Backstage dinner party: grilled asparagus elote style

I had the pleasure of hosting dinner for the band members of DC’s Humble Fire (I might know the drummer) last week. The bounty at the farmer’s market made cooking easy and fun. I’ve made this particular recipe for grilled asparagus elote-style (Mexican street-style corn) many times now, and I suggest you do too.

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Serves 5-6 as a starter or side

  • 2 bundles asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/3 cup crema or sour cream (mayo is also used, could use soy or coconut yogurt to make vegan)
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta (could use vegan cheese)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • pinch of cayenne or smoked hot paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle the asparagus with oil and grill over high heat for 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and beginning to char in spots. Ours got forgotten on the grill for about 5 minutes on this particular evening (because we are so rock and roll), and they were still delicious.

Arrange the asparagus on a large platter in a thin layer (so each spear gets some toppings). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle the crema over the spears and then sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Squeeze the lime over and then dust with cayenne or paprika. I garnished with some chive flowers for fun.

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Grilled asparagus is so rock and roll.

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Asparagus, marinated tomato and Irish cheddar omlette

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Simple in technique but big on flavor, I made this asparagus, marinated tomato and Irish cheddar omelette for a friend visiting from Durham, NC. In the spring, when my chive plants bloom, I love to use their soft lavender blossoms to make everything pretty. They have a light onion flavor, and they just make me happy.

As you can see from the color of the omelette, I actually like the crispy edges of egg dishes, so I let mine cook over medium high heat to get a bit of toasty-ness. I know that I’d get in big trouble if I were in French cooking class, but oh well. The marinated tomatoes really lift this dish up to something special. I highly recommend doing a quick marinade on tomatoes anytime you are adding them to a dish where they won’t really be mingling with other flavors (like in a salad or even on a sandwich). They pack a flavorful punch instead of just being a bit watery, and it’s a good trick if you don’t have peak-of-summer tomatoes on hand.

  • 1 large tomato, seeded, diced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (wine, malt, champagne or other yummy vinegar will do
  • 6 eggs (this was for 3 people)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 5-10 asparagus stalks, trimmed and blanched for 60 seconds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Irish cheddar (any cheese will do, but I especially love sharper, well aged cheeses to provide some bite and salt)
  • handful of chopped chives or chive blossoms for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix the diced tomatoes with the vinegar and salt to taste. Let marinate for 5-10 minutes.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, coat with olive oil or butter. Whisk the eggs, milk and a dash of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Pour the eggs into the heated pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes, lifting up the edge of the omelette to let liquid egg run underneath to cook. Once the eggs are beginning to firm, sprinkle the cheese over the surface of the omelette. Let the cheese melt and the eggs get to your desired doneness. I like to have a bit of creaminess, but some folks like hard-cooked eggs.

Distribute the chopped asparagus evenly over one half of the omelette, reserving a few asparagus heads for garnishing. Distribute the tomatoes as well. I add the tomatoes last so that they don’t cook too much or water down the eggs.

Fold the omelette over on itself to create a half moon shape and move to a cutting board. Slice into three even portions. Place one portion on each of three warmed plates and garnish with chives and reserved asparagus heads.

Falafel

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I love falafel, and while I cannot replicate (or don’t have the time to anyways) the vast toppings bar that is featured in many falafel-rias, homemade falafel is delicious and easy. I don’t deep fry, but just use a good amount of oil to get a crunchy exterior.

I use Honey & Co.‘s recipe by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer (love this cookbook all around!), but you’ll notice they have several variations listed. I did my own combination of all of them, because I wanted them to have bright green herbs and sesame seeds and some spicy kick to them….so I did a mash-up. You’ll need to soak your garbanzo beans overnight, so this takes a little planning.

  • 1/2 onion, peeled
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 250g soaked chickpeas (from 125g dried)
  • 1 green chilli, seeds and all
  • 3 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground curry powder (or cumin) – I like to use one with a bit of cinnamon in it
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp flour (use gluten free flour to keep these gf)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

Start the night before: Wash the chickpeas and soak in fresh water overnight. Make sure to cover the garbanzos with plenty of water – they really expand! Never use canned chickpeas. Drain and remove any stones or grit.

Put the onion, garlic, chilli and herbs in a food processor and pulse them to chop roughly. Add the chickpeas and blitz until mixture becomes a thick paste with small, even-sized bits and a rough bread crumb consistency. Put the mixture into a large bowl, add the spices, salt, flour, baking powder and sesame seeds. Mix to combine well.

Traditionally, small balls of the mixture would be deep fried, but I make small patties and fry in a healthy dose of olive oil in a sauté pan. I put these on a salad with a feta-tahini-yogurt dressing and lots of other fresh veggies, but they’d be great tucked into a pita with all the fixings as well.

 

Roast Turkey Dinner in April

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As some of you know, I don’t do Thanksgiving as a holiday. There are lots of reasons, foremost being its link to Native American/Tribal genocide (MTV attempted to use humor to explain where we’ve gone wrong in celebrating some truly horrific atrocities in our history, and they do a pretty good job of it). I do like getting together with friends, and I like to provide a gathering place for folks who don’t have family close by. The Friday after, I gather folks for Friendsgiving, where I make an Italian feast. Part of my family is Italian, and I figure that folks have had enough stuffing and turkey by then.

