Spring time is here and you know what means. Colorful blossoms adorn shrubbery throughout the city, allergy season is in full swing, girls have packed up the winter wear and are busting out the sun dresses, and more importantly seasonal spring vegetables are announcing their arrival in CSA baskets, farmers markets and local grocery stores throughout the city.
Inspired by the different sets of produce, the girls of Farm and a Frying Pan and Sodium Girl opted for a “spring seasonal” theme for the latest monthly blogger dinner. Jillian and Christina prepared the tasty main dishes:
1) Asparagus and sweet pea risotto
2) Grilled prawn skewers with a chilli-flake and herb seasoning
Jess put on her baking apron and served up a healthy and irresistible Rhubarb & Berry cobbler that showcased her creative skills; evidenced by a rather resourceful substitution of limeade and ricotta cheese for milk when she realized she forgot to grab it at the store. That Jess Goldman…she is one smart and healthy cookie.
Baking and dessert-making are not my strong suits; I leave those skills to my older sister who can whip up a homemade strawberry baked Alaska or crumbly coffee cake faster than I open a box of powdered brownies. As such, I opted to contribute another side dish of roasted asparagus with shitake mushrooms and fresh ricotta cheese topping.
Right now is the optimal time to purchase asparagus as its high season is February through June. Asparagus comes in different forms, white, purple or traditional green. For this recipe I opted for two bushels of the traditional green, and ensured that my selections were bright, fresh and firm. These spears have a lot of health benefits: the vitamin E helps fight Type II diabetes, A & C are good cancer defenders, folate helps ward off heart disease and potassium can assist in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Considering that I eat a lot of red meat, it’s always good to diversify up the diet with some healthier vegetable options.
My other main ingredient was a handful of shitake mushrooms. You can purchase dried shitakes (which you would need to rehydrate before adding to the dish) or fresh ones at pretty much any market. We definitely went with fresh shrooms for this dish. Shitakes have an earthy quality that pack both a punch of flavour as well as multiple health benefits. Their compound lentinan helps to lower cholesterol, protect your body against cancer, and beefs up your immune system. The more “meaty” mushroom also has a smooth texture that soaks up seasonings and sautés like a sponge.
Roasted Asparagus & Shitake Mushroom Recipe:
Two bushels of asparagus
15-20 fresh shitake mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic
½ cup white wine
3-4 table spoons unsalted butter
Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley and tarragon (1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 plastic tub of ricotta cheese (surprisingly a low sodium cheese!)
Salt (optional – we skipped the salt given that Jess cannot eat sodium but use to season if you like)
1) Finely chop fresh herbs and garlic. Add to mixing bowl.
2) Add white wine, olive oil, lemon juice to bowl.
3) Melt butter and add to bowl.
4) Add pepper and salt according to taste
5) Mix all ingredients well in bowl
1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Chop off course ends of asparagus. Arrange on baking sheet in a single layer.
3) Slice shitake mushrooms (3-4 slices per mushroom) and arrange at end of asparagus spears.
4) Brush sauce and herb mixture generously over asparagus and mushrooms.
5) Roast about 12-15 minutes until tender.
Remove from heat and place on large serving platter. Spoon fresh ricotta in heaps over top and then Pao Chow it up!