Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise

Every Spring tender asparagus spears emerge out of the dirt, like miniature trees from an underground world. It is so cool how the spears seem to pop up out of nothing and creep upward toward the sun. It is a wonder to me how these funny looking green stalks grow.

Up until a few years ago, I had no clue about their growth habit until I saw them sprouting in my sister’s garden. Also, the spears don’t just die away after weeks of cutting them back. Eventually, the remaining tips of the spears will loosen and sprout forth 4 to 6 foot feathery fronds for the remaining summer. Fortunately, come the following Spring, this miracle occurs again and asparagus spears emerge for another season.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
Morning light on growing asparagus spears. Photograph by Perrin Smith

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

If an opportunity comes your way, eating freshly picked asparagus is a special treat. Even if you do not like asparagus, you might be pleasantly surprised once you have tasted the newly picked spears. It is a wonder how different freshly grown asparagus tastes compared to the store-bought kind. There is a slightly bitter, slightly sweet, distinctive greenish earthy flavor. Honestly, any vegetable straight from a garden tastes better because it is fresher and given more TLC. I am always grateful for the garden gifts from my sister and friends.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Dressing reicpe

Like a lot of vegetables, asparagus is very easy to prepare and does not require a detailed recipe to enjoy. The most important consideration is to not over cook them. The total amount of cooking time will depend on how thick the spears are, and your method of cooking. Some of my favorite ways to cook asparagus are: simmering, braising, roasting, and grilling. All methods produce good results. Ultimately, no matter which way you want to prepare them, just cook them until they are tender and have a slight crispness when you bite into one.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing Recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
How to Prep Asparagus

If you have never made asparagus here are some tips. There is some debate about how to prep asparagus. Should you peel them? Do the ends need trimming? Do you need a fancy asparagus steamer to make them? First, no fancy steamer pot required. I am not a big gadget person and work very hard to buy kitchen items that have more than one purpose. Steaming is a great way to cook asparagus and can effectively be done without an asparagus steamer in a microwave oven.

Trimming off the woody ends is a good idea, especially for the thicker stalks. Thin stalks don’t always need to be trimmed, but the thick ones do. I usually hold the bottom of a spear with one hand and place the other hand near the center of the stalk, then bend the two points downwards. The theory is asparagus will break at the place where the woody tip ends. This sounds good in theory, but it does not work perfectly all the time. Unfortunately, sometimes bending the stalk breaks off tender and edible sections.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe
Trim off the woody end.

Another trimming method is, to line the asparagus up end to end and cut off the ends about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches from the bottom. You can see a change in color in the spear as they it gets less woody. The woody part will be whiter in color. Additionally, you can feel with your fingertips where the woody part ends. The woody part will be harder and denser.

To peel or not to peel, that is the question. My answer is sometimes I peel the spears, sometimes I don’t. There is no particular reason for my decision and most of the time I leave the spears alone. Honestly, it depends on how much time I have or how fancy I want to be. If you have older and fatter asparagus, the skin is tougher and not as pleasant to eat. Whereas the thinner stalks have tender skin and easier to eat.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

To peel the skin, hold the asparagus near the tip in your non-active hand with the cut end pointing away from you. Hold the vegetable peeler in the other hand and begin in a downward motion, peeling off the skin. Start about a third of the way down from the tip and move to the bottom. You don’t want to peel off a lot of the spear, only the thin layer of skin.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing Recipe

When I am in a hurry or preoccupied with another part of the meal, I like to simmer asparagus for around 4 minutes in salted boiling water. Once drained, I give them a light coating of olive oil, a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and add minced herbs and/or lemon zest. It is as easy as that. You can add lemon juice or any acid, but it will change the color from bright green to khaki green.

There are times when I want to give my vegetables some extra pizzazz as a part of a composed meal. Asparagus with orange mayonnaise dressing adds pizzazz and offers an unexpected flavor with your asparagus and dinner. It is perfect for asparagus served at room temperature or cold. This recipe is easily adaptable, just add the amount of orange juice to give your mayonnaise the consistently and orange flavor that you want. Additionally, it is easy to prepare a head of time and If you own an immersion blender, even easier to make.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Homemade mayonnaise is a new discovery of mine. I love how light the flavor is. Some recipes call for extra virgin olive oil, but I find that it has too strong of a flavor so I use olive oil instead. If you do not have a blender, food processor or immersion blender, you can still make mayonnaise the old-fashioned way. Use a sturdy bowl, a good wire whisk, and a lot of continuous whisking by hand power. I think it is worth it.

