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Posts Tagged ‘great asparagus recipes’

 

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

As I’ve said before, ancient civilizations and their doin’s fascinate me. How they created the massive structures still found standing across the world remains a mystery, and a fascinating one at that. As of this writing despite all the probing researchers have done on the subject, their hands remain firmly fixed atop their heads scratching their scalps as to how these edifices came to be built. How people existing long before machinery, at least of any advanced nature, had been invented to help them perform such feats. Rocks used to form these massive edifices weighing tons, the odds mere mortals were able to move them into position seems unlikely. The fact they are often laid one on top of the other sparking speculation ancient men had help, extraterrestrial help.

When my mind travels to this subject, and it will now and again, I prefer to think of beings from other worlds E-T-The-Extra-Terrestrial-et-the-extra-terrestrial-928616_1024_768more in the form of E.T. rather than Ripley’s overly aggressive protective mother in Alien, or the spindly legs metal apparitions of War of Worlds. A cute little creature with a penchant for Reese’s pieces, whose goal is to help not to harm human beings. That’s the one I vote for.

The mystery surrounding Roswell captured the imaginations in 1947 when a purported spacecraft crash landed on a New Mexico ranch. An occupied spacecraft. To this day the mystery continues to linger on with the mere mention of the name Roswell conjuring up images of balloon headed men with large eyes not of this world.

From the beginning of time men have looked to the skies, as if the answers to so many unknowns lay in the vast blackness of the expanses beyond our atmosphere. How did we get here? Are we alone in the universe, or do others dwell somewhere out there?

Sightings of unusual lights in the sky, flying discs, and hovering objects are reported often usually explained away as a kid’s prank or something more earthbound then visitors from a planet or galaxy far away.

The ruins of Puma Punku, part of what remains of the ancient city of Tiahuanaco in South America have left researchers baffled to this day. The massive stones composed of granite and diorite, would have had to be carved with tools capable of cutting diamonds. Each stone was cut with finite precision and holes of equal depth. Did this ancient culture wiped from the earth as far back as 500 B.C. by some cataclysmic event such as a massive flood, have been privy to an advanced technology erased by the event? Did they have help from a life form more advanced?

The Nazca Lines in the high deserts of Peru are another mystery left unsolved. A vast puzzle laid out on the land containing more than 15,000 geometric patterns. Purportedly the Paul Bunyon sized drawings were made by Nazca indians populating the land around 200 B.C. Anthropologists believe in the possibility that these nazca-linesintricate drawings could have been created over generations, but as to the how, this remains lost in hypotheses and conjecture. For those more willing to embrace all that could be in the world, it has been theorized ancient aliens used this as a landing spot when visiting our planet. Could it be? Only the heavens know, and they’re not talking.

Depictions of strange beings often showed up in the drawings of ancient man lining caves throughout the world. Man has chronicled his comings and going since standing erect and obtaining the tools to do so.

Ancient Egyptian legends tell of Tep Zepi, loosely translated “the first occasion”. Gods in flying boats came to install societal laws and bring the first of a line of pharaohs to rule the land.

uaxwond3So many interesting things to dig up about those who came before us. It brings to mind “Planet of the Apes”, when at the end of the movie the Statue of Liberty is found sticking out of the sand.

A shroud of mystery continues to swirl around our existence on this earth. Nasa’s Curiosity Rover exploring mars recently caught a light visible on the horizon. Could that be E.T. phoning home?

For now we continue to gaze to the stars and wonder. If they’re out there why don’t they stop by for a neighborly cup of coffee? After all there’s a Starbucks on every corner. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when they do. Now that would be a party.

Happy Cinco de Mayo. This recipe has nothing to do with the holiday, but it’s delicious none the less.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. shallot, chopped fine
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 potato, diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried dill
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

Cut asparagus spears into 1/2″ pieces, keep two spears for garnish if desired.

In large pot heat butter over medium heat. Add onion and shallot and cook 5 mins. until onion is translucent. Add asparagus and cook an additional 5 mins.

Add chicken broth, potato, salt, dill, cayenne, and black pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 25 mins. or until potato is soft and asparagus is cooked.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place in food processor and puree. Pour into bowl and whisk in cream. Serve cold or hot.

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asparagus

The chill in the air reminds me of my childhood.  With my coat and hat in place I was shooed outside on crisp fall days such as this to enjoy the sunshine before the cold swept down on the east coast and the first snow carpeted the area.  My partners in crime on most outings included two sets of twins one fraternal, Bob and Sis, and the other identical Kitty and Vicky. Together we spent our days diving into piles of freshly raked leaves, filling our pockets with acorns and chestnuts, and wandering Point Pleasant Park in search of twigs suitable for dueling. While there we often checked out the frog pond before the ice claimed the water not to release it again until the following spring.  Most days were spent outside, gathering fresh air to hold us for long wintry days coming up armed with a box of Crayons and a coloring book to keep us occupied and out from underfoot.  Using the strongest boughs as steps, we would climb high into the abundant treetops to peer out across the dark Atlantic waters in search of a band of marauding pirates, perhaps having to settle for watching a tug plow through the waves towing a huge tanker in its wake. Great battles were staged as we sat astride the cannons still in place from battles won and lost long before we were born, recalled now only by long dead scholars in dusty history volumes.  There was a great deal of freedom to be a child back in the day.  A great deal of freedom.

