Posted by: tinkande | October 2, 2011

Sesame Pork

Sesame Pork Stir Fry

Well it finally happened.  The weather cooled down this weekend, and it really feels like fall around here.  The coffee maker has emerged from hibernation (we’ve been drinking it iced for months), and I actually had to wear socks outside.  Hello October!  Of course, the temps will be back up in the 70′s next week, but we definitely got a taste of what is to come.  My brain is starting to shift toward cold-weather cooking, and I’m looking forward to getting to some of the recipes that I’ve saved for this time of year.

This stir fry was the perfect way to ease ourselves into the next season.  It’s healthy, filled with lean pork and veggies, but hearty enough to take the chill out of the air.  It’s also a great excuse to use up small amounts of vegetables in our refrigerator.  This recipe originally called for snake beans, but I had some sugar snap peas that I needed to use up, so I went with that instead.  You can mix and match depending on your tastes – green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peppers. Some things (carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower) tend to take a bit longer to cook than others, but if you chop them smaller (like the julienned carrots in this recipe), everything can be added to the pan together and they will all cook through in the same amount of time.

Sesame Pork

Source: Adapted from The Essential Wok Cookbook
Serves 4

2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds), trimmed of fat and thinly sliced against the grain
2 teaspoons sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced on the diagonal
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 carrots, julienned
7 ounces snap peas (about 2 1/2 cups), sliced on the diagonal
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

To make the stir-fry sauce, combine the hoisin and teriyaki sauces, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Set aside until needed.

Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat. Turn on your kitchen range vent or open a window. Stir fries can get smoky! Add one tablespoon of the peanut oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Then add half of the sliced pork and stir-fry it for 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned on both sides.  Though it may be tempting to toss in all of the pork at once, resist the urge.  It’s important to do it in batches so that it can sear properly.  Remove the cooked pork to a clean bowl. Add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the pan and repeat with the rest of the pork.

Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of peanut oil, the sesame oil, the scallions, garlic, and ginger to the wok. Stir-fry for one minute, being careful not to let it burn.

Add the carrots and peas to the pan, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender (slightly undercooked). Return the pork to the wok, add the stir-fry sauce, and stir until the sauce thickens, the vegetables are just cooked, and everything is heated through. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over steamed rice.

Sesame Pork Stir Fry 2

Posted by: tinkande | September 28, 2011

Creamed Corn

Creamed Corn

It’s September.  It’s officially fall.  But I just cannot bear to crack open my Thanksgiving issue of Fine Cooking just yet, and I’m ignoring the cans of pumpkin lurking in my pantry.  I’m clinging to the last days of summer for as long as I can. It happens every year. I suddenly realize that we will soon be without local, juicy tomatoes (you know – the ones that actually taste like tomatoes), stone fruit, precious herbs, and fresh sweet corn. I panic, resist moving on, and proceed to buy up every last thing that I can find until they’re no good anymore.

Am I the only one who does this? I know I’ll come around eventually. The weather will cool down, I’ll no longer cringe at the thought of turning the oven on, I’ll once again crave hearty soups and stews, braises, and root vegetables, and I’ll settle in for another winter filled with warm, satisfying meals.

But until then, I’m going to enjoy dishes like this creamed corn as much as possible. We first tried it alongside the ribs I made a few weeks ago, and we were immediately hooked. The unique flavor of the sweet corn combined with lime zest and cayenne pepper makes it very easy to eat more than one serving! I knew that I had to make it again, and fast. And when I made it again, I knew I’d have to make a double batch :-).

Perhaps you were smart and you squirreled away some fresh corn when it was in season. Perhaps you’re lucky and you live where you can still get great corn. Either way, I hope you’ll try this dish out. It’s definitely a keeper.

Creamed Corn
Source: Adapted from the Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook via Shutterbean
Serves 6

6 ears white or yellow corn, shucked (I prefer white corn, but either kind will work)
1 large lime
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
kosher salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro

With a sharp chef’s knife or serrated knife, carefully cut vertically down each ear of corn to slice the kernels off. Put the kernels in a large bowl. Then hold each cob over the bowl and use a spoon or the back of a knife to scrape any remaining corn and the milk from the cob.

Zest and juice the lime.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the corn, 1 tablespoon of lime juice (or more to taste), and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until all of the liquid has evaporated, and the corn is beginning to sizzle, about 15 to 17 minutes.

