Asparagus Tartine

asparagus tartine-3A tartine is simply an open-faced sandwich and here is the perfect one for a glorious spring day.  Look for big, meaty spears with tightly closed tips that signify freshness.  Did you know that the diameter of asparagus spears relates to the maturity of the plant?  I takes 2 or 3 years before asparagus plants are well established enough, with spears big enough, to harvest.  And so I do imagine that the day the asparagus begins to nudge its way out of the soil must be one of a gardener’s favorite days!   Recipe adapted from Cicchetti, and other small Italian Plates to Share, by Lindy Wildsmith and Valentina Sforza.

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1 pound asparagus

4 eggs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons mayonaise

salt and pepper

1 fresh baguette, or other good, fresh crusty bread, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer.  Carefully lower the eggs into the water and simmer for 12 minutes.  While eggs are cooking, prepare a bowl of ice water.  Remove eggs from hot water and immediately place them into the ice bath  to cool.  Meanwhile, trim the asparagus, bring the water in the pot to a boil, add the asparagus and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes, depending on the size of the spears.  Remove the eggs from the ice bath and add more ice so that you can chill the asparagus just as soon as it is ready.

Peel the eggs then chop finely.  When the asparagus is cooled, remove from the ice bath and cut the tips and set them aside to use as the garnish.  Chop the rest of the spears and add to the chopped eggs.  Add the olive oil and mayonnaise and gently stir to combine.  Season well with salt and pepper to taste.

Brush the bread slices with olive oil, toast lightly and let cool.  Spread each tartine with some of the egg salad, top with the reserved asparagus tips then sprinkle with chives.  (The number of servings that this recipe will produce varies greatly based upon the size of the bread you use. You can make around 30 small appetizer servings with a skinny baguette or 6 lunch-sized portions with a larger Italian bread such as the one I used in the photo. Just be sure to save enough asparagus tips to finish your dish.)

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Hard Cooked Eggs with Basil and Fluffy Ham

devilled ham and eggs 1Wonderful opportunities arise when you have a bit of leftover ham in the frig.  I’m not talking about deli meats…not cold cuts… but a real hunk of boneless or semi boneless smoked ham.  They come fully cooked, but in my family we still roast the heck out of it anyway so that we can shave it into thin, melt in your mouth slices.

The first serving of a ham around here is hot from the oven, carved at the table with a  cheese grits casserole  and a big green salad.  After that, it goes into eggs at breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and flavors soups and salads throughout the week.  The possibilities are endless, of course, as demonstrated by my latest discovery, Ham Fluff.

Looking for a way to perk up some deviled eggs I was making, I spied the last bits of a ham that I had cooked last Friday.  Using a microplane grater, the one that is designed for parmesan cheese, I grated the ham into a big pile of the softest, fluffiest stuff you can imagine.  Then I leveled off the filling from the deviled eggs to make room and topped each egg with a generous amount.  So what you get is the salty good taste of ham, which we all know goes well with eggs, without taking away from the creamy, light texture of a good deviled egg.  If you are looking for a resource for ham, I highly recommend the  The Good Ham Company in Memphis, TN.

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1 dozen medium or large eggs*

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

6 large leaves of fresh basil, slivered thinly

salt and pepper

2 inch piece of leftover baked smoked ham, cold

Fill a large sauce pot half way with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Carefully lower the eggs into the hot water and simmer, being careful not to let the water boil, for 15 minutes.  While eggs are cooking, prepare a large bowl with ice and water.  At the 15 minute mark, remove there eggs from the hot water and immediately put them in the bowl with the ice water.  Let sit 15 minutes, then peel.  Cut the eggs in half crosswise or lengthwise  and pop the yolks out into a small bowl.  Using a fork, mash the yolks then stir in enough of the cream to create a smooth, luscious filling.  Stir in fresh basil and season to taste with salt.  Fill each egg white half with the egg yolk mixture, leveling off the top. (recipe can be made to this point, covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.)  When ready to serve,  grate the cold ham with a small microplane grater (the one designed for grating parmesan cheese) creating a big pile of fluff.  Top each egg generously and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

*If you want to guarantee easy-to-peel eggs, use a push pin to poke a tiny hole, just barely through the shell, in the larger end of each egg.  If done correctly, only air bubbles will escape from the holes while the eggs are simmering.  If you go too deep, you’ll get some egg white oozing out into the water, but your eggs will still turn out fine.  The ice bath helps with the peeling too, as well as keeping the yolks from developing the greenish ring around the edges.

