A few months ago I started getting a weekly bag of vegetables from Crop Drop. I have mentioned it before here but not for a while. The way it works is you choose a small or large bag, potatoes or no potatoes, and pick it up once a week from a drop point somewhere in Haringey. All of the vegetables are organically grown though their smaller suppliers aren’t certified (it’s an expensive process). Picking up from a local business is great because I can get some other local shopping done while I’m at it. It’s a win win for the environment and the local economy.
This week’s bag contained, among other things, asparagus and courgettes. Asparagus season in the UK starts in May and lasts about six weeks. It’s really the only time to eat asparagus – Peruvian asparagus doesn’t taste the same and then there’s the whole food miles argument (how does Peru have such a long asparagus season anyway?).
Turning to Eat Your Books I found a recipe from a book I hadn’t used yet, Lorraine Pascale’s Fast, Fresh and Easy food: Courgette “papardelle” with asparagus, avocado salad and rocket. The book was published in 2012 but it’s new to me – a neighbour was destashing a few months ago and I came home laden with cookbooks (that remained packed in a box until it was time to move in to my new kitchen). I followed the recipe exactly except for using my new spiraliser to prepare the courgette. The great thing about the book though is that the recipes don’t require any fancy kitchen equipment.
- 400g tin of cannellini beans
- 250g bunch of asparagus
- 3 courgettes
- 1 perfectly ripe avocado
- Olive oil
- 1 bag of wild rocket
- Small handful of fresh mint
- Small handful of fresh basil
- Handful of toasted pine nuts (about 25g) (they come ready-toasted from the supermarkets)
- 25g Parmesan cheese
- 1 small red chilli or a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
- 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Couple of squidges of honey
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1. Put the kettle on to boil.
- 2. Meanwhile, make the dressing. Deseed and finely chop the chilli (if using) and add to a mug or small bowl, or simply add the dried chilli flakes. Finely grate the lemon zest in and squeeze in the juice. Add the oil and honey and season with salt and pepper. Whisk together with a fork. Next, drain and rinse the cannellini beans, toss them through the dressing and set aside.
- 3. Pour the now-boiled water and a big pinch of salt into a medium pan and put on a high heat to bring the water back up to the boil. Trim the ends of the asparagus where they look dried out and add to the water to cook for 4 minutes.
- 4. Using a peeler, take a strip of the length of a courgette to look like ‘pappardelle’. Keep going going in the same place until you have peeled away half of the courgette, then flip it over and do the same with the other side. You now don’t need the bit that is left when you’ve peeled away all you can, but you could save it for a soup or stir-fry. Repeat with the remaining courgettes.
- 5. Once the asparagus is just tender, remove it from the water with a slotted spoon and rinse under cold running water for a minute or so until cool. Then set aside. Now add the courgette ‘pappardelle’ to the boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes.
- 6. Meanwhile, quarter, de-stone and peel the avocado. Cut it lengthways into 1cm-thick slices, drizzle with oil (so they don’t go brown) and set aside.
- 7. Once the courgettes are just tender, drain them in a colander and rinse under running water until cool. Drain well and toss a drizzle of oil through them to stop them sticking together.
- 8. Now to assemble. Tip the rocket onto a large serving platter. Scatter the courgette and asparagus over. Rip the leaves from the mint and basil stalks and sprinkle over the pine nuts. Give everything a little toss about with your hands and arrange the avocado on top. Spoon the cannellini beans and dressing over and then shave the Parmesan on top using the peeler and serve.
- Like I said, I spiralised the courgette instead of peeling it into strips - but I love Lorraine's instructions for peeling the courgette. She makes everything sound very easy!
- I took this for lunch two days in a row. If I get more asparagus I'll definitely make it again. I'm keen to try other recipes from the book too.