Monday, May 31, 2010

Asparagus Omelette & Roasted Blue Potatoes

This past Saturday was my inaugural visit to NYC's Union Square Farmer's Market. Actually, it was my first time ever at a farmer's market, and it was amazing! I perused the stands and saw some unbelievable produce. I spoke to several of the farmers/sellers about their goods and everyone was so knowledgeable. Impressive! Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of this momentous occasion, as I left my camera at home since it was supposed to thunderstorm on Saturday. Of course it didn't. I don't want to talk about it.

Let's talk about the goodies I scored instead. I was lucky enough to pick up some blue potatoes, asparagus, sugar snap peas, mesclun, ramps, green garlic, and Bosc pears.

Growing up in the Bahamas, I've had the opportunity to eat fruits and vegetables which are fresh from the garden. It's been a while since I've done that, which must account for my forgetfulness when it comes to washing things such as lettuce. I taste tested one of the lettuce leaves and was shocked to feel grit in my mouth. It immediately dawned on me that maybe I should thoroughly wash everything before I start the cooking process. Just a thought.

The moment I got home, I broke out the mesclun and sugar snap peas and made myself a quick but simple salad. I drizzled some balsamic vinaigrette over the greens and tossed. Afternoon snack? Check.

The lettuce was crisp, yet tender. The mesclun I purchased had a slightly bitter taste to it, but it was well rounded out by the sugar snap peas. I love crunchy things, so the peas were an awesome purchase. I'm tempted to go back to the market just to snag another bag of these pods!

On Sunday morning, I woke up to a beautiful bunch of asparagus staring me in the face. I'm always trying to come up with new ways to eat asparagus so that I'm not bored by it. Since I love omelets, I figured it would be appropriate to make an asparagus omelet.

Asparagus Omelet
Serves 1 person
  • 4 stalks asparagus
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small ramp, diced
  • 1 small green garlic bulb, diced
  • handful Fontina cheese, grated or in small pieces
1) Blanch the asparagus stalks in boiling water for ~3 minutes. Remove and chop into thirds

2) Meanwhile, add the diced ramp and green garlic to the beaten eggs. (See comments below.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

3) Add egg mixture to a small, buttered frying pan. Swirl the egg mixture so it covers the bottom of the pan.

4) After a minute or two check to make sure the bottom of the omelet has set. Flip the omelet over so the other side can cook as well.

5) Add the asparagus and Fontina cheese on the top of the omelet, to one side.

6) After another minute or two, slide the omelet out of the pan and onto a plate. While the omelet is still warm, fold in half.

As my friend Anjelika would say, Bon Appetit!

This omelet was so fresh and satisfying, even though the ramps almost threatened to overpower the eggs and asparagus. Ramps are similar to an onion. They are almost out of season so I was lucky to snag some at the only stand still selling it at the market. When I make this again...because I will make this again...I would saute the ramps prior to adding the egg mixture. That way, they will have a more mellow presence in the omelet. The green garlic could have been more prominent as well. Green garlic is a young garlic clove, so the flavors are not as developed as a mature garlic bulb. I could have used maybe two small bulbs instead of just one. But I will still say that this omelet was amazing. And since the asparagus was really thin, it was much sweeter and tender-er than a thicker stalk. (I know that tender-er isn't a word, but work with me here.)

Here's a tip for making omelets extra fluffy. After pouring the egg mixture in the frying pan, wait about 20 seconds for the egg to begin to set. Then, with a spatula, begin pulling back the edges of the omelet gently. When you can see the bottom of the frying pan, tilt the frying pan in that direction so the "non-set" egg mixture can fill the empty space. Continue to do this until the egg mixture is gone or you are ready to flip. You should have a nice fluffy omelet now!

While I was at the farmers market I happened upon a sign that advertised blue potatoes. Um, yes please! I love those blue Terra chips that Jet Blue serves on its flights. I hate that they only have 6.5 potato chips in each bag, but that's another story.

I wasn't sure what to do with the potatoes so I thought I'd go au natural and just roast them. I wanted to enjoy that beautiful blue color.

Roasted Blue Potatoes
  • ~10 small blue potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • olive oil for drizzling over potatoes
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small ramp, diced
  • 1 small green garlic bulb, diced
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) Place potatoes in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil.

3) Chop up rosemary and thyme if they're fresh. (I used dried herbs so I crushed them in my palm before sprinkling them on the potatoes.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

4) Sprinkle the diced ramp and green garlic over the potatoes.