This recipe is a combo of two. I used J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s technique for quick homemade mayonnaise  using an immersion blender. His technique has produced the most consistent results for me. I have made mayonnaise with my food processor, but the success depends on how slowly the oil drips into the eggs while the machine is running.

The orange mayonnaise comes from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I was intrigued with her suggestion to use this with asparagus and wanted to try it out. I love her work and she is a great resource for vegetarian cooking.

As usual, Deborah Madison is right on. The orange mayonnaise brings a delicate and unexpected fruity orange flavor with the asparagus.  She also recommends using the orange mayonnaise with broccoli, fennel, and cauliflower.

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing recipe

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Category: Vegetable side dish

3-4 servings depending on size

Serving Size: 6-8 spears per person

Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing

A delightful recipe of tender Spring Asparagus with Orange Mayonnaise Dressing. The delicate flavors of the dressing add subtly and sophistication to a vegetable platter or side dish with salmon, chicken or grilled meats.

The mayonnaise recipe is adapted from The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Foolproof Homemade Mayonnaise, and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Ingredients

    For the Asparagus
  • 1 pound asparagus, cleaned and woody ends trimmed
  • Kosher salt
    Orange Mayonnaise Dressing
  • 1 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • zest from half an orange
  • 4 Tbs freshly squeezed orange juice, or more to taste
    Mayonnaise - makes 2 cups
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • One small clove garlic, finely minced or grated with a microplane (optional)
  • pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1-2 Tbs water
  • 1 cup of canola oil
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

    Asparagus
  1. Trim the asparagus as needed. If you peel them, hold each asparagus at the tip and beginning around a third of the way down, gently peel off the thin skin with a vegetable peeler. Peel down lengthwise along the steam and work your way around.
  2. Prepare an ice bath for the asparagus. Fill a medium bowl part way with ice and add water to cover. Set the bowl aside near the stove.
  3. Put water in a shallow sauce pan and add a pinch of kosher salt. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a bowl. Add the trimmed asparagus and simmer in the boiling water about 4 minutes. The total cooking time will depend on how thick the asparagus spears are. The asparagus should be tender, but still have some crispness and look bright green.
  4. Remove the asparagus with tongs or a spider, and place in the ice bath to stop the cooking and keep the asparagus bright green.
  5. Once cooled, remove the asparagus from the ice bath and dry on clean kitchen towel. (Ahead of time note, wrap the asparagus in a paper towel and place in a plastic bag and put in the refrigerator until you need them. Eat the asparagus the same day you cook them.
    Homemade Mayonnaise
  1. Immersion blender method by Kenji Lopez-Alt: Use a tall cup just large enough for the immersion blender head to fit in, place the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, salt, and one tablespoon of water inside the cup. Slowly add the canola oil to the eggs then slide the head of the immersion blender inside the cup until it rests on the bottom. Hold onto the cup with one hand and turn on the immersion blender. The egg and oil will begin to emulsify. As the oil get pulled down to the bottom, very slowly raise the immersion blender up. You will see the mayonnaise begin to form and the oil being sucked towards to bottom and emulsify.
  2. Once all the oil has emulsified, turn off the immersion blender and scrape out with a rubber spatula, the mayonnaise into a small mixing bowl large enough to whisk in the remaining oil. Hold the bowl steady with your inactive hand and whisk up the mayonnaise. Drizzle in the olive oil small amounts at a time, about a tablespoon, into the mayonnaise, and vigorously whisk the mayonnaise to incorporate the olive oil. Continue to whisk in the olive oil in small increments until all the oil is added. The mayonnaise will last for two weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
    Orange Mayonnaise Dressing
  1. Add one cup of homemade mayonnaise to a small mixing bowl. Add the orange zest and 2 tablespoons of the orange juice. Whisk all the ingredients together. Taste the mayonnaise and add more orange juice, one tablespoon at a time until you get the right flavor and consistency you want. The orange mayonnaise will last for about one week in the refrigerator.
  2. When done, spoon into a small serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the asparagus.
  3. Arrange the asparagus on a serving plate and drizzle the orange mayonnaise across the asparagus.

