Asparagus, Fiddlehead and Sausage Risotto

I read a comment from another blog recently.  The writer was making note of the changes in food presentation and ultimately in the food that we are making these days.  It's homier.  It's stew, it's curry, it's a mess on a plate.  We've turned ever so slowly from making food with ingredients that we have to source from expensive grocers and begun to appreciate a simpler way... and with it we get the pictures of  food ladled on a plate in a big glop.
I kinda like it though.  It's simple.  It's the way I cook.  It's the way I've always cooked and the way I prefer to cook.  I feel like I want to go out for fancy food.  I'm going to pay for the whole experience of it.  I love the creativity that you get from a high end restaurant and the appreciation for the whole experience beginning to end.  However, I don't feel the need to cook that way at home.  Plus, I want leftovers.  If I had to cook every single night I would have done something awful to myself way before now.  I like leftovers and some things taste better as leftovers than they did the day they were made.  Also, I don't have the time or the techniques to pull it all off successfully - and mistakes can be expensive when you are talking about fancy stuff.
I'm at that stage of life when I don't feel like I need to apologize for who I am.  I don't want to have to pretend that I'm something other than that.  I want what I want and that's the end of it.
This dish is nothing new necessarily.  Who hasn't  read about asparagus risotto before?  You know what though?  It's good.  It works.  It's not too difficult.  It makes leftovers.  It's homey.

On a different note, I'm totally enjoying the spring veggies that are taking the starring role right now.  After a long winter of root veggies and squash it's so wonderful to have the greens again and the short lived fiddleheads.  I think that this is my last batch of fiddleheads for the season and I've probably just got one more week of asparagus.  I love the cyclical nature of it all and I feel renewed.  So I'm going to go and plop some food on my plate (leftovers at that) and enjoy every second of my spring veggies with creamy rice and cheese and say a big thank you for it all.

Asparagus, Fiddlehead and Sausage Risotto
serves 4 - 6

2 cups (less about 2 tbsp) arborio rice
4 cups warm vegetable (or chicken) broth
2 cups (1 bunch) asparagus, ends off and chopped into large chunks
2 1/2 cup fiddleheads, cut into 1 1/2 pieces or so
1/2 cup chives, chopped
4 large sausages (mild), sliced thin (feel free to use less or even leave them out)
1 cup (or just under) cream
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

Heat a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan over med heat.
Add in about 3 tbsp of oil and add in the asparagus and fiddleheads.  Saute in the oil for about 5 minutes.
Add the rice and stir well so that the rice is coated with the oil.
Begin to add the heated broth one ladleful at a time.  Stir well and make sure that the liquid remains simmering the whole time.  You might want to turn down the heat to low.  Continue adding the liquid until it's all used up.
Add the sausage and stir well.
Add in the cream.

Add the salt to taste and the parmesan cheese.
Check the taste, adjust if necessary and serve.

Rhubarb #2 - Rhubarb Custard Bars

Spring mania continues in my house.  It feels like summer now though... in fact it was so warm yesterday that in the course of about 12 hours my beans seedlings all popped through the ground and into the light.
We're cooking with asparagus, fiddleheads, wild leeks, dandelion greens... Spring Mania.
My rhubarb mania continues too.  A few weeks ago my Mom told me that she made this rhubarb recipe that was amazing and she was going to make it again and was totally over the moon about it and all that. She sent me the recipe and told me that I should make them ASAP... which I would gladly have done if I'd had enough butter... and sugar... and time.
The food box arrived yesterday full of wonderful spring vegetables... and butter... and sugar.  So, I made the bars.

Let's just be frank here, You. Need. To. Make. These. Bars.
Yeah, they're that good.  Truth be told, they're great.  Low in sugar they are not, so you will only want one at a time (not bingeing is always a good thing) but they are really really really good... and gooey... and sweet... and tart.  Ack, what a combination.
I shared, because I'm nice that way and I don't want fat hips and holey teeth, with my neighbours.  You could share too if you make them.  These beauties would be great at a potluck function, a spring festival, a bake sale... your own cookie jar.
I'm off to try another rhubarb recipe and I have to make sure that I save some for the strawberry rhubarb jam that will be coming with strawberry season.  Ahhhh!  I love spring!

Rhubarb Custard Bars... from my Mom
makes one square pan of bars

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (hard is fine)

2 cups (I used about 3 and it wasn't too much) fresh rhubarb, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

1/3 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp brown sugar, packed
3 tbsp butter, cold and cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line a square 8x8 baking dish with parchment, leave a little draped over the edges so that it's easy to remove.
Make a crumble of the base ingredients by using a fork or a pastry cutter.  Press the crumbly dough into the bottom of the baking pan.  Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until the edges are beginning to turn golden brown.
Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the chopped rhubarb over the baked base.  In a bowl combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.  Add in the eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Pour the whole thing over the rhubarb.

In another bowl combine the topping flour and sugar.  Cut in the butter until it forms a crumb.  Sprinkle over the rhubarb/egg mixture.

Bake for about 35 or 40 minutes or until it's not jiggling too much in the middle.
Cool completely before cutting.

Asparagus and Dandelion Greens... it must be spring... I think

Although you would never guess by the weather we've been having, it is technically spring.  Unbelievably, I've already cut the grass once and the green everywhere is almost cartoonish.  My lavender has come and gone.  The irises and poppies are well on their way and I've got about one more harvest of rhubarb before it fades away until next year.