5) Use fingers to evenly spread the olive oil, herbs, ramps and green garlic over the potatoes.

6) Bake for ~45 minutes. The time will vary depending upon your oven, the size of your potatoes, and how soft you like your potatoes. Use a fork to test whether or not they are done.

Ahhh blue goodness! I began eating these potatoes as soon as they came out of the over, irrespective of the fact that they were a scorching 350 degrees. I'm a visual eater, so even though they tasted just like regular potatoes, they were definitely a notch higher on my rung because of their gorgeous color. Pretty soon, I also discovered that these are great snacks. About 3/4 of the potatoes were gone about an hour and a half after they came out of the oven. Oh well, I'm trying to support our local farmers here!

Thus, I consider my first visit to the farmers market a raging success. I can't wait to go back as soon as possible so that I can show you what else I find!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Compost Spaghetti Sauce

This "recipe" was inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Cupcake Project. Of course, Stefanie made Compost Cupcakes, but why couldn't I make Compost-Something-Else? A compost recipe is basically a mixing and matching of your favorite items in a batter/sauce/etc...So I thought about the ingredients I had around the house already and improvised.

Here's what I came up with...

Compost Spaghetti Sauce
  • olive oil (for sauteing)
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 24 oz jar of spaghetti sauce (I used a store-bought Cabernet Marinara sauce)
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup ricotta
  • dash of hot sauce
  • salt & pepper (if necessary)
1) In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over high heat. Add the shallots and the garlic and cook until tender, about 3 minutes.

2) Add the spaghetti sauce and stir. Allow the sauce to heat up for a minute or two.

3) Add the pesto into the sauce and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes.

4) Add the ricotta and stir. Allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes (yes, again).

5) Throw in a dash of hot sauce and salt and pepper, if you think the sauce needs it (mine didn't).

Ladle over some pasta and you're ready to go!

I realize that I didn't really provide very many instructions for this recipe/process, but it's really super simple. The next time you want to pump up your spaghetti sauce (or just get rid of items that are chillin' around your kitchen), you can make your own personalized version of this.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Asparagus Risotto

I'm back to being a good Food Network magazine subscriber. It's taken me a while to read through all the latest issues, but now that I have, I'm inspired once again. So in honor of this inspiration, let's cook!

It's finally spring and this year, I have a newfound love of asparagus. I've had a lot of grilled asparagus in the past few weeks, but I've been looking for a new way to enjoy it. I couldn't believe it when I opened April's Food Network magazine and stumbled upon a recipe for Asparagus Risotto.

Let me state the obvious: I'm not Italian. But I love risotto all the same (especially my Butternut Squash Risotto, which I have yet to make for this blog but it's sooooo good!). So I just had to make this. Upon first glance, this recipe seemed to be complicated (at least for me), but after I read through it a few times and actually made the dish, I realized that it's relatively easy.

Risotto with Asparagus
  • 2 bunches thick asparagus (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or lemon thyme (I used two pinches of dried thyme, since I didn't have any fresh thyme)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • Salt
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce, cut into strips
  • 8 ounces Robiola or Taleggio cheese, thinly sliced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1) Peel the bottom third of the asparagus stalks with a vegetable peeler. Snap each stalk where it breaks naturally.

2) Thinly slice 6 asparagus bottoms.

3) Place the rest of the bottoms in a saucepan with 8 cups water and the thyme to make asparagus broth. Bring to a simmer.

4) Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 2 minutes.

5) Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.
6) Add 1 1/4 teaspoons salt.
7) Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed.
8) Stir in 1/2 cup of the asparagus broth until absorbed. Continue to add broth in 1/2 cup increments, stirring constantly and allowing the liquid to be absorbed before adding more, about 10 minutes. (You should have about half the broth left.)

9) Stir in the sliced asparagus bottoms and the lemon zest. Add the remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until the rice is just tender, 5 to 8 more minutes.

10) Meanwhile, place the asparagus tips in a large skillet, cover with water and season with salt and pepper. Simmer over medium-high heat until just tender, about 5 minutes.
11) Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, the Parmesan and lemon juice to the risotto.

12) Stir in the lettuce, remove from the heat and season with salt.

13) Divide among bowls, top with the Robiola or Taleggio and season with pepper.

14) Drizzle the asparagus tips with olive oil and spoon over the risotto.