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Just One Perfect Spinach Cheddar Omelette

one more omelette to post

Eggs tend to go from runny to rubbery in the blink of an eye so I have been working on a simple but foolproof omelette.   I heard on PBS radio one day….it was probably The Splendid Table….. how eggs need to be cooked slowly, over very low heat… which meant that I was going to need a good non-stick pan if I didn’t want to use half a stick of butter.  So here is the method and as you can imagine, the possibilities are endless for adapting this with your favorite ingredients. (fresh herbs and goat cheese?)  Don’t be turned off by the lengthy instructions;  it is so quick and easy that I make one just for myself quite often. I’m just trying to be helpful with details but the whole process takes only a few minutes. The key here is that the pan should never get hot enough to color the eggs at all….gentle, slow and steady is the name of the game.

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an 8 inch good quality, non-stick skillet or omelette pan

plastic or rubber spatula

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons butter or olive oil

1 handful fresh baby spinach leaves, stemmed

2 tablespoons finely shredded cheddar cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Begin heating your skillet over low heat.  Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat well with a whisk or a fork. Have the spinach leaves ready and sitting nearby.

Add the butter or oil to the skillet and swirl it around to lightly coat the surface.   Pour the eggs into the skillet and gently tilt it to all sides to spread the eggs out evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The eggs should be cooking very slowly; it will take a minute or two for the bottom to set but when it does, lay the spinach leaves over the top of the omelette (which will still be runny at this point) in a single layer.

Now you are going to flip the omelette over.  Begin by loosening the edges of the omelette with the spatula while gently shaking the skillet to see if the whole omelette will slip around in the pan, signaling that the underside is cooked though enough to hold the whole thing together.  When this happens, it will be quite easy to slip the spatula under the eggs and simultaneously shake the handle of the skillet and flip the omelette to the other side.  ( Imagine someone flipping pancakes in the air to get the idea of shaking the skillet…but of course we are going for a gentle flip here, one that will not send ingredients airborn and is controlled mostly by the spatula)

As soon as the omelette is turned, sprinkle with a light layer of cheese.  The second side will be cooked in less than a minute, at which point you can roll up the omelette, slide it onto a plate and enjoy!

eggs 2 to post

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Fresh Herb and Feta Omelette with Warm Avocado, Asparagus and Cherry Tomato Salsa

Breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper….you can’t go wrong with this amazing omelette adapted from A Paridiso Year by Denis Cotter.  The amounts given below will make one large omelette that will easily feed 2.

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6 spears asparagus, trimmed and cut into pieces

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 green onion, sliced

half a fresh red chile, seeded and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

4-5 eggs

2 tablespoons water

salt and pepper to taste

handful of fresh herbs (of 2 or 3 types, such as chives, parsley, thyme, tarragon, marjoram)

small handful of crumbled feta cheese

butter or olive oil to coat pan

half an avocado, cubed

In a small pan, over medium heat, warm olive oil.  Saute asparagus, tomatoes, green onion and chile until asparagus is crisp tender.  Set aside while you prepare the omelette.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk in the water.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Chop the herbs and crumble the feta and have them at the ready before you begin cooking the omelette.

Heat your omelette pan (med-high heat if it is non-stick and high heat otherwise) and brush with a bit of butter or olive oil.  Pour in the beaten egg and tilt the pan to cover the surface.  As the bottom cooks, lift up the edges and let the raw egg slide underneath the cooked.  Scatter the herbs and the feta over the length of the center of the omelette then fold 1/3 of the omelette towards the middle and repeat on the other side.

Just as the omelette is finishing cooking, toss the diced avocado to the vegetable mixture and return it to the heat just to warm through.

Remove the omelette to a plate and top with the warm salsa and serve immediately.  Serves 2.

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Southwestern Deviled Eggs

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This fun recipe is adapted from Taste of the South (April-May 2011).  The original calls for a sprinkling of crushed tortilla chips so you can certainly do that if you want to simplify the recipe.  I wanted the shape and texture of these corn tortilla slivers and they only take a minute to fry.  If, like me, you don’t have one of those platters specially designed to serve deviled eggs, just use a sharp knife and take a tiny sliver off the bottom of each half egg.  That way, the eggs will stay stable on the plate and not roll about.

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12 hard boiled eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup finely shredded pepper Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 corn tortillas, finely slivered
salt to taste
coarse ground pepper
fresh cilantro
Cut the hard boiled eggs in half and mash the yolks with a fork.  Add sour cream, pepper jack cheese, green onion, chili powder and salt and mix well.  Spoon into the egg whites. Heat the oil in a small skillet and fry the tortilla strips until light brown, 45-60 seconds, and drain on paper towels.  Salt lightly. Garnish the eggs with the fried tortilla strips, chopped fresh cilantro, and a generous sprinkle of coarse ground black pepper.
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