A First!

We have just returned from a ten day trip to Copenhagen and Stockholm. We had never been to Scandinavia and so when this popped up on Road Scholar, we thought, let’s do it. Well that was over a year ago and everyone must of had the same idea because by the time I tried to book the trip all of the dates had waiting lists. So when the 2018 trips were announced we quickly made reservations. Most RS trips are all inclusive, that is, accommodations, travel and meals are all included in the price. And they have you scheduled for tours and activities most of the day.

This trip however, was a Flex trip, lots of free time and many meals on us. Our guides still were available with suggestions and one afternoon before our first dinner “on our own” we asked Hanna her for ideas. Luckily Noma was closed as they planned their move to new digs (not that we had a reservation [needed at least a year in advance] or could have afforded it anyway). But she had a couple of alternatives in mind.

We settles on Vaekst (pronounced “Vixst” as best we can remember). When we arrived the hostess asked if we had reservations…oops…well no. She asked us to wait a moment and disappeared. After a few minutes she returned and told us we would be seated if we could be done by 7:45pm. It was only 6pm so we readily agreed. We were taken to the lower level, literally walking through a greenhouse of hanging plants. Our table for two was surrounded by large tables (6-8) of young professionals. This was a Wednesday evening in Copenhagen, Denmark and the place was humming.

Before we even had a chance to look at the menu a waiter arrived and poured us each a glass of champagne and announced they were celebrating tonight because they had achieved full sustainability. This was a good beginning.The menu arrived and it was very simple. There was a meat choice or a green (vegetarian) choice. The meat menu offered pork breast with the option of two items for substitution, beef tenderloin or brill. The rest of the menu was wine pairings. Curt went with the pork breast and I went Green. However,  as you will soon see, it only looked simple on paper.Before our first course arrived a beautiful bowl of a cream cheese dip with baby carrots and zucchini, broccoli florets and French radishes was put on the table. The dark bits were malt crumble and the cream cheese wasn’t plain but had a bit of lemon and herbs I could not identify. It tasted fresh and summery. Then came the rolls and just fabulous butter. The Danes know how to do butter.

Vegetables w/cream cheese dip, Whole grain bisquits and butter

By now we were done with our champagne and ordered wine. There was also water on the table. And when you ask for water you always are given the choice of still or carbonated.

Next came our first course. On the menu mine said Tomatoes with Roasted Almonds, Ramson & Sesame sauce. I asked what the ransom was and as far as we could make out it was either ramps or green onions. What arrived was a bowl of red, yellow and green tomatoes in an oil and vinegar dressing with a sprinkling of, what I can only guess were, ransom shoots and almond pieces. The little cake was made with chickpeas and the “sesame sauce” was a delicate sesame soup.

Chickpea cake, Sesame soup and a Tomato Salad w/ Ransom shoots

Curt’s first course was the baked hake, which is a mild fish in the cod family.  It came in a bowl along with chive blossoms, mixed herbs and micro-greens and a golden caviar.  Once presented, the server poured a rich buttermilk broth into the bowl.  Yum.

Baked Hake under a buttermilk sauce

This was truly a fun beginning. The presentations were beautiful and the food well-prepared. With great anticipation we awaited our main course but before it arrived another dish came to the table. I believe the waitress called them pancakes but I would say they were little crepes filled with fennel, micro-greens and a lemon creme.

Vegetable crepes

After this tasty snack, the main courses came to the table. Curt’s was Fried Pork Breast with Cabbage, Lemon and Yogurt. A salad arrived with the pork, which we think had the lemon and yogurt as a dressing.

Fried Pork Breast

Mine from the Green Menu was Grilled White Asparagus with Truffle & Porcini Mushroom Sauce.There were also artichoke hearts tucked under the asparagus. Another extra dish of small potatoes in a creamy sauce was put on the table.

