Sunday, February 24, 2013

Asparagus Parmesan Sformato and a Bonus

I have been yearning. And I don't know for what. I wake up with a longing. It's not a bad of state of being. But it does turn you into a slightly boring person - this longing. Because you spend a lot of time turned inward. And you lose track of conversations. And it's obvious. You're caught not listening. I want the "yearning" to come out and assert itself and so I have been doing things I have been meaning to do forever - hoping these activities would coax out the little-stubborn-yearning.

I planned on making these little asparagus puddings when they were actually in season - last April. Some things take me a long time to do. Even pleasant things. I am an equal-opportunity procrastinator. I later planned on doing these over the holidays. And then I was sure these would come to the table in January. And now I am kicking myself that I hadn't made them earlier and monthly.

I have a fondness for the sformato - the transformation of cheeses and vegetables into velvet. Something dense but in a believable disguise as a light offering. (Even though the 6 eggs belie that notion.) I do try to eat seasonally and locally - but in Minnesota - you could come down with scurvy if you didn't move outside your northland circle.

Perhaps it is because I have looked at this long enough.

We are at the point in winter where the driveway has lost a lot of weight and become quite narrow. Where the December sighs of "Such a pretty snowfall - it looks like a Christmas Card!" have turned into "Oh Goody (or expletive), "It's snowing." (using the sarcastic font).

I have spent my eves with Stephen King going back in time. And while the book helped me get through a fifth arctic blast - it just intensified the yearning.

Perhaps I was tired of the recipe on the fridge nagging me every time I opened the fridge door. Perhaps it was the lure of $2.99/pound asparagus that did not look exhausted. I finally made them. And I will make them again - with broccoli, with spinach, with Swiss chard and with locally grown, seasonal asparagus. In April. Or May. And you should also.

Ingredients - 8 Servings
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs from crustless Italian bread
2 pound asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 8 3/4-1 cup ramekins. Coat the bottom with breadcrumbs.
2. Cut off asparagus tips. Cook for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Put tips aside.
3. Coarsely chop asparagus stalks. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Saute onion about 6 minutes. Add stalks and saute 5 minutes. Add reserved asparagus cooking liquid. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Uncover and cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring often - about 5 minutes.
4. Transfer to food processor and puree.
5. Add Parmesan, ricotta and flour and process until just blended. Salt and pepper a bit.
6. In a large bowl, whisk eggs. Add the asparagus puree and whisk to blend. Stir in all but 8 of the asparagus tips.
7. Pour into ramekins - filling the ramekins about 3/4 of the way.
(Can be made ahead. Cover and chill.)
8. Put ramekins in water bath. (Put in roaster and large baking tray. Pour boiling water around ramekins - filling the pan about 1 inch with water.)
9. Bake "puddings" until set - about 35 minutes. Let stand ten minutes. Invert onto plates and garnish with reserved asparagus tips.

Look at it. Long for it.

It bends to the will of the seasons. It's flecked. It's cheese - baked and just a little browned. It's asparagus - coaxed  into a soft winter coat. Not intense - just soothing. Sort of cloudy. Sort of earthy. Sort of reassuring.

And it's good. Really good.

So is this.

Marinated Goat Cheese with Warmed Olives

The thing is - you probably have all in your kitchen: olive oil, a fresh herb, olives, goat cheese, a lemon.

And that's it. Use a goat cheese medallions or a log or two. Heat a bit of olive oil (about 1/4 of a cup) with the zest of a lemon and some fresh herbs (I used thyme - but use what suits your fancy). Add some olives - your choice - and some freshly-ground pepper. When nice and warm (not boiling), pour all over the goat cheese and serve.

I made this ahead of time on Valentine's Day and this lovely man that I am married to - who sent me flowers - who had an actual card waiting for me on Valentine's Day morning - didn't get any. Yeah. Well... I had my fill.

So I will need to make it again. But not ahead of time.

Meanwhile, my daughter has accused me of whoring out the cats to get comments on the blog.

Heavens-to-Betsy - why would I do that?


chow and chatter said...

wow the texture is fun would love to try it, love you your a lovely person and a special person in the blogging world thanks for the kind comment on my Granddads post

Unknown said...

I'm grinning from ear to ear with the comment from your daughter. Hey, look, if the cats work I say use them!!! Love the recipe, too!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I love sformato of any sort, including these but you know the thing I love most is your writing. It draws me in everytime. And keep whoring out the cats. I love seeing them.

Angie's Recipes said...

This is very first time I have ever seen an asparaugs pudding and I am LOVING it!
Yes, keep whoring out the cats please :-) I enjoy it too.
Have a great week ahead, Claudia.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I recently read about this dish and have been wanting to try it. The goat cheese with the warmed lives is something I must try as well.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

It has been a sformato kind of winter, Claudia, as I overbuy all te pretty veggies I see here and then have to use them up in creative ways. I made a potato crust spinach sformato for my daughter-in-law this weekend (gluten free) -- she loved it! Now I have to try your delicious looking asparagus recipe.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

PS: As one cat lover to another, keep the photos coming!

