Appetizer & dessert

Originally published June 2011.

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I continued my trend of making dinner for my wonderful dad on Father’s Day this year. The man went and got Netflix and a Nook, so I can no longer use my impeccable judgment of books/movies/DVD collections I know he’d like when selecting gifts. I tell you, the man is IMPOSSIBLE. Just kidding. He rocks.

He gave me a menu of what he wanted for his Sunday dinner, and while I’m pretty sure each and every aspect of it was a smashing success, I will only share with you the recipes for the soup and the dessert. Mainly because, good God, you’ve seen ENOUGH potato dishes on here (though my garlic mashed potatoes had the perfect consistency, I must say) and steamed green beans are really not blog post-worthy. (Rinse beans. Trim ends. Put beans in pot with water. Steam till bright green. Toss with butter/salt/lemon juice/garlic/whatever. Serve.) See? You got the green beans recipe out of me.

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Cream of Asparagus Soup (adapted from epicurious.com)
1 lb (roughly) of green asparagus
1 medium shallot, diced
3 tbsp butter
3 to 4 cups chicken broth (or enough to just cover your asparagus)
1/2 cup half and half
fresh lemon juice, to taste

Remove the woody bottoms of the stalks of asparagus and discard. Slice asparagus into 1/2-inch long pieces.

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Next, saute your shallots in 2 tbsp of butter. The original recipe called for a large onion, which I personally think would overpower the flavor of the asparagus, and, well, the asparagus is kind of the whole point. Besides, I looove shallots. Saute until translucent, then add asparagus, plus salt and pepper to taste. Again, try to avoid overpowering the flavor of the asparagus. Add broth and simmer, covered, about 15-20 minutes. I think asparagus gets ruined when cooked for too long, so just, y’know, watch it.

Puree soup in batches until smooth. My mother suggests using a blender, because it does a better job at this than a food processor. Fortunately, I was in her kitchen and had access to a blender, but I’m sure if you just keep it in the food processor long enough, you’ll get a nice, creamy consistency.

Return the pureed soup to the pot and stir in the half and half. Season, then whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add lemon juice and serve.

What do I do if my soup is too thin? I had this problem, because like a dodo, I added five cups of broth to the soup, and even though I didn’t use it all in the puree, my soup was still a bit on the thin side. Fortunately, using cream helps to thicken soup. What I also did was add a bit of corn starch to white wine (using a ratio of 1 tsp. starch to 1 1/2 tsp. wine), whisked the ingredients together, and it worked wonders. Other ideas are pureeing more vegetables (if you have them on hand) or making a roux, which is equal parts fat and flour.

Zabaglione (adapted from Tyler Florence)
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup Marsala
Fresh strawberries, sliced (optional)
Shaved chocolate (optional)

Bring a pot of water to a boil, then lower to a simmer. In a heat-resistant glass or metal bowl, combine your egg yolks and sugar and whisk until foamy. Without letting the bowl touch the water, place over the pot of simmering water and whisk your arm off. Gradually add the Marsala and continue to beat until the mixture expands and has a custard-y consistency. This is super easy to do if you have a hand mixer with a whisk attachment. Which, fortunately, my folks did. Hooray! Do not let your eggs boil. I can only imagine that you’d end up with some sort of scrambled-eggy concoction that would not look like something you’d want to put near your mouth.

Spoon zabaglione into bowls/glasses/directly into your mouth. Add fresh strawberries and top with shaved chocolate. If you simply can’t wait for the berries and chocolate, it’s cool. My dad couldn’t when he came back for his second helping. No amount of admonishing from my mother could convince him to “at least add some fruit.”

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Happy eating!

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