Cedar Smoked Asparagus Soup


Cedar planks, not just for salmon anymore. Really.
Our last guest came with the spring and with that, sparks the BBQ. It might still be a bit early to eat outside, but who can resist the flame that is the official call of nicer weather?

Having grilled on cedar planks before, I’m already fond of the fantastic smell and extra flavour it lends to food. They seem to be gaining in popularity so finding a board isn’t nearly as difficult anymore asmost grocery stores with a fish department tend to carry them.

The idea for the smoked asparagus soup came a little haphazardly. I was planning on grilling the asparagus with a drizzle of balsamic and olive oil but as it was the first grill of the season the flames were uneven and the safest place not to char my freshly picked spears was up on the board.

The flavour was subtle and amazing, a perfect enhancement for an already pretty great vegetable. The soup came from the left overs of the greedy three bunches that I decided to cook up for a dinner of four. After tasting it, I’m not only going to be trying this asparagus in other things like quiche, but with other vegetables too!

SMOKED ASPARAGUS SOUP

1 Bunch of Asparagus, 20-25 medium sized stalks, trimmed
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
2 Leeks, white and light green parts only, well washed and finely diced
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
4 Cups Vegetable stock
1 Medium Yukon Gold or Russet Potato, peeled and diced
scant 1/4 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice or to taste, optional.

Submerge your cedar plank in water anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the thickness and your timing.
Preheat the grill over a medium high heat.
Trim asparagus and lay in aluminum foil.
Drizzle over balsamic vinegar and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil; wrapping the foil to cover.
Place the asparagus package on the cedar plank, reduce the flame and close the lid of the bbq.
Grill for about 10 – 15 minutes, checking intermittently until tender.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large stockpot to sweat the leeks and garlic until soft and translucent but not browned; about 3 – 5 minutes.
Add the diced potato and cover with the stock.
Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are softened.
Remove the best spear tips from the asparagus and reserve for garnish.
Roughly chop the remaining smoky asparagus, add to the simmering soup.
Continue for another 3 – 5 minutes to cook through to merge flavours.
Transfer soup to a food processor or using a immersion blender, combine until smooth.
Season to taste with salt. Stir in lemon juice, if using.
Top each serving with reserved asparagus tips and drizzle over extra virgin olive, basil or leek oil.

Grilled Vegetable Panini


It almost seems that all I’ve been doing lately is preparing leftovers. Thankfully everyone typically has abundant left overs. Seeing that I’m usually preparing something, I’m not often without something in my own fridge screaming out not to be forgotten.
With summer starting, I’ve been spending more time outdoors, having many salads and grilled vegetables.
Currently it’s sweet potatoes, peppers, asparagus and mushrooms waiting for rejuvenation, but I’m sure just about any flavourful set of vegetables, grilled or roasted, would be delicious. So, the plan was to take this leftover glory back outside for lunch to combat the almighty burger. I thought serving up summer with grilled sandwiches would be a nice summer escape from the ordinary.

GRILLED VEGETABLE PANINI

2 Cups Leftover Grilled or Roasted Vegetables
1 Medium Onion, Sliced
1/2 Package Medium Firm Tofu
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Vine Ripened Tomato, Sliced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
4 Tablespoons Basil Pesto
4 Tablespoons Tampanade
4 Tablespoons Dijon
Salt & Pepper to Taste
4 Large Panini Buns

Heat a large sautée pan and add 2 tablespoons of the oil.
Peel and slice the onion the sauté until softened. (About 5 minutes.)
Cut the tofu into 1/4″ slices, lay flat and drizzle over the soy sauce.
Mince the garlic, slice the tomato and add that and the grilled vegetables to the onion, just to warm through.
Preheat the grill to medium.
Slice the panini buns lengthwise and add your desired condiments to each.
Top each with equal amounts of the heated, grilled vegetables and slices of tofu.
Lightly brush the remaining olive oil on the outside crusts of the buns.
Reduce the grill heat to low.
Lay the sandwiches in a row on the grill and weigh them down with a clean cookie sheet toped with cans, rocks or bricks – whatever is clean and handy to give them a good squish.
Allow the sandwiches to toast for about 3 – 4 minutes, checking regularly to avoid burning.
Brush oil, flip and repeat on the other side for another few minutes until the outside is lightly toasted with grill marks.

