Lentil & Fennel Minestra with Asparagus Tempura & Lemon Aioli

Lentil & Fennel Minestra

with Asparagus Tempura & Lemon Aioli

40 MIN
2 Servings
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From the Test Kitchen

A classic vegetable soup (and minestrone’s culinary ancestor), minestra is delicious, rustic Italian fare. We’re making the dish with French green lentils, stewed with anise-like fennel and warm spices. For an exciting, seasonal addition, we’re tempura-frying springtime asparagus (coating the tops in rice flour batter and lightly pan-frying them) as a crunchy, flavorful garnish. Stirred into each bowl, a lemon aioli completes the minestra with a layer of bright, rich flavor.

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  • Nutrition
    PER SERVING
  • Calories
    700 Cals (est.)
fresh
ingredients
Lentil & Fennel Minestra with Asparagus Tempura & Lemon Aioli
Title
time-saving
tips & techniques
Prepare the ingredients:
1 Prepare the ingredients:

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Cut off and discard any fennel stems; small dice the bulb. Peel and small dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic; using the flat side of your knife, smash until it resembles a paste (or use a zester). Quarter and deseed the lemon. Snap off and discard the tough, woody ends of the asparagus. Cut off and reserve the top 3 inches of each asparagus stalk; thinly slice the remaining stalks crosswise. Cut the chives into ½-inch pieces.

Start the minestra:
2 Start the minestra:

In a large pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the fennel, onion, spice blend and ¾ of the garlic paste; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until dark red and fragrant.

Finish the minestra:
3 Finish the minestra:

Add the lentils and 4 cups of water to the pot; season with salt and pepper. Heat to boiling on high. Reduce the heat to medium-high; simmer, stirring occasionally, 24 to 26 minutes, or until thickened and the lentils are tender. Stir in the sliced asparagus and the juice of 2 lemon wedges. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 2 minutes before serving.

Make the aioli:
4 Make the aioli:

While the lentils simmer, in a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, remaining garlic paste and the juice of the remaining lemon wedges; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the asparagus tempura:
5 Make the asparagus tempura:

While the lentils continue to simmer, in a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour and 5 tablespoons of water to create a thin batter; season with salt and pepper. In a medium pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat a thin layer of oil on medium-high until hot. Working in batches, coat the asparagus tops in the batter (letting any excess drip off). Once the oil is hot enough that a drop of batter sizzles immediately when added to the pan, carefully add the coated asparagus tops. Cook, flipping halfway through, 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; immediately season with salt and pepper.

Plate your dish:
6 Plate your dish:

Divide the finished minestra between 2 bowls. Top with the asparagus tempura. Garnish with the chives. Serve with the aioli on the side. Enjoy!

Tips from Home Chefs

1 Prepare the ingredients:

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Cut off and discard any fennel stems; small dice the bulb. Peel and small dice the onion. Peel and mince the garlic; using the flat side of your knife, smash until it resembles a paste (or use a zester). Quarter and deseed the lemon. Snap off and discard the tough, woody ends of the asparagus. Cut off and reserve the top 3 inches of each asparagus stalk; thinly slice the remaining stalks crosswise. Cut the chives into ½-inch pieces.

2 Start the minestra:

In a large pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the fennel, onion, spice blend and ¾ of the garlic paste; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes, or until dark red and fragrant.

Start the minestra:
3 Finish the minestra:

Add the lentils and 4 cups of water to the pot; season with salt and pepper. Heat to boiling on high. Reduce the heat to medium-high; simmer, stirring occasionally, 24 to 26 minutes, or until thickened and the lentils are tender. Stir in the sliced asparagus and the juice of 2 lemon wedges. Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 2 minutes before serving.

4 Make the aioli:

While the lentils simmer, in a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, remaining garlic paste and the juice of the remaining lemon wedges; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make the aioli:
5 Make the asparagus tempura:

While the lentils continue to simmer, in a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour and 5 tablespoons of water to create a thin batter; season with salt and pepper. In a medium pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat a thin layer of oil on medium-high until hot. Working in batches, coat the asparagus tops in the batter (letting any excess drip off). Once the oil is hot enough that a drop of batter sizzles immediately when added to the pan, carefully add the coated asparagus tops. Cook, flipping halfway through, 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; immediately season with salt and pepper.

6 Plate your dish:

Divide the finished minestra between 2 bowls. Top with the asparagus tempura. Garnish with the chives. Serve with the aioli on the side. Enjoy!

Plate your dish:
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