Monday, March 28, 2016

Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic

A few years ago each of us bought the Jerusalem cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi and for the next several months, a meal from the popular publication graced our Dinner Club tables.  C. hosted an entire New Year’s dinner inspired by the delights.

Last week was a M. kind of week.  First, it was her turn to cook dinner for the crew, then she hosted a birthday dinner for Mr. M. featuring the NYTimes Guinness Cake as the finale, a true masterpiece….and quite tasty.

The recipe that M. prepared for Dinner Club was not from our trusty favorite, Jerusalem, but from a later cookbook, NOPI, written by one of the Jerusalem chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi and head chef of the London restaurant with the same name, Ramael Scully.

Many cooks have grown to love the striking, exotic, aromatic and flavorful simplicity of other Ottoglenghi recipes but this new book looked a little intimidating.  So, I decided to read the cookbook reviews of Nopi and one review states…“the book even begins with a disclaimer from Ottolenghi, who writes ‘most of the recipes here will be more challenging for most home cooks.’”

Well M. was not deterred.  She turned to page 18 and whipped up the recipe for Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic.  And, if that weren’t enough, she grilled shrimp to serve along side.

Then, later that week, the birthday Guinness Cake. Sigh.

Grilled Asparagus with Romesco Sauce and Apple Balsamic

Romesco Sauce
1 dried ancho chile soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 oz. whole almonds, toasted
1 3/4 oz crustless sourdough bread, cut into cubes
3 medium plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon of good quality sherry vinegar
5 teaspoons of olive oil
I medium red chile, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 1/4 lbs asparagus, woody ends trimmed
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 oz sliced almonds, toasted
Coarse sea salt and black pepper

Place all ingredients for the romesco sauce in a small bowl, along with 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.  Stir well, cover, then leave in the refrigerator to marinate for 4 hours, or preferably, overnight.  Transfer to a food processor and blitz to form a paste.  Place in a small plan and warm through just before serving. 

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus.  Blanch for 1-2 minutes, until a dente, then drain and refresh under cold water.  Set aside to dry.

Place the balsamic vinegar, apple juice and sugar in a small pan and place over high heat.  Cook for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture has reduced by half and has a thick, sticky consistency.  

Place a ridged grill pan over high heat.  Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt and grill for 1-2 minutes so both sides get scorched.  Plate the asparagus, either on a bed of the romesco sauce or with the sauce on the side, and drizzle the balsamic mix over the asparagus.  Wonderful served with grilled shrimp or chicken.

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