Monday, June 20, 2011


As you may know from previous posts, I am not a "tweaker", or one of those who strays too far from an actual recipe. Until recent years, that is. I finally trust my 30-plus years of cooking experience, and taste preferences enough to "tweak" (gosh I love that word), or change suit tastes, textures, or even quantities. Such is the case with a favorite Spring/Summer recipe I enjoy. It's Aaron McCargo Jr's.' Asparagus and Sun-Dried tomato salad recipe. Go here to get ye a copy. Here's how I TWEAK it both to my tastes, and for more convenience whilst cooking it.

First, as always, get your ingredients together. Clockwise from lower left we have; sun-dried tomatoes, crumbled blue cheese, vegetable oil, fresh asparagus, pepper & salt, shittake mushrooms, and garlic, rosemary and thyme.

First, I soaked the dried tomatoes and mushrooms in hottest tap water to reconstitute...small ramekins are enough room for this...

Then, I rinsed the asparagus, and cut off only the very toughest part of the ends. I saved these in a small plastic resealable bag for soup stock, or to toss in the compost pile, dependant upon the lazy-o-meter on that particular day.

While the asparagus drained on paper towels, I got busy chopping the garlic and herbs, and slicing the tomatoes and mushrooms. Preparation is key in this recipe as well - you don't want that beautiful, tender, and expensive asparagus to burn because you had to chop something mid-stride! Here it all is, post prep....

Now is the first change I make to the way the recipe is written. The author has you tossing the asparagus in a bowl with the garlic, herbs and seasonings. I tried it that way the first time...and all of those lovingly chopped herbs and garlic and what not, did not stick to the asparagus! Think about are tossing something as straight as a stick, in a concave made no sense! So.....I put me Pixie-cap on, and realized that my appetizer tray was the perfect tool for the job...see?

The asparagus were able to roll around in the oil/herb/garlic/seasonings mixture, and actually stay in contact with it all! See that bit o' tweakage? Then, I lightly oiled my grill pan, and set the flame to 4 or 5 - not too hot, as I don't want a smoke-filled kitchen, or to burn the tender vegetable. That's another difference from the author's recipe - I grill them for much longer than 4 minutes a side. One should grill them until they are tender, and have light grill marks on them (on a stove-top grill pan). Mine took about 8 minutes a side. Here they are, in as close to a single layer as I could get, starting the process.

Another major, but significant difference...when the asparagus are done, I set them aside to cool down, and simply add the rest of the herb oil to the grill pan, to saute' the tomatoes and mushrooms in. Why should I dirty another pan just to crisp them up, and get them ready for the salad? Here they are, once the asparagus was removed - this only takes another five minutes....adding the oil from the appetizer tray first, of course...

Sun-dried tomatoes and shittake mushrooms (both have been soaked, squeezed dry, and sliced into strips)...

The results? Well, with a glass of freshly-brewed, lemony iced tea, this was a delightful late Spring/early Summer lunch!

I garnished the plate with a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper for a little zing, and squeezed a wedge of lemon over the top, to brighten up the flavors that otherwise may have been too rich, and also topped with (not in the original recipe) crumbled blue cheese. All three of those last items were tweaks to the recipe, as you will see when you read it.  Here's a close-up, showing you the textures in this dish that I adore; meaning....the tender asparagus, sweet, chewy sun-dried tomatoes, delicious shittake mushrooms, and meltingly good blue cheese.  Did I mention that there's garlic involved?

I love this salad for all of the above, and more. Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for that (very much postponed) Rubber Chicken finale, and a Summer visit with Kitchen Angel! Remember, don't be afraid to change a recipe! The difference may be just what it needed! Love and kindness to all,


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