Digging into Spring with Vedge


Images courtesy of Michael Spain-Smith (1, 2L, 3) & Chloe Burke (2R). 

Our Dig into Spring festival is just two weeks away, and we can't wait to celebrate the arrival of garden season. To close the day's festivities in Glen Mills, we'll be hosting a dinner with Richard Landau and Kate Jacoby, the talented duo behind Vedge and V Street. Since opening in 2011, Vedge has become one of Philadelphia's most acclaimed restaurants, serving up an all-vegetable menu that also inspired an epnoymous cookbook. Recently, we chatted with the veggie experts about spring in their kitchen and got the recipe for one of the dinner's featured dishes-- Roasted Asparagus with Hazelnut Picada.

terrain: What are you most excited about cooking right now?  

Richard: Spring vegetables, of course! This is the most electric time of year for a vegetable restaurant. No more squash, potatoes and onions. Green things are arriving everyday now-- ramps, spring onions, peas, arugula, fennel, leeks, Swiss chard.  It's vegetable spring fever! Flavor-wise, we just returned from a mind blowing food trip to Morocco. It was eye-opening to experience the truly great cuisine and how they use their spices. 

terrain: What do you enjoy most about cooking with vegetables?  

Richard: Well, you don't squirm when you think about "where vegetables come from..."  But from a culinary standpoint, there are limitless flavors, textures, colors, etc. You never get bored. I also really enjoy the challenge of changing peoples' minds about vegetables. Some people think they hate a certain vegetable, but the truth is, they just hate the way that vegetable was prepared for them once (usually when they were 9!).

terrain: What tips do you have for cooks who want to create a veg-centered, meal but are used to meat-centric meals?  

Richard: Don't feel like you have to create a whole new cuisine. Sometimes, you just need to substitute meat with a vegetable or plant-based protein. You also have to want to change your diet and embrace the fact that your meals should be heavy on vegetables. If you set yourself up to miss meat, then it's too much of a fight. There a million cooking tips for vegetables, but the mentality must come first.  

terrain: Kate, what are some of your favorite drink pairings for the spring dishes you all are serving right now?  

Kate: This time of year, the beers go lighter, the wine goes greener, and the cocktails are super crisp. I'm really excited about a riff on a classic martini we're serving at Vedge (with a touch of white port - it's a perfect aperitif) and a Middle Eastern-inspired drink we're running at V Street which pairs Lebanese spirits with green herbs and "Greek yogurt."

terrain: What was your inspiration when creating the dinner menu for Dig into Spring?  

Richard: When we're guest chefs, we like to let the host kitchen plan the base of the menu. So we asked terrain chef Jared Frazer to pick out what he'd like to make from the cookbook. From there, we'll collaborate and add all sorts of special touches to make the meal unique.

Ready to Dig into Spring? See a complete list of the day's festivities, or RSVP for dinner with Vedge. Read on for the recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Hazelnut Picada. 

Roasted Asparagus with Hazelnut Picada 

Picada is one of Spain’s great sauces. It can be creamy like tahini or coarse and crumbly, like our version here. We use hazelnuts, but substitute almonds if you prefer. For the asparagus spears, I recommend the French technique of peeling the bottom one-third in order to utilize the whole vegetable. (If you prefer to cut off the bottoms, be sure to save them for vegetable stock.) Keep in mind that asparagus does a significant amount of carryover cooking once removed from the heat, so always pull it out while it’s still bright green to account for that extra “cooking.”

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup stale bread cubes
1/4 cup shelled, skinned unsalted hazelnuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
2 bunches asparagus, bottom one-third trimmed with a peeler to achieve uniform thickness (about 2 pounds)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. 

2. Toss the bread cubes and hazelnuts in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the garlic, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon of the pepper. Transfer the mixture to a sheet pan and roast until browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with the thyme. Cool slightly before transferring to a food processor. Pulse into a crumble. 

3. Meanwhile, toss the asparagus in a large bowl with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan and roast until bright green and lightly crinkled, about 4 minutes for pencil-thin asparagus or up to 10 minutes for jumbo spears. 

4. Serve the asparagus immediately with the picada sprinkled on top.

Recipe from Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking, copyright © Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, 2013. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com.

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