I am looking forward to our opening Provence session of At Home With Patricia Wells this Sunday, June 3. We have a full list of classes planned in June, July, September and October. While most of the sessions are fully booked, a few places are still open for the week of September 16 to 21, and we look forward to welcoming everyone then! You will find full information on this page. To enroll, click here: patriciawells.com/cooking.
The following recipe is a brand new favorite, and one we'll be preparing in class next week:
BRAISED ASPARAGUS WITH WHIPPED RICOTTA, HAM, PARMESAN & HERBS
Braising asparagus --- cooking it in a small amount of liquid, covered -- seems to bring out the vegetal qualities of this sublime vegetable. Adding a touch of fresh rosemary and bay leaf only intensifies its bright, herbal flavors. In this dish, a white cloud of whipped ricotta adds a contrast of textures and colors, while a touch Parmesan, ham, and a shower of fresh herbs turns this into a healthy Salad As A Meal.
Equipment: A heavy-duty mixer fitted with a whisk; a large skillet with a lid; 4 warmed salad plates.
The whipped ricotta:
2 cups (8 ounces; 250 g) best-quality sheep’s milk or cow’s milk ricotta
4 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 plump spears (about 2 pounds; 1 kg) fresh green asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Several bay leaves, preferably fresh
Several sprigs fresh rosemary
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Fleur de sel
About 40 shavings (about 2 ounces; 60 g total) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
About 3 ounces (90 g) matchsticks of ham or sausage
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Minced fresh rosemary, for garnish
1. In the bowl of the mixer, whisk together the ricotta and the milk until light and fluffy. Add the salt and whisk once more.
2. In a skillet large enough to hold the asparagus in a single layer, combine the oil, asparagus, oil, coarse salt, bay leaves, and rosemary. Add enough water to cover the asparagus by about one-third. Cover. Cook over high heat just until the oil and water mixture begin to sizzle.
3. Reduce heat to medium and braise the asparagus, turning from time to time, just until the vegetable begins to brown in spots and are offer no resistance when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 6 to 8 minutes. (Cooking time will depend upon the thickness of the asparagus.) Shower with the lemon zest and juice.
4. Remove and discard the bay leaves and rosemary. Arrange 4 asparagus on each salad plate. While still warm, shower with the Parmesan strips, the meat matchsticks, and herbs. Place a scoop of whipped ricotta alongside the asparagus. Season lightly with fleur de sel. Serve immediately.
THE SECRET: The words “serve immediately” are serious here: Once cooked, asparagus go limp rapidly. Much of the joy of this preparation is the crunch of the just-cooked vegetable, so take advantage of it.
Variation: Substitute yuzu juice and yuzu zest for the lemon, or braise with the addition of either fresh mint or rosemary, removing the herbs once the asparagus is cooked.
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