The world is getting smaller for our young people lately, with more rules to guide them and limits on what they can do. I read the other day a school banned recess games such as Four Square or Dodge Ball, as being dangerous for the children playing in the school yard.  Cartwheels, not yet totally banned, were also being watched as as potential sources of problems in the future.  Really?  I mean REALLY??  What on earth are we doing to our children?  Good Lord, as kids we tucked ourselves inside tires and rolled down hills, carried jagged tin cans full of worms to our local fishing holes, made go carts out of spare lumber, and rode bikes with no helmets.  Shocking as it might seen, some of us managed to survive to adulthood.  How far do we go to protect our little ones? Too far possibly?

Juvenile sports events have gotten really bizarre.  In many places they don’t keep score.  This, from my understanding, is so that no child will feel less than if they don’t have the passion for the game, don’t exert the effort needed to excel, or basically don’t have the natural talent of the guy or gal standing next to him.  In my mind, this being true, you cannot deem it a game.  Why would I sit down to a game of Scrabble or gin rummy if I knew at the end of the game even if I won, it would be a tie?  What would be the impetus to stretch yourself to do your best?  Looking up the word competition I found as definitions:

  1. The act of competing, as for profit or a prize; rivalry.
  2. A test of skill or ability; a contest.

Sport is defined as an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature such as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.

Imagine if professional football games were reduced to this level?  Empty stadiums, rotting hot dogs, and Monday night TV gone dark, would probably be the end result.  At times I have to say fans go wayyyyyy overboard in rivalry between teams, but rivalry is the foundation of sports and without it they wouldn’t be particularly interesting to either participate in or watch.  Again, in my opinion.

Life, in many ways, is all about competition.  If you want a particular job, unless it is sweeping fish guts, most likely their will be others with like skills vying for the position you desire.  If the employer is to view all competitors as equal, who would he award the job to?  Even personal relationships are based on competition.  It is not always equal, as life in general rarely balances the scales.  Some women are overly tall, others clumsy. There will always be someone prettier, smarter, funnier, or more alluring than yourself waiting to give you a run for your money.  Men can be shorter than average, have a keg rather than a six pack, or a wart on the tip of their nose. There are those blessed humans born aesthetically perfect, talented, and rich.  I offer no explanation for them. Life, happens.  Children, in my humble opinion once again, need to be made to understand things do not always swing their way, and disappointment is part of living it.

If we protect them from everything, will it not take the edge off of being?  In truth no matter how much of a plastic bubble you surround your children with life in the end is a good deal luck, or fate or whatever you believe causes bad things to happen to good people and visa versa.  The joy of making a home run, winning a spelling bee, and baking the best apple pie at the local fair all in the spirit of healthy competition makes life fun.  Like Yin and Yang, balance in all things.  We can’t all be winners, or piano virtuoso’s.  If we all looked like Christie Brinkley or sang like Streisand, it would be a same/same dull kind of existence.  Imagine a crowd of people all wearing white shirts, grey ties, and pinstriped suits with no red or yellow to stand out in the crowd. Sort of like IBM in the 70’s. Pushing ourselves to be better for whatever reason, is what makes a good scholar a great one, a fast horse a Derby winner, and a man born in a log cabin, president of the United States.  Wave your flag here please.

If you stopped doing things because you might get hurt or fail, people would do nothing.  Ah, another deep thought for the day.

This asparagus is sooooo good with a little sticky rice and tempura shrimp.  Easy to make and delicious to eat.

Toasted Sesame Asparagus

l 1/2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Sesame seed oil
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. brown sugar

Steam asparagus until fork tender. Drain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired.

Place sesame seeds in small skillet over medium heat. Cook until fragrant, about 3-4 mins. shaking pan often to keep from burning. Set aside.

Mix together remaining ingredients. Pour over asparagus and top with toasted sesame seeds.

Serves 4

Place

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Over the weekend we bought a new stove. For me, this is right up there with being given a diamond. Not much for jewelry really. Oh, I wear my diamond ring for its sentimental significance, two dainty bracelets, all gifts from Rick, and when I go out in the world I wear earrings. Like a freshly cut Christmas tree, other than a hint of ice I come relatively unadorned. Truth be known, I’d rather receive gifts for the kitchen any day. Book, kitchen, and bed and bath stores sit right at the top of my list of favorite haunts. Over the years I’ve whiled away many an hour roaming kitchen emporiums admiring all the colorful interesting gadgets and whatnots available for sale.