I must admit, however, that I do love a good roast turkey with all the trimmings. After the winter holiday season, our local farmer had a few turkeys in their freezer still, and put them on sale. I bought a pretty giant one, about 17lbs or so. It wasn’t until this month that I had the time and inspiration to thaw it, brine it, roast it, and whip up all the sides. I am proud to say that (aside from the 3 day thawing and brining process), I did all of this in just one afternoon! I used Alton Brown’s brining recipe for the turkey, and I finally got to use my handy-dandy new meat thermometer (gift from my in-laws) to monitor the cooking.

My most exciting discovery was how great my spaetzle press works for perfect mashed potatoes! I just boiled the yukon golds in salted water until tender enough to be easily pierced with the tip of a knife and then was able to put the whole potato into the press, skin and all.

Out came perfectly riced potatoes, no skin or eyes at all. I added in hot whole milk and melted butter, salt and pepper to taste, just mixing enough to get a smooth consistency. I added a touch more milk before serving to loosen them up, and they held beautifully in the meantime while I finished the gravy etc.

I will never make mashed potatoes any other way. I actually can’t wait to make spaetzle as well. Also pictured: mushroom, walnut, sourdough stuffing, turkey giblet gravy, roast brussels sprouts, cranberry-clementine chutney.

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Wasabi Pea Hummus

IMG_1958I use green peas as the base for a lot of hummus-type dips. This time I added wasabi paste (from a tube), rice vinegar, sesame oil, chili garlic paste and salt to steamed green peas. About 30 seconds in the food processor, and you have a really yummy dip for veggies, pita chips, or an interesting addition to a sandwich. I garnished mine with a few whole peas and some wasabi powder (though I wish I’d had some actual crunchy wasabi peas on hand).

  • 2 cups frozen green peas, boiled for 30 seconds or defrosted in the microwave
  • 2 tablespoons wasabi paste
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (from a jar)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste
  • salt to taste

Blend to a chunky paste, adding water or olive oil to thin if necessary. Taste and add more spicy, salt, sour, etc as needed.

Taco Salad on the Terrace with TSCP

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I brought Stone Soup to work with me! Taco Salad on the Terrace (out in San Francisco). Everyone signed up to bring one or two ingredients, and then each person builds their own salad, buffet style. Some folks went all out, braising pork overnight, while other folks opened a tub of sour cream or salsa and called it a day. That is the beauty of Stone Soup, the foodies can cook if they like, but if you don’t like to cook or don’t have the time, most ingredients can be bought and served with little prep. We had chopped lettuce, cilantro, green onions, tomatoes, avocado, beans, veggie meat, grilled peppers and onions, sliced carrots and snow peas, and many more toppings.

With so much variety, it is easy to accommodate all types of dietary restrictions, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, etc. The best part was that we had leftovers for the following day! Stone Soup is the gift that keeps on giving. (Photo credit to KP. Thanks!)

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Cajun BBQ Shrimp

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BBQ can mean so many things, so I won’t get into why these are called BBQ shrimp when they are just cooked in a pan on the stove, but I will confirm that they are delicious. Super simple recipe as well (good shrimp recipes should be simple, in my opinion, to let the shrimp shine through).

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 stick of cold, unsalted butter (I know it’s a lot!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1/2 cup Crystal  hot sauce (can use franks or texas pete in a pinch)
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce (I usually add a little more, but depends on your taste)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite Creole seasoning mix (or make your own)
  • 4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds fresh shrimp, head on preferred
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for one minute. Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire, lemon, Creole seasoning and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and spread into one even layer. Flip after about 1-2 minutes and cook until opaque. Turn  heat to low and add in the remainder of the butter, one chunk at a time, stirring to incorporate each piece before adding another. This will create an amazing, velvety sauce. Season with salt to taste and serve with bread or rice for sopping up all the goodness!

Toasted coconut cashews

There is a certain store where I get very weak-willed stepping into the snack aisle. You probably know where I mean (trader joe’s…uh-em). They have chocolate covered everything, bite sized brownies, and these toasted coconut cashews.

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I thought they’d be delicious in homemade granola (or just out of a bag at my desk at work), but the price point is a bit high to just toss these around. So I decided to make them myself!

  • 2 c “raw” cashews (did you know that no cashews are truly raw since the process of removing their poisonous skins actually cooks them? They are still labeled “raw” though vs. “roasted”)
  • 1/4 c coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (small flakes so they stick better)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pinch of cinnamon (if you like)

Toss the cashews, sugar and egg white together in a large bowl to coat. The egg white will turn into a crispy coating and make the coconut stick better. You can skip it if you like, just use a bit of coconut oil or water, or flax seed “egg” (1 tablespoon ground flax seed + 3 tablespoons water, let sit 5 min). Add the coconut, salt and cinnamon and toss to coat.

