When you work from home like Glenn and I do, things can get a bit loosey goosey, in terms of time and space. There’s no hard and fast schedule, as regards work hours, in our routine. In a sense, we’re always “working,” because so much of what we cook or bake or make or do turns into a recipe or a freelance project or something akin.
Owing to that, that sort of permanent liminal space, wherein life and work and art all merge and meld into one and the same thing chez English, it’s the seasons and their cues and prompts that give me the most tethering to time and place.
I might not put on “work” clothes (hello, comfy p.j.’s!), or keep “work” hours, but I do know that when the multiflora rose blooms and the magnolias are about to bust out, and the irises are showing off, and the rhubarb patch is putting out stalks, and the asparagus is erupting from the soil, then I know it’s spring. And in spring, I work and write and behave differently from how I work and write and behave in winter. Who needs work clothes when you’re got asparagus to be the boss of you?
This recipe, from Handmade Gatherings, makes delicious use of those short-lived green spears. It’s ready in no time at all, and is a perfect compliment to a roast chicken and a crisp bottle of vinho verde (Casal Garcia makes a mighty fine offering). It’s the time of the season, friends.
Pistachio-Crusted Asparagus with Feta Vinaigrette (from Handmade Gatherings: Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations and Potluck Parties, Roost Books, 2014)
Yield: 4-6 servings.
You Will Need:
-2 pounds large asparagus
-1 cup shelled pistachios
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/4 cup olive oil
-2 tablespoons feta, crumbled
-1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup feta, crumbled
-2 teaspoons lemon juice
-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
-1 Tablespoon honey
-Several grinds of black pepper
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2) Rinse the asparagus, and cut about an inch off of the stem ends. Pat the asparagus dry.
3) Place the asparagus on a dry baking sheet, and cook it for three minutes to dry off any excess moisture.
4) Remove the sheet from the oven, and toss the asparagus on the sheet with the olive oil.
5) Crush the pistachios in a food processor (or under a towel with a kitchen mallet or hammer) for about 1 minute, until finely ground.
5) Transfer the ground nuts to a small mixing bowl. Using a spoon or clean hands, mix the nuts with the salt.
6) Lay the asparagus out evenly across the baking sheet. Sprinkle them with half of the ground pistachio and salt blend.
7) Turn the spears over, then evenly sprinkle them with the rest of the ground pistachios.
8) Cook 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, and carefully plate the spears onto a platter using tongs.
9) Add all of the vinaigrette ingredients to a lidded container or a food processor. Shake or blend until smooth.
10) Drizzle the plated asparagus with the vinaigrette.
11) Top with the chopped parsley and feta.
12) Serve at room temperature.
Greyson Briere just sounds like someone that would be associated with a creperie, right? Briere. Rhymes with “gruyere.” You’re imagining berets and fine wines and lush Provencal landscapes now, aren’t you? A friend of mine for over 20 years, Greyson and her in-laws Ron and Linda Briere, along with a friendly, talented staff, own and operate the lovely Creperie & Cafe in nearby Weaverville, NC. Last week, they invited us over to sample the menu and enjoy the restaurant with their compliments.
Creperie & Cafe is housed at the corner of Hamburg Mountain Rd. and Main St. in charming Weaverville, a town just north of Asheville. I lived there from 2000-2003 and its small town quaintness has really amped up in the ensuing years. We sometimes go to Weaverville just to hit up the Well-Bred Bakery, visit the ducks and playground at Lake Louise, and pick up a plant at Reems Creek Nursery (or more like 10-nurseries are truly my kryptonite). Now that we’ve experienced the Creperie & Cafe, I’ve got another place to add to my Weaverville must-sees.
Whether sweet or savory, coffee or beer, indoors or outdoors, children or dogs, there’s something here for everyone. Of particular note is the fact that the entire establishment is gluten-free (aside from possibly a few bottled beers). I choose the SMOKED TROUT crepe, which came filled with Sunburst Trout Farms smoked trout, spinach, onions, mushrooms, smoked gouda and topped with spicy mayo. Glenn ordered the PULLED BBQ PORK crepe, packed with pulled BBQ pork, onions, and coleslaw and topped with orange raspberry BBQ sauce. Huxley choose a GRILLED CHEESE, filled with Swiss & Cheddar cheeses, from the kid’s menu. I love that it came with a side of vibrant, fresh fruits. For dessert (because it’s written into law somewhere, I believe, that you really can’t go to a creperie and leave without enjoying a sweet crepe) we selected the DREAMSICLE, which came packed with a whipped sweet orange cream cheese filling.
