Maybe the combination in today’s recipe is inspired by the many ice cream shops around town selling sweet vegetable gelato – cucumber, tomato and many more – but to be honest, I can’t really tell where the idea came from. Let’s say it’s the beautiful sunshine in recent days that sets ideas in our minds. Indeed, weather is (mostly) quite nice in Berlin since a couple of days, and therefore there are currently many options to be outside and in fresh air after a long day’s work or even at lunch time. So many possibilities to have some food in the sun!
The other day, we came across not only many nice small restaurants, delis, and cafés (we will show some of our favorite foody outdoor places in some of the next posts), but also a street food vendor. It immediately reminded me of Vancouver where I had seen such vendors every now and then, the most famous among them being the Japadog vendors… The vendor in Treptow offered Arabian tea and treats, but as we were on our way, unfortunately we did not have the time to stop by for a snack. However, there’s always time to take a photo:
I am not quite sure if green asparagus panna cotta would make good street food. But as it comes in jars, it can indeed be taken (and eaten) outside very well, for example on the occasion of a little picnic. The fine bitter flavor of asparagus fits very well the sweetness and the vanilla touch of panna cotta – and as some part of the dessert is made up with vegetables already and the rest with cream and milk half-half and only few sugar, it’s even not as much a caloric heavy-weight than the classical version.
Some weeks ago already, I also tried another slightly sweet asparagus treat which turned out to be a nice starter for dinner: oven-caramelized asparagus and rhubarb with raw cocoa nibs. Not a dessert, but a fine balance of sweetness, bitter and sour details – which can be prepared not only in an oven like I did, but also as part of a barbecue. Did I mention already that weather is currently so nice in Berlin…
Here are my recipes
Green asparagus panna cotta
For two servings, clean 100 g of green asparagus – you don’t need to peel it if the skin is soft enough. Cut into small pieces. Put 100 g cream and 100 ml milk in a small pot together with 2 tablespoons raw sugar and the pulp of ½ vanilla bean (and the half bean itself). You can of course take cream only (and no milk) for a smoother consistency, but it’s fine with milk as well. Boil up and let simmer with open lid until the asparagus is soft (takes about 5-7 minutes). Take off the vanilla bean and mix the liquid and the asparagus very well with a hand blender. Mix 2 tablespoons of milk with 3 g agar-agar (which is approximately ½ teaspoon if you have big teaspoons, or if you have small ones, take 1 level teaspoon). Pour into the asparagus-liquid, mix well and boil up, let cook for 2 minutes. Fill into jars and put into the fridge for 3 hours.
Prepare the strawberry compote: clean and cut into small pieces 2 handsful of strawberries. Put in a small pot with 1 tablespoon of water and a teaspoon of raw sugar and let simmer at medium heat for about two minutes. Drain the berries and keep the liqid, put the latter back into the pot. Mix a level teaspoon of starch with few cold water and add to the liquid. Boil up and let simmer for two further minutes. Add the berries again, mix carefully and let the compote cool down. Serve the panna cotta with some of the compote on top.
Oven-caramelized green asparagus and rhubarb with raw cocoa nibs
Clean a few asparagus shoots and rhubarb petioles. You don’t need to peel them if the skin is fine enough – if you do, the rhubarb will lose its form in the oven quite quickly as you can see very well on the photos ;-). In a small bowl, mix sunflower oil, raw sugar, a bit of chili flakes and a pinch of salt. Marinate the asparagus and the rhubarb with it. Heat the oven (170 °C) and put the vegetables in. Roast for 7 minutes, turn and roast for another 3 minutes. Both the asparagus and the rhubarb should be soft enough by now – if not, roast a few minutes longer. Take off the oven and sprinkle with cocoa nibs and some lemon thyme or any other herb you prefer. Serve as a starter or a side dish – and enjoy the outdoor food season!