I remember eating cream of asparagus soup in french class as a kid and thinking it was the most amazing soup ever - decadently creamy with the grassiness of the pureed asparagus and perfect when dipped with crusty french bread. My version is much lower in fat but equally satisfying. The small amount of potato helps round out the flavors and lends a creaminess when pureed that allows you to cut down on the addition of cream or milk. It can also be made to be vegan by either omitting the milk and yogurt topping or using unsweetened soy milk and yogurt.
My recipe for mushroom-tofu panini was inspired by a a similar panini at the East Village vegetarian restaurant Counter that I developed strong cravings for when I lived in new york and needed to replicate after I'd moved away. The earthy mushroom filling is balanced by the tangy-sweet tomatoes and spicy arugula. It's also quite good on other kinds of bread even whole grain, in case you don't have time to make the focaccia rounds. Though these do provide the right amount of crunch on the outside and softness on the inside to make a really great panini. Serve with a nut brown ale to really bring out the best in the mushrooms.
Focaccia Sandwich Rounds
Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Makes 6 6" rounds
1 1/4 cup warm water
1 packet yeast
1 tsp sugar
3 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for dough
Seeds and additional sea salt for top, optional
Stir together water, sugar, and yeast, let rise in a warm place until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in flour, oil, and sea salt, mix to combine. Turn out onto a well floured board, knead continue to add flour until barely sticky. Oil a bowl, swirl dough in oil to coat thoroughly, turn over. Let rise in a warm place covered with a dish towel until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.
Divide into 6 pieces, roll into balls and with your fingers pat out to 6" rounds on a parchment covered baking sheet. Coat with oil, seeds (such as fennel, caraway, or mustard seeds) and sea salt if desired. Cover and let rise in a warm place for another 40 minutes until plump. Brush or spray with water, bake in a 425 oven for 30 min until golden brown. Brush with water after 10 min and 20 min.
Velvety Asparagus Soup
Makes 3 servings
3 Stalks Celery, chopped
1 Small Leek, chopped, tops reserved
1 Bunch Asparagus, chopped, tops and bottoms reserved
2 Small White or Yellow Potatoes, 1/4 inch dice
2 Cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 Medium White Onion
1/4 tsp Fennel Seed
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
6 Cups Water
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Whole Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
top with meyer lemon yogurt if desired
Combine 6 cups water with celery ends, leek tops, asparagus bottoms, fennel seed, peppercorns, salt and onion half in large stock pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 30 min. Strain and reserve stock.
Heat olive oil in large stockpot. Saute middle portions of asparagus stalks, chopped celery, leeks, potatoes, and garlic until well coated with oil and just beginning to stick to the pot. Add reserved stock. Simmer for 20 minutes covered until vegetables can be mashed with the back of a spoon. Puree soup until smooth. Return to a very low heat. Add in milk and reserved asparagus tops. Once asparagus tops are cooked through, serve with a dollop of meyer lemon yogurt.
Meyer Lemon Yogurt
1/4 cup plain yogurt (non fat, low fat, whole, or greek will all work)
1 tsp meyer lemon zest
Combine ingredients, let chill atleast 20 min.
Makes 3 panini
1 tbsp olive oil
2 portabello mushrooms, washed and slices
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/5 block of firm tofu, squeezed of excess water
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup walnut pieces
1 tbsp mayonnaise
3 focaccia rounds
1 cup grape slow roasted tomatoes (halve tomatoes, coat in olive oil salt and pepper, spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for about 45 min at 300)
1 cup packed young arugula leaves, washed and dried
Heat olive oil in medium skillet, saute mushrooms with salt and pepper until they begin to crisp at the edges, add in garlic and briefly cook until fragrant. In a food processor, combine half of mushroom mixture with remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. Finely chop remaining mushroom mixture and stir into mushroom-tofu puree. Season to taste.
Slice focaccia rounds in half. Spread each half with a thin layer of the mushroom-tofu filling. Distribute tomato halves and arugula. Form sandwiches. Lightly oil grill pan or panini press. Grill sandwiches until crisp on the outside and heated through, flipping half way through, about 4 minutes.