ASPARAGUS, TOMATO, AND PICKLED CHIVE BLOSSOM SALAD

Tomorrow marks our eighth wedding anniversary. How has it been eight years already? It feels like it was only yesterday that we were surrounded by loved ones; dancing, drinking, eating lobster. But when I think about it, so much has happened over the years. We bought not just one, but two houses. I created this blog and, with it, developed a passion for photography (though when I started I never dreamed it'd turn into a career). We became uncles to four kiddos. Two of my grandparents passed away. Friends have moved away. And a number of those close to us have become parents (with quite a few additions arriving this year). I think about the places we've traveled, the restaurants we've dined at, and all the other experiences and I know that we're pretty darn lucky.

While I'm always happy to share what's going on in my life, I have refrained from writing much about our marriage. Why? Because I'd rather keep those moments between the two of us (and I'm pretty sure Eric agrees). But I will say that there is so much that I'm continuing to learn from our marriage. Communication is key. I know everyone says this, but it's very, very true. A relationship will never work if you're afraid to express yourself. We've gotten through some major stuff just because one of us was able to say, "Let's talk about this." Oh, and saying "I love you" and kissing and hugging goodbye before you go to work. That can make you forget all about that fight you had earlier. 

Anyway, now that I've gotten personal, let's talk about this bowl of summer deliciousness. I was so happy to see asparagus return that I immediately picked up a couple bunches. I'd been looking to do something with the chive blossom vinegar I had sitting on the counter (thanks to my friends/neighbors who shared their gorgeous chive blossoms with me). By making the vinegar, not only do you get a zingy, slightly oniony addition to salad dressing, but you also have a beautiful garnish to top your dish. I've put the flowers on pasta and fish, too, and they provide a delightful burst of flavor.

ASPARAGUS, TOMATO, AND PICKLED CHIVE BLOSSOM SALAD

SERVINGS
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
For the salad
2 pounds asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
Pickled chive blossoms (recipe below)
2 tablespoons, chive blossom vinegar (recipe below)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

DIRECTIONS
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Add asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer asparagus to ice water to shock them and stop them from cooking. 

2. Put asparagus in a large serving bowl, along with the tomato.

3. In a separate bowl, make the dressing by whisking together chive blossom vinegar, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Pour the dressing over the asparagus and tomatoes and toss to combine.

4. Sprinkle pickled chive blossom flowers and crumbled goat cheese on top of the salad. 

CHIVE BLOSSOM VINEGAR + PICKLED CHIVE BLOSSOMS

SPECIAL TOOLS
Jar with lid

INGREDIENTS
Chive blossoms
White wine vinegar

DIRECTIONS
1. Add the chive blossoms to a jar fitted with a lid. Fill jar with white wine vinegar.

2. Cover jar and let sit in a dark, cool place, for 2 weeks. The vinegar will turn purple. 

LEMON PUDDING WITH BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

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A craving for something sweet came over me the other night. I could've reached for one of the boxes of Girl Scout cookies we have tucked away in the freezer (the ones I try to pretend don't exist), but I was looking for something a bit more comforting. I looked in the fridge to find just a handful of ingredients: a few cups of milk, a half dozen eggs, and a pint of blueberries. There must be something I could do with these? And that's when I decided to research pudding recipes. I found a vanilla pudding that came together quickly, which I served with a blueberry compote. While rich and creamy in texture, the pudding remained a bit too soupy, even after hours of cooling. So, of course, I needed to try another batch to see if I could reach the perfect consistency.  I figured there were a few solutions to this problem. The first was to lower the amount of milk. Less liquid, thicker pudding. The other was to include more egg yolks. These two modifications did the trick. 

Having found a solid base to work with, I was ready to get playful. Lemon seemed the right direction, especially when paired with blueberries. Some zest and juice give it just the right amount of citrus flavor, without making it too zingy. 

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LEMON PUDDING WITH BLUEBERRY COMPOTE 

SERVINGS
Serves 4

SPECIAL TOOLS
Zester

INGREDIENTS
For the lemon pudding
2 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons 1 lemon
2 ounces lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the blueberry compote
1 pint blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

DIRECTIONS
1. In a bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks to break them up.

2. Put milk and cornstarch mixture into a medium saucepan. Set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. 

3. While whisking, slowly and carefully pour some of the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks. Once half of the milk is whisked in, return the pot to the stove and stir in the egg mixture, along with the lemon juice and lemon zest. 

4. Set pot over low heat and simmer, stirring consistently, until the pudding thickens. Once it reaches the desired consistency, stir in butter. Remove from heat. 

5. Strain mixture into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Once cooled, transfer pudding to a container fitted with a lid and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 5 days.

6. Prepare the compote by transferring the blueberries to a medium saucepan. Pour sugar over blueberries and set pot over medium heat. Once the blueberries start to release their juices, give the pot a stir to mix in the sugar.

7. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. At the end, stir in lemon zest and thyme leaves. Let cool.

8. To serve, divide pudding into ramekins. Top with a spoonful of compote.