White Asparagus, artichoke hearts, porcini mushroom sauce

Curt’s greens & radish salad, a bowl of new potatoes to share

By now we were getting pretty full because even if the portions were small, there were many of them. But we had come this far on our culinary adventure and would not be passing on dessert. Also by now our time was getting short and 7:45pm had come and gone, but no one mentioned it or tried to hustle us along. So Curt ordered an espresso with his dessert. His Strawberry Sorbet had White Chocolate Chips on top, and it was surrounded by a buttermilk and vanilla cream sauce. Mine was a Dark Chocolate Sorbet on top of a Rhubarb compote with a Caramel Chip. Okay, this was heaven.It was a wonderful evening but the final surprise came after we left. As I was taking pictures of the front of the restaurant, because of course I was going to write about it, we saw a little framed card on the outside wall of the building. We had just eaten at our first Michelin starred Restaurant. Wow!  We walked back to our hotel smiling all the way.

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Market Day Treasures

Yesterday was the Wednesday Farmer’s Market in Green Bay,Wisconsin. Enjoy.

Asparagus

Oyster mushroom

Morel mushrooms

Red Scallions

Free range eggs

and Mini Cupcakes. Carrot and Chocolate Creme.

Bon Appetit!

Final Asparagus Patch Post

As I was preparing this post I discovered that I do a lot of whining about our asparagus patch. In 2010 I thought for sure that our then 30 year old patch was done, finished, kapoot! Then 3 years later I was amazed at how much asparagus I was picking even though the thistles and weeds had pretty much won the fight for supremacy.

But this year the almost 40 year old patch is really all but dead. There are not just mystery weeds, dandelions, and thistles but trees, invading raspberry canes, grass and lots of Queen Anne’s Lace.

The original patch began at the bottom of the above picture and extended to the edge just before the back field. Grass and dandelions are now the main crop. Curt has been mowing the front area but further back trees and raspberry canes have taken over and we will need a saw before we can mow that part.But as the saying goes, “Hope springs eternal.”  Last week I noticed in the front area a few green stalks that looked different from the other stalks. Sure enough, a few asparagus roots were valiantly trying to survive. So I kept looking, even in the back section. Here are the Magic Eye pictures of asparagus hunting. In each pair, the top picture is of a spear, the 2nd picture has an arrow so you can see the spear. Scroll slowing.Or try this one.

So with enough patience and a little bit of foraging across the road (where some volunteers from somewhere are coming up) we came up with enough for our dinner salad with a few left over for omelets in the morning. Nothing like the 20-25 pounds we used to get when the patch was young but still interesting.

Top bunch was from the old patch, bottom bunch from across the road.

Thanks for sticking with me all these years but enough about asparagus, I hear the garlic crop is doing well.

Revuelto, a spring Migas of sorts

This week David Tannis, food writer for the New York Times reprised a recipe for Spanish Asparagus Revuelto from an article originally published in 2014 titled Asparagus, Spanish style.  The inter-web tells me that revuelto is Spanish for scrambled eggs.  So, Spanish asparagus and scrambled eggs.  Sounded good to me.

In reading through the recipe, it struck me that this revuelto sounds a lot like a variation on Migas, which we wrote about several years ago.  A comparison of that Migas to this Revuelto reveals a similar approach in preparation but with more vegetables, without the chickpeas and with eggs scrambled in rather than cooked separately and presented on top of the other ingredients.

I followed Mr. Tannis’ recipe but roughly cut it in half except I used 4 times the amount of pimentón that he called for and double the amount of chorizo.

The end result was very tasty but the eggs didn’t exactly scramble, rather they formed more of a sauce that coated the other ingredients.  I think the asparagus brought a lot more moisture to the dish than I had anticipated, making for the sauciness.  Yummy none the less.

Asparagus Migas

1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole, plus 1 small clove, minced
1 cup day old bread (baguette or ciabatta), torn into 1/2″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 oz. Spanish chorizo, cut into matchstick pieces
3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1″ – 2″ pieces
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, roughly chopped

Saute the whole garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, remove and discard.

