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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Asparagus Season - AHHHHH.

Spring is here, people! And when I say "here," I mean everywhere. In the past few weeks, I have checked out produce in Florida, North Carolina, New York, and Virginia - and I can say with certainty, Spring has sprung!

Why is this a big deal? Tank tops? NO! Spring vegetables! Asparagus! Peas! Leeks! Peppers! Avocados! Fennel! Bah!!!!! My enthusiasm is insane, but I can't help it. For the next few weeks, farmer's markets across the country are going to be filled with one delicious surprise after another. After the consistent kale and acorn squash of winter, everything will be new and exciting. So I urge you to get out there and see what your farmers have to offer.


 If you have not stopped reading this blog post due to the excessive use of exclamation points, you would enjoy my latest article about asparagus in The Burg. What a delicious writing process this was.


The article includes a few recipes from early blogging days, but what is new is my Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg & Parmesan. I am not even sure you can call this a recipe. I did a quick Google search, and confirmed the fact that thousands of people have made this before. But I chose to share it with you on the off chance you have not encountered this miracle combination because it is SO FREAKING DELICIOUS. I can brag on it because I did not invent it, but I certainly did eat it 4-5 times this week and take a pretty picture of it. The salty, lemony flavor of the asparagus dressed in the rich creamy egg and nutty parmesan is a winner. I give it a 10.


ROASTED ASPARAGUS W/POACHED EGG & PARMESAN
Ingredients
1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1/2 lemon
2 eggs (preferably local)
parmigiano reggiano

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 450. On large baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast asparagus is tender but not mushy, and edges are brown. Remove and dress with lemon juice.
2. Poach eggs, keeping the yolk runny.
3. Plate asparagus, and carefully top with poached eggs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Grate some fresh parmesan on the top. Break yolk directly before eating every single bite.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!
Ashley

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Video Post - Red Bell Pepper Prep

Hi friends! Today is an exciting day. I just made my FIRST EVER video blog and am so excited to share it with you. In anticipation of a recipe I will post later this week that includes diced red bell pepper, I made this technique video showing how I cut peppers.

Big thanks to my husband, Geoffrey, for his camera work, and my dog, Tommy, for keeping quiet long enough to make this happen.

I hope you guys enjoy it. Click on the YouTube link to see the video in full screen. More to come in the future. Anything you want to see?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Paddy's Day. Skip the corned beef - hit the cabbage hard.

In honor of today's holiday, I am reposting a recipe I originally developed for The Burg. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage - how much more satisfying can you get? My version is a bit different, using Savoy cabbage that is browned for a more meaty flavor.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

COLCANNON
Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
Sea salt
½ head Savoy cabbage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
Flat-leaf parsley to garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Put your potatoes in large pot and cover with water. Salt heavily. As Mario Batali says, your cooking water should taste “of the sea.” Heat to boiling, and cook until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain and mash to desired texture.

2. While potatoes are boiling, heat butter over medium-high in large, high-sided skillet. Cook onions for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add cabbage and black pepper; sauté until edges are brown and a little crispy, stirring occasionally. Add wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

3. Add mashed potatoes, vegetable stock and olive oil to cabbage mixture. Combine thoroughly, taste for seasoning, and add salt if needed. Garnish with parsley and serve hot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Swiss Chard Paninis, A New Book, and Why You Should Boil Stuff.

I have been reading the book Everlasting Grace: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. Adler trained under Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. Those of you that are not familiar with Alice Waters, she sort of pioneered the whole farm-to-table movement. She did it before it was cool, and since then has been helping to promote local, sustainable cuisine with a number of different projects. Most notabley, her Edible Schoolyard project brings agrictultural education into the classroom, and I think it's fantastic.

One of her many prodigies, Adler writes about vegetables in a way I can only aspire to. In her book, she promotes simplicity and quality ingredients over all. One of her favorite ways to prepare many foods is to simply boil it to its perfect point. Boiling? I haven't boiled a vegetable since I was served mushy, tasteless broccoli in my youth. Why would I do that when I can roast? Saute? She notes that it had become a bit out of fashion to do so, but explains that when done correctly, boiling can enhance the natural flavor and texture of the vegetable yet allow it to be itself.

So while reading this book, I have started to boil all my vegetables. I have enjoyed the simplicity of this, and most of all, I have enjoyed using one pot to do a day's worth of cooking. I don't even change the water. As she suggests, I just make sure I cook the starchiest last, and in doing so, I flavor the cooking water itself.

I have found most success with this cooking method in the use of greens. I boil them in salted water for about 1 minute and then drain thoroughly to prevent overcooking. Then, I drizzle them lightly (or heavily depending on my mood) in good olive oil, salt and pepper. If I want something more naughty, I grate some Parmesan over top. Then I am done. I love this on toast as significant snack or even a light lunch. I don't have a source for local, free range eggs, but if I did, I might be tempted to poach an egg over this concoction for a complete meal.

I encourage you to do two things. First, read this book. It is beautiful, and written in a way that few cookbooks are: as a narrative. The stories, recipes, and techniques are intertwined to weave a tail of taste and texture.

Second, revisit the saucepan and dare to boil your food. You may be surprised, as I have been, what you can create.

Below is my recipe for a quick weeknight dinner: Swiss Chard Paninis. Again, I am satisfied with the greens themselves on some toast, but if you are looking for something with a little more delicious goodness, this is a great use of those lightly cooked vegetables. I have a panini press, but if you don't, just throw your sandwich in a skillet on medium and place something heavy on top of it (a cast iron skillet works) until golden brown, then flip. Enjoy!


SWISS CHARD PANINI
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 large baguette (Publix's Italian 5-grain is ideal)
3-4 oz goat cheese
1 lb Swiss Chard, boiled and drained
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper

Instructions
1. Cut baguette into two equal halves. Slice each in half horizontally to create a top and bottom for your sandwich.
2. Spread the bottom half of the bread with goat cheese. On top of that, place a thick layer of boiled swiss chard, then sliced tomato. Season tomatoes liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Drizzle olive oil on the inside of the top half of the baguette and put sandwich together. Press slightly.
4. Grill in panini maker or skillet for 4-6 minutes. Serve hot.