Sunday, April 19, 2009

Simply Spring

Spring has officially sprung in New York. Hallelujah! Yesterday the sun was shining, and the air was finally warm enough to ditch my coat. Of course, I work on Saturdays. The fact that I was recently laid off was no exception. Sigh.

On Friday night I ate post-Easter jelly beans for dinner, and I woke up feeling dirty. I forced myself into work, and tried not to daydream about the farmers markets. By 4pm I was a goner - my mind had long since wandered off without me, into the world of culinary possibilities that come with the new season. I envisioned myself spending the evening in my garden, a pug curled by each foot, catching up on Gourmet and sipping some crisp white wine. The only hole in my perfect fantasy was the food.

It is the right time of year for asparagus, artichoke, and morels, and I could not get those off my mind. Especially asparagus since I happened to have a gorgeous bunch in my fridge that had tried to seduce me earlier that morning. I thought, "What if I can find morels on my way home? Then I could make something with both morels and asparagus." I knew it was a long shot, so I tried not to let myself get too excited about that scenario. But even the possibility, all the wonderful possibilities that come with spring, got me feeling giddy. I ached for something fresh, simple, delicious. Maybe even indulgent. I felt I deserved it.

I'll cut to the chase - no fresh morels to be found between West 80th and 89th (aka, my convenient walk home, leading me to believe a visit down to Chelsea Market on West 16th is in my near future). I almost went with my back-up plan of a leek and asparagus frittata, when I had another idea. I maneuvered myself and shopping basket through the crowd at Zabars to the frozen - yes, frozen - section, and my hunch was right. They had Dufour puff pastry. Why is this exciting? Dufour is the best puff pastry you can buy. Unlike nearly all other brands, it is not made with any oils or crazy ingredients you can't pronounce, it is simply butter and flour, with a little water, salt and lemon juice. And it smells like what I hope heaven smells like: buttery goodness.

I left with the Dufour, some goat cheese, and prosciutto. Oh, and I almost forgot, a bottle of wine. Twin Vines Vinho Verde, via Northern Portugal. So good. Eight bucks. I trotted home – yes, trotted - as fast as I could, put the wine in the fridge and began caramelizing some onions (this morning my neighbor asked what smelled so good last night, the answer is onions on the stove for about 30 minutes). The end result was asparagus, goat cheese, prosciutto and caramelized onion wrapped in puff pastry like a calzone. I’m not sure what to call it, but dammit it needs a good name, because it was the perfect inaugural meal for our new patio furniture.

Recipe for Puff with Asparagus, Goat Cheese, Prosciutto and Caramelized Onion (for 2):
  • 5 fresh asparagus stalks, outer layer peeled off and sliced to 1” bits
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into strips
  • 2 pieces of prosciutto
  • About 2 tbsp crumbled goat cheese, a little more if you like extra cheese
  • Dufour frozen puff pastry
  • A little olive oil or butter (aka, the fat)

The puff pastry will need to thaw out. Thaw in the fridge a few hours beforehand, or if you’re like me, it never even makes it off your counter from when you unpacked your groceries. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet over medium-low flame, heat the fat and add the onions. Stir occasionally until well caramelized. Transfer to a plate. Add a little more fat and cook the asparagus for about 3-4 minutes. Transfer to the plate to hang out with the onions. The puff pastry, when unpacked, will be folded in fourths. If you are only making for two, then take half of the puff pastry out, and put the other half back in the freezer. Divide what you have in half, so there are two rectangles. Roll them out with a rolling pin a little bit, this will help to tame the puff. Scatter the onion and asparagus in each rectangle, and cover with a few bits of torn prosciutto and crumbled cheese. Fold the pastry over and pinch the edges together a little. Place on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.

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