Asparagus That Everyone Loves

 

FoodTrustaspardone

With asparagus bursting from every Farmers’ Market and grocery shelf at this time of year, I’ve been scouting around for interesting uses.  Sure, I’ve roasted it, grilled it, made it into bisque, put it in omelets, rolled it in sandwiches, even eaten it raw.  This simple preparation for “asparagus fries” suggested by The Food Trust was a winner in our house one Sunday evening, accompanied by grilled flank steak, mashed potatoes and a tossed green salad,

 

Here’s the recipe, which serves about 6 people.

 

1 bunch of Asparagus (trimmed)

 

1 egg, lightly beaten

 

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

Salt and pepper to taste¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 400.

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Add the panko bread crumbs and parmesan to a large zip lock bag. Dip the asparagus in the egg then place in the bag. Seal the bag and shake to coat the asparagus in crumbs and cheese.

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Place asparagus in single layer on a greased baking sheet.

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Bake for 7-10 minutes. Enjoy!

Zucchini Noodles with Edamame

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Now this is a major discovery:  I bought a strange sputnik-landing capsule-like mandolin recently, which, according to the instruction booklet, does funky things to veggies.

The product in question is called the vegetti and it’s way cooooool. You basically take an uncooked vegetable say a carrot, a chunk of squash, a peeled potato and twist the vegetable into the contraption, which then spews out lengths of said vegetable in very pretty long curly strips.

Isn’t that fun?

This is not advised for kids, as the blades of the mandolin are razor sharp, however, kids will love the look of the vegetables once they’ve been through the vegetti.

Here’s what I mean.

Take one zucchini (unpeeled) and twist through the sputnik and voila – seriously funky courgette strips…

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I was cooking an Asian inspired pork tenderloin with seaweed and seasame dusted jasmine rice and was in need of a side dish.  So this is what I did.

Asian-inspired Zucchini Noodles with Edamame (serves 2 as a side)

Ingredients:

* 1/2 cup of loose edamame

* 1 zucchini

* 6 large meaty mushrooms, peeled and sliced

* 1 tbsp soy sauce or teriyaki sauce

* 2 tbsps of asian flavored cooking oil

* splash of lime juice

* knob of butter (I love experimenting with Wholefoods’ Flavored butters ie Lemon and Dill, Garlic, Bay Seasoning and so on.)

Instructions:

  • Put whole zucchini through the vegetate- sprinkle lime juice over the noodles
  • melt butter and oil in frypan and add zucchini, cook through until softened
  • toss in the mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes until soft
  • add pre-cooked edamame and just warm through
  • stir everything together and serve

This is fantastic fun to make and is really impressive.  It can be used as a gluten free alternative to pasta in any pasta-based recipe.  You could serve this with a marinara sauce or a pesto sauce for example.  Next time I’m going to try alfredo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom’s Apple Cake

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My mother is justfiably famous for her pies, but she has quite a few other weapons in her baking arsenal.  A die-hard crowd favorite is her apple cake.  I am at the point now where I ask her not to make it, because it is one of those treats that keeps you coming back until it’s gone.  When she arrives with one in hand, I immediately cut it into generous slabs to share with others.  This week, I handed it out to:  the girl who checks me in at the gym; my car mechanic; the school bus driver; the mailman and my blogging partner, Claire, who was hosting an important client for dinner and wanted a dessert that was both impressive and homey.   Her assessment:  ”That was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had.  It was so moist, it was almost like an English pudding.”  Since she asked for the recipe, it seemed sensible to share it with a wider audience, so here it is:

 

Mom’s Amazing Apple Cake

1-1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp vanilla

3 cups peeled, cored thickly sliced apples

1 cup raisins

1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

1.  Heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour 9 inch bundt pan.

2.  Beat oil and sugar; add eggs and beat until creamy.

3.  Add flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and mix.  Add remaining ingredients and blend again.

4.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 1 hr and 15 minutes.  Cool in pan, unmold and serve.

This cake is incredibly versatile and stays fresh for several days.  It is great on its own as a dessert or a snack with coffee/tea.  Also works for breakfast.  If you’re looking to really dazzle, top it with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.  Enjoy!

 

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

 

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Eldest son is soon to launch forth into the world on his own.