Stir in the cream, cayenne, and lime zest and cook for 6 to 8 minutes more, or until the cream is absorbed by the corn. Remove the corn from the heat. Taste for seasonings, add more salt if desired, and stir in the cilantro.

Creamed Corn 2

Posted by: tinkande | September 9, 2011

Kansas City Ribs with Maple Barbecue Sauce

Kansas City Ribs
Until now I had never made ribs at home.  I have definitely eaten plenty of them: beef ribs, pork ribs, baby back ribs, short ribs.  I’m a big fan, but I always shied away from tackling them at home because of the time commitment.  I finally decided that this past Labor Day weekend seemed like as good a time as any to give them a try.  I planned ahead and spread the process out over a few days, and it was totally worth the wait.

There are so many different ways to go when it comes to cooking up some racks of pork:  dry rubbing, smoking, mopping with vinegar sauce, low and slow in the oven, low and slow on a grill.  If you’ve ever watched one of those Barbecue Challenge shows on television (don’t lie – you know you’ve been sucked in), then you’re probably familiar with the various methods.  Traditionally, Memphis-style ribs are smoked dry, and if any sauce is used it’s usually served on the side.  Kansas City Ribs are dry-rubbed, smoked, and then coated with sauce during the end of cooking.  I knew I wanted to try a dry rub because, in all of my rib-eating experience, that seems to infuse the most flavor into the meat.  I also wanted a saucy coating on the outside.  I’m not sure what’s proper rib etiquette, but I combined a Memphis dry rub recipe with my favorite barbecue sauce to create what I suppose would be considered a Kansas City-style rib.  Whatever you want to call them, they were exactly what ribs should be: flavorful, saucy, and messy!

Kansas City Ribs 2

I chose pork spare ribs, because they’re meatier and more substantial than baby back ribs.  However, because I chose them, that meant that I could only eat one rib before I was completely stuffed.  I know.  I should be ashamed of myself.  I should have tried harder!  Next time I’ll eat fewer side dishes and really focus on the meat!  But really it was a win win, because these were fabulous leftovers to have around, and it was a great way to celebrate the “end” of summer!

Kansas City Ribs with Maple Barbecue Sauce
Sources: Rub: Adapted from Mouthful, Sauce: Adapted from Backyard Living Magazine, Method: pork, knife, & spoon
Serves 6

6 pounds pork spare ribs

For the Rub:
1 1/2 Tablespoons smoked or sweet paprika
1 Tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chile pepper
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the Barbecue Sauce:
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pure Vermont maple syrup
1/4 molasses
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1-1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon hot sauce

In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then remove from the heat. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the ribs, cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Check the back side of the ribs. If you see a thick white membrane, carefully remove it. Using the tip of a knife, slide it under the membrane. Then, using a paper towel to get a good grip, pull the membrane off and discard. Using your hands, massage the dry rub into the meat until coated all over. Place on the prepared sheet baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 250 ° F. Remove the plastic wrap covering the ribs and cover with aluminum foil instead, sealing the edges closed. Bake ribs in the center of the oven for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Be careful when opening the foil as steam will escape. The meat should be cooked through, white with no pink meat showing. Grab a bone and gently tug; the meat should be tender and start to pull away from the bone. Remove ribs from the pan and discard the pan juices.

Preheat grill to high. Transfer ribs to the grill, and brush both sides with barbecue sauce. Cook, flipping ribs and adding sauce a couple of times, until grill marks appear, about 5 to 7 minutes per side. Alternately, preheat a broiler on high. Place the ribs on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet and brush with barbecue sauce. Broil for 5-7 minutes, or until the sauce begins to caramelize. Flip the ribs over and repeat on the other side. Transfer ribs to a large, clean platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with extra barbecue sauce if desired (and, trust me, you DO desire it)!

Posted by: tinkande | August 18, 2011

San Francisco Food Roundup

Golden Gate Bridge

We just returned from a trip to San Francisco.  What an awesome city!  We had such a great time, and we’re still adjusting back to the real world almost a week later.  I thought it would be fun to give a quick recap of some of our favorite food experiences while we were there, since that’s often the highlight of visiting new places for me – THE FOOD!  One of my oldest, best childhood friends and her girlfriend hosted us for several days.  They took us around to some of the major attractions in and around San Francisco, they kindly reminded us to bring our sweaters before leaving the house, and, most importantly, they gave us a taste of the fabulous food scene there.  It is truly a vacation when you don’t even have to decide where you’re going to dinner each night.  Everything planned for us, and it was an added bonus knowing that the places were pre-approved by locals.

