Saturday, May 28, 2011

Asparagus Dip

There is only a small window of time in the year in which we can all enjoy the wonders of fresh asparagus. Yes, I know, it is one of those food items we can find in a regular grocery store all year round – I get it. But it is also one of those food items that, when harvested and eaten fresh and in-season, completely blows the always-available version out of the water. I want you all to experience this difference. And now is our window.

First, find local asparagus at your nearest Farmers’ Market. Buy a double amount that you think you want or need. Then, prepare the first half so simply it seems silly. Olive oil, salt, pepper, in the oven or on the grill only long enough until it just turns bright green. Munch. Devour. Be blown away.

Then, you can get a bit more creative with your second half since you’ll be hooked. Enter: Asparagus Dip. This involves a similar very quick cooking process as it was with your first batch. Only here, the asparagus is placed in boiling water and cooked just until bright green and then dunked into ice water to stop the cooking process and retain that beautiful color (this is called ‘blanching’). Then, you add that and a lot of other easy and delicious ingredients into a food processor, turn it on, and voila; Dip.

At the market (see the Spiced Rhubarb Chutney post for more details about my Farmers' Market season) I was describing this dip as a “lighter, cheaper, and local guacamole”. It’s delicate, but still bright with flavor, and would be a star on an appetizer plate with veggies and crackers. I myself was craving it on a burger with lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese. But that’s just me. Give it a taste and your tongue will tell you what it wants to pair it with.

Do whatever you see fit with this dip, but at least do me the favor of making it and serving it up for Memorial Day celebrations. Seasonal Eating Haven has arrived, and we have to kick it off right.

Asparagus Dip
I fancied adding a bit of herbage to this base recipe - cilantro and chive. Parsley would work great here too.


2 cups asparagus, about 1 lb. (my asparagus came from Thistle Whistle farm in Paonia, CO! I've written about Mark's amazing farm and vegetables in my 'An Unbeetable Meal' post both here, and on Local in Season)
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 tsp. onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 tomato chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/3 cup sour cream
dash hot sauce

1. Blanch and shock asparagus.
2. Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.
3. Transfer into another bowl and chill overnight.
4. Serve cold and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney

I have always thought of rhubarb as an exotic and mysterious food. Why, you ask? Well, first there's the often tomato-centered conundrum: fruit or vegetable? I know what youre feeling - the word fruit is on the tip of your tongue, but something stopped you from officially categorizing it as such. But is it a...vegetable?

Although it may feel strange to say...yes, yes it is! Go on, say it with confidence now. Rhubarb = vegetable. Although we often pair rhubarb with fruit, or apply it to fruit-like applications in cooking, it is actually a good 'ol veg. It's a beautiful, large-leafed plant that sprawls far and wide with the ruby sweet-tart stalks that we put in pies and jams.

Some people love it. Hooray for rhubarb! It signals the coming of summer and is versatile in its culinary applications. Some people, on the other hand, in the reaction to hearing the word 'rhubarb', or when presented with it's long, red stalk in front of their face, will only respond with; "What the...?" and feel slightly afraid. My conclusion? It's time to spread the word of rhubarb. Tis the season for it, and I'm here to tell you all about it's multifaceted - mysterious and exotic - personality.

That's right, I'm pushing your Rhubarb comfort zone. Although we love this fruit-disguised vegetable in our pies, muffins, cobblers, and preserves, it's savory side is too often ignored...or never even addressed! This recipe responds to Rhubarb's Other Side, and I think you will be delighted to get to know each other. Here it is made into a chutney; a sweet and savory condiment that hits your tongue on so many levels that you'll be thoroughly entertained with every bite. From fresh ginger to cloves to red onion to crushed red pepper and golden flavor sensation is left behind.

I was able to share this recipe and chutney with the Longmont Market-goers last weekend, as I have the special opportunity to run the Farmers' Market booth for the Culinary School of the Rockies this season in both Boulder and Longmont, CO. We offer seasonal recipes every week to market shoppers, with one in particular that we make and of which we give out samples. The featured recipe always centers around a peak produce item that is shooting out of the soil at that moment, and is therefore flowing off of the farmers' booths at the market that week. Our visitors can therefore taste our dish, take the recipe with them, and continue to shop for the freshest ingredients right there to make the dish and wow their friends at home. It's seasonal cooking and eating at it's finest.

So go on, head to the next market nearest you and grab a double handful of rhubarb. You're allowed to make your pie, don't worry, but reserve some for a savory treat too.

All-Star Tasters!

Cut right from the soil of Grant Family Farms and Miller Farms

Spiced Rhubarb Chutney
This chutney is fantastic on grilled meats, my favorite being grilled or roasted pork. I also love it simply as a condiment, either in sandwiches, mixed into yogurt, or for breakfast as you'll see below; on toast over a good smear of creamy goat cheese.


3/4 cup Sugar (feel free to adjust sugar levels to your liking)
1/3 cup Cider vinegar
1 Tb. Minced peeled fresh ginger
1 Tb. Minced garlic
1 tsp. Ground cumin
1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground cloves
1/4 tsp. Dried crushed red pepper
4 cups Fresh rhubarb (about 1 ½ lbs.) cut into ½ inch cubes
1/2 cup Chopped red onion
1/3 cup Dried tart cherries or golden raisins (or both!)


Combine first 8 ingredients in a large heavy pot with lid. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, onion and dried cherries or raisins. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Let mixture cool completely.

Can be refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.