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a rhubarb fool + unrelenting tartness


Cut one hot pink stalk. Dip the fresh-cut end into a bowl of sugar and take a bite. There’s an initial damp, crunch sensation, similar to celery, with a bit more heft. Then it starts: the eyes begin to wince automatically, cheeks sucking in, slight head tilt to absorb it all. There’s a little joyful, granular shock of sweet sugar before the tongue returns to the roof of the month, trying to minimize the impact once more before it’s over. Sour. Delightfully, face-suckingly sour. The crunch, the unmistakable colour, the flavour unlike anything else in the plant world: an immediate fresh fruit impression with a thick, and heady sourness that stands up to all kinds of sweet. It refuses to go quietly; not under an enthusiastic dip in sugar, a thick blanket of oat crumble, buttery pastry, or eggy custard warm with tropical vanilla. Rhubarb remains with its strong character intact. It is such a unique, natural treasure to behold in springtime when deep pink crowns of it emerge in backyards, as if overnight.

A fruit fool is a rustically pretty, non-fussy, super English dessert (it dates back to the 16th century!). It very simply consists of sweetened and stewed/cooked and pureed fruit with whipped 35% cream and usually a little crunchy/biscuit-y something for textural contrast. The first time I saw one was years ago in this beautiful book by Jamie Oliver. Just the sheer name of it was calling to me. A speedy rhubarb fool. Pull it out of the garden, throw it together, chopped rhubarb and vanilla bean in the pot, whip the cream, delicately fold fold fold; all on a lark. Homey, charmingly clumsy, gorgeous pink and comforting.

I went a fairly non-traditional route with the cream component, subbing chilled and whipped coconut milk (favourite thing right now) with honey and vanilla bean. Since I went a bit crazy in that regard, I thought I would work some cardamom, ginger and orange into the rhubarb itself. A magical sprinkling of pistachios on top brings this exotic treat full circle. The rhubarb never hides under it all. A gaze at the shocking pink contrast, little sour pinch on your tongue to say hello. It’s perfect for grey spring days, something to savour now and keep as a reminder of the treasures to come while you sink your feet into the green grass and suck your cheeks together.


a rhubarb fool with vanilla coconut cream
serves: 4-6
notes: When you’re extracting the top “cream” layer from the can of coconut milk, be extra careful to not grab any of the coconut water with your spoon. Some chopped strawberries would be a lovely addition to the compote if they’re available in your area. Crumbled ginger snaps would be a fantastic topping/garnish option instead of pistachios.

rhubarb compote:
1 lb rhubarb, pink and light pink parts chopped
juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup agave nectar or raw honey, maple syrup etc. (or more if you like, I went kind of tart here)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

vanilla coconut cream:
2 cans full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
3 tbsp maple syrup or powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds removed–or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

handful of roasted pistachios, shelled and chopped (optional)

Combine the chopped rhubarb, orange juice, agave nectar, cardamom and ginger in a large saute pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture until the rhubarb starts breaking down and the consistency is slightly jammy and compote-like, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

Make the cream: Remove the top layer of solid cream from the cans of coconut milk, carefully avoiding the water at the bottom of the can (reserve this for smoothies). Place the cream into a small bowl. Add the maple syrup/powdered sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Mix with a hand mixer on medium-high speed, stopping and scraping down here and there. Mix until a lightly stiff, whipped cream-like consistency is achieved. Wrap and set aside in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

To serve: Place about half a cup of the cooled rhubarb compote in each serving dish. Top with a dollop of the vanilla coconut cream and a sprinkle of pistachios if you like.

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Kasey16/05/2012 - 4:47 pm

Though I’m all about my sweets, I happen to love that tart, puckery sensation associated with biting into rhubarb. This is where the Brits really know how to live! Gorgeous, gorgeous.

Maria @ Scandifoodie16/05/2012 - 6:11 pm

I looooove rhubarb! And I actually love the sourness of it. This sounds absolutely delicious!

Cookie and Kate16/05/2012 - 8:48 pm

I’ve never tasted fresh rhubarb or tried a fool, but I’m sold on the idea of both now that I’ve read your post. I love sour stuff, bring on the sour!

Shanna | FoodLovesWriting.com16/05/2012 - 9:14 pm

That first paragraph is killer, such a perfect description of the taste of rhubarb. Beautifully written!

autumn17/05/2012 - 6:31 am

I love fools! This kind, not the unfortunate human kind. And I have been wanting to try the refrigerate/whip coconut whipped cream method, this is a perfect excuse! Looks lovely.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar17/05/2012 - 6:38 am

Oh my, I just love rhubarb! This looks delightful!

sarah17/05/2012 - 10:32 pm

This looks fantastic! All kinds of goodness going on here. I made coconut milk whipped cream for the first time recently and liked it so much. And I’m smitten with those last two photos. I love spoons and action shots.

sarah @ two tarts19/05/2012 - 6:23 pm

This sounds & looks so delicious. I have a leftover can of coconut milk in the fridge and rhubarb growing in my yard. If I get a burst of energy later today, and I hope I do, I plan to eat this for dessert tonight! :)

[...] pods, or vanilla seeds, I just winged it, pulling on some ideas from thefirstmess’s version here. I thought at the last minute this morning I’d make some crisp oatmeal lace cookies to go [...]

Sarah21/05/2012 - 3:16 pm

I love a good fool (haha). Rhubarb is great, too—love the glut of it this time of year.

kale21/05/2012 - 8:16 pm

Second rhubarb fool I’ve seen today. Both make me want to make this right now!!

Denise | Chez Danisse25/05/2012 - 1:33 pm

I cannot seem to get enough rhubarb and this looks like a nice combination of flavors and textures. I’m especially intrigued by the coconut cream and roasted pistachios.

Rhubarb Recipes for Summer |06/06/2012 - 1:02 pm

[...] A Fool for Rhubarb via [...]

[...] just as soon as I start eating something other than rhubarb.  I also am very interested in this rhubarb fool (also featuring cardamom and pistachios) that uses coconut cream, but I have not tried it yet.  If you are at home with all of the resources of your kitchen I [...]

Angelie23/06/2012 - 3:00 am

Looks yummi! I’m gonna make this tonight – it’s gonna be great :D makes it easy and satisfying to be lactose intolerant ;)

[...] recipe is from Laura at thefirstmess. I love every single one of her recipes and her photography is all sorts of crazy awesome. I might [...]

[...] Faves: Rhubarb Fool with Coconut Whipped Cream and Pistachios, Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl with Lime Peanut Sauce, Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl with Lime [...]

[…] ♔ Is this dreamy or what? A Rhubarb Fool with Vanilla and Coconut Cream […]

8 Best Healthy Food Blogs14/01/2014 - 11:17 pm

[…] Faves: Rhubarb Fool with Coconut Whipped Cream and Pistachios, Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl with Lime Peanut Sauce, Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl with Lime […]

[…] serve: coconut whipped cream (1/2 of this recipe) chopped toasted hazelnuts […]

[…] rhubarb is finally in season.  I love a classic strawberry rhubarb pie, but came across this Rhubarb Fool with Coconut Cream recipe from The First Mess two summers ago.  I make a little extra each time and spoon it […]

[…] flakes puffed quinoa hemp seeds bee pollen extra mint sesame seeds extra cacao nibs chopped almonds coconut whipped cream/cashew cream […]

salted coconut caramel brownies + hi mom ❤


I come from a long line of tough brauds, no question. The inclination to cook, do more physical work, stay constantly busy, and get my hands dirty has never been a mystery to me. My grandmother turns the ripe old age of 89 this month and continues to work 5 days a week. I still can’t fully comprehend that. I remember my Nana as the most feisty, resourceful, don’t-take-any-shit type of woman I’ve ever known. I didn’t appreciate her tenacity so much when she was with us, but now I try to emulate that very quality she held up high so often. I miss her quips and thoughtfulness, always in a perfect balance.

My mother definitely follows suit with the theme of tough ladies here. A day of luxury with manicures, brunch and tea? No thanks. She’d rather tackle a gardening or building project and actually get something done with her time. We were at a bookstore recently and I pointed to a table they had set up under a pastel banner that said “Treat Mom,” or something of that ilk, huge smirk on my face knowing what the reaction would be. There were delicately tasseled blankets, various types of flowery bubble bath, semi-trashy novels, glossy hardcover biographies of 50’s starlets, striped canvas totes for leisurely trips to the beach, scented beeswax candles, rose-hued lip balms etc. She just scoffed at the whole thing in a lighthearted way, and I was laughing along with her. Not to say that curling up with a new book in a lovely blanket with rosy-glossy lips is preposterous. It just doesn’t exactly embody the ultimate treat for ladies like us. A rare native plant for her massive, immaculate gardens or perhaps a shiny new electric drill? Now you’re getting close.

Her days are filled with endless to-dos that always get done because she plugs through and stays motivated to work hard, regardless of the task. I admire that so much. If something is worth doing (and it almost always is), you should do it really well. It’s this unrelenting, guiding mantra that seems to drive her forward. And for all of that, the goodness that she brings into my life, the woman deserves some chocolate once in a while (she actually deserves it every day, truth). I originally planned to make something rhubarb-y this week. Market availability kind of squashed that whole plan, but it’s all the better because chocolate is number one around here, always (PROOF!).

The base recipe for the brownies themselves from here (the fantastic Oh She Glows blog) is already so good, the best I’ve had actually. I added a central layer of coconut milk-based caramel, putting them into mega fudge-y territory, a quality I can never get enough of with brownies. There’s a good amount of (organic evaporated cane) sugar in these, but what is life if you can’t enjoy a little sugar with those you love once in a while, right? Right. C’mon, you know I’m right.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing ladies celebrating. Your strength and care is an inspiration. Love you Mom! X’s, O’s and chocolate forever :)


salted coconut caramel fudge brownies (vegan, GF)
brownie recipe super lightly/barely adapted from Oh She Glows
caramel recipe adapted from Baked Explorations (favourite baking resource as of late)
serves: makes an 8×8 pan
notes: Resist the temptation to use all of the caramel! Reserve about 2-3 tbsp from the recipe and set it aside for another use (ahem, to drizzle on top of a cooled brownie with some Luna and Larry’s coconut bliss perhaps?).  On top of that, you should refrain from trying to eat them warm (guh, I know it’s hard). These need a solid 3-4 hours to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting.

caramel:
1/2 cup natural sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup (or honey, agave nectar etc)
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup full fat (canned) coconut milk
fat pinch of sea salt

brownies:
1.5 tbsp ground chia seeds (or flax) + 1/4 cup water
heaped 3/4 cup GF flour (an all purpose blend, white or brown rice etc)
1.5 cups almond meal/flour
2 tbsp arrowroot
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon (this is just to bring out the chocolaty-ness)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil + extra for greasing (in a semi solid/soft state–not melted!)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup natural sugar
1/4 cup full fat (canned) coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 inch pan with coconut oil. Layer 2 pieces of parchment into the pan in opposite directions to line it. Grease the parchment with more coconut oil. Set aside.

Make the caramel: place the sugar, water and maple syrup into a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir gently so as not to splash the sugar up on the sides too much. Continue to stir as the mixture starts to bubble and boil. Do not walk away! Once the colour of the mixture turns to medium-dark amber (like the colour of dark maple syrup), remove it from the heat. Pour the coconut milk in slowly. The mixture will bubble up and spit slightly. Start quickly whisking the mixture as soon as you can to achieve a homogenous mix. If there are hardened parts, set the pan back on the burner over low and continue to whisk until most of the lumps are gone. Add a pinch of salt and scrape mixture into a small bowl. Set aside to cool completely. It should thicken up quite a bit (I place the bowl in the fridge to speed this process up).

Whisk together the ground chia seed and water in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, arrowroot, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside.

Set a medium saucepan with a couple of inches of water over medium heat. Bring to a light simmer. In a medium, nonreactive bowl, combine the coconut oil and semisweet chocolate. Place bowl over simmering water, ensuring that the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk chocolate and oil until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from the heat.

To the chocolate mixture, add the chia and water mixture (it should be gel-like at this point), natural sugar, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Whisk to combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula. The batter will seem dry and stiff. Mix until there are no more dry/flour-y spots left in the batter.

Scoop half of the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth it out as much as you can with a spatula. To thoroughly flatten it,I place a sheet of saran wrap on top of the batter and press on top with my fingers/palms until the surface is even and the bottom of the pan is covered.

Pour all but 3 tbsp of the coconut milk caramel on top of the first layer of batter. Smooth it out to evenly distribute it. Scoop the remaining batter on top of the caramel. Spread it out as best you can, employing the previous spatula and saran wrap technique combo. Place pan into the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely before de-panning and cutting.

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Kasey09/05/2012 - 7:34 pm

Love the tribute! My mom’s not the frilly type, either, and truth be told she probably works harder than I do (clocking in after hours on freelance assignments and even designing the Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box recipe cards!). Love that you’re celebrating your mom with chocolate – it’s always the number one choice (obviously).

sara09/05/2012 - 7:53 pm

that caramel! oh man, i NEED these.

Jacqui09/05/2012 - 8:02 pm

I like you and your family of women, they sound just like mine : )
I’ll take brownies over bubble bath any day! Love the carmel layer too.

Erin09/05/2012 - 8:09 pm

These look absolutely divine! I love that the caramel sauce uses coconut milk- definitely put these at the top of my “to try” list!

Cookie and Kate09/05/2012 - 8:25 pm

Love your accounts of the no-nonsense women in your life. My mom is a really hard worker as well (a workaholic, really) and the woman has had one manicure, ever. How she runs her own company without a drop of coffee in the morning is just beyond me. These brownies look incredible, no doubt my mother would love a slice. :)

Marissa | Pinch and Swirl09/05/2012 - 8:26 pm

You’ve described my favorite kind of ladies – especially love this – “I miss her quips and thoughtfulness, always in a perfect balance.” + plus brownies look amazing, salt makes everything better.

Jeanine09/05/2012 - 11:37 pm

That caramel coconut layer sounds divine, I’m going to make these this weekend!

Michelle10/05/2012 - 1:28 am

Oh wow! This post made me so happy. Firstly. because these brownies, dear god! Secondly, because I totally feel you re: strong, powerful ladies. My mom is the single biggest female influence in my life and I’d have it no other way. I always strive harder and aim higher because of her. Feeling the love and passing it on.

Thelittleloaf10/05/2012 - 3:05 am

These look incredible-I love the idea of coconut caramel.

Kathryn10/05/2012 - 4:41 am

The women in your life sound pretty darn amazing; what fantastic role models to have. I think these brownies are a very fitting tribute to them.

talley10/05/2012 - 6:40 am

my mom would choose weeding the garden over getting a manicure any day! I only wish I had a garden. These brownies look heavenly; enough chocolate to make me happy, coconut caramel to make my husband happy and gluten free for my mom. Wonderful recipe, cannot wait to try it out. Beautiful post.

Emily10/05/2012 - 5:15 pm

These are stunning! They look and sound delicious. Lovely photos!

Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul10/05/2012 - 9:30 pm

Wow, these looks incredible! The perfect treat to soften a tough lady. I will give these a try this weekend. Have a great mother’s day with your family!

Margarita10/05/2012 - 9:56 pm

My mom is the best of both worlds… she is a girly girl when she steps out of the house, but at home she’s hands and knees scrubbing the floor, hacking meat, gutting fish, gardening, and so on. I took after her kitchen love but the girly girliness not yet. I love these brownies… I’ve never made anything with a coconut and chocolate combo before (unless you count cookies with coconut flakes and choc chips).

sarah10/05/2012 - 11:18 pm

These look *amazing*. And I loved reading about your mom – lovely.

Richa@HobbyandMore11/05/2012 - 12:59 am

My mom is like that too.. she always has so much to do.. and still has like 5 times more energy than me.
These brownies are gorgeous, gooey and look delicious!

Alicia @ Treble Tart11/05/2012 - 8:47 am

I have been craving brownies like none other lately! Thank you so much for posting this; it’s exactly what I needed!!

Winnie11/05/2012 - 10:13 am

Great post and the browning look heavenly. ps I am new to your blog and I am loving it!

georgea11/05/2012 - 12:27 pm

these look amazing! I can’t wait to try them

Sarah11/05/2012 - 1:07 pm

I cannot wait to try these! They look so very tasty. Love all the big pictures on your fantastic blog!

Jennifer (Delicieux)11/05/2012 - 8:13 pm

What a beautiful tribute post, all the women in your family sound so strong. And chocolate is a wonderful way to celebrate. I especially love the sound of the coconut milk caramel. I am so going to have to try this.

[...] The First Mess, which is another brilliant food blog full of yummy veggie and vegan food.  These brownies have me thinking of doing a vegan [...]

art and lemons16/05/2012 - 7:17 am

Every time I read your blog, I’m inspired to get into the kitchen no matter what time of day, and cook or bake. Certainly 7 a.m. is brownie time, yes? Or at least a post-Mother’s Day chocolate exception counts. Lovely account of the women in your family, I would certainly fit right in with the hard working, no nonsense, chocolate first ethos.

Meaghan19/05/2012 - 4:20 pm

I made these today for the first time. Uhm…I really can’t come up with a word that describes how ridiculously fudgy and amazing they are. Fudgemazing, perhaps? I used Mimic Creme’s Almond and Cashew Cream instead of Coconut Milk in both the Caramel and the Brownie recipe – worked very well.

I made a double batch in a 9×13 pan and saved about 1/2 cup of the caramel to drizzle over the top. Great tip! I can’t seem to keep my fingers out of the bowl though.

Anyway – just wanted to say thanks ’cause these rock. I’m very excited to bring these to the dinner party I’m going to tonight – I know all the omnivores will marvel at my cruelty free dessert!

Aimee06/06/2012 - 6:10 pm

I’ve been drooling over this recipe for a week. I just put them in the oven. First, the batter and the caramel are delicious ;). I must say though, the caramel in between didn’t work for me. I leveled out the bottom layer of brownie mixture which in itself was quite tedious then poured most of the caramel down and immediately knew that getting the second layer of brownie batter on top was not going to be easy. The caramel just leaked up while I was spreading the batter out. So now I have caramel floating on the very top of my brownies which is fine by me! I just hope it doesn’t burn :/. They are in the oven now. I will come back with results.

How the heck did you get the caramel to stay in between the layer?

Thanks so much for the recipe, it’s going to be delicious no matter where the caramel lay.

[...] for the ice cream makes a bit more than what is needed for the pie. Oops :) Cool thing: I had some caramel from these brownies and drizzled some onto the crust before I laid the ice cream in. Highly [...]

Jessacita03/09/2012 - 1:04 pm

I was wondering if the coconut milk you are using is the thick kind that comes in a can or coconut milk that comes in cartons similarly to soy, almond and rice milk. I really don’t want to use the wrong thing :( Thanks for your help!

Laura03/09/2012 - 1:39 pm

It’s the canned kind! I’ll specify in the recipe :)

joanne07/09/2012 - 5:04 am

This recipe sounds delicious! Is it possible to substitute coconut sugar for the sugar or yacon syrup? If it’s possible to substitute yacon syrup, how much would you recommend? Thanks!

Brooke05/12/2012 - 8:03 pm

I cannot have nuts, any suggestions for an almond flour substitut? Thanks so much!!

Laura06/12/2012 - 9:43 am

Hi Brooke, I don’t have any experience making these without the almond flour. A little google searching led me to this idea: replace it with half coconut flour and half ground flax meal. Coconut flour tends to soak up a lot of moisture so you may notice that the batter is drier. In that case I would add a 1-2 tbsp more of the coconut milk. Hope that helps!
-L

Brooke06/12/2012 - 5:41 pm

Thanks for your quick response!! I am going to give it a try.

Elsa11/04/2013 - 11:09 am

Just wondering how far in advance I can make these? Typical brownies are no good the next day… do these keep for a couple of days?

Laura Wright11/04/2013 - 11:16 am

Hey Elsa, If you wrap them super tight they would be fine for 2-3 days. The caramel layer kind of keeps the moist quality intact.
-L

Mik04/07/2013 - 5:31 pm

For the GF flour do you recommend a special blend? can it be only white rice flour or must be a mix between brown and white? Thanks!!

Laura Wright05/07/2013 - 8:21 am

Hi Mik,
I’ve made these using a mix of brown and white rice flour, but also with just pure white rice or brown rice flour. Haven’t tried any all purpose blends yet, but brownies tend to be less finnicky in the world of GF baked goods, so if you have a blend that you like it’ll probably work.
-L

Rozanna07/07/2013 - 2:41 am

These are delicious! We have a tradition at work where you have to bring in cakes on your birthday. We had three lots this week, including my batch of these brownies. In what was declared the Exmouth bake off, I was crowned winner! So delighted that the Vegan entry beat non-vegan baking. It’s great to be able to share delicious vegan food with non-vegans, helps dispel the myth that vegan food is dull or that we are making some kind of sacrifice :)

Ariane15/07/2013 - 11:43 pm

Your recipe and the pictures inspired me that I just had to go and make them last night. They turned out yummy, but not as nice as on your pictures. I wonder why? They don’t have this crunchy top and the very fudgy middle – did I bake them too long? The top looks like a dry cake with speckles of almond flour visible and a slightly fudgy inside. When do you take them out, when it’s still a bit wobbly? Or when the cake is firm? Or could I have done something else wrong? I followed everything to the t :-( (btw I used 165 degrees Celsius fan forced)

Laura Wright16/07/2013 - 8:17 am

Hey Ariane,
I’m so sorry that the brownies didn’t work out for you! From the way you describe the texture, it sounds like you may have baked them a little too long. Also, I don’t have a fan in my oven, but I know from working in professional kitchens that forced fans tend to cook things a lot faster. The brownies should seem a bit soft in the middle of the pan when they’re ready to remove from the oven. I hope this is helpful in some way and that you’ll maybe be inspired to try them again. Thanks for your feedback too! :)
-L

Ariane16/07/2013 - 11:36 pm

Thank you Laura. I will for sure try them again! I will now need to find an easy and yummy vegan cake recipe that my boyfriend can whip up for my birthday in a few weeks. I am hoping for something with berries ;-) I will search your lovely website and see if there is something that I can give to him as a challenge.

Amadea20/01/2014 - 1:22 pm

Hi Laura,

I’m wondering if I need to use arrowroot if I end up using nonGF flours?

Laura Wright22/01/2014 - 7:57 am

Hi Amadea, as long as you replace the the 2 tbsp of arrowroot with 2 equal tbsp of flour, you’re good :)
-L

Sheryl13/02/2014 - 12:24 am

Wow! I’m in my pajamas in bed goofing around on Pinterest when I saw these. I’m tempted to get out of bed and go make them right now. YUM! I can’t wait to try these. I’m so grateful for creative culinary people who share their tasty talents.

SJ24/03/2014 - 5:47 pm

Hi,
Just curious, but are the chia seeds required for this recipe?

Laura Wright27/03/2014 - 12:22 pm

Hi SJ,
I use the chia gel as a binder in this recipe, essentially replacing what would normally be an egg in a traditional recipe. Ground flax seeds will work all the same if you have those!
-L

Tracy Ross08/04/2014 - 7:07 pm

I really want to try these but I need clarification on “natural sugar”. Is white sugar not natural? Thanks!

Tracy Ross08/04/2014 - 11:57 pm

As long as I’m asking silly questions, is regular old salt not “sea salt”? Where does it come from if not the sea? Thanks!

Laura Wright09/04/2014 - 7:05 am

Hi Tracy, natural sugar just refers to evaporated cane juice, or white sugar that hasn’t been turned white yet. It looks like white sugar, just a bit more golden/beige-ish coloured. I specify it because it’s a bit less processed. And the sea salt thing is just to get away from iodized table-style salt, which has a bit of a weird taste.
-L

[…] of gathering ’round more often. I’ve wrote here about how tough and motivated my mum is before, but in this noticeably busier season of life, her strength and inner drive has been particularly […]

anna28/05/2014 - 11:26 pm

Hi Laura! I LOVE all your recipes. You are so inspiring! I want to make these brownies tomorrow but I am wondering, do you think oat flour would work instead of the 3/4 cup of GF all purpose or rice flour?

Laura Wright01/06/2014 - 3:29 pm

Anna! Sorry for replying to this so late. I think oat flour may just work as a substitute in this situation. Let me know how it went if you tried!
-L

Cat25/07/2014 - 6:59 am

Just got these in the oven, didn’t quite go as planned, the caramel was runnier than I thought it would be, although forgot to put it in the fridge, so it sort of all mashed up with the top layer, I also need a smaller pan, so some of the caramel leaked out to part of the pan that was empty. However, the mix tasted amazing, so who cares, just means I’ll have to try again :)

[…] maybe make some and try them For a glutenfree version see Laura’s Salted Caramel Brownies here For more baked desserts, cakes, cookies see here. Grab a bite and then try to explain to hubbs […]

[…] maybe make some and try them For a glutenfree version see Laura’s Salted Caramel Brownies here For more baked desserts, cakes, cookies see here. Grab a bite and then try to explain to hubbs […]

asparagus salad + sesame chili lime dressing


Spring vegetables are starting to come up in a more prevalent way in and around southern Ontario. On a late night/early morning trip to this place last week, I started noticing the big waxy boxes that read “Ontario Asparagus” on the side with the Foodland logo, shuffling their way through on big carts, palettes of lifting jacks, backs of trucks etc. There’s rhubarb, green garlic and wild leeks, little spring onions and lettuces, super fresh with minerality and an unmistakeable green-ness. It’s starting to really happen.

I find the recommended initial preparations of these first-of-the-season gems tend to be quite mild, soft and non-intrusive. All of the mags show the vegetables lightly blanched or maybe roasted with salt and pepper. Adorned with a poached egg, a whisper of parmesan, a couple chopped mint leaves, a delicate drizzle of olive oil. Not too much fuss. The overarching goal seems to be a genuine savouring of the earth’s first offering of the year, basking in its true nature. I am on board with that, trust.

After my initial taste of first-asparagus and that “oh wow” moment, when the sweetness hits, the shock of perfectly crisp-tender, fresh, vegetal perfection kicks in… I start to get a little bored with the usual steamed/roasted/grilled olive oil, salt, and pepper routine. I love simplicity when dealing with fresh food. It is gratifying in its unraveling of meal time, cutting to the chase of satiety. Sometimes I want to go in a different direction though. I’m in love with the prettiness of asparagus in long, elegant ribbons. The crisp sweetness and perfect potential for salads is right there so I went with it.

I made up a punchy vinaigrette with chili paste, lime, toasted sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Mega flavour town. Tossed it all up with the asparagus, some shredded cabbage, green onions, fresh mint and salty, crunchy peanuts. I know it seems like a lot going on for the tender, still-new asparagus but believe me, it can take the heat. The sweetness is all the more prevalent in this combination, the lime and heat from chili really bringing it to the forefront. The acid from the lime is strong without imparting too much flavour and the toasted sesame oil/peanut combo brings it all back to earth. It’s certainly a fresh and lively way to go forth into spring.

asparagus salad with sesame chili & lime dressing
serves: 2-4
notes: If you’re making this ahead, save the mint slicing and dressing-tossing for the end, right before serving. The acid in the dressing can render the thin asparagus less crisp and mint tends to go dark post-slicing.

dressing:
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated/minced finely
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tsp chili paste
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey
1 tbsp rice vinegar
salt and pepper
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp grapeseed or other neutral oil

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks peeled into ribbons
small handful of grated cabbage (red, green, napa, savoy etc)
3 sprigs of mint, leaves removed and finely sliced
2-3 green onions, finely sliced
1/3 cup peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Make the dressing: combine the ginger, garlic, lime zest, lime juice, chili paste, agave nectar, rice vinegar, salt and pepper  in a jar or tupperware dish with a tight fitting lid. Stir to dissolve the salt and combine everything. Add the sesame and grapeseed oils. Put a lid on top and shake mixture vigorously to combine. Set aside.

Combine the ribboned asparagus, cabbage, sliced mint and green onions in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over top and toss to combine with your hands or tongs. Place salad on a serving plate and garnish with the chopped peanuts and a bit more chopped mint if you like. Serve and enjoy.

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sarah02/05/2012 - 3:23 pm

This is a lovely salad. I’ve been stuck on beets and haven’t eaten any asparagus yet this spring! I better get on that. Beautiful photos as always, Ms. Laura.

erin02/05/2012 - 3:24 pm

This is the perfect salad to add to my asparagus kick! How lovely!

