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Every time I come home I can count on taking a trip to the “countryside” to drive and revel in the natural beauty that is Colorado. There are several landmarks I must visit — like the “crickly-crackly road” and “the tree” — but most of all these drives have a history of providing exactly what is needed in the moment, whether it be an escape, time to converse, process, or just to sit in silence.

On this particular day, my mom and I went out for a walk at one of our favorite spots. At some point during the stroll, mom looked over at a group of familiar plants and told me to check it out. She was right, there it was:

Wild asparagus! It’s rather late in the season for there to still be any worth picking. Usually the prime time to go is around Easter. This was a real treat to have found so much!

We decided to make a delicious meal with our lucky discovery: Cream of Wild Asparagus Soup.

Ingredients: (this was for two of us, but we had some left over)

1 bunch of fresh asparagus, washed and chopped.

1 small shallot, minced

1 pkg. mushrooms, rinsed and sliced

3 c. low-sodium vegetable broth

1 stick (8 T.) of unsalted butter, divided in half.

4 T. flour

1.5 c. milk

1/2 c. white wine (optional)

4 sprigs fresh thyme, in tact

5 T. of freshly grated Gruyère cheese

olive oil

sea salt

pepper

seasoning salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400. Dress asparagus with a little olive oil and sea salt,     and roast asparagus until tender, approximately 15-20 minutes.

Next, melt 1 T of butter on medium heat in a saucepan and add the shallot. Wait about 30 seconds and add the rest of the butter. When it’s melted, whisk in the flour to make the rue.

SLOWLY, ever so slowly, pour your vegetable broth into the pot, whisking constantly so that it doesn’t clump. You’ll see that it immediately thickens each time you add broth, but it will eventually have to a slightly creamy consistency once all the broth has been incorporated. Here, we also added the whole milk. **If you decide to add milk, temper it by spooning some broth into the cold milk, bringing it to a warmer temperature before you add the lot.

Reduce the heat to medium low. To this base we added 1/2 cup of wine, 4 sprigs of thyme (they’ll be removed later) and a bit of gruyère cheese.

Whilst the soup is warming, caramelize the sliced mushrooms along with the other 4 T of butter, pepper, and seasoning salt. We like ours with a nice brown all around. (This is also a good time to remove the thyme from the pot.)

Finally, when the asparagus is fork tender, place all of it into a blender with enough soup to cover it and puree. Add the mixture back into the saucepan, and combine. To serve, ladle a healthy portion of the soup and garnish with some of the mushrooms and homemade croutons.

Enjoy!

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I make this at least every two weeks. It’s delicious, fun to prepare, and packs neatly for lunch on the go.  My tastes crave more lemon zest, but try it out and see for yourself!

Original Recipe credited to: Rachel Humphrey (from her former blog “The Sweet Savory”)

Hazelnut Trompe L’oeil Couscous

Ingredients:

1 c. raw hazelnuts

2 T cooking oil

1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

2-3 cloves garlic

10 sprigs flat leaf parsley

zest of 1 lemon (juice optional)

1 c. pearl or Israeli couscous

2 c. very hot water or broth

sea salt

freshly cracked black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions:

1) Heat oven to 375 F. Place hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and place in oven for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

2) Meanwhile, peel and smash garlic cloves and mince very finely with salt. Remove parsley from stems and chop coarsely. Zest a lemon with a microplane, removing just the bright yellow and avoiding the bitter white pith.

3) Once cool, roll hazelnuts between palms of your hands to remove the skins and set them in a separate dish.

4) Over medium flame, heat cooking oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan until shimmery. Add garbanzos to pan and spread across surface evenly, leave to toast without stirring for about 3 minutes.  Stir, and continue to cook this way until garbanzos start to pop.

5) Add hazelnuts and stir well. Add lemon zest, garlic, and half of the parsley, stirring well. Cook together for about 2-3 minutes, then set aside.

6) Place pan back on heat without cleaning it. Put couscous into the pan and toast over medium flame, stirring often so the bits left from the garbanzos don’t burn — you may want to decrease the flame. Toast the pasta for about 2-4 minutes, then add the hot water or broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce flame to medium low (just enough to hold the simmer) and cover to let cook for 10-12 minutes.

7) Remove from heat and stir in garbanzo mixture. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste, adding the rest of the chopped parsley and coat with olive oil.

(Kaitlin’s note: here, I like to add some lemon juice . . . it’s up to you!)

Enjoy!!

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