Saute the bread in the oil until lightly browned and crispy.  Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt, some pepper and 1/2 tsp of pimentón.  Remove from the saute pan and allow to cool.

Saute the chorizo a minute or two to release some of its oil, add the asparagus and saute for several minutes until the asparagus is tender but still firm.  Add the green onions and saute an additional minute.

Beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp of pimentón and a pinch of salt and some pepper to taste.  Add the eggs to the asparagus mix and cook, stirring until the eggs are just soften and creamy.

Divide the revuelto onto two plates, top with parsley and croutons.  Serve immediately.

A Spargelfest in my Garden?

spear

Three years ago in May I was crabbing and carrying on and blogging about our 30 year old asparagus patch and how it just didn’t produce like it did in years past. Not sure why I was giving those poor old roots such a hard time, I don’t exactly produce like I did thirty years ago either.

The patch is now three years older and after a hard cold winter and a pretty chilly spring I wasn’t expecting much. So yesterday when Curt waved at me from his riding mower to get my attention and then made a lot of hand gestures and starting doing charades I didn’t know what was going on.

Sounds like – growing, garden, um…breaking, take a break? take a nap? No, break..cut …cut growing things. Then he pointed emphatically toward the far end of the garden and I figured out the message was, “Go pick the asparagus, Sweetie!” I added the sweetie since I’m sure that’s what the squinting and grimacing and the final hand gestures meant.

Down to the garden I trekked, basket and knife in tow. Sure its been warm (finally) and it has rained a bit, but seriously how much could there be amongst the dandelions, the thistles and the migrating raspberry plants in the OLD, decrepit, post-winter patch?

Lots!

Lots!

Three and a half pounds worth to be exact.  Surprise, surprise. And today, another pound and a half.

So what was the first thing we made with our bounty of green spears? Curt whipped up a couple of omelets that were just perfect. I guess a game of charades was worth it.

omelet

Well that leaves about four more pounds and remember, it hasn’t stopped growing. I think gifts for my book group tomorrow will be asparagus. Yep, gift bags of asparagus it is.

And Spargelfest? Well that’s German for asparagus festival of course. Many German cities hold an annual Spargelfest. They crown Asparagus Queens and have asparagus peeling contests and consume copious amounts of beer and wine. Hmm, something to think about for next year.

Easy but Elegant

You probably have noticed that we post a lot of food on our blog. Curt really loves to cook and we also belong to a “gourmet” group. So friends always say to us, “You must have gourmet dinners every night.” No, not true. We have many nights of tacos, pizza, soup/salad. Even dinners that seem “gourmet” come together pretty easily. Sunday night was a good example.

On Saturday Curt went to Parisi’s Groceteria, a winter market hosted by Parisi’s and Kavarna, two local restaurants. There he picked up some micro-greens, a chicken, celery root and kale. Next stop, the grocery where the asparagus looked really good and the price was reasonable. Back home we had frozen corn and scallops in the freezer and a squash from the garden was in the basement. Probably the most “gourmet” of the dinner was a jar of Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta spread. It’s from a company called Cucina and Amore and only costs $2.99 a jar.

Spicy micro mix - microgreens

Piquillo Pepper Bruschetta

All that was left was a little cooking and assembly.

Steam the asparagus.
Pan sear the scallops.
Saute the vegetables.
Cube the buttercup squash and saute in butter till tender and colored on the   edges. Remove squash from pan and add some chopped onions. Cook till lightly browned. Add onions to squash. Add frozen corn to skillet with  little water, cook till tender. Add squash and onions to the corn and heat through.

Ok. You are ready to assemble. Put a swoosh of pepper spread on the plate and add a serving of asparagus.

pepper spread and asparagus

Add the squash/corn mixture.

squash/corn added

Finally the scallops and a sprinkling of micro-greens.

Scallops

Add a nice white wine. Ta-da! Easy but elegant. And what of the chicken, celery root and kale? That’s for another day. Hey, how about one more picture of those cute micro-greens.

Hey Froggy!

