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Day 154: Pasta with Asparagus and Boursin Cheese, and Gluten-free Brownies

No meat today, please. We’re still digesting.

A conversation with Barbara Kingsolver last week has me thinking more than usual about eating locally. She made a good point – that rather than ponder what we feel like eating for dinner, we should consider what’s local and in season, and plan our meals around those ingredients.

With that in mind, I picked up a few bunches of asparagus over the weekend at the farmers’ market, and read a bit of Jamie Oliver’s advice on growing your own – I don’t often hear about people growing asparagus in their back yards, but I know it’s possible in our climate. Serendipitously, my friend A called on Saturday afternoon and asked if I wanted the small gathering of asparagus that was popping up through her lawn and being trampled by her three boys. Did I! From what I know, it takes 3 years for planting to picking asparagus, and I haven’t yet found a garden centre that sells asparagus plants (although, admittedly, I don’t frequent garden centres… my tomatoes, zucchini and pea seeds came from the Superstore).

I went over and dug it up; it was a monster. A mess of roots and an unseen giant tuber of sorts that supported my weight on the shovel (we gave up before digging that deep) with about 6 stalks emerging from it. I replanted what we could salvage beside the fence in my back yard, about five minutes before W and L conspired to snap off the shoots and throw them over the fence.

So today I still have the asparagus from the market. It’s cold and wet, and so dark I could hardly take photos. I didn’t much feel like cooking, so I threw a pot of pasta on – long squiggly pasta I picked up somewhere – I have vowed not to buy any more pasta until I use up all the half bags of assorted shapes on my shelf. While at the market I also picked up a package of peppered Boursin cheese (decidedly not local, I realize, but on sale), a soft, incredibly decadent cheese that my sister and I sometimes set on the table and spread on crackers while we work on our laptops at the dining room table. I thought I’d crumble it into the hot pasta and toss about until it melts, lubricating it a bit with some reserved pasta water. I imagine any sort of soft cheese would work; goat, ricotta (with lemon!) or even flavoured cream cheese.

While the pasta cooked I snapped the tough ends off the asparagus and cut them into pieces. When the pasta was a couple minutes from being done, I threw the asparagus in with it so that it would be tender but still crisp, and all done at the same time. It was all returned to the pot and tossed with crumbled Boursin and a bit of hot, starchy pasta water. I imagine some chopped roasted chicken would have gone well in this too.

For dessert, leftovers from BT this morning. I made gluten free brownies for Jill, who has celiac disease, and they turned out pretty well if I do say so myself! I made them with brown rice flour and millet flour, but I imagine you could use any number of gluten free flours. Because brownies are so dense and fudgy (or should be) and call for very little flour, they are fairly easy to make gluten-free. Next time, I’m trying quinoa flour.


Gluten Free Brownies

Recipe link

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June 2, 2008

Try quinoa or other gluten-free flours such as buckwheat or tapioca in these dense brownies.

  • Makes: Makes 16 brownies.


½ cup butter, softened

4 oz. semi sweet or dark chocolate, chopped

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. instant coffee or espresso, dissolved in 1 tsp. water

¼ cup cocoa

¼ cup brown rice flour

¼ cup millet flour

pinch salt

a handful of chopped nuts and/or chocolate chips or more chopped chocolate (optional)


1Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray an 8”x8” baking pan with nonstick spray.

2Set the butter and chocolate in a stainless steel or glass bowl set over simmering water and let it melt, stirring occasionally, or melt it in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly. Stir in the sugar, and if it’s not too hot, the eggs, vanilla and coffee.

3Add the cocoa, flours and salt, and stir until blended. Stir in some nuts or chocolate chips, if you like. Pour into the pan and bake for 25 minutes, until the edges pull slightly from the pan but the middle is still soft. Set on a wire rack to cool.

Makes: Makes 16 brownies.



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9 comments on “Day 154: Pasta with Asparagus and Boursin Cheese, and Gluten-free Brownies

  1. Mrs. M
    June 2, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    I’ve heard about the eating/buying locally, within a 100 miles mindset and it is appealing. I’ld like to look into a little more.
    Good luck with the asparagus! That’ll be great! We planted it from seed 2 years ago and it’s doing quite well. Actually amazing how quickly it grows.

  2. Artemesia
    June 2, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    I grow asparagus in my garden, and it’s gotten to be so successful that I just ordered 30 more roots from a mail order place. You can Google info on the best way to plant the roots, but most agree that you dig a trench, place the roots in there so they can grow upward in the right direction, and as they grow, add more soil to cover them and fill in the trench. Then be patient and wait for a year or so before you start cutting the asparagus. Once established, they are one of the first things to come up in the garden in the spring and are so wonderful, and come back year after year with a minimum of work. BTW: mulch, mulch, mulch, unless you like to weed!

  3. Brenda
    June 3, 2008 at 7:11 am

    I grew asparagus successfully at our last house. They were thin spears, not the fat ones. If it’s a hot day, get out there right away because the spears can start to shoot up and open within hours.
    I am also growing a cold resistant heirloom tomato called “Siberian” this year. Obviously, I am not optimistic about our summer weather.
    Happy gardening.

  4. robyn
    June 3, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Your house is going to take quite a beating with those partners in crime!! Make sure to take lots of pics!

  5. Tina
    June 3, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    J&J Gardens in Lyalta sells asparagus crowns in the spring if you want local. You order them in Jan or Feb and they call you when they’ve dug them up (usually late April or so). They also do cherry and other fruit trees and ornamentals.

    Our asparagus is in full production, its first really good year since we planted it – yum!

  6. glenda
    June 3, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Mmmm….boursin cheese…my adult daughter calls it ‘candy cheese’! I’ll have to tell her about this dish! And the gluten free brownies will go to my celiac friend. Thanks!

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