Mid August, he starts at the College of Charleston as a freshman and will be in charge of his own diet thereafter.  Freshman 15.  Say no more.  He’s currently a very slight, bordering on the gangly, 6ft-tall teenager: will he eat sensibly, exercise and go to bed at a reasonable time at University?  We doubt it.

However, between now, and him striking out on his own, I am going to coerce him into helping me to prepare mains and sides that are dead straightforward.  And I’m going to set myself my own challenge, that is, to reduce the number of ingredients I use to cook with – to five.

While I may have around 40-50 different herbs and spices in my pantry, he won’t.  (I’m excluding salt and pepper from that tally of five…be fair!)

This is the first of my five ingredient recipes:

Chickpea and Tomato Salad:

Ingredients:

* About 20 baby grape or small cherry tomatoes

* 1 tin of chickpeas/garbanzo or pinto beans

* feta cheese, mexican queso fresca or similar white crumbly cheese

* ready made vinaigrette – I like Newman’s Own

* 1 small red onion finely diced

Instructions

  1. Halve tomatoes
  2. Drain chickpeas and rinse under the tap to remove all the highly salted tinned water
  3. Finely dice the red onion
  4. Toss all three ingredients in a bowl and add 1-3 tbsps of vinaigrette (you decide how ‘wet’ you like your salad)
  5. Just before serving crumble the cheese on top of the salad.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste

And here it is.  This was truly made by my own son’s fair hands.  Don’t get me started or I’ll well up…

 

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Gooooooooo Cougars!

Homemade Baguette–Easier Than You Think

 

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Here in Philly, where artisanal bread of every ilk is readily available, it’s arguably unnecessary to bake your own.  But a recent dinner at uber-authentically French Bibou, during which our conversation turned to homemade French baguette, inspired me to give it a shot.  As it happened, the following Sunday arrived with torrential rains, so baking bread seemed like a good idea.   Here’s my conclusion:  homemade, hot from the oven bread is absolute heaven and completely worth the time and effort involved.    But you have to eat it all.   Because unfortunately, the heavenliness doesn’t last; I froze one loaf and reheated it a few days later and it was still good, but no comparison to the fresh loaf of Sunday evening.

I used this recipe. (Thank you, Food.com)

First it had to rise for a couple of hours:

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Then I divided the dough and rolled it out, into thin logs:baguettedoughflat

Next, I sliced it across the top and let it rise again:

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And finally, I baked it.

Conclusion:  Yes, I would do it again, but only for a crowd where the results would be enjoyed immediately, at their optimal deliciousness.  One added bonus:  the house smelled absolutely wonderful while the bread baked, which was a lovely thing on a rainy Sunday when we were all stuck at home.

Rockin’ Indian Kabobs at New South Street Eatery

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We were tipped off to this rockin’ new restaurant, Kabobeesh, just south of South Street by our discriminating Singaporean friend, who claims that Kabobeesh’s kabobs have become her standard go-to, for midweek family takeouts.  This new Tandoori restaurant is (conveniently for us) situated in the old Latest Dish space on 4th.

Kabobeesh on 4th is the second of its kind in the city.

The original Kabobeesh, which claims to be “the oldest Pakistani restaurant in Philadelphia” is located in West Philly (42nd and Chestnut).

The menu at both is the same; chefs prepare an array of beef, chicken and lamb by marinating the meats overnight in Pakistani herbs, yogurt and spices.  The kabobs are then charcoal grilled on long, dramatic looking, metal skewers in a traditional tandoor (a wood fired oven) and served wrapped in a nan (a traditional Indian flatbread).

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The kabobs are available solo or you can buy a meal, which includes a choice of vegetable sides such as chutney, spiced yogurt, lentils and vegetable curries.  This hearty food is well priced; the tandoori chicken kabob comes in at $8.50, a mango lassi is just $2.99, and the portions are ample.

Admittedly the food is not pretty to eat; you use your hands and the nan wrap to stabilize the delectable kabob.

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It’s much like eating a Philly cheesesteak or a really good gyro – if you make an enthusiastic mess while devouring your meal, then you know it’s good.

We made a mess.

If kabobs are not your thing…no worries; Kabobeesh’s menu is packed with traditional Indian dishes such as chicken tikki masala, samosas, curries and chana masala.  Best of all, the restaurant works through grubHub, so when pressed for time you can go online and get a takeout delivered to your door.