We nibbled from each others plates and were very pleased with everything. It’s all thoughtful and delicious. I’m a big proponent of eating outdoors whenever possible and their spacious patio is beautifully landscaped and decorated, making the meal that much more enjoyable. I highly recommend stopping into the Creperie & Cafe. The Brieres have done a wonderful job since talking over ownership in January (the restaurant has been there for two years). You can view the full menu and like their Facebook page here, as well as find them on Twitter and Instagram. While you’re there, do be sure to pop in to the Home Gear Shop next door. Also owned by the Brieres, the store features repurposed, recycled, and reclaimed antiques and home decor. Home Gear Shop carries a well-curated selection of items in a wide range of styles and prices. These folks are making Weaverville better and better every day!
Happy Monday, friends! Here’s hoping you had a restorative weekend. We certainly did. And, I don’t want to jinx anything, but it *seems* that my allergy symptoms are finally on the uptake. Off to tackle this week with gusto. From our home to yours, wishing you a healthy, happy, love-filled week ahead!
I could cuddle this wild child all day if he’d let me. // The springtime view of Mt. Pisgah from the top of our road is quite a sight.// Twilight in the garden. // I spent the summer of ’91 working in the dining room at Assembly Inn in Montreat, NC. // Azalea season in the mountains. // Trailhead in Black Mountain makes a seriously fine burger. // Stopped into the Montreat Ten Thousand Villages store to pick up Mother’s Day gifts for my mom and grandmother. It happened to be World Fair Trade Day on Saturday! // The wonderful ladies at Ten Thousand Villages plied Huxley with free stickers, chocolate, and a Fair Trade book. Also, I know I mentioned that robe on Etsy in my Friday round-up, but this one is awfully tempting, too. // Lake Susan, Montreat, NC. Had many a pivotal conversation with friends whilst walking around this lake at ages 15-16. // The pond at the Greybeard Trailhead, as peaceful and beautiful as always.// Everybody loves waterfalls! // Always, always running. // Picked up a variety of creative, delicious treats from Dobra Tea in Black Mountain (they’re opening a new outpost soon in West Asheville!). // Mother’s Day brunch with my fellas at Rhubarb (Chef Fleer’s fermented pickle plate game is strong!). // Rhubarb Pastry Chef Ashley Capps’ Raspberry Glazed Doughnut filled with Lemon Curd is, without a bit of hyperbole, quite possibly the best doughnut I have ever eaten. // Ramp hash with Benton’s side meat and the prettiest chive blossom flowers. Delicious! // Found this lovely photo of my grandmother, my mother, Huxley, and I at my mom’s house that Jen Altman took 2 1/2 years ago. // My mom taught Huxley how to play tic-tac-toe yesterday on her porch. There was a good deal of *helping* going on.
Happy Friday, friends! It is insanely lovely here today. Gentle breeze, blue skies, right around 80 degrees. Now, if the seasonal allergies I’ve been suffering from over the past two-ish weeks would just move on out, everything would be glorious. So much neti-potting, and grapefruit nasal spray, and Flonase, and Benadryl going on around here lately. I’ll take the hit, though. So worth it to have flowering plants and trees of every possible permutation on view!
In other, non-allergy news, here’s a quick smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention this week:
*Need something for mom? Grace included my bath salts in her round-up of easy DIY gifts with mom in mind.
*Really loving the truthfulness and honesty of this post about how “quick and easy” photos are often anything but. The older I get, the more I appreciate candor and full disclosure. And humility, but that merits an entire post to itself. Oh humility, how I love thee so!!!!
*Been looking for a lightweight , organic cotton bath robe at a good price for, quite literally, years (I can take a profoundly long time to buy things). Thinking this might be the winner. Ignore the fella in it-it’s unisex.
*Starting a Feel Good Book Club soon with some lady friends. Our first read is The Language of Flowers. Looks immensely intriguing. Any of you read it?
*Ordered The Art of Hearing Heartbeats at the suggestion of a new friend. Summer reading is about to get all kinds of wonderful!
*I’ve become an increasingly devoted fan of Clarks shoes. They’re durable, have strong arch support (I have really high arches and get shin splints easily), and have a timeless look to them. I also like that they’re not really the least bit dainty, because, well, I like footwear that keeps up with my lifestyle, which is far from precious or delicate. There’s a new Clarks outlet store in Asheville and I picked up a pair of Faraway Charm in black and a pair of Gunn in black suede yesterday. About to order these Dusty Souls in black and then my shoe collection will be pretty much set for several years.
