28 May 2008


I've eaten asparagus probably two-to-three (maybe sometimes four) times a week for the last month. It's everywhere, it looks so good, and it's the only local vegetable at the moment.

Asparagus frittata (made with the stalks and a small potato) topped with asparagus tips marinated in a vinaigrette:

Asparagus, steamed, tossed with penne, ricotta and capers:

(Even better, but not pictured: grilled asparagus with penne, capers, preserved lemons and pine nuts).

Tonight I made buckwheat noodles with bean curd and asparagus.

This was some of the best asparagus I've had all season, that wild looking asparagus that will have three, maybe four, heads per stalk, small satellite flowers branching off the main stem. This bunch was from Intervale Farm who has a stand at the Easthampton farmer's market.

For four people:
- 1 bunch (1 - 1½ lbs) asparagus
- 1 package pressed marinated bean curd
- 2-4 bunches buckwheat noodles (they're usually bound with paper ribbons "per serving")
The sauce: 2 T. tamari, 1½ T. rice vinegar, 1½ t. mirin, 1½ T. sesame oil, 1-2T chopped or grated ginger root.

Make the sauce. Let it sit. While pasta cooks, steam the bean curd and asparagus. I steamed until the asparagus was just hot (but barely cooked -- this is best with very fresh, tender stalks). Top the pasta with the bean curd and asparagus. Pour sauce over it all. Enjoy.

Lastly, since I can't resist the temptation to ferment:

This started a week ago as one bunch asparagus, cut on the diagonal, 2 T. kosher salt, one small onion, sliced, some coriander and yellow and brown mustard seeds, 3 cloves garlic and some pepper. In a two liter crock I placed everything but the salt and placed a saucer over. I then made brine with 3 or 4 cups of water and the salt. Test every day or two, and then store in a covered jar in the fridge once it tastes "right" (i.e., to your taste). They're crunchy and tangy and delicious. I'm very excited.

Lastly, Flayvors of Cook Farm in Hadley (I used to get raw milk there) has, I've been told, "Hadley grass" ice cream. (Hadley grass being a play on Sparrow grass, being a corrupted vernacular for asparagus that dates to at least the 18th century.)

I'm also excited that next week my CSA share starts next week!

06 May 2008

making tofu

I bought gypsum for my ale making venture and googled it to see what culianry uses it may have other than making water hard for brewing purposes. It's also a coagulant that can be used for tofu (nigari is more common/traditional). Using Just Hungry's recipes for soy milk and then for tofu, I had even more success than I had expected. It came out very firm, much like the Japanese tofu that I'd get at the Rainbow Co-op bulk section when I lived in SF. (Lately I've been getting the "AFC" pressed bean curd at local Asian markets -- It's halfway between that and supermarket "firm" tofu).

It starts off with boiling puréed, soaked soy beans:

After twenty minutes, it gets strained and is soymilk!

That is heated back up to 175ºF, and the coagulant (gypsum or magnesium cloride [nigari]) is added. It sits for fifteen minutes. I then added a bit more gypsum for good measure. And it is strained:

It gets shaped (in that towel, just in a colander in this case), and voilà: