Grilled Asparagus Flatbread with Lemon Aioli

We’re continuing our lemon theme, in honor of the upcoming book birthday of

but with grilling this time. I am a cookbook author and a bbq queen, too! I wear a chef's hat and a tiara when I'm not sitting in front of my computer, waiting for inspiration to strike.

But I digress. . .

Our outdoor kitchens today may be stainless steel and the open fire may come from hardwood lump charcoal or a propane tank. But our love for French-inspired food continues.

Barbecuing with a French accent is easy. Simply pair a grilled Brie and tapenade-stuffed chicken breast with a classic bistro salad, a baguette and a bottle of wine or a cocktail. Stir up an easy Bearnaise Sauce before you throw the steak on the coals.

Slice the new “it” vegetable—cauliflower—into “paillards” or steaks to grill to a delicious turn. You can’t believe how great cauliflower can taste with a few grill marks and a little Orange-Olive Pistou, a south-of-France riff on pesto or salsa.

For a wow-y appetizer or main dish, grill asparagus and flatbreads . Then put them together with a dollop of lemon aioli and a sprinkling of feta and pistachios for a flavor combination that is c’est magnifique

Or put a classic French daube or stew on your smoker to get that ancient flavor of hearth cooking.

Voilà! That’s BBQ Bistro by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig (Running Press, 2015. These Kansas City authors continue their fresh take on backyard barbecue from The Gardener and the Grill and Patio Pizzeria. To increase your grilling savoir faire, BBQ Bistro offers an array of barbecue techniques from grilling on a plancha and cast iron to rotisserie, grill-roasting, herb grilling, and slow smoking.

These techniques reach back to the hearth-style cooking of long ago and blaze ahead to the fresher way we want to eat now.

Lemon Aioli
Adapted from BBQ Bistro by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig

Aioli is a garlicky mayonnaise from Provence used to accompany fish and shellfish, but we love it with grilled salmon or a platter of grilled vegetables. The trick to making light, fluffy aioli in a food processor is using the whole egg instead of just egg yolks. If the food safety of raw eggs is a concern for you, use pasteurized eggs in their shells or 1/2 cup (125ml) pasteurized liquid whole egg. This is a milder aioli with a hint of lemon.

Makes about 2 cups (500 ml)

2 large eggs
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (add a little lemon zest for more lemon flavor)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
11/2 cups (375 ml) olive oil

In a food processor, combine the eggs, garlic, lemon juice, and mustard; pulse to blend. With the motor running, through the food tube, gradually add the olive oil, processing until thick and creamy. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Grilled Asparagus Flatbread with Pistachios, Feta, and Lemon Aioli

French flatbreads are deliciously simple. In the north, the Alsatian tarte flambée or flammekuchen is a thin flatbread made with yeast dough and topped with crème fraiche, lardons (bacon), and onion. In the south, fougasse has the filling rolled into the dough and is shaped in a leaf form. We have taken the yeast dough, rolled it thin, and then grilled it to await the French toppings of grilled asparagus, lemon aioli, feta, and pistachios. (The French feta cheese is mild and creamy and usually made from excess sheep’s milk that is not used for making Roquefort.) With a flute of Champagne, life is good.

Serves 4

1 recipe Lemon Aioli, prepared (above)
1 pound (450 g) prepared pizza dough
Olive oil for brushing
1 pound (450 g) fresh asparagus
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces (125 g) French feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup (30 g) shelled, roasted, and chopped pistachios

Prepare a medium-hot indirect fire in your grill.

Divide the dough into four parts. Pat or roll each part into a 6-inch (15-cm) oval on a floured surface. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a baking sheet to take to the grill.

Trim the asparagus, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and take out to the grill. Place the asparagus spears perpendicular to the grill rack. Grill for 8 to 10 minutes, turning often, until the asparagus is tender-crisp and has charred a bit. Transfer to a cutting board and chop into 2-inch-long (5 cm) diagonal pieces. Set aside.

Place the dough ovals on the grill grates. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes or until the underside has good grill marks. Transfer the dough ovals to the indirect side, grilled side up. Dollop Lemon Aioli on the top of each grilled dough oval and spread it quickly with the back of the spoon. Scatter with asparagus, and then sprinkle with feta and pistachios. Close the grill lid, and grill for 3 to 4 minutes or until the feta is beginning to melt and the dough has cooked through.

Serve warm and pass the remaining Lemon Aioli at the table.

Pie Night

From The Memory of Lemon

Pie Night at Neely’s bakery, Rainbow Cake

People I had never seen before flocked in, their faces showing a longing you never saw for cake. People’s eyes lit up for a cupcake; cake seemed to signal celebration. But their eyes got filmy, watery, misty when we handed them a slice of pie. Pie was memory. Nostalgia. Pie made people recall simpler, maybe happier times.”

Real-life businesses have inspired both The Cake Therapist and The Memory of LemonIn creating Neely's fictional bakery, I've been free to gather the best ideas. Seasonal, signature flavors of the month from ice cream parlors like Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and Graeter's. The look of La Durée, a Parisian tea salon,  and their brilliant use of color. In a previous blog post "The Art of a Wedding Cake Tasting," I described how I made pastry chef Neely's ritual of a wedding cake tasting very special after visiting--and sampling from-- Andrea Adams Britt's lovely wedding cake bakery for my own daughter's wedding. 