*Speaking of foot wear, Glenn and I both have a pair of Shoe-Ins that we keep outside of the chicken coop. If we’re not wearing our chicken/outdoor boots and need to go into the coop, we just slide these on over our shoes and head on in. They look like enormous clown shoes, but are actually quite easy to put on and to take off. Even better, Shoe-Ins are made here in the states by a worker-owned cooperative.
*University professor discovers the secret life of plants (ALSO-this kind of information jazzes me beyond description; should you ever encounter similar information/books/videos/etc., do feel free to send it my way).
Mother’s Day is a holiday filled with varying degrees of emotion, isn’t it? Excitement, dread, happiness, agony, elation, grief, disappointment. So much wrapped up in our mothers and how they mothered us, and how those of us that are mothers mother our own children. We all have our own expectations and ideas of what constitutes and defines a “mother.” Whatever your own approach, I wish you a lovely weekend, however it may manifest.
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I post a photo of Huxley in my “What I’m Digging” round-ups because, truly, he’s what Glenn and I dig the most. We headed to Biltmore last Saturday, to take in the massive display of azaleas in bloom. Our little monkey found this tree and immediately wanted to both climb and hug it.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye made, old time’s still a-flying. And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying. -Robert Herrick, from “To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time.”
There are things worth waiting for. Some things that you simply don’t actually want to have available every day, no matter the enjoyment you might glean from them. If Christmas, or your birthday, or any other holiday or occasion you partake and delight in happened on the regular, say, each Saturday, after awhile, they’d loose their significance. Their value would diminish. It’s because of their infrequency that they become imbued with such meaning.
This is exactly the case with the annual Ladies Ladyslipper Boozy Picnic that I attended yesterday. Barbara Swell (shown smiling with a glass of bubbly in the last photo), the hostess (and cookbook author and food historian and gifted gardener and all around woman of awesomeness), gathers a small group of women each May, to come and sit one afternoon with the patch of wild pink ladyslipper orchids residing in the forests behind her east Asheville home. Each guest brings along a dish to share featuring an ephemeral food, those fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are available for but a few fleeting weeks every year. We sip mead, and cava, and rosé, and other various libations, nibble on lovingly crafted edible delicacies, and share a few hours of fellowship and conviviality amongst the orchids. There’s a good deal of laughter, a profound depth of conversation, and always a sharing of our hearts. It. Is. Magic.
Yesterday I brought along a loaf of my Rhubarb Buttermilk Bread. From the “Spring To Life” potluck in Handmade Gatherings, the quick loaf features lemon zest, vanilla bean, crunchy nuts (the recipe calls for hazelnuts, but I was out yesterday and subbed pecans with great results), and, the tart, rosy, wonderful, ephemeral rhubarb. Technically a perennial vegetable, rhubarb is in season right now. I picked several stalks from my patch in the garden yesterday late morning, chopped them up, added them to the mix, and had my house smelling like everything you ever wanted nearly an hour later. Make this for your mom. Make this for your best friend. Make this for yourself and anyone you love. It’s only here for a short while, and making time for it, and all those fleeting things in life, is a treasure and a gift ripe for the taking (and baking!).
Rhubarb Buttermilk Bread (from Handmade Gatherings: Recipes and Crafts for Seasonal Celebrations and Potluck Parties , Roost Books, 2014)
Yield: One 9×5 loaf.
You Will Need:
-1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ cup rhubarb, chopped
-1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup buttermilk
-6 Tablespoons butter, melted
-Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla bean seeds*
*Using a pointy-end knife, slice the vanilla bean pod open lengthwise, then out scrape the tiny seed flecks with the knife tip.
-4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
-2 Tablespoons brown sugar
-3 Tablespoons butter, cubed
-1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or pecans
-1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9”x5” loaf pan, and set it aside.
Prepare the topping:
1) Place all of the topping ingredients into a medium-size mixing bowl.
2) Using clean hands, mix everything together, until the ingredients are fully combined and the butter is in pea-sized clumps. Set aside while you prepare the bread batter.
Prepare the batter:
1) Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl, using either a whisk or a fork.
2) Add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds. Whisk together until the ingredients are fully combined.
3) With a mixing spoon, stir in the chopped rhubarb until it is well blended into the batter.
Assemble the bread:
1) Pour the batter out of the mixing bowl into the prepared pan. Use a spatula to evenly distribute the batter across the surface of the pan.
2) Sprinkle the topping evenly across the batter.
3) Place the pan into the preheated oven. Bake for one hour, until the top is golden and the a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
4) Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.