Tag Archives: Mustard

Asparagus, leek and mustard flatbread

Spring has sprung, and asparagus is everywhere. The farmer’s market stalls are lined with pointy green bundles, and every supermarket I’ve been to this month has asparagus on display. If you’re looking for seasonal green stuff to experiment with, this is your prime suspect right now.

Truth be told, asparagus is not my favorite vegetable. I like the flavor just fine, but there’s something about the soft crunch of the stalks that doesn’t appeal to me. My favorite way to eat asparagus is not whole, or even chopped, but shaved. With a vegetable peeler and a few minutes’ work, you can turn the rubbery stalks into pale ribbon-like strands, thin enough that light shines through them. Instead of crunchy, the strands are silky and soft, and the flavor seems softer and more floral, somehow.

Recently, I hit on a particularly nice combination: shaved asparagus, thin-sliced leeks and mustard on whole-grain flatbread. The flavors play gorgeously together–grassy asparagus, sweet leek, spicy mustard, nutty grains. After baking and topping the flatbread, I ran it under the broiler for a few minutes, just to char the asparagus for a little smoky crunch. It took a little experimenting to strike the right balance of textures–crisp on the bottom, chewy and soft in the middle, ribbony on top–but now that I’ve got it, it must be shared.

I kept this simple–and, incidentally, vegan–so there’s nothing really holding the topping onto the flatbread. It’s a little delicate to cut into. If you wanted more of a sturdy topping, you could grate a little smoked gouda over the asparagus. But I like it just the way it is–simple and springy and loaded with vegetable flavor.

If you think you don’t like asparagus, then this is the asparagus recipe for you.

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The willy-nilly sandwich

I was a Theater major in college (playwright, not actor, don’t go all diva-shaming on me now).  One of the pieces of advice most pressed on us in our lessons on craft was the importance of research.  When you’re creating a character, you have to go as deep as possible into every nook and cranny you can find, and pull together all the context and factual evidence and analysis you can muster.  You have to create this fully-fleshed conception, right down to tattoos and breakfast cereal and all sorts of pieces that the audience may never hear of.

And then when it’s go time, you throw it all away.  You set aside all that exacting work, and leap into the unknown.

It’s not a stretch to say that I live my whole life this way.  I’m about the opposite of spontaneous.  I’m shy and neurotic, and I overthink everything.  I spend days planning what I might say in a phone conversation, and weeks thinking up a single night’s meal.  But more often than not, when the time comes for action, I end up ignoring all my well-laid mental plans and making it up as I go along.

Seems to have served me all right so far.

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Salad days

Back when I was a wee ‘un, just old enough to be a help in the kitchen rather than an underfoot pest, the very first thing my mother taught me to do was make salad dressing.  More specifically, she handed me a bottle of olive oil, a bottle of vinegar, and a spoonful of mustard, and said, “Mix these, please.”  So I did, and the rest is…well, you know.

Making vinaigrette was my introduction to home cooking, and it’s still one of my favorite things to do.  Homemade vinaigrettes are mind-bogglingly quick, impossible to screw up, and way more flavorful than anything that comes from a bottle.  Salads are also a fantastic way to practice being creative in the kitchen.  I could write volumes about this stuff.  In fact, I’m about to, so bear with me.

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