Saturday, May 24, 2008

Open Asparagus Sandwich

One word: Fantabulous. I first saw a picture of a very similar sandwich on Food Network's website. After seeing what looked like the perfect summer sandwich, I started browsing the web for other variations. More or less, each and every picture I found looked better than the one before, and I knew that we needed to try this sandwich.

Most pictures and recipes called for, or showed the sandwich on a traditional baguette; white bread. Greg and I adore good wheat bread, and found a nice multi-grain baguette at the grocery store (Meijer, actually!) and opted to use that instead. I also decided to use shredded mozzarella instead of a slice, because it seemed that a slice would take away from the flavors and add a lot of grease. I decided to brush my bread with a rosemary, black pepper and sea salt olive oil mix to spice things up a bit; I'm very glad I did. I described the sandwich to my mom and she suggested using provolone instead of mozzarella, and that she had seen an onion and rosemary loaf that would work really well, too. This just goes to show that it's a versatile sandwich as well.

Over all, this sandwich is indeed, fantabulous. I can't wait to have another one tonight with Greg, and to keep making them through out the rest of the summer!

For the recipe, I am giving the ingredient amounts for 1 sandwich, so it can easily be multiplied.

1 slice of French of Italian bread on a sharp angle.
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 (a dash) of crushed rosemary
a pinch of black pepper and sea salt
2 piece of asparagus
1/4 tsp lemon zest
2 slices of tomato
1 tbs mozzarella cheese
2 slices of ham

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Combine olive oil, rosemary and sea salt in a bowl, set aside
Slice bread and brush each side with the olive oil mixture, place in heated oven
Cut each asparagus piece in half after trimming the ends
Place the asparagus and lemon zest in sauce pan with about a half inch of water, turn to boil and cook until tender crisp
Slice the tomato
Once the bread is crisp on the edges and the asparagus cooked (about 5 minutes max) remove the bread, keeping it on a baking sheet, and drain the asparagus.
Place the ham on the bread, then layer with tomato, asparagus, and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with a little black pepper.
Place back in the oven for about 2 minutes until the cheese melts.
Remove and let cool for a minute or so.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Vichyssoise with Zucchini and Brown Rice

Vichyssoise is a pureed soup, traditionally of leeks and potato, served cold with cream. There are two great stories of how this soup was created, one giving credit to an American chef, the other a French chef. Either way, it is a great soup. A lot of less traditional recipes (like this one) also suggest serving the soup warm; it is really a versatile soup. I have made a roasted red pepper version, which is fantastic, and I have found recipes for carrot versions, and purple potato.

In addition to tasting great, Greg and I love this soup because it is wonderfully healthy and inexpensive. We have played with the recipe for about a year, changing what onion to use, type of potato, ratio of zucchini to potato, etc, and right now we are at a great base. We have found that red onion and Yukon gold potato's make a less flavorful soup, and it is really important to add a bit of milk to the soup while cooking to get it to thicken. Greg's main complaint about the soup was that he still felt hungry after eating a big bowl, so we added brown rice. The rice changes the texture, but the flavor is still great and it is much more filling. With the rice added, I think the soup is better warm than cold. It almost turns it into a comfort food.

Just last night, Greg said that the next time we make this soup it would be fun to try leaving some chunky vegetables in. I'm not sure if this would still be a Vichyssoise, then =). I also would like to try adding wild rice, instead of brown. Now that the farmers market is open, and produce is super cheap there, it will be fun to re-make the roasted red pepper, and maybe try the purple potato version.


4-5 C. each of chopped zucchini and red skin potato (skins on both)
2 medium vadalia onions, chopped
4 TBS butter
Olive oil as needed
Chicken stock (up to 2 quarts)
Milk (about a 1/4-1/2 C.)
1 TBS parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried rosemary
1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried sage or thyme (i've tried using both, and it gets a bit overwhelming, but either alone is fine)
-3 C. brown rice (should end up with 6 cooked cups)

-Brown butter in a stock pot. Add herbs and onion, stir until the onion is coated and turn heat down to medium low. Cover and let sit until the onion is see-through and soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add chopped zucchini and potato. Mix in with the onion well. If you need to add some olive oil to coat them, do so now.
-Add chicken stock until you can just see it through the vegetables.
-Add the milk until it is just covering the vegetables. Add the parmesan at this point. Stir to incorporate everything.
-Bring to a boil (the milk foam will rise, so beware!)
-Once to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 30-45 minutes, until veggies are soft.

-While veggies are cooking, cook brown rice as package directs. Instant brown works fine, too. Set aside when done cooking.

If you have a wand or stick blender, you are in luck. Blend until smooth and creamy.
If you don't have a wand or stick blender, pour the soup into a stand blender or food processor (could take a few trips) and blend until smooth.

-Once soup is creamy, add the rice. Serve with a bit of parmesan cheese and some black pepper.