Shelley02/05/2012 - 3:55 pm

I am so jealous of you and my other foodie friends across the web… I have yet to get asparagus at my farmers market! Can you believe it? And, I’m in California… I thought we were the lucky ones to have produce whenever, wherever!! Alas, no. I heard rumblings that it will show this Sunday and I cannot wait! This looks amazing. I think it will contribute nicely in my quest to OD on asparagus… :-)

Jeanine02/05/2012 - 6:02 pm

Yum, I love the flavor punch!

Nico02/05/2012 - 7:54 pm

I am also just now seeing asparagus for the first time this season! The tiny spears could not be more perfect and I love simple applications like this for them.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar02/05/2012 - 10:14 pm

This salad is lovely! So pretty!

Ashlae02/05/2012 - 10:31 pm

I, too, get bored of roasted asparagus. Actually, I had it last night and all I could think about was how much more I would enjoy it raw. Anyhow, this salad looks delicious. And freaking beautiful. I’m a huge fan of ribboned asparagus and cannot wait to give this a try.

[...] Asparagus Salad with Sesame Chili Lime Dressing from Laura of The First Mess [...]

Vicky03/05/2012 - 8:31 am

This sounds delicious! Love the combination of flavors here!

Marissa | Pinch&Swirl03/05/2012 - 12:53 pm

That last photo won me over; I must make this. The salad looks perfectly refreshing and I love the peanuts for crunch.

Kelsey03/05/2012 - 1:57 pm

Reminds me of my time in SE Asia, a bit. Love love love.

Cookie and Kate03/05/2012 - 7:24 pm

This post is killing me, Laura. The recipe and the way you describe it… perfection. I always feel so clunky, searching for the right words to describe flavors, but you nailed it. I can’t get enough asparagus lately, and ribbons of it are my favorite. It’s already too hot to crank up the oven for roasting, so salads are the best I can do (I’m not complaining).

Kim03/05/2012 - 7:47 pm

This asparagus salad is SO beautiful. I am going to make it–my farmer’s market is on Sunday!! I can’t wait! Thanks for posting.

Jill | A Cook's Nook04/05/2012 - 9:10 am

This looks gorgeous. We just bought a big bundle of asparagus, and I have a slight obsession with all things peanuts. I only wish we didn’t have to wait until mid June for the Farmers’ Markets to open here!

Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklyn04/05/2012 - 11:31 am

I have never seen a more perfect looking picture of a salad. Something kind of cathartic about turning asparagus into ribbons, right?

This looks so yummy, I love asparagus :)

Laura {gourmettenyc}05/05/2012 - 1:14 pm

What a beautiful salad! I absolutely love shaved asparagus – it’s so fresh. I will definitely have to try this!

sarah @ two tarts06/05/2012 - 10:50 pm

I am pretty sure I would love that dressing on almost anything!

thelittleloaf07/05/2012 - 4:45 pm

I love asparagus season – they’re just coming into the shops in the UK and I can’t get enough of the stuff! Love the combination with crunchy peanuts here – just gorgeous.

sara forte08/05/2012 - 1:05 am

gorgeous! the words. photos…all of it. I need it and am SO sad that I had two bowls of granola for dinner. Nice work, lady.

[...] season, especially since it keeps popping up in some of our favorite places (Naturally Ella and The First Mess, for starters). The thought of eating raw asparagus seemed intriguing – though we were a bit wary [...]

Rose10/05/2012 - 11:22 am

Hi there

This sounds delicious. But im allergic to peanuts, can you suggest a different nut that might go well in this recipe?

Rose

Laura10/05/2012 - 12:01 pm

Hi Rose!
Roasted cashews would be a perfect, equally delicious replacement. Or toasted sesame seeds would be nice too :)
-L

[…] quintessentially seasonal dish, the Asparagus Salad with Sesame Chili Lime Dressing from The First Mess is an elegant and unique take on the abundant asparagus you likely see piling […]

[…] Asparagus Salad + Sesame Dressing by The First Mess offers an exciting way to prepare asparagus, ribbons!  Simply use a peeler to make long thin ribbons, perfect for any spring salad. […]