Notes

Homemade mayonnaise in a blender or food processor. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, pinch of salt, garlic (if using), and one tablespoon of water into the bowl of your appliance. Mix together. With the motor running very slowly add the canola oil through the hole of the feed tube. Add the olive oil by hand the same way as described for the immersion blender technique.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli. Spinach. Fresh herbs. These three ingredients are all that is needed to develop a nutritious and velvety smooth soup. No fat. No diary. Just vegetables and fresh herbs. It doesn’t get any purer and simpler than this. What I am talking about, is broccoli soup with spinach and mint. This broccoli soup recipe is deliciously satisfying, and so wonderfully smooth you won’t believe there is no added cream. Broccoli soup with spinach and mint is also the easiest soup that I have ever made.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

This recipe is from the cookbook, Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell. I love this cookbook. The recipes are inventive, not complicated to make, and Jane likes to enhance the flavor of her food with a lot of fresh herbs. Jane Coxwell is the personal chef to Diane von Furstenberg aboard her sailing yacht. She gets to sail around the world, shop at international seaport markets, and cook delicious food for Diane von Furstenberg and the boat’s crew. The photographs of the food and markets are sunny with vibrant colors, and Jane always has a laughing smile on her face.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

If you have never made soup before and want to try, this is the soup recipe for you. Most soups begin with a base sometimes called mirepoix or sofrito. They usually consist of celery, carrots and onions that are sautéed until softened.  Mirepoix is the bodybuilder for stews, soups and some regional foods.  However, this broccoli soup does not have it or need it. Broccoli is the base, spinach mellows the broccoli and contributes to the smooth texture, and the fresh herbs add interest. All the ingredients contribute to the soups bright and pure flavor. If you love broccoli and spinach, then you will love this soup.

Keys to Success Making Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

The number one key to success is all about the blending. You will need special equipment to make broccoli soup with spinach and mint. The original recipe specifies using a blender, but I do not own one. I have made this recipe at different times using a food processor or an immersion blender. Both appliances worked with excellent results. My advice is to be patient, and keep at it. The whole blending process will take time. Just when you think you are done blending, blend some more. Later when you think you are done, blend some more. As you continue to whirl, the soup will become thicker, velvety smooth and develops an amazing bright green color. I have never been to Ireland, but I imagine the soup is the color of Ireland’s grassy emerald fields.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Another key to success comes from the secondary ingredient, the spinach. I believe the raw spinach, along with the blending, is responsible for creating the luxurious texture. Broccoli alone will not blend so smoothly because of its own texture. Understand that if you substitute the spinach with other leafy green vegetables like chard, it might taste great, but omitting the spinach will create a completely different soup.

This is a minor suggestion: I cut off the stems of the raw spinach before it is added the blender or food processor. Sometimes, even baby spinach leaves can have stringy stems.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

What to serve with Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint:

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint pairs beautifully with goat cheese and olives. If you are lucky enough to have access to a delicious olive rosemary bread, toast it and spread it with creamy goat cheese.

Or, make croutons with the olive rosemary bread and garnish the soup with the croutons and a drizzle of yogurt or crème fraîche.

Additionally, any open face melty cheese sandwich made with crusty bread is yummy with soup.

We like to serve broccoli soup with spinach and mint for dinner smorgasbord style. Accompanied with grilled herb marinated chicken breasts, marinated artichokes, olives, goat cheese, and toasted bread. Joe refers to this type of meal as, “Soup and Stuff” and is one of his favorite dinners.

Anything salty, crunchy, tangy, creamy is divine served with broccoli soup with spinach and mint. Enjoy!

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Prep Time: 8 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 28 minutes

4 12 oz servings

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint is a healthy, delicious soup that is velvety smooth. The fresh herbs and the luxurious texture make this soup special. This soup is super healthy for you with no added fat. A cinch to make.

You can change the herb combinations to suit your taste, but always use fresh herbs. Watch the quantities of each herb so they do not overpower the taste of the broccoli and spinach. Other fresh herb pairings are: mint and tarragon, cilantro and mint, parsley and mint, Fines herbs which is a classic blend of tarragon, chervil, and chives.

