Exotic Tomato-Mango Salsa meets Asparagus with Blini
Spring means asparagus season! Asparagus farming is a complex and costly enterprise, which is why this delicate, delicious plant is also called the "royal vegetable". The shoots are grown and harvested in fields and can be prepared in many different ways. The price of asparagus depends on quality, provenance but also on how late in the season it is. Green asparagus is thin and delicate and can be eaten unpeeled, while the white variety counts stem thickness as a quality criterion: the ideal specimen is as thick as a thumb and around 20-25cm long. Local asparagus from Marchfeld and, in west Austria, German asparagus from the Bodensee region, have been for sale for about a month now, making them a wildly popular regional highlight on every restaurant menu in the country. They're also on my plate today.
Asparagus is very healthy. I personally prefer the green variety, but white asparagus is more common and also generally more popular. It's a matter of personal preference and both are low on calories and rich in minerals: they contain potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin A (for the skin), vitamins from the B group (for the nerves) as well as vitamins C and E. The diuretic properties of asparagus ensure a thorough flushing out of toxins and are an ideal addition to a spring clean for the body.
Asparagus should always be served al dente - not too tender and not too firm. It is mostly prepared in special pots, ideally in a steam cooker (not everyone has a steamer at home; even I only indulge in that kind of luxury when I'm at my Mom's house). The most important aspect is not to damage the sensitive shoot tips. You can serve asparagus as a main dish, with brown butter, for example, a little parmesan, rich Hollandaise sauce, ramson butter, chopped, hard boiled egg, dry-cured ham, jacket potatoes or a small fillet of meat or fish. Thinner or broken asparagus stalks are often used for soups and salads.
I ate an exceptional asparagus omelette at a chic restaurant not too long ago, and that gave me the idea to serve these fine vegetables with blini - a type of Russian pancake. Blini are prepared quite similarly to the American and European pancakes as well as crêpes and omelettes. My asparagus-blini combination is tailored to the spring season and contains super-healthy, gluten-free buckwheat instead of the classic gluten-filled wheat flour. Buckwheat, despite its name, isn't in any way related to wheat. Its ingredients are extra nutritious - tons of iron, potassium and B-vitamins and a high silica content that does wonders for skin, nails and hair. This and its high quality proteins and essential amino acids all means that buckwheat actually trumps asparagus on the health food scale. An even better idea: an asparagus AND buckwheat combination: delicious and a veritable springtime fountain of youth, topped with a refreshing mango-tomato salsa. A
t this point, you have met me and my weird and unusual recipe combos.
The classic blini recipes use yeast - this means waiting for a while until the dough rises. I cheated a little and used a quicker recipe, making a sort of pancake batter instead. But see for yourselves...
Exotic Tomato-Mango Salsa Meets Asparagus with Blini
Ingredients for the Salsa:
- 2 tomatoes on the vine
- 1/2 cucumber
- 1 mango
- 2 spring onions
- 1 pinch of chilli powder
- 2 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 handful roasted, unsalted peanuts
- 1/2 lime
- 1/2 bunch coriander
- 1 garlic clove
- 3 TBSP peanut oil
- 1-2 TBSP white vinegar
- salt and pepper
- 1 TBSP Asian spice mix, such as Yokos Tofugewürz
Ingredients for Blini and Asparagus:
- some green asparagus stalks
For the quick blinis:
- 100g buckwheat flour
- 200ml milk
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 pkt. baking powder
- pinch of salt
- butter for frying
- Combine buckwheat flour, milk, baking powder, salt and eggs in a bowl and knead until you have a smooth dough. Let sit for around 15 minutes.
- Wash the tomatoes, cut out the stem in a wedge motion and cube the tomatoes. Wash the cucumber and cut it into cubes 1cm in size. Peel the mango and cut into 2x1cm pieces. Wash and finely chop the spring onions. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Squeeze the lime. Wash, pick and finely chop the coriander. Add all ingredients to a bowl, season with chilli, Asian spice mix, salt and pepper and marinate with peanut oil, lime, vinegar and soy sauce. Mix in some peanuts, if you like.
- Wash the asparagus, remove the woody stalks and halve the shoots. Heat up a non-stick pan with some butter and cook the blinis one by one over a medium heat. Heat up another pan with some butter and fry the asparagus on each side with a little salt.
- Arrange the blinis, the asparagus and the salsa on plates and serve.