Proud Italian Cook said...

The last sformato I made was with cauliflower, you reminded me how good they are, I will make yours now. I confess I bought asparagus here too, not in season yet but it sure tasted good! I'm with Linda about your writing, you could write about a garbage bag and I would be all ears enjoying every word! You're the best Claudia!

Gintare @Gourmantine said...

I share the same sentiments towards snow lately and any sign of temperature drop, it's time for Spring! I'd love to make these treats when asparagus are back in season!

Angie said...

An whats wrong with a little feline help lol. So many of your recipes I have never come across before but I so enjoy reading them and logging them away in my brain ready to fire the imagination at a future date.

Gloria Baker said...

oh Claudia these look sooo cute and delicious I love asparagus, this year I didn't see almost asparagus and I love them!!ciao

Beth said...

Ha! Love the cats, and the food. And the fact that your lovely husband will have to wait to try the goat cheese!

Mary Bergfeld said...

I have never had those puddings but that is a situation that will soon be remedied. They look wonderful. As to your daughter's comment - what do kids know :-). I hope you had a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

We Are Not Martha said...

These look so unique and fabulous! I love asparagus :)


Gina said...

I love your daughter, she sounds just like mine. I feel like the same procrastinator at times. Like the fact I put off doing my taxes, key is to always have good excuses. Like the fact you are trapped out in the back country and surviving by melting the snow in your warm hands and drinking it for mere survival. Or perhaps you are holed up in a snow cave and eating what is left of your deer jerky that you killed just as the onset of the first flakes were starting to fall. I guess I don't have a good enough one for having never tried these. They sound wonderful. Try the ricotta pastries, they are worth a trip to the store crossing the frozen tundra. Spring is almost, I'll keep my fingers crossed it's way to you.

Kitchen Riffs said...

A pair of super recipes. The sformato looks wonderful - super flavors. I got some great looking asparagus last week, too, although I wish I had known about this recipe then. And I love the marinated goat cheese! I'll definitely be doing that. Keep the kitty pictures coming - I love looking at kitties!

That Girl said...

I've always thought of asparagus as an early spring vegetable anyway - which is kind of right now!

Joanne said...

I've always wanted to try this savory pudding and now you've given me reason to!

Cucina49 said...

I say keep showing the cats, but then I'm a cat person myself. I know what you mean about the longing, because it's been a snowy and cold winter here too. Fortunately I'm going back into rehearsal, which means no time for introspection! Both of these dishes look spectacular.

Chiara said...

thanks for sharing this delicious recipe Claudia , have a good day....

AdriBarr said...

Sformati are so comforting, such a delight. This recipe sounds great.

And about the cats, oh but they are glorious creatures, are they not? I love seeing them.

Catherine said...

Dear Claudia, I could have read and read this post. You came to the core of me the yearning and yearning a silent yearning. So much going on and trying to sort it out and keep a happy and most positive outlook and count my blessings of which I know are many. Just trying to figure things out and yet not second guess.
Anyway, I understand to say the least.
As of the Sfpormato, one word delicious. The same for the marinated goat cheese. As for the kitty, why not!
I do miss all of my dear blogging friends and want to thank you for your kind visits and thoughts.
I look forward to getting back to cooking and visiting.
Blessings and xoxo, Catherine

Reeni said...

I'm yearning to try the sformato! How delicious! And yes to marinated goat cheese - I can't get enough of it lately. I love seeing a fellow cat lovers kitty pictures!

FOODESSA said...

Women in general are multi-taskers at heart...however, it doesn't quite mean that every task gets done right away ;o) A little procrastination is healthy. I keep telling myself that everyday. Give yourself a warm understanding hug're probably on overload and it's completely understandable.

Now, about the sformato...I believe I've not only never made it...I also can't recall eating it either. What kind of Italian am I. LOL You have lit a little fire in my continuous culinary journey. Thanks my dear.

Have a lovely weekend,

Katherine Roberts Aucoin said...

I am definitely longing for this, so elegant. Too funny that your daughter says you're whoring out the cats!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Wonderful sformati! What a lovely combination.

That snow shot is so pretty and your cat is really cute.



Lori Lynn said...

I recently saw a photo of these made with artichokes. Asparagus sounds even better. Love your ramekins too.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I think you've satisfied your yearning with some delicious food. I'm not familiar with sformato, but wow is it pretty. I'm always in the mood for asparagus.

Have a lovely weekend. It’s nice to be able to get out and visit old friends again.

Anonymous said...

Your sformato sounds delicious. I have never made it but have had the dish in Italy. Now I must prepare it.

Frank said...

I saw asparagus displayed prominently in the supermarket yesterday and was seriously tempted to buy them. Sort of cheating, I thought, but…. like you, I'm *really* ready for Spring!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Have a wonderful Friday, dear!



Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina said...

I tried to comment on your previous post on the gorgonzola tort but couldn't, so I thought I'd just leave it here: I'm simply in love with gorgonzola and could literally live on it spread on any bread alone and be just perfectly content in my tummy. Thanks for the recipe Claudia . . . love your kitties too!