Recipe of the Month: Grilled Asparagus Salad with Prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggianno, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

May 30, 2013

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Prosciutto, Parmigiano-Reggianno, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Varietal: Pinot Gris

Serves 4

This boldly flavored, texture-packed salad, which comes from Vancouver, British Columbia-based chef Rob Feenie’s third cookbook (“Feenie’s: Brunch—Lunch—Dinner,” Douglas & McIntyre, 2006)  is a cinch to make, yet beautiful to behold and a delight to eat. The caramelized asparagus, salty prosciutto, and sweet-tart balsamic vinaigrette work well with the lively texture and honeysuckle/pear/vanilla flavors typical of Pinot Gris.

1 to 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus extra salt for seasoning

2 pounds green asparagus, woody stems snapped or cut off and discarded

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground white pepper

Balsamic Vinaigrette (Recipe follows)

8 slices prosciutto

4 cups mesclun or other salad greens

Parmigiano-Reggiano or good-quality Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add enough of the salt so that it tastes like sea water. Prepare an ice bath. (See Cook’s Hint, below.)

2. Add the asparagus to the water and cook for 1 minute, or until the asparagus turns bright green. Immediately transfer the blanched asparagus to the ice bath to stop the cooking process and to preserve the color. When the asparagus has cooled in the water, transfer to several thicknesses of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to drain. Pat dry.

3. In a nonreactive bowl, toss the blanched asparagus with the olive oil to coat (to prevent the asparagus from sticking to the grill). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Grill 2 to 3 minutes, turning on all sides.

4. To serve, divide the asparagus among four warmed plates. Spoon the vinaigrette over and around the asparagus. Place 2 slices of prosciutto on top of each serving. Top with mesclun and drizzle with a little more vinaigrette. Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to thinly slice Parmigiano-Reggiano into curls and place a few on top of each serving.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes 2/3 cup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 teaspoon honey

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground white pepper

1. In a nonreactive bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, shallot, and honey. Whisking continuously, slowly add the olive oil in a thin stream until it forms a smooth, thick sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cook’s Hint: Ice Bath: Ice baths are called for when blanching vegetables or fruits; the cold water immediately stops the cooking process so the produce doesn’t become overcooked. To make an ice bath, simply fill a large mixing bowl with ice cubes and add cold water to cover the cubes.

Recipe reprinted from “Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia” (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.


Cruising into Seattle

May 27, 2013

Space needle seattle city skyline photo

We’ve long been a proponent of cruising, and are especially devoted fans of Seattle-based Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruise Line.

I’ve even written about our Alaska cruise experience for both Wine Press Northwest magazine and on this website in my Northwest Notes blog.

The Seattle cruise industry’s season runs from May through September, with boats leaving from Bell Street Pier (Pier 66) and Smith Cove (Pier 91) cruise terminals.

According to The Seattle Times, the first cruise ship of the 2013 season–Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Symphony, arrived on May 1. During the 2013 season, the Port of Seattle estimates that more than 175 cruises will sail through Seattle with eight different cruise lines represented. They include Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland American Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.

Seattle’s cruise industry is best known for its seven-day journey to Alaska. During pre- and post-stays in Seattle, passengers can visit the iconic Space Needle, Seattle Art Museum, Pike Place Market, and Seattle Aquarium. For more information about cruise schedules, and to book packages, visit the Port of Seattle website.

And to learn more about the venerable Pike Place Market, please pick up a copy of my “Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook,” available in both print and e-editions.

Photo credit: Braiden Rex-Johnson



Best West Coast Oyster Wines Announced!

May 20, 2013

Judging the West Coast's Best Oyster Wines

Lane Hoss, vice president of marketing for Anthony’s Restaurants, judges the West Coast’s best oyster wines

Winners of the 19th annual Pacific Coast Oyster Wine Competition were announced late last month by Taylor Shellfish Farms. As always, the competition was stiff, as leading food professionals in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, searched for the ultimate “bliss factor” between wine and oyster.

Braiden Rex-Johnson oyster wine judge

I’ve been honored to judge the competition twice, and write articles for The Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazineWine Press Northwest magazine, and Northwest Notes.

Heartiest congratulations to this year’s “Oyster Award” winners, which include:

**Cedergreen Cellars 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (WA)

**Chateau Ste. Michele 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (WA)

**Dry Creek Vineyards 2012 Dry Chenin Blanc (CA)

**Geyser Peak Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

**Kunde Family Estates 2012 Sauvingnon Blanc (CA)

Long Meadow Ranch Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

*Three Pears 2012 Pinot Grigio (CA)

Trefethen Family Vineyards 2012 Dry Riesling (CA)

Vinoce Vineyards 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (CA)

*Willamette Valley Vineyards 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (OR)

*Prior Oyster Award
**Multiple Prior Oyster Awards
The wineries listed above are 10 Equal Winners of the “Oyster Award” and are listed alphabetically.

Northwest Chefs Honored to Cook at the James Beard House

May 13, 2013

The Willamette Valley

On back-to-back evenings, beloved chefs from the Pacific Northwest will cook at the James Beard House.

John Sundstrom, chef/owner of Lark in Seattle, will work his magic on Wednesday, May 22nd, at 7 p.m. A James Beard Foundation (JBF) award-winner, John has just released his first cookbook. It is entitled, “Lark: Cooking Against the Grain,” and featured his rustic, yet elegant style of cuisine which focuses on the work of the finest local artisan food producers, farmers, meat producers, and foragers.

The five-course dinner, plus hors d’oeuvres, features Walla Walla White Asparagus Bagna Cauda with Cured Egg Yolk; Wagyu Flap Steak with Morels, Spring Onions, and Smoked Marrow-Red Wine Sauce; and Savarin Cake with Strawberries, Rhubarb Mousse, and Lemon-Yogurt Meringues. Wine pairings hail from Abeja and Belle Pente.

The next evening, also beginning at 7 p.m., Portland chef Jason Barwikowski of The Woodsman Tavern, takes over the reins in the kitchen, to produce hors d’oeuvres and a five-course dinner featuring European-inflected American fare sourced from local and artisanal purveyors. Wine pairings will be chosen by Woodsman Tavern wine director Carly Laws, with the same pricing as John Sundstrom’s dinner.

One June 10th at 7 p.m., Jessica Bagley, general manager/owner of The Painted Lady, located in Newberg, Oregon, and chef/owner Allen Routt, will bring a taste of the Willamette Valley to the James Beard House. Their innovative and locally inspired menu will be paired with wines from Anderson Family Vineyard, an organic, boutique winery.

All three dinners are priced at $130 for JBF members; $170 for the general public.

Not to be forgotten is Gabriel Rucker of Portland’s Le Pigeon, one of the chefs chosen to cook at The 2013 JBF Awards gala on May 6th. Congratulations to all our talented chefs who strut their stuff at the James Beard House!

Pike Place Market Flower Festival: May 11 and 12

May 6, 2013

Pike place market spring photo

On Saturday, May 11, and Sunday, May 12, celebrate the arrival of spring at the Pike Place Market’s annual Flower Festival, conveniently timed to coincide with Mother’s Day!

A Burst of Orange (Flowers)

Tents full of flowers will line the cobblestone streets of Pike Place so you can buy a bouquet for Mom, then craft a Mother’s Day card in the card-making booth.

Beloved Seattle gardening maven Ciscoe Morris will make an appearance along the cobblestones and share his savvy gardening tips.