Asparagus and Rice Soup w/ Shitake Mushrooms
6 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cups diced yellow onions
6 medium shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1/3 cup basmati rice
About 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup water
About 10 ounces asparagus, woody ends trimmed
Warm 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook slowly, stirring regularly. Don’t let the onions color, they should sweat their moisture and become tender, about 10 minutes. Add the rice, stock, and water and bring to a simmer. Cover tightly and cook until the rice is nutty-tender, probably 15-20 minutes. The broth will be cloudy and should taste sweet from the onions. Turn off the heat.
While the rice is cooking, slice asparagus on an angle about ¼ thick. You should get about 2 ½ cups.
Warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the asparagus and sauté for a couple minutes, stirring and then add to the broth mixture and return to heat to boiling. Boil for about one minute. The soup is best when served promptly, while all the flavors are still bold.
(one variation is to add 4 ounces of pancetta to the asparagus and oil and render it for 5 minutes before adding to the soup)
Grilled Asparagus, with Sesame Dressing
2 Bunches Asparagus, trimmed of the woody ends
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ginger, chopped
3 tablespoons sugar, (or 2 tablespoons honey or agave)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2- 2/3 cup olive oil
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (1 teaspoon)
Grill off asparagus on a stove top grill on high heat just a few minutes depending on size of asparagus, until just tender. (do not over cook, it should be slightly firm). You can roast in a hot oven, 450 degrees as an alternative, brushed with oil for 6-8 minutes. Chill asparagus.
Put garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce and vinegar in a blender and blend on high until completely pulverized. Add the oils last in a tiny stream until smooth. This dressing does not get too thick and emulsified because of the liquids, but rather thin.
Place asparagus fanned out on a platter, drizzle with the sesame dressing and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.