnaise (this is a rough proportion - you can use however much of each you like) and added salt, a couple of tablespoons of crumbled feta cheese, and some middle eastern/north african spices/mixes - za'atar, ras el hanout, and sumac. i used about equal amounts of the za'atar and ras el hanout and perhaps half that of sumac. just play around with it and see how much of each you like - start slow and keep tasting it until is is delicious.

because i bought the za'atar and ras el hanout already mixed, i am not sure exactly what was in these particular ones, but the links go to wikipedia things about them that describe what's going on. the ras el hanout is fairly spicy, which was nice. you should be able to get these at a grocery store with bulk spices (always the way to go, so you don't end up with a giant jar of cardamom that you will never use) or a middle eastern grocery or certainly on the internets. they're worth seeking out, because you can also use them in things like rice, eggs, etc. za'atar is particularly good as a rub for roast chicken.

anyway, it's a good idea to mix this up and let it sit for awhile so the flavors meld. then you can dip away with the asparagus and whatever else you have around. it would also be good as a sandwich spread or whatever else your little heart desires!

perhaps not an ice cream topping, though.

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