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Culinary Companions

Plants, like people, benefit from good companions

Friends and companions of asparagus


So where am I going with this?

Well, I recently found a new culinary companion, Lila Volkas, that I am excited to introduce to you. Lila is an artist; an extraordinary illustrator, and a food writer for publications such as "Edible East Bay" and KQED's "Bay Area Bites."

Her passion for fresh produce and study of holistic nutrition brings us together, as does our mutual fascination with vegetable cookery and fermentation. We both teach classes on brewing Kombucha around the Bay Area.

When I sent Lila my asparagus recipes featured below, she not only illustrated the asparagus, but she decided to draw its companions, which I found essential in preparing the recipes.

Lila and I will be continuing our culinary collaboration in the future, as our culinary companionship deepens. Stay tuned for more appearances of her whimsical, personable "stars" in my recipes.

whimsical bunch of asparagus with a toothy smile

Asparagus and goat cheese quesadilla

Serves 2


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

  • 4 oz. fresh asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

  • ½ tsp chopped fresh garlic

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 (6-inch) green chili corn tortillas

  • 4 ounces herbed goat cheese

  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions

  • fresh cilantro sprigs, for garnish


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat, and cook the asparagus for about 2 minutes, then add the chopped garlic, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is tender and lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat.

  2. Spread one side of each tortilla with 1/2 the goat cheese. Place 1/2 the asparagus and 1/2 the green onions on each tortilla, and fold tortillas in half over contents to form quesadillas. Brush the outsides of the quesadillas with remaining oil.

  3. Place the quesadillas in a skillet over medium-low heat, and cook 3 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Cut in half and garnish with cilantro to serve.


Freekeh salad

with asparagus, peas, radishes and Feta cheese

Serves 8 (1 cup portions)


3 cups cooked freekeh* (1 cup dried, cook according to package)

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 cups asparagus cut in 2 inch slices

1 cup English peas

6 large radishes, sliced

¾ cup feta cheese, crumbled

¾ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

½ tsp Kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cook the freekeh according to package

  2. Blanch the asparagus and peas

  3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked freekeh, chopped tomatoes, herbs, green onions and blanched vegetables

  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and pour over the freekeh and vegetables

  5. Garnish with crumbled feta

*Freekeh is young, green wheat that has been toasted and cracked.


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