Thursday, June 5, 2014

Asparagus with Strawberries & Feta Cheese, plus Bell Peppers in Vinegar, Sugar, and Oregano, both using Vermont Vinegars

I have two dishes today – the first is asparagus with My Carolina Kitchen’s homemade vinaigrette using Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar and garnished with local North Carolina strawberries and feta cheese. The second is Italian yellow and red peppers dressed with a combination of Crosby’s Vermont acorn vinegar and Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar, garnished with pickled Vermont acorns and fresh oregano leaves from our herb garden. Both dishes are perfect for those occasions when you need food that can be served at room temperature.

Crosby’s Vermont vinegars first caught my attention on a post here on TW Barrett’s blog Culinary Types. A week or so later Paul Crosby, who makes the vinegars himself, contacted me and asked if I would like to try the acorn and elderberry vinegars.  Of course I said yes and soon a bottle of each, plus a jar of pickled acorns, arrived on my doorstep.

I learned from Culinary Types' post that elderberries grow wild where Paul lives in Vermont, but he’s growing his own berries now. A bumper crop of berries was the inspiration for his elderberry vinegar. For the acorn vinegar, Paul forages the acorns in the fall by gathering fallen white oak acorns on his own property. Once they are collected they are dried and stored in a cool dry area away from the squirrels. To start a batch of vinegar, two cups of dried acorns are cracked, sorted to exclude the bad ones and then put in a bath of hot water to release the bitter tannins. That process is done three times usually to release the bitterness. Then Paul tastes to make sure the flavor is right, then the acorns are processed and ready to infuse in a gallon of white vinegar, which takes up to three weeks.

We tasted by vinegars “straight up” and were impressed with the complexity of both. The acorn vinegar is a bit softer on the tongue where the elderberry vinegar was reminiscent of balsamic vinegar. The pickled acorns have a tiny bit of crunch and a nice woodsy-clove flavor.    

I served the asparagus and strawberries dressed with the Vermont elderberry vinaigrette to guests one night and not only was it a fun dinner table topic to talk about vinegar made from elderberries, but the asparagus dish was the first thing they ate that night.  Crosby’s Vermont vinegars are for sale on line here and here. I hope you’ll give them a try.

Asparagus with Strawberries and Feta Cheese
From My Carolina Kitchen – Sam Hoffer – serves 4
Printable Recipe

1 lb fresh asparagus, tough lower ends snapped off
2 teaspoons salt
Water flavored with low sodium, low fat beef broth to taste

1 tablespoon Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar or red wine or balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dash of hot sauce such as Tabasco
Maldon sea salt or other good sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled, then sliced - more if desired
Sugar to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled, more if desired
Fresh mint leaves, chopped, optional

After the tough ends of asparagus have been removed, peel the remaining ends unless the asparagus is thin; if thin, leave as is. Bring enough water flavored with beef broth and salt to cover the asparagus to a boil in a shallow pan. Add asparagus, turn heat to low and cook for about 4 minutes until asparagus is crisp tender, taking care not to overcook. Immediately plunge the asparagus in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and retain the green color. After a minute or two, remove the asparagus and dry well with a towel. Asparagus may be either wrapped and chilled for about an hour, or served at room temperature.

In the meantime, prepare the vinaigrette by placing all of the ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. When ready to serve, place the asparagus on a platter, shake the vinaigrette well, drizzle it over the asparagus, then garnish with the strawberries, feta cheese (and mint if desired).

Italian Sweet Bell Peppers in Vinegar, Sugar, and Oregano
Adapted from Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place & Evan Kleiman – serves 4
Printable Recipe

2 yellow bell peppers
2 red bell peppers (or all yellow peppers)
1 tablespoon each of Crosby’s Vermont acorn vinegar & Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar (or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon sugar
Coarse salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
Vermont pickled acorns for garnish, about 8 or to taste, optional or substitute a sprinkling of drained capers

With a sharp knife, start at the top of the pepper and cut off all 4 sides, starting at the top, leaving the stem and the seeds. Discard the stem and seeds. Slice the peppers into ¾” wide strips. Cook the bell pepper strips in the olive oil in a skillet, covered, over low heat for about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the peppers from browning. The pepper should have some crunch to them. Add the two vinegars, sugar, and salt. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and pickled acorns. Serve at room temperature.

Disclosure: The opinions in this post are mine and my husband's alone and we were not compensated for this review other than the samples.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Food on Friday at Carole's Chatter.  

Have a great weekend everyone.


  1. What a nice springtime pairing! We are waiting for our local asparagus and hope to have some this weekend. Strawberries should be ready as well. Interesting vinegars. I'll have to check them out.