The stove was purchased out of necessity, as the one we have now, propane powered, is shot.  Our last, as the one preceding it, was electric, not my favorite either. Gas cooktop is my preference with an electric oven, but propane is the existing energy source and we’re not investing a fortune to convert to gas simply to put a smile on Susie’s face.  That was a direct quote from management.  This one is SS, with five burners, the center one also a griddle. Originally we’d planned this purchase to follow not precede the holidays. However, a strange side effect of using the current stove made it necessary to push the date forward. As the song goes, “Susie’s as high as an elephant’s eye”, or the corn is, or something to that effect. It seems when the metal in the oven ages beyond its life expectancy it can emit fumes making it dangerous to use. Already silly enough with very little prodding, the fumes were not enhancing the quality of the meals produced by our kitchen staff. Last week while preparing carrot soup needing a pinch of chopped sage, in my euphoria I tossed in the whole bunch leaves intact, unwashed and tied. Minutes later I noticed my mistake floating along atop my soup like a recent homicide victim. Rick watching this, shook his head. He often does.

Later, discussing with him a Vietnamese restaurant advertising a sandwich he likes, I kept saying Vietmanese rather than the proper pronunciation. Correcting myself, I came up with, “Vinametnese”. Hmmm. Rick commented on my odd behavior after several such occurrences. He hadn’t mentioned it previously he said because for him it is apparently difficult to differentiate between my odd behavior and my normal behavior as my normal behavior often mirrors my odd. Uh, thank you for that keen observation. Okay I make up cat songs for Boo while I’m cleaning the house and actually celebrate Clean Sheet Day, but doesn’t everybody?

Hopefully this hasn’t resulted in any permanent damage as I’m quite sure I don’t have many gray cells to spare having used up the majority during my forgettable late twenties tequila shot days. Raising my kids, husbands, and animals claimed a good portion of the rest. Wandering about the house lately trying to remember what I was looking for when I first started in the direction I was headed confirms my fears I need to hold on to as many as I have left for the years looming ahead.

In the past, I’ve had run ins with appliances. I’ve written about many, possibly including my encounter with a gas stove when in my teens. On the odd chance I did not, I will now. In ninth grade, my best friend Michaelin, Mike to her friends (her parents wanted a boy), lived directly across the ivy from me in our apartment complex. Both latchkey kids, we walked to and from school together often hanging out at one house or the other after school until our parents came home. Once free of our school clothes, a snack was usually in order. On this day it was to be mini tacos at her house.

Mike turned on the oven and opened the door, placing the tray of tacos inside. Before closing it, I commented it smelled like gas. Upon closer examination, with not enough brainpower to create an original thought in a gnat, we finally determined the pilot light was out. Always full of suggestions then as now, I said I’d seen my stepfather light ours with a long kitchen match by inserting it in one of holes on the bottom of the stove. Piece of cake. So, handing Mike the match and box I stood to her rear as she dragged it across the flint and leaned to insert the lit match in the hole. Lambs to the slaughter. KABOOM!  We were propelled across the kitchen like two Siamese twin stuntmen in a Die Hard sequel landing in an untidy pile in the corner. Aside from the ringing in my ears I seemed all right.  All my limbs were attached and other than a long gash on one hand I appeared relatively uninjured. I did smell burnt hair. Mike began concurrently screaming while beating herself on the head.  Odd. Turning towards me her blonde bangs present prior to the explosion were reduced to short, black, smoldering stubs and her face was the color of someone recently involved in French fry diving.

Without stopping to speak, I grabbed her hand and dragged her upstairs to the bathroom. Turning the shower on cold I shoved her in. With the water running full blast I couldn’t hear the fireman beating on the door downstairs. Before long, several of them stormed through the bathroom door dragging a long hose dragging behind them. Examining us, an ambulance was summoned. Downstairs looked like a case for FEMA disaster relief.  Unable to get an answer at the door, and the door locked, the firemen broke it down. It now lived in the ivy out front.  Oh boy.  No bangs, no door, no stove …..secretly I prayed the hospital was in a small village along the Amazon or possibly the Outback of Australia because no matter how you cut the bread when our parents got home they weren’t going to like the sandwich.

In the end Mike wore fake bangs until hers grew in and her face returned to a hue found on the color pallet under skintones . For me, I didn’t have to shave my legs for months. Both of us gave up our allowance until the new door was paid for, and neither of us lit the stove ever again. When I got back to school word had spread like wildfire (no pun intended) about our misadventures. Rumors ranged from our heads having blown off and landing in the swimming pool to a nuclear blast occurring only in our neighborhood.  Once again the universe got a taste of me and spit me back out. Sigh.

This was quite yummy.  Passed down several times it has altered from the original but I liked this one a lot.

Lemony Tuscan Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus trimmed (1 1/2 lbs.)
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halves
1/4 cup red onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 lemon sliced thin
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

IMG_4603Rinse pine nuts. Place in medium size dry skillet. Heat over medium heat about 5 mins. until they begin to brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cover cookie sheet with tin foil. Spray with cooking spray. Place asparagus, tomatoes, onions, and pine nuts in large mixing bowl. In separate bowl mix 2 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss to coat. Spread in single layer on prepared cookie sheet. Top with lemon slices.

2

Bake for 15 mins. or until tender. Meanwhile combine lemon juice and remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Remove asparagus from oven and pour lemon juice/olive oil mixture over top. Sprinkle with lemon zest and cheese. Serves 4.

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