Dolce Bakery, in a Kansas City suburb near where I live, makes their cinnamon rolls, cookies, scones, and cakes from scratch. In the summer when berries and orchard fruits are plentiful, they host Cobbler Night from time to time. 

So, why not Pie Night for Neely's bakery? The reason is that she has to come up with pies and tarts that will taste great, hold up, and please the picky palates of a society mother and her folksinger daughter. And I imagined a chorus line of pies.

Scalloped tarts with a filling flavored by spicebush berries, a Kentucky native. (Photo by Donna Hay).

Blackberry tarts with a lattice top, also a Kentucky favorite.

Neely had fun experimenting with all the possibilities in  crust and filling.

And on Pie Night, her customers sampled pies of all kinds. (These pies are from Rye, a restaurant celebrating Midwestern cuisine and culture in Leawood, Kansas.)

Blackberry and Lavender Turnovers

With a package of puff pastry in the freezer and a jar of good blackberry jam, you can turn fresh blackberries with a hint of lavender into a summer treat.  Pack up these turnovers for a summer outdoor concert, a tasty reward after a hike, or a lunchbox goodie. You can find culinary lavender buds at Penzey's, your garden, or online. Recipe from Bake Happy.

Makes 8 turnovers

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 14-ounce/397 397-g or a 16-ounce/454 454-g package), thawed and kept cold in the refrigerator

Blackberry and Lavender Filling:
1/2 cup (125 ml) blackberry jam
1/2 teaspoon organic, dried culinary-grade lavender buds
11/2 cups (216 g) fresh blackberries
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons granulated or raw sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
Place the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it out to a thickness of 1/4 inch (6 cm). Using a pizza cutter or paring knife, cut the pastry into 8 squares.
For the filling, combine the blackberry jam and lavender in a small saucepan over
medium-high heat. Stir the mixture until the jam starts to bubble around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in blackberries and lemon juice.
To assemble the turnovers, brush the perimeter of each pastry square with a little water.
Spoon about 1/4 cup (59 ml) of the filling into the center of each pastry square. Fold the squares in half on the diagonal to form a triangle. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork. Brush the top of each turnover with beaten egg and dust with sugar. With a paring knife, make 3 diagonal slits on top of each pastry. Place the turnovers on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is browned and the filling is bubbling. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the turnovers to a wire rack to cool.  These are best enjoyed the same day they are made.

So Happy Together:
Dark Berries + Lavender
A little sprinkle of dried lavender buds brings out the “purple” flavor in dark berries such as blackberries, blueberries, marionberries, and black raspberries.

Sneak Peek: The Memory of Lemon

When I was in college in Ohio, my parents bought a second home across the Ohio River in Augusta, Kentucky. 

You had to take a ferry to get there, and I remember the feeling of the river running beneath my feet as I stood on the deck. The Augusta skyline got closer and closer. I felt like I had left my old life behind and stepped into a place where time had stood much stiller. 

On the wide front porch of the Old Methodist Church, built in 1819, which my parents had converted into a two-bedroom home, I could watch the river in all its moods--somber gray in winter, sparkling green in sunlight, muddy and turbulent during a storm. My mother planted an herb garden full of old-fashioned favorites like blue-starred borage, Rober's Lemon Rose scented geranium, medicinal horehound.

I didn't know then that the seed of a book had been planted.

In the fall of 2014, I went back to Augusta and stayed in a log cabin to get the feel of it.

I could see the where a long-ago ax had made its mark on the logs, and where a long-ago hand had chinked with clay and pebbles from the creek.

And so with a different kind of toil--fingers on a keyboard--I wove stories together. Neely, the intuitive pastry chef, who tries to come to terms with the father who abandoned her and to a dissolution of her marriage.  A new love trying to bloom. The Wanderers and Healers who have something to reveal to her as well as a recalcitrant bride and her society mother. 

My daughter Sarah was getting married as I was finishing this book (no resemblance to the mother/daughter drama in the book, thank goodness!). 

Her ring was created with family diamonds, passed down through generations, and we imagined all the women in our family coming together, in spirit, to wish her a happy life.

Isn't that what we all want? To find the place where we belong and bloom there.

If you e-mail me and tell me you have ordered or purchased The Memory of Lemon, I will send you a downloadable booklet of recipes, my thank you!

Kentucky Lemon Pie
This recipe, passed down through generations and families, holds a key to understanding in The Memory of Lemon. Made with thin sliced whole lemons, it’s puckery and tart. And my family's favorite.
Makes 1 9-inch pie
Pastry for a double-crust pie
2 large lemons
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, well beaten
 Slice lemons paper thin, rind and all; discard seeds. Combine with the sugar in a bowl. Let stand 2 hours or longer, preferably blending occasionally. Add beaten eggs to the lemon mixture; mix well. Turn into a 9-inch pie shell, arranging lemon slices evenly. Cover with top crust. Cut several slits near the center. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a silver knife inserted near the edge of the pie comes out clean. Cool before serving.
From We Make You Kindly Welcome: Recipes from the Trustees House Daily Fare, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.