It’s been hot here. Really hot. Yesterday we hit 93 and today my thermometer said 91. On top of that its been humid so we haven’t been spending much time in the garden. Each day I head out to the asparagus patch and pick about a pound of spears. Asparagus likes the heat and if I miss a day the stalks get too tall and start to feather out.

One Day's Harvest

Another necessary outdoor task is watering the plants that have yet to go into the big garden (basil, thyme and parsley are waiting) and the flowers I have in pots. I am planning on potting a lot of geraniums this year but I have only gotten one done. I noticed as I was watering it, a lot of dirt had been kicked out of the pot and was scattered in the stones underneath.

I tucked some back in and watered, then I started on the big pot next to the geranium. Out popped the dirt kicking culprit. Off he went, up the air conditioner and on to the energy meter on the side of the house.

Cope's Grey Tree Frog

I quickly went in and grabbed the camera  so I could take a picture of the vandal. Presumably for the wanted poster? Curt came out and tried to grab him but only caught a bit of his leg before he squirted out of his hand. But that little grab helped us do an ID. There was a little flash of color on the inside of his leg which makes us think he was not just a grey tree frog but a Cope’s grey tree frog.

We know he’s not really a malicious vandal just a little critter looking for a cool dark place away from the sun and the heat and a flowerpot full of black dirt is the perfect spot. We are glad we have these little guys around.

Sparrow’s Grass


‘Tis the season for Asparagus.  We have a 30-year old bed (of two 25-foot rows) that produces about a pound of asparagus spears every day for six weeks or so (when it was a much younger bed, we could pick 2-1/2 pounds or more a day).  We are definitely of the mind that you should only eat FRESH asparagus, not frozen which has a mushy texture and absolutely not canned which is something only slightly removed from what the cat horked up.  When it’s asparagus season, we eat it a lot, maybe not every day, but certainly frequently and whenever we want to.  We also sell some and give away quite a bit.

But, we do run into asparagus fatigue.  How many ways can you prepare asparagus?  Our favorite way is roasted – lightly coated with olive oil (spraying it with a good olive oil cooking spray is the easiest way) and roasted for about 10 minutes (less for thin spears, maybe a little more for really fat spears) at 400 degrees, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roasting eliminates the potential for slippery, watery asparagus – roasting turns it sweet with a nice firm but cooked texture.

Asparagus steamer

Steamed is second best.  A few years ago we invested in a proper asparagus steamer, which is also great for steaming up to 7 ears of corn.  This unusual looking pot is tall  and narrow with a basket liner. The basket lets you take the asparagus out all in one fell swoop.  Because the asparagus (or corn) steam with the toughest part towards the bottom it almost eliminates the problem of overcooking.  We don’t boil asparagus because it comes out watery and it hard to get the whole spear evenly cooked – either the base is under-cooked or the tip is over-cooked.

One of our favorite fall-back and easy preparations is an improved variation on a starter we first had at Coquette Cafe in Milwaukee.  Roasted asparagus topped with a poached egg, a few shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and a sprinkle of crispy Prosciutto paired with a simple salad and some toasted crusty bread.  It makes a nice lunch or light supper.

Asparagus with poached egg, Parmigiano and Prosiutto

Roast Asparagus with egg, Parmigiano and Prosciutto.

Cut or snap asparagus to consistent length.  Lightly coat with extra virgin olive oil and roast in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes until the scales on the tips start to lightly brown.

Poach eggs following your favorite procedure – about 6 minutes or until the yolk is done to your taste.  We prefer the yolk to be slightly runny.

Cut Prosciutto into pieces about 1/2 the size of a postage stamp.  Toast over low/medium heat in a dry saute pan, shaking frequently, until it starts to darken and gets a little dry.  Set aside to cool, the Prosciutto will get crispier as it cools.

Serve with a bed of asparagus, topped with the poached egg.  Add a few shavings of Parmigiano and a generous sprinkling of Prosciutto.  Serve with a slice of toasted crusty bread (like Ciabatta or other good country-style bread) and a simple green salad.