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Sunday, April 6, 2014

The fun of improvising

I fixed a good supper for a friend the other night, but I’m not going to give you the recipe. Instead I’ll tell you what I’ll do next time.

I happened into a wealth of asparagus recently and then came upon a recipe that looks wonderful even if not on the new diet I’ve begun—so far unsuccessful. Anyway, it involved Texas toast spread with melted butter on both sides and broiled; crab salad, which is a whole other story. I know crab is expensive but how much could ¼ lb. cost? This was a special guest I haven’t seen in a while, and I decided to splurge. So I asked the fishmonger for ¼ lb. crab, and he pointed me to a freezer case. Among other things, it held one lb. containers of crab priced at $23. I ended up paying $8.50 for canned crab which, once I opened it, didn’t have much flavor. But you mixed that with mayo, a bit of Dijon and lemon, a pinch each of cayenne and paprika. I dutifully did that, though I’m always tempted to leave out cayenne—in this case I’m really glad I didn’t.

Spread that on the toasted bread; top with shredded Monterrey Jack and then raw asparagus halved lengthwise, and top that with three thin slices of Jack cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and brown. Made a beautiful dish, but I couldn’t get my phone to go from video to photo so, as usual, no picture. And it tasted as good as it looked—but I couldn’t taste the crab. The cayenne added just enough bite, and the cheese was good but not cheesy enough for this cheddar fan.

So I offer this recipe for Asparagus with cheese for two:

2 slices sourdough bread, not thickly sliced (Texas toast would, I decided, be too much bread and might get soggy in the middle

Melted butter

Shredded cheese, enough to cover both slices of bread—I’d use cheddar or, as I did the other night, the Jack/Colby combination

1 scallion, sliced

Pinch cayenne

Quick splash Worcestershire

1/8 tsp. dry mustard


Four or five slices asparagus per person, halved lengthwise

Sliced cheese


Mixed shredded cheese with scallion, cayenne, Worcestershire, and mustard. Add just enough mayo to bind. Set aside.

Melt about 2 Tbsp. butter and brush both side of bread. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and broil, watching closely and using tongs to turn. Remove from oven but leave broiler on.

Spread cheese mixture on toast; top with asparagus and sliced cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and just a bit of brown.

For me, this would be a main dish. If you’re feeding a carnivore, give him or her a sautéed chopped steak to go with it. And a good thing—you’ll probably have enough asparagus in the bunch for a side at another meal.
And tonight's supper on this cool, rainy day? Vegetable soup is in the crockpot. My oldest daughter has an elaborate recipe for minestrone that involves so much chopping that she makes three batches at once and freezes it. My idea of vegetable soup is to clean out the freezer and vegetable drawer--those bits of broth in boxes in the freeze and the half packages of peas and corn; from the vegetable drawer, a wedge of cabbage shredded, that half zucchini, some of those baby carrots, and a bag of spinach bought specially for the soup. From my front porch, sprigs of oregano and rosemary. It's like making salad, you start up with a little, keep ending, and before you know it you have enough for an army. But it smells good.



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