Bake in a 350F oven for 10 minutes, check and turn gently to evenly brown. They are done when they have a pale brown color – too dark and they taste bitter. They will crisp up as they cool down, but do make sure they are dry and cool before storing in an air tight container. Also very good on ice cream or in a curried-chicken salad.

Chicken wing revelation

As I may have mentioned in past nacho related posts, I don’t really care for football, but it does overlap with one of my passions: chicken wings. Thus, I can always be counted on for hanging out and “watching” the big game, if there are chicken wings (or nachos) involved.

I used to think that the best wings had to be deep fried (no breading), to get crispy, evenly rendered skin. But then I made these:

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I have to give credit to Alton Brown for the technique, but I added my own twist. I wasn’t convinced until they were all done and I bit into one, but steaming them before roasting is the key! Steaming cooks them nearly through, rendering a lot of fat from the skin and shrinking it up a bit (like pouring boiling water over the skin when making Peking duck!) Then, chill the wings down on cookie sheets in the fridge so that the skins really dry out and they don’t overcook during the roasting stage. Roast in a hot oven to brown and crisp the skin, tossing them in your favorite sauce right before serving. I made a traditional buffalo style (left) and a spicy soy-sesame (right), with carrots, celery and blue cheese dressing of course. Some bottled Franks Red Hot with a bit of melted butter in it would work just as well if you don’t want to make your own.

I added a marinade step that Alton doesn’t use, because I often find that chicken wings are delicious on the outside, but boring on the inside. You can skip it if you are in a rush though.

  • 24 chicken wing parts (a large pack)
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1/4 c water
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients above into a large, nonreactive bowl or ziplock bag and toss around to coat. Let marinate for one hour or longer (up to overnight). Set a large steamer basket in a pot with about an inch of water in it and bring to a low boil. Line the steamer basket with chicken wings, cover, and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the wings, pat dry with a paper towel and lay on a cooling rack set over a cookie sheet. Cool in the fridge for an hour.

Roast the wings in a 425F oven for 20 minutes, flip, and roast another 20 until golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and toss with your sauce of choice.

Spicy Soy-Sesame Glaze

  • 1/2 c soy sauce or Braggs (this recipe is gluten free if you use liquid aminos instead of soy)
  • 1/2 c honey, agave or maple syrup
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 c rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic paste (or dried chili flakes or other hot stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Combine all ingredients except sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sesame oil and taste. Add more sweet, hot or vinegar to get the flavor you like. Garnish with chopped cilantro, sesame seeds or chives.

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There’s nothing like pasta from scratch

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These are some maitake mushroom ravioli that came out of the “Great Mushroom Harvest of 2015.” But I want to focus on the homemade pasta aspect. Though I love a perfectly al dente dry pasta, and you can’t quite get that bite from fresh noodles, there really is nothing like pasta from scratch. It’s easier than you might think (especially if you have a stand mixer and even more so if you have the pasta maker attachment).

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Here is my laundry drying rack (covered in plastic wrap) keeping my pappardelle separated while it air dries a bit. This was pasta for 15 people! I did have the benefit of a stand mixer, and the recipe below is for that method. If you want to go for it by hand, Mario can walk you through that.

Basic egg pasta:

 

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour, sifted (plus extra for rolling)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons water (I like to add a drizzle of olive oil as well, you can also add chopped herbs if you like)

Place all the ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer and combine using the paddle attachment, on speed 2 for about 1 minute. Switch out the paddle for the dough hook and knead on speed 2 for about 2 minutes. Most recipes will tell you to knead by hand for another 5 minutes or so, but I always skip that and rely on the rolling attachment to do the kneading for me. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. This part is actually pretty necessary, otherwise you will not be able to easily roll the dough out.

Divide the rested dough into 6-8 equal pieces and keep covered while you work with one piece at a time. Attach the pasta roller onto your stand mixer and set to the lowest/widest setting. Flatten dough ball into a square shape and begin running through the roller on speed 2 or 4. Fold the flattened dough in half or thirds between each roll to keep the piece manageable. You will notice the dough take on a very smooth and silky texture. Once it has this even texture, you can begin to really roll it out.

Dust with flour and run through the initial setting 2-3 times without folding. It will get a little longer each time. Stop the machine, move the setting up one (slightly thinner) and run the dough through at that setting 1-2 times. I usually stop around 4 or 5 for my pasta, but you can get very thin if you like. Most recipes will tell you what setting is best for what you are doing (thicker for fettuccine, thinner for angel hair).

You can cut the pasta by hand, as I did in the photo above, or use the pasta cutter attachment if you have one. To cut by hand, dust the pasta with more flour, fold up loosely and cut to the desired thickness. Shake the strands loose and dust with more flour to keep from sticking. I was cooking my pappardelle the next day, so I left it to dry out. You could also store, covered in the refrigerator, as I did with the ravioli.

This type of fresh pasta will only need a minute or two in boiling, salted water. Keep it on the al dente side, as it can turn to mush easily. I like to boil till almost done and then finish with the sauce or broth in another pan.