Special equipment is required to achieve this velvety smooth texture. A blender, food processor, or immersion blender are necessary to achieve the consistency specified in the soup.

Recipe is from Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled sliced in half and green germ removed
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 small handful mint leaves
  • 1 small handful basil leaves
  • Flakey Sea Salt such as Maldon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • Honey or agave to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Fill a saucepan large enough to accommodate all the prepared broccoli with water add about 1/2 tea of Kosher salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Cut the broccoli heads by separating the florets and the stems. Trim the florets into small pieces. Set aside. Then cut the rough and thick end off each broccoli stem and discard, Chop the remaining stems into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. When the water comes to boil add the garlic halves and the chopped broccoli stems. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and cook until the florets are tender, but still bright green. About 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli and put into a bowl of a blender or food processor. (*If you are using an immersion blender you will need to do some juggling. Once you have removed the broccoli, pour the broccoli water into a container and reserve. Put the broccoli back into the stock pot that you cooked them in.)
  5. Measure 2 cups of the broccoli water and place in the blender (or pot) with the broccoli. Reserve the remaining broccoli water.
  6. Blend the broccoli until it is smooth. Add the spinach, mint and basil and continue to blend until very smooth. If you think you are done blending, blend some more. One of the outstanding features of the soup is getting the soup to have a luxurious and smooth texture. The blending step is what will set this soup apart from any other broccoli soup. It will take awhile to accomplish, even longer depending on what equipment you are using. The blending should take at least 5 minutes but possibly longer.
  7. If using a food processor or blender, pour the vegetable puree into a clean pot. Turn on the heat to medium and add broccoli water, a little at a time, into the stock pot with the vegetable puree. Keep adding until you reached your desired consistency. Taste the soup and season with the lemon juice, about 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. (Be careful with the amount of lemon juice you add. The acid reacts with the green vegetables and changes the color from bright to drab.) Sweeten with about 1 teaspoon of honey or agave if needed. (optional) Taste and correct for seasoning.
  8. Serve warm for lunch or dinner. The soup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The color might change after a day or more in the refrigerator.

Notes

The amounts of the ingredients are somewhat open to interpretation. Every head of broccoli is not the same size, as well as every handful is not the same. But one of the great characteristics about making soup is you can play around with the amount of ingredients without totally messing it up. The key ingredients are the broccoli and spinach. To give you some guideline, the two heads of broccoli weighed a total of 1 lb 8 1/2 oz / 697 g and the total amount of spinach weighed 2 1/8 oz / 61 g.

I once bought a head of broccoli at the farmers market that was so big, it could have been the equivalent of two or three heads of broccoli. Use your judgement and let your eyes and tastebuds be your guide.

You can add around 3 -4 sprigs, or less, of each fresh herb to your liking.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

I can hear the motors gearing up as people get ready to travel for a long weekend summer vacation. The car is packed with bikes, kayaks, towels, swim-gear, boogie boards, camping equipment, and overflowing with 12 changes of clothes per person for three days, because you never know what the weather will bring. Labor Day is here and people are anticipating a fun weekend full of playtime with family and friends for a last summer hurrah.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad is a great salad to bring along for any weekend adventure or picnic. It is a light and healthy pasta salad that everyone will enjoy and easily adaptable to fit any diet.
Gull Pond in the National Forest, Wellfleet, MA

With all of this great activity in the summer’s sun,  you are going to want to make food that will not take up a lot of your play time, needs to be nourishing, and taste as bright and delightful as your weekend vacation. My solution is Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad, loaded with fresh vegetables, cured olives, creamy cheese and fresh herbs.  It is a light and refreshing pasta salad that will satiate your hunger and cravings and use up a lot of vegetables that you purchased at the farmer’s market, or picked from your own garden. The bonus is, this pasta salad recipe won’t take up a lot of your play time to prepare.

Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad is a great salad to bring along for any weekend adventure or picnic. It is a light and healthy pasta salad that everyone will enjoy and easily adaptable to fit any diet.
Fresh grape tomatoes
Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad is a great salad to bring along for any weekend adventure or picnic. It is a light and healthy pasta salad that everyone will enjoy and easily adaptable to fit any diet.
Basketful of ingredients for the Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.