This week in the food box I got asparagus and dandelion greens.  It was until after taking the dandelion greens out of the box, giving them a good, thoughtful lookover that the error of my ways hit me.  Why was I paying for dandelion greens when I've got them growing like mad in the yard.  I don't put pesticides on my grass and neither does anyone nearby (it's the law here in the Tdot and I'm not sorry for it).  I'm planting all kinds of other stuff in the garden, why not start foraging in the grass as well.  It's all greens.  So... that's this week's revelation for 'ya.
By the By, this blog that I've been keeping up with called 'Chicken Tender' is written by someone who is renting to own a plot of land outside of San Francisco.  She and family are really making a go of it as farmers to sustain themselves and learning by the seat of their pants.  Chicken Tender posted a very interesting article just a few days ago about her own struggle/frustration/disillusionment with both the urban environmental movement and with civilization itself.  I found the article both vulnerable and relatable.  Check it out here if you are interested.  I'm always in a state of sadness/anger/frustration at the world that I live in AND participate in.  I have to admit that I'm part of it.  Coffee cups are a perfect example for me personally.  It always makes me sick to think that in Toronto about a million (yeah... that's 1 000 000) cups go into landfill everyday.  Now, I'm not a coffee drinker but I do bow down at the alter of Starbucks a couple of times a week for my... get ready for it... half sweet/no whip/hot chocolate - which sounds ludicrous and I can't verbalize it without snickering.  Often I bring my own mug but sometimes I don't, cause sometimes I just feel like I'm the only one, that it doesn't really matter and that now there will still be 999 999 coffee cups going into landfill.  I guess that the honest answer is
a.  Absolutely everything we do has an effect on the environment around us 'cause we're human and we eat and all that.
b.  If I'm really looking for a way to leave the frustration/anger/sadness behind then I should just not go to SB and forgo the stupid sounding hot chocolate altogether.

Okay... so here I am getting off the stupid soapbox, pretty convinced that the end of the world didn't happen last week and moving on with things...

So, this recipe was using the above mentioned asparagus and dandelion greens and I put some bread in it and all that crap.  It was supposed to look beautifully golden on the top... then I started watching a show at about 9pm and forgot to take it out.  It baked for about 10 minutes longer than it should have.  The golden turned to burned brown... whatever... it still tasted good... just looks bad.   Does that qualify as a disaster?
I'm gonna think about that one while I'm squatting in my back yard cutting all my dandelion greens... YUM.

Asparagus, Dandelion Green Strata (I think that's what it's called when bread is involved)
adapted from Deborah Madison
serves 4 - 6

3 - 4 slices of bread (use something substantial that will stand up to being in liquid)
2 cups asparagus,
3 cups (or so) dandelion greens, chopped
1 cup baby leek, sliced thin
1/4 cup (or so) chives, chopped
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 veggie bouillion cube
1 tsp pepper sauce (optional)
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp Worcestershire
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (or so) cheddar, grated
1/2 cup parmesan, grated

preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter a rectangular or oblong baking dish.
Combine the eggs, sour cream, milk, flour, Worcestershire together and set aside.
Heat a large pan over med/low heat.  Add some oil of your choice.  Add in the asparagus and leeks, stir constantly.  Heat for a few minutes then add in the greens, chives and garlic.  Moving around constantly, heat through for another five minutes.
Throw the veggies into the baking dish, add the egg mixture and mix that all up together.  Add in the cheddar and about half of the parmesan and mix that all up together.
Add the bread chunks and just immerse each chunk enough so that it's been glazed with the egg mixture.
Sprinkle the very top with the remaining parmesan.
Bake for about 35 - 40 minutes, or until it's bubbly and the top is golden brown... and don't watch tv while you are deciding exactly when that might be.

Bok Choi, Ground Pork Stir Fry

I remember having a conversation with KT a couple of months ago.  I was, once again, lamenting over being exhausted and feeling unfulfilled by the things which are really supposed to be fulfilling (if poor KT had a dime for every time I bitched about feeling tired and/or wanting to find myself she would be rich - what a great, patient friend).  KT asked me what I would do if I didn't have to work for a pay cheque.  That was easy...
I would :

do Yoga
go back to school for a Masters Degree
go to the Market

Jeez, I can't make money doing any of that!  However, on my holiday earlier this week I got to do quite a few of the things on my list.  It was totally a 'fun' day - running, gardening, cooking, baking, reading... sleeping.
My garden got a huge kick in the butt and I'm happy to tell you that I've got my beans,



and tomatoes

planted.  I still need a few more things in there but hey... it's a start and it was so awesome to just be outside putting what will hopefully grow into food into the ground.
In the meantime, my refrigerator was empty... well, almost.  It is totally empty now.  I made this little beauty and it was delightful.

Let's talk for a minute about ground meat.  I find that I have to season ground meat quite intensely for it to really have some serious flavour.  This is why I like doing something like a curry or a soy sauce thing - those flavours are so strong.  The recipe below is based on that.  I just kept adding another bit of whatever into the pot until I liked the flavour that I got.  Feel free to add or subtract as your tastes dictate.  I had a little bit of cabbage left in the crisper and threw it in to get it used up - feel free to add more bok choy or some other green if you have it.

Bok Choy and Ground Pork Stir Fry
serves 4

1 lb (approx. - it's very loose) ground pork
3 - 4 cups bok choi, chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1 cup cabbage (or other greens if you have), sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, crushed
5 heaping tbsp freshly grated ginger
4 tbsp Soy Sauce or Tamari
4 tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 heaping tbsp Hoisin Sauce
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat a Wok over med/high heat.  Turn the heat down to medium.  Add in some oil (about 2 - 3 tbsp).  Throw in all the veggies save the garlic.  Stir frequently until the bok choi begins to soften.  Add in the garlic and the ginger.  Continue to stir frequently for about 3 minutes.
Add in the ground pork and cook together with the veggies for about 5 minutes.
Add the soy sauce, oyster sauce and Hoisin Sauce.  Turn the heat down to low.
Add in the red pepper flakes.
Check the taste and adjust if necessary.
Serve over rice.

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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