OK, so now that you've seen the entire recipe, let me tell you that I was unable to follow all of these directions. This should not be a surprise, as we all know that I have a slight problem with recipe directions. If you have any doubts about this, you can check out my first few blog posts where I happen to falter in either Step 1 or 2 of the recipe. History kind of, sort of repeated itself again:

1) I forgot to peel all of the asparagus stalks when making the asparagus broth. Well, I didn't really forget. I just didn't read the directions correctly.

2) I got so excited by time this dish was almost finished that I forgot to season it with pepper and drizzle the asparagus tips with extra virgin olive oil.

BUT...I bring up this point only to show that it doesn't matter if you try to screw up your dish. It will still turn out fine. Like mine did!

The asparagus risotto was creamy and delicious. The asparagus flavor from the broth could be detected underneath the tang from the melted Parmesan and lemon juice. The Bibb lettuce has a buttery flavor and it wilted nicely into the risotto.

Of course I used more Parmesan cheese than the recipe called for. I added 1/2 cup Parmesan instead of the 1/4 cup the actual recipe calls for. You know I can't resist doing this. I also wasn't able to find Robiola or Taleggio cheese in my neighborhood grocery store, so I used Fontina instead. It worked like a charm! I also didn't have any white wine on hand (I'm a red wine drinker) so I created a mixture of 1/2 cup water and 2 tbsp lemon juice. I used this instead of the white wine. Good things come to those who are creative! Bon appetit!

I also apologize slightly for going wild with the camera, but who ever gets tired of looking at food anyway.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pina Colada Cupcakes

I've been away from my poor blog for too long! But I'm back just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

A few weeks ago I ventured into the new Hoboken 7-Eleven store. I headed straight to the back of the store for a Slurpee. As I was reaching for my favorite flavor (Cherry) I caught a glimpse of another flavor: Pina Colada. What was this? Is this new? Considering I haven't had a Slurpee in years, I had no idea if it was a new flavor or not. But I did know that I needed to try it. And it was delicious. Could I make this into a cupcake? Why not...

Pina Colada Cupcakes
(adapted from Wilton Pineapple Cupcakes recipe)
makes ~24 cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple, drained
1) Preheat oven to 325°F.

2) In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.

3) In separate bowl, whisk together oil, coconut milk, eggs and coconut extract.

4) Stir in sugar.

5) Add flour mixture and mix well.

6) Fold in crushed pineapple.

7) Pour batter into cupcake liners until about 3/4 full.

8) Bake ~17 minutes. (I rotated my cupcake tins about halfway through the baking, so that they would cook more evenly.)

Pina Colada Frosting
(adapted from Gale Gand's Quick Vanilla Frosting recipe)

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 2.5 tablespoons pineapple rum
  • 1 tablespoon milk (the real recipe calls for whipping cream, but I didn't have any)
1) In a standing mixer, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
2) Add coconut extract, rum, and milk. Continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more.
3) Frost cooled cupcakes.

I thought the cupcakes were very moist. This is probably due to the use of oil and crushed pineapples in the batter. I couldn't use the toothpick method to tell when the cupcakes were done, but a cupcake sprung (spring, sprang, sprung?) back when I pressed gently on it. So ta-da! They were done.

I really liked the flavor combination of the coconut and pineapple, but alas, the flavor as a whole did not really represent a pina colada. Back to the drawing board I guess. Maybe I need to use pineapple extract as well next time?

The crushed pineapple was sweet and could be detected in the cupcake. Although I described the cupcake as quite moist, I didn't say it was bad! Very, very unfortunately, the pineapple rum really didn't play a leading role in the frosting. On the bright side, the frosting itself was amazing. It is seriously my new most favorite-est frosting ever. The coconut rum was prominent, and the texture was as smooth as silk. (Hint: Make sure to add the confectioner's sugar slowly to the butter when making the frosting. This will give you a really smooth and light frosting.) I could eat this frosting on its own. And I may have tested a spoonful or two of the extra frosting once I was done with the cupcakes. Just maybe.

Another successful cupcake. (Hey, let me toot my own horn once in a while since I do have cupcake flops sometimes.) I force fed them to my roommate and her family this past weekend and they didn't seem to mind at all, which was awesome of them!

So let's raise a glass, or a cupcake, to Cinco de Mayo. These may not be margaritas, margarita cupcakes, or anything remotely Mexican, but we can still celebrate as if they are!