To sample first-hand, go to www.kabobeesh.com.

 

 

 

Bircher Meusli: Breakfast of Champions



meusli

I discovered this delicious, nutritious traditionally Swiss breakfast dish in Mexico of all places.  It was part of the breakfast buffet in our resort, and once I tasted it, I was hooked. I was determined to replicate it at home, and fortunately, it was a simple task.

Here’s my version for one serving:

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 apple, chopped

1/4 cup unsalted nuts (almonds, pecans, or walnuts are my faves)

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup (to taste)

sprinkle of cinnamon

Mix all and enjoy.

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A few notes:  This can be made in bulk, stored in the fridge, and enjoyed all week as it keeps very well.     You can vary the ingredients based on what you have on hand.  Wheat germ, bran, raisins or other dried fruit, fresh berries, bananas are all fair game.

I’m a fan because this is light and healthy, but also full of protein and quite sustaining.  When I start my day with a bowl of meusli, I’m not hungry til lunch.  Not to say that I won’t be tempted by a cherry scone or nutella bar, but I’m less likely to forage if I’ve fueled up on meusli first thing.

 

Warm Winter Salad

 

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How do you get kids to eat greens in winter when the choices are pretty thin on the ground?  This pretty looking warm winter salad does the trick…

Ingredients

Asparagus spears

Olive oil

Lime juice

Salt and pepper

Pre-cooked edamame

Mixture of interesting greens (no not spinach…everyone is a little tired of that now..); try some pea shoots, snow peas or similar

Cucumber, peeled and sliced very thinly

tomatoes roughly cubed

 

Directions

  1. Prep asparagus and sprinkle with a little water, olive oil and about 2 tsps of lime juice; generously season with salt and pepper
  2. Cook at 350 for 20 minutes until asparagus is wilted and even slightly charred – set aside
  3. Prep all salad greens and cucumber and set out on pretty plate
  4. Chop the tomatoes and toss in some olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkling of sugar.  Let sit while the asparagus is cooking
  5. Put edamame in microwave for about 30 seconds.  Set aside
  6. Lay all warmed ingredients on salad and serve immediately

Serve this salad together with your favorite dressing; it works well with a chunky blue cheese or balsamic dressing.

 

 

Billionaire’s Shortbread

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I found this recipe in last month’s Food and Wine, and in a few short weeks it has become part of my regular repertoire.    Once I saw the combo of caramel, dark chocolate and salt, I knew I was a gonner.

The recipe is, quite literally, an upgrade on the British confection “Millionaire’s Shortbread”, which comprises a layer of buttery cookie crust, filled with condensed milk and topped with  milk chocolate.  By using homemade caramel and dark chocolate ganache, and adding some cornmeal to the shortbread layer this version is much richer, hence the name.

Sure, it involves more steps than the average bar cookie, and use of a candy thermometer.  Admittedly, I strenuously object to undue fuss in the kitchen.  But I promise, when you try these, you’ll agree they are worth the extra effort and steps.

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I have so far made them for:  book group; a dinner party; my pediatrician’s office as a thank you for “finding” my sick daughter an appointment  on a very busy Monday; and for myself as a palliative after a very stressful week.

Give them a try–you’ll be glad you did.  Or maybe not, as they are addictive.

Venison Burgers with Parmesan Crostini

Thankfully a number of family friends like to hunt!

Thankfully a number of family friends like to hunt!

We are lucky enough to know several guys who hunt deer; this means our freezer is well stocked with all kinds of venison.  We have minced venison, venison sausages and if we are very very lucky then we also have a couple of venison filets.

Venison is one of the healthiest red meats you can eat.  The meat is so low in fat.  It is a dense, flavorful meat, which you either love or hate, depending on how “meaty” you want your meat to taste.  Chicken lovers go take a hike…

The minced venison came wrapped in a fat sausage like tube.  All I needed to do was defrost the tube and slice into fat burgers.

I then added a glugful of olive oil, a dash of chili oil to a pan, popped in the burgers and seasoned them with salt, pepper and Beck’s Devil Dust (a spicy New Orleans rub available from Beck’s in Reading Terminal Market).

The burgers are pretty fragile, being 100% meat (unlike most commercial burgers).  So it’s best not to play around with them too much.

Serve with hearty home made crostini and a gutsy green or pasta salad.

Easy as pie.