Matthew: Last week, I checked out the new Middleton farmer’s market that is held on Tuesdays just a few blocks from my apartment. It’s still early for produce, but I did see a lot of rhubarb for sale. I bought some and wanted to try a different sort of rhubarb dessert. I made this recipe called Rhubarb and Ginger Fool from the NYTimes. It was really easy to make and was rather good. You make a rhubarb sauce with orange juice and ginger and then mix it with whipped cream and yogurt. I brought some to work and I think my friends liked it too. I did set aside one stalk for a vodka infusion. You just leave the rhubarb in for 1/2 a day or so and it is done. I haven’t tried mine yet, but I think it will need to be mixed with a sugar syrup to make it sweet enough.
Katie: The farmers market in Paderborn seems to have a different “it” item each week. While the stands were filled with white asparagus last week, strawberries seemed to outnumber them this week. They smelled so sweet, that I just couldn’t resist buying some, even though I already had some at home.
I decided to try a savory dish using strawberries. This recipe for Strawberry, Pistachio, and Goat Cheese Pizza from Cooking Light caught my eye. I used my favorite pizza dough recipe. Instead of watercress, I decided to go with another spring item, green asparagus. I tried shredding it, like Matt did with his pizza. After rolling out the dough, I brushed it with a little olive oil and added the shredded asparagus, which I had mixed with olive oil, sea salt, and ground black pepper. I then baked the flatbreads for about 15 minutes at 475 degrees, removed them from the oven, and then added the remaining ingredients. I tried putting a couple of the flatbreads back in the oven for a couple of minutes and served the other ones without baking the other ingredients. Both variations worked well.
These were really good! The combination of strawberries, goat cheese, and pistachios worked really well together, and the asparagus added an interesting twist. I added asparagus sparingly, but next time I would probably add a little more. I toasted the pistachios in a frying pan before chopping them, which enhanced their flavor. This was a good spring meal!
Bill: I was inspired by Katie’s recent post to make a quick but tasty meal. Last fall I froze a couple of batches of pesto that I made with almonds. The pesto was frozen in ice cube trays which makes it easy to use later. I pulled out 4 cubes of pesto to use along with 2 servings of pasta. I added some raw shrimp into the boiling water the last two minutes that the pasta was cooking. Jill taught me this trick which is the perfect length of time to cook the shrimp. I also reserved a couple of ladles of pasta water which I added slowly to the pesto cubes to get a nice consistency before adding to the cooked pasta.
To go along with the meal I roasted some asparagus in the oven. Katie, there are some Asparagus Festivals in the Midwest, but I’m not aware of any Asparagus Princesses. You’ll have to take us to a German Asparagus celebration sometime.
Matthew: I had some extra lemons to use up, so I was searching on the NYTimes website for recipes. This recipe, for pistachio lemon bars, looked interesting because I had never seen pistachios and lemons combined before. I tried it and right away knew something was wrong when I pulled them out of the oven. I somehow forgot to add the cup of sugar to the filling, turning it into a leathery scrambled egg filling. The crust was great, but the filling disaster kind of ruined the dessert.
I wasn’t about to give up on the lemon-pistachio combination, so I next turned to pasta. I made up a simple dish with spaghetti, wild ramps, lemon juice, pistachios, and parmesan. Wild ramps have been in season for the past month or so and I’ve been using them quite a bit to add a more delicate garlic flavor to dishes. This pasta dish was incredibly easy to make–I sauteed the ramps while the pasta was cooking and then just combined everything in a bowl. It turned out great with all the simple flavors and was a very satisfying dinner. The lemon to pasta ratio seems key. I made this a few days later and the lemon overpowered the other flavors.
Bill: There is a new bakery in Stevens Point that makes great bread and other yummy treats. The Main Grain Bakery is located next to Emy J’s and is the only place that I’ve been buying bread lately. One of our favorite breads is Asiago Thyme. It’s really good and smells great. I used it this week to make a toasted sandwich in the oven. I started out by making some Tuna Salad. I chopped up carrots and celery and then added onion flakes, dill weed, smoked paprika, mustard, mayo and a couple of cans of tuna. With the tuna salad complete, I decided to top a nice think slice of bread with half an avocado. I added a layer of tuna salad and then topped it with shredded cheddar cheese. I toasted it in the oven for about 12 minutes on 350 and then broiled the top for a couple of minutes. It made a great sandwich.
Katie: Asparagus is in season here in Germany, and Germans are crazy about asparagus. Just check out pictures of the “Asparagus Princess” and “Asparagus Parade” if you don’t believe me! While white asparagus remains the most popular choice, green asparagus seems to be becoming more readily available.
Rather than preparing asparagus as a side dish, I’ve tried a few recipes this spring that include asparagus in a main dish. So far, I’ve tried Roasted Strawberry and Asparagus Quinoa Salad, which was a great combination and Roasted Asparagus and Red Pepper Farro Salad, in which I substituted buckwheat groats for farro.
This time, I decided to try a Cooking Light recipe, Gnocchi with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Pesto. Since I wanted something a bit lighter than gnocchi, I decided to substitute whole wheat spiral noodles. This was a dish that was pretty simple to make. It turned out well and was a good choice for a simple, but interesting and flavorful meal. The only change I would make if I made this again would be to use less garlic powder, since it was a little strong. This would probably be good with other pesto recipes as well, maybe even Strawberry Basil Pesto, which I’m curious to try!
Bill: Jill was inspired to make some French Onion Soup this weekend. She noticed that we had 3 containers of chopped onions in the freezer. It was a good day for soup since it was only 40 degrees with a wind chill in the low 30s. She used this Soupe a l’Oignon recipe from The Best of Cooking Light Soups and Stews cookbook. It took a while to caramelize 6 cups of onions. You can tell from the picture below where she’s reading her book. The soup was topped with baguettes and cheese broiled in the oven. It was really good.