It's National Vegetarian Week this week and Abby of Eat the Right Stuff is asking us for veggie recipes that will even have the carnivores among us drooling...
Apart from beetroot in all shapes and formats (which is really my pet hate), I have yet to come across a vegetable I don't like. I can even stomach okra when it's prepared well. And there couldn't be a better time to celebrate the humble vegetable, either, as the market shelves are overflowing with seasonal produce - you're really spoilt for choice these days. Cauliflower? Peas? Broad beans? But best of all: asparagus. I said a few weeks ago that I am quite partial to white asparagus and I am sticking by it. But I also love green asparagus very much. Over the last weekend, we've consumed what most likely is somebody else's yearly ration of asparagus and for the first time, I steamed the stalks, rather than cooking them in water, which resulted in much more taste, especially in the white asparagus. I will never, ever, go back to cooking it now that I've done that, that's for sure! Luckily, I am in the process of buying the best kitchen appliance ever invented (more on which when I am back from holidaying in Southern Tuscany) and it steams the asparagus just perfectly.
See, that's what I love about vegetables: they're so incredibly easy to prepare, being just perfect in themselves. They need no slow-cooking with millions of condiments... just put the peeled stalks in, sprinkle with some coarse, unbleached sea salt (sel gris) and no more than 15 mins later (I had very thick stalks), make a fantastic dressing using lime juice, rice vinegar and honey and you've got yourself an impressive salad for a starter or as a healthy lunch/dinner. A perfect way to eat your leeks as well, by the way, as I first discovered at a great dinner I had at Mon Vieil Ami, a modern bistro by Antoine Westermann on the Île St. Louis in Paris.
Having been a vegetarian myself for a period in my life, I know how creative one can be with vegetables. I wouldn't want to miss my occasional meat and fish fixes these days, but unlike other people who don't venture further than peas and carrots, I am happily experimenting with lots of different vegetables, be it as sides or main dishes. It's a love that will never fade.
Other favourite vegetarian recipes (90 of them to date and counting) on thepassionatecook (a full list can be found here):
Red onion, fennel & hazelnut tarte (February 2007)
Winter salad with fennel, pear, orange and pecan (January 2007)
Zucchini (courgette), sage & scamorza terrine (October 2006)
Mini corncakes with avocado & lime salsa (September 2006)
Aubergine (eggplant) parmigiana (July 2006)
Jerusalem artichoke risotto (January 2006)
Parsnip & honey soup shots with spiced sweet potato crisp (November 2005)
Stuffed squash blossoms (courgette flowers) with honey drizzle (September 2005)
Onions roasted in their skins stuffed with cheesy polenta (April 2005)
Wild garlic leaf gnocci (April 2005)
Caramelised aubergine tartare with curried nuts (April 2005)
Salad of caramelised fennel on celeriac purée (January 2005)
Green & white asparagus salad with red pepper and tarragon
(serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a light lunch)
500 g white asparagus (thick stalks)
250 g green asparagus
½ red romano pepper (ca. 50 g)
1 handful tarragon leaves (roughly torn)
For the dressing:
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fruity olive oil (I used an Ourogal Azeite Virgem Extra - the fruitiest oil I've ever had)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp runny honey
white pepper and salt to your liking
First, peel the white asparagus. This is done from the top down, start just under the tip and carefully remove all the thick skin.
Snap the green asparagus - if it's in season and fresh, you shouldn't need to snap much off. Holding the stalk gently, bending the stalk from the bottom end gently until it breaks - you can keep the hard end for making soup.
Put the asparagus in a steamer (avoid the microwave, if you can), sprinkle with coarse sea salt and cook for 10 minutes more or less, depending on the thickness of the stalks.
Refresh the asparagus to cool down, then cut into bite-size pieces. In a salad bowl, combine with the roughly chopped romano pepper, tarragon and dressing, give it a gentle toss and serve with crusty bread on the side.