A few weeks ago, I noticed on my geek holidays calendar Tolkien Reading Day is tomorrow. Only after learning about the origins of Tolkien Reading Day did I realize how truly geeky my geek holidays calendar really is. None the less, I figured if there is any way to celebrate this sham of a holiday it would be by serving a meal a hobbit would adore.
Of course, with hobbits, the question is which meal. (If this isn’t your first Tolkien Reading Day celebration you undoubtedly already know that hobbits eat at least seven meals a day: breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner and (later in the evening) supper. You might also know that if you’ve recently looked up hobbits on Wikipedia.)
A little research into the hobbit larder revealed the hairy-footed little guys love blackberry jam, small seed cakes, tea, cheese, savory pies, root vegetables and, above all, mushrooms. Me too!
A soup and salad dinner might be a perfect hobbit luncheon treat. I chose a silken turnip and potato soup. Before making it, I had never cooked with turnips before. The slight sweetness evident in their creamy texture was a bit of a surprise to me; I guess I haven’t often eaten turnips either.
As a contrast to the soup, I would serve the diminutive yet courageous fictitious dinner guests Bobby Flay’s grilled asparagus and roasted mushroom salad. This delightful, warm dish combines veggies with rich blue cheese and savory pecans then complements them with a chili-infused vinaigrette. (I’m sure this will be on my table as long as asparagus are in season!)
And, as much as I think the hobbits would like this meal, I think you would too!
But, I also understand if, now that the equinox has past and long sunny days are upon us again, you don’t want to eat turnip and potato soup. If that’s true, you should run – not walk – to Whole Foods and pick up some fresh chickpeas. Personally, I had never had them before yesterday, but I know they will be gracing my plate as often as possible during their short season. (That’s twice in one post!) Completely disregard everything you know about garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) before you eat these. They are much closer to an English pea in flavor and consistency.
We used them last night to make a lovely chickpea and mint soup. It was easy, flavorful and a real treat.
I’m hoping the next week or so will include more of these lovely newfound little beans. They seem to carry with them all of the lovely hope of spring in a dish. Kirk is excited at the prospect of roasting them still in their hulls. Allegedly this is the preferred way they are served by little old ladies in Jerusalem. I’m looking for other ideas on how to best use them, so please let me know if you have any experience or resources from which I would benefit.
Grilled Asparagus and Roasted Mushroom Salad
The original recipe, reprinted below, specifies the mushrooms are plated in the center of a dish and surrounded with the grilled asparagus spears. This makes for a lovely presentation, but I would recommend chopping asparagus and mixing with the mushrooms and some dressing if you are not as concerned with plating.
- 1 pound asparagus, grilled
- 1 pound assorted mushrooms (portobello, cremini, shiitake) coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup toasted pecans
- 8 ounces American blue cheese
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add mushrooms and cook until golden brown. Add thyme and season with salt and pepper.
- Toss asparagus with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper.
- Arrange 1/4 of the mushrooms in the center of each plate. Arrange asparagus around the mushrooms. Sprinkle pecans and blue cheese around the edge of the plate. Drizzle with more of the dressing.
Red Chile Mustard Vinaigrette:
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
Whisk together mustard, ancho powder, salt and vinegar, slowly whisk in oil until emulsified. Season with more salt, to taste.