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Fresh from the Farmer's Market

Seasonal Cooking

What have you been finding at the Farmer's Market lately? Asparagus and leeks? That's because we're in between Winter and Spring. Here are a couple of recipes to help you through the transition.

For asparagus, I like making a risotto. You can dress it up with quickly sautéed seafood or add some Italian cheese. Either way it's a delicious Spring dish.

Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as a main course)

About 4 cups chicken stock or broth, vegetable stock is ok too
1 bunch asparagus, about 1 pound, thick or thin, either is fine
2-3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup Fontina grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Simmer the stock with the tough ends of the stems of the asparagus. Season the stock with a couple teaspoons of salt. Remove and discard the stems after 5-10 minutes. Slice the asparagus into 1/4 inch thick diagonal slices.

Heat olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, add the onion, and cook until soft but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains become opaque and white, another 2 minutes.

Add the wine, if you desire, and cook until it evaporates. Add 1/2 cup of the stock at a time, stirring and cooking until the rice is nearly dry. Add another 1/2 cup of the stock and continue to stir and cook, adding stock as necessary, until the rice is almost cooked, about 15 minutes. Stir in the asparagus slices. Continue to cook until the asparagus is just barely cooked, about 3 minutes or so. Risotto should take 18 minutes total cooking time.

Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheeses. Let the risotto sit in the pot for a couple of minutes before serving. It should be soft and runny, not firm. If it is too dense, add a spot more liquid. Taste for seasonings--salt if necessary. Serve with more Parmesan cheese to top. Risotto should be al dente, not as soft as regular rice.

If you plan on topping this risotto with shrimp or scallops, do not use any cheese.

What's a Quicheless Leek Lorraine? It's a lightened up version of quiche with no crust and no heavy cream. This dish uses a few strips of bacon, but if you want omit it or substitute vegetarian bacon.

Quicheless Leek Lorraine
serves 4

5 bacon slices, center cut
2 large leeks (white and light green parts only), coarsely chopped, rinsed and spun in a salad spinner to clean
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed shredded Gruyere (about 2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using heavy 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet, fry bacon until brown and crisp. Drain and crumble bacon. Pour off all the bacon drippings from skillet. Add the wet leeks to skillet and cover pan. Steam for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Saute with cover removed until they begin to brown and soften.

Combine eggs and flour, whisk to combine then blend in milk, mustard and sugar until smooth. Season with pepper.
Scatter bacon over leeks in skillet. Pour batter over. Top with Gruyere. Transfer to oven and bake until puffed and cheese melts, about 15 minutes. Loosen from pan and cut into wedges.