*Note: If you eat it, during the sandwich construction, thinly sliced smoked gouda or chèvre would make wonderful substitutions for the tofu.

Grilled Vegetable Streudel



I had been gearing up to post about what I call Market Mystery. This is either the new or unexpected produce that turns up at the market or in your CSA box that you would never dream of buying out of your regular habits. Turns out, this event coincided perfectly when I invited my neighbour over for dinner.

I had thrown together some basic menu ideas and headed out to the grocery store to pick up some last minute things – shamefully the same things I seem to grab every time I’m out. Yes, staples are one things but redundant patterns are another. I began to think I should practice what I was about to preach.

Passing through the produce aisle, I realized I was about to ignore the fennel the same way I have done about one thousand trips before. Looking at the round white bulb and the bright green feathery fronds, I realized I’d never even tasted it. I actually think I might have been a bit intimidated on what to do with it exactly. I took the plunge, altered my menu plans and picked one out. Once I’d returned home with my fennel, I wanted to see what I could find out about my new vegetable. I knew the basics already, the other name of Anise gave away it’s licorice like flavour undertones. I’d previously seen it in salads, thinly sliced, usually served with orange segments but when I tasted it I thought I might go for the alternative of a roasted flavour. All around the fennel bulb is a combination of licorice, cabbage and celery flavours but the licorice tends to mellow when it’s cooked.

Since it’s summer, I opted for grilling instead of roasting. Not only did I want to keep the extra heat out of my house, I thought the smokiness might be a nice addition. Fennel, as intimidating as I first thought, is very simply to prepare. The bottom root end, the stalks and fronds need to be removed, but not discarded – I ended up using practically everything here and there. I sliced the bulb down the centre and tossed over the marinade.

Other than the time taken to grill, this recipe was a snap. My guests were impressed and I have become a fennel convert.

Now onward to Jerusalem artichokes, golden beets and kohlrabi. Which are the vegetables, you’ve eyed, but not tried?

GRILLED VEGETABLE STRUDEL

1 Bulb Fennel
1 Zucchini
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Orange Pepper
1/2 Red Onion
3 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Vermouth (optional)
1 Tablespoon Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped (optional)
Crack of Black Pepper
1 Sheet of Puff Pastry*

Heat the grill to medium.
Remove the top fennel fronds and reserve.
Cut the base from the fennel, slice down the center.
Remove the ends from the zucchini, slice lengthwise.
Slice the onion into 1/4″ rounds.
Toss the fennel, zucchini and onion in the balsamic, oil, vermouth and pepper.
Add the vegetables, along with the pepper to the bbq and grill, turning regularly, until the vegetables have even grill marks and have softened.
Place the pepper into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam.
Remove the skin and pull the stem from the pepper to remove the seeds.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Roll out the puff pastry to a 10″x10″ square.
Chop the vegetables roughly.
Add garlic, parsley and reserved fennel fronds, if using, salt to taste and add pepper if necessary.
Spoon and evenly distribute the grilled vegetable mixture to the center of the pastry to form a line.
Pull the first side of the pastry over the vegetables, roll the pastry and vegetables over into the remaining pastry. Dot the end with water to seal. Flip the pastry so the seal is on the bottom.
Transfer the strudel to a non-stick baking dish or cookie sheet. Score the top.
Bake on the center rack for about 25-30 minutes. Remove once the pastry is golden and crisp.

* As to date, Tenderflake in Canada and Pepperidge Farms brands of puff pastry are vegan.
However, As with any prepared food you should be prepared to read the label.

Serve with a drizzling of Roasted Red Pepper Purée.

Serves 4-6