  2. Beautiful colorful salad..I know I would love both Sam..

  3. Absolutely gorgeous Sam! I love the dash of hot sauce in the asparagus vinaigrette! I've also been seeing a lot of peppers served on their own as a side dish and it's something I like! Lucky girl-enjoy the vinegars:@)

  4. Either of these recipes could grace my table any day Sam. Just lovely.

  5. These both looks wonderful. The vinegars sound very interesting!

  6. I remember reading about the vinegars on T. W.'s post. Not only are both your salads pretty to look at but they would be a topic of discussion around the dinner table. I bet no one would guess what the acorns were. Hopefully my comment goes through, blogspot has been giving me a hard time lately when it comes to leaving comments.

  7. Oh my goodness, both of these dishes look amazing! I love love love feta cheese and strawberries so I think I'm going to have to try that salad. Perfect for summer!

  8. So that's what a pickled acorn looks like! What wonderfully creative salads you came up with for these unique vinegars!

  9. Very original and so refined tasting. A fabulous combination.



  10. Sam, I'm not into bell peppers...but the strawberry, feta cheese and asparagus salad looks pretty good. Its a very interesting combination of flavors! Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  11. They both look very good and I may have come up with teh second, but never in my most creative moment would I have thought to put the first ingredients together. You are the master of fruit and veggies together.

  12. This looks so fresh and delicious, perfect for the summer!

  13. Just purchased a large bunch of local asparagus the other day. And was wondering how to serve it the third day running.! Your timely blog solved the problem. I have strawberries and goats cheese on hand. This beautiful, tasty looking dish is on the menu this evening. Thanks.

  14. Love the colors and flavors of both dishes, these look amazing!

  15. Love how green your asparagus is. Your colors are so vibrant, works of art actually. See you soon.

  16. Both recipes are fantastic, Sam. Gorgeous vibrant summer colours.

  17. Both dishes look delish. I have to check out the vinegars. When I was growing up I only knew of white and cider, now I can't pass up any type of vinegar. That would be good vinegar. I read somewhere that French vinegar is less acidic. Would you know about that?


  18. As always a wonderful, elegant dish - I would never have though of adding strawberries- brilliant!

  19. Rock on! I caught Culinary Types post on the Crosby's vinegar….You did a beautiful job using these vinegars. The elderberry vinegar is really nice.


  20. I want to add more salads like this to my repertoire. The combo of asparagus and strawberries is new to me, but it sounds great. Just like when I made a strawberry and spinach salad. That's a good one, too! They're so colorful.

  21. Now these are some recipes I can get excited about!

  22. Both salads are perfect for warm weather! Thank you for sharing.

  23. The colors and presentation in both your salads are gorgeous, Sam. When food looks like this, it makes you want to dig right in. Love the flavor combinations and the vinegars sound delicious. I've not tasted them, but didn't TW write something about them?

  24. What amazing looking salads! Love the asparagus and strawberry pairing. The vinegars sound very intriguing and I need to check them out. Great post!


  25. I would never have thought to pair asparagus with strawberries. I'll have to give it a try since I love both.

  26. The vinegars sound amazing -- acorn? Really?

  27. Hello Sam

    Both dishes look absolutely georgous and I am sure taste delicious. I am off to the market shortly and will certainly be getting some peppers.
    A beautiful post as usual.

    Helen xx

  28. They both sound delicious bit I think I will have to come over there to do some shopping. I have never heard of acorns in anything in the way of cooking here. The first dish would be fine but strawberries do not agree with me :-(( Have a good weekend Diane

  29. What a gorgeous and refreshing dish! You have photographed it beautifully and the recipe sounds awesome :)!

  30. Strawberries and asparagus, what a brilliant combination!

  31. How fortunate to try two such lovely vinegars! Your salads look absolutely perfect for the vinegars. I think they both look wonderful!

  32. You got my full attention with these vinegars, I'm a firm believer in vinegar's power to liven up so many dishes, and I've never heard of acorn or elderberry! I need to try these asap, they sound amazing!

  33. wonderful and that vinegar sounds really good

  34. I know I can always count on you for beautiful, delicious salads, Sam. Those specialty vinegars must be wonderful. I've never heard of pickled acorns but would love to try it. Strawberries and asparagus...wonderful!

  35. strawberries and feta are just wonderful together. Brings out the best in both ingredients and I love that you paired it with asapargus- an interesting combo. the vinegars sound to die for and adaptable to a lot of different recipes

  36. Great choice Sam - on my shortlist for a feature. Feel free to add a couple more asparagus recipes if you've time. Cheers from Carole's Chatter


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