I’ve been doing research on Dutch cuisine: both traditional and street food, because as you’re reading this, I’m flying to Amsterdam with a group of 20 adventurous women. Not only will we be touring traditional tourist must-sees like Keukenhof, The Hague, and, of course, the “coffee shops” and red light district, but as a food lover and writer, I hope to eat like a local while we’re cycling our way through the Dutch countryside on a Bike/Barage trip from Amsterdam to Bruge with CycleTours.
I’m posting this as I’m packing and wishing that the last thing on my mind is how I don’t have enough time to write 6 blog posts to schedule while I’m gone. But at least I have a feeling of accomplishment in fulfilling my first challenge with the Five Star Foodie Challenge group. I can breath a sigh of relief because for a while there it looked as if I was going to fail miserably due to the fact that I could not find the main ingredient called for in the challenge! Thank you Bristol Farms for coming through!
Considering I’ll soon be experiencing Spring in all its splendor in a sea of fragrant blossoms of hyacinths and tulips, it was serendipitous that the Five-Star Foodie Challenge for April was white asparagus, revered as the ultimate Spring delicacy in Germany and The Netherlands during this very time. I plan on seeking out traditional preparations, like Asparagus with Ham and Hollandaise Sauce, while I’m biking through the villages and flower fields of Holland.
According to Karin Englebrecht, a food and travel writer who writes restaurant reviews for TimeOut Amsterdam magazines and travel guides, food related articles for Holland Times, and the Dutch Food Guide at About.com:
“You couldn’t possibly find a more Dutch way of eating asparagus than Asparagus Hollandaise with ham and chopped boiled eggs. And, for those of you who feel the need to point out that Hollandaise sauce is French, some historians believe that it was actually invented in the Netherlands and then taken back to France by the Huguenots. A recipe for Hollandaise sauce appears in a Dutch cookbook by Carel Baten, which dates from 1593. Once looked down upon as peasant food, white asparagus is now regarded as “witte goud” or ‘white gold’. Heritage aside, this simply is the best way to enjoy this delicious delicacy.”
So, to honor the white asparagus and its delicate flavor, I kept it simple, adding only sweet crab meat and fresh ingredients from the garden that would complement, without overpowering, the ivory spears. To give the salad my signature, I concocted a bright sauce of green asparagus and shallots and a white balsamic and Meyer lemon vinaigrette to dress it. Garnished with slivers of purple radishes and edible flowers, The Don and I savored this delightful salad with a bottle of bubbly while gazing upon the pastel hues of our rose garden in bloom and the tender green shoots dotting the garden beds.
White Asparagus and Crab Salad
1 bunch white asparagus, stalks peeled
1 lb. crab meat
1 bunch watercress
Garnish: French radishes and chives, edible flowers (optional)
Cut off 1 inch of the asparagus stems and discard. To peel the stalks, gently hold the tip and using a vegetable peeler to shave the length of the stalk. Blanch the spears in boiling water for about 4 minutes. Remove and transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Allow the water to come to a boil again and blanch the green asparagus for the sauce.
12 green asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 shallot, diced
1 Tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons half & half
Cut off 1 inch of the asparagus stems and discard. Cut the remaining spears into 1 inch pieces. Blanch the asparagus in boiling water for about 4 minutes. Remove and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Use 1 cup of the stems for this sauce. Reserve the tips and remaining stems for use in a salad, omelet, risotto, or pasta dish.
Heat the butter in a skillet over med heat. Sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and sauté for another 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree – I prefer mine a little chunky for textural contrast against the smooth spears of asparagus. Add the half & half, pulse to blend.
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons, strained
½ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon finely minced shallot
2 teaspoons finely minced chives
Whisk together the vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl. Slowly whisk in he canola oil. Stir in the shallots and chives. Or the easy way: place all ingredients in a glass jar and shake to combine. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 2 weeks (the chives will darken after 1 day).
To assemble the salad:
Form a mound of the Asparagus Sauce in the middle of your platter, top with crab meat. Surround with watercress and garnish with sliced purple and/or red radishes and finely chopped chives. Drizzle with vinaigrette.