The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

May 30, 2012

Cheryle Finley: Trying blanching for yummy asparagus

JOPLIN, Mo. — While I don’t actually work at The Joplin Globe, I have so many friends there and they always make me feel like a part of their family. So it was an emotional privilege for me to see the documentary “Deadline in Disaster” that was screened last week.

It really does make you appreciate that newspaper that’s delivered to your house every day and the people it takes from start to finish to get it there.

Prior to the viewing, I heard there was some food next door, so I made sure to make an appearance. Thank you to Susan Redden and her family for letting me crash their table and break bread with them. We were all raving about the food served by The Red Onion and why not? I’ve never eaten anything there that wasn’t the best it could be. But one thing on the serving table that evening stood out -- the asparagus served with a dipping sauce. We all wondered how it got to be in such a state of perfection. Surely it was steaming. Curious, I asked one of the two men responsible for all the yumminess how they cooked the asparagus to get it so tasty. His reply: “I cooked it just right.” OK, I thought. Good answer. I was about to give up when he graciously told me he boils the spears for 45 seconds then removes them to an ice bath. Don’t let the water turn green and don’t overcook. I call this blanching, but whatever you call it, this man knows of what he speaks because it was the best asparagus ever.

I searched for recommended asparagus cooking suggestions and there are quite a few at asparagus101.com. One said to boil the spears for exactly two minutes, drain, then toss with olive oil and Parmesan. The boiling time suggested here concerns me. You might be boiling away everything good.

For microwave prep, cook in 1/4 cup of water for 4 to 5 minutes.

Roast asparagus in a 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes after you have drizzled it with olive oil.

Steam it by bundling the spears then standing them up in about 2-inches of boiling water. Covered while cooking, the bottoms are boiled and the tops are steamed.

Coat your grill with olive oil and cook the asparagus for 5 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally.

However you choose to cook your asparagus, please try the blanching idea and always remember to order the asparagus if it’s offered at The Red Onion.

I am fortunate to have many, many friends and several I consider dear friends. One dear friend was Kay Lucas of Carthage. Many of us lost a dear friend with her death last week. I was able to see her at my birthday party where she gifted me with a musical raccoon dressed up like a jailbird that sings “Jailhouse Rock” to me. It’s even more special now. I will miss getting a big hug from her on Monday nights before dinner at Dos Arcos in Carthage.

Another dear friend is Linda Lindquist Baldwin of Joplin. I haven’t known Linda long, but that’s easy to forget because it seems I’ve known her forever. That comfortable feeling is thanks to her warm and caring personality, witnessed this past year when she was her brother Mark’s advocate during his recovery from tornado injuries. Not knowing what theme I wanted for my new kitchen, Linda answered that question last week when she provided a “kitchen warming” chef. As the artist behind the popular Belsnickle collectibles, Linda creates so many wonderful pieces. My figurine is a Snowsnickle chef and he has the biggest smile on his face, which makes me think he’s just finished a great dinner and is ready to eat the layer cake he has in his left hand. He’s the perfect figure around which to decorate my new kitchen. As with Kay’s gift, this little man will be treasured and he will be kept in the corner glass cabinet so he can keep an eye on me.

I discovered another thing I love about my new kitchen. The sink is so deep I can have dirty dishes in there and you can’t see them when you walk in. Good to know when I’m in a hurry until we get the dishwasher up and running. That lone glass, knife and spoon from breakfast no longer bothers me, but I’m a little concerned I got comfortable with that so fast because I’m still in the honeymoon phase with the kitchen, wanting to keep everything pristine.

Today’s recipes are from “The Dinner Doctor Cookbook.” Because of the nice Vidalia onions available, I wanted to share another great recipe using these seasonal onions. I like the onions almost shredded in this dip but chopped is fine for more crunch. Hellmann’s mayonnaise is suggested for this recipe. I found a good roasted asparagus recipe that mixes it with two of my favorites, feta cheese and potatoes. You can substitute red pepper strips for the asparagus or add some quartered onions and sliced baby carrots to the potatoes. It’s a fast side dish that’s especially good with grilled or roasted meat. The chicken pie is quick if fixed as written but could be faster if you cook the mixed vegetables and heat the chicken mixture before topping with canned biscuits. Using a store-bought rotisserie chicken makes it even faster. Happy belated birthday to sister Sue and happy eating!

 

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