Ferry Building MarketFerry Building Marketplace:  Easily the most beautiful, abundant farmer’s market I’ve ever been to. Fresh, local, and mostly organic fruits and vegetables piled high at each booth.

Chairman BaoChairman Bao’s Bun Truck: These buns are so good that my friends stalks the truck’s location throughout the city so she knows exactly where to go if she’s craving their duck confit.

Ghiradelli Square Ghiradelli Square:  We couldn’t be in the vicinity of Ghiradelli Square and not get a little taste of this delectable chocolate (okay, maybe we had more than a little taste).

SF ChinatownChinatown: Surprisingly, we did not eat anything here. We were still full from our milkshakes!

We did manage to sneak out of the fog for a couple of days to drive down down the coast to Big Sur and then mosey on up to Sonoma to taste a lot bit of California wine.

Big SurEven though it was quite foggy and chilly, the views on the ride to Big Sur were gorgeous, and it took us three hours longer than it should have to get there because we stopped to take so many photos!

Sonoma fieldsSonoma was an adorable town with cute shops and restaurants.  The weather was warm, the countryside was breathtaking, and the wine was flowing.  We ate dinner at The Girl and the Fig, a delightful French Country food restaurant in downtown Sonoma.

Rickhouse BarSpeaking of drinking, once we got back to San Francisco after our whirlwind wine country tour, my friend also brought us to the Rickhouse Bar, a cute place with funky decor (the ceiling was made out of old wine barrels).  I didn’t know I loved bourbon so much until I tried their Kentucky Buck, and I need to get to the liquor store ASAP to stock up on the ingredients so I can make my own at home!

Some other memorable meals worth mentioning (but unfortunately no photos):  Slow Club (mmm, flatbread),  Tartine Bakery (I am still dreaming of their Pan Au Jambon) and The Slanted Door (gorgeous view of the bay, rock star Vietnamese fusion food, and yummy cocktails).

As you can see, we ate very well last week.  We were incredibly spoiled to have a local expert tour guide to show us the ropes, and I hope we can go back again some day to see and taste even more!

Posted by: tinkande | July 17, 2011

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons

I’ve been experimenting with my ice cream maker for the last several months, and the result has been a slowly growing container of egg whites in my fridge. I knew there were several possibilities for using them up: a cheese or chocolate soufflé, macarons (to be tried some day when I get up the nerve), or coconut macaroons. We are big fans of coconut at Chez Me and My Roommate, so I knew these coconut chocolate macaroons would be a great place to start.  After all, the recipe comes from David Lebovitz, the ice cream master whom I’ve been getting recipes from, so I knew it could be trusted.

I made a big batch of these thinking we’d eat a few and toss the rest in the freezer (what a great idea!).  Well, needless to say they never made it to the freezer before they made it to our mouths.  BUT the good news is that I still have plenty more egg whites to make another batch!

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons
Source: Adapted from  Ready for Dessert, David Lebovitz
Yield: 30 cookies

4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon honey
2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut*
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat a large skillet over low to moderate heat on the stove top.  Meanwhile, mix together the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey, coconut and flour in a bowl.  Add the mixture to the skillet and heat, stirring constantly, and scraping the bottom as you stir. When the mixture just begins to scorch at the bottom, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. (At this point, the mixture can be chilled for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months.)

When ready to bake, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and preheat the oven to 350° F.

Form the dough into 1 1/2-inch mounds with your fingers and place, evenly spaced, on the baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until deep golden brown. Cool completely.

To dip the macaroons in chocolate, melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a microwave.) Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or a silicone baking mat. Dip the bottoms of each cookie in the chocolate and set the cookies on the baking sheet. Refrigerate 5-10 minutes, until the chocolate is set, and serve. Store in an air-tight container or freeze to enjoy later.

*Unsweetened coconut is available in most natural-food shops or you can purchase it online.

Coconut Chocolate Macaroons 2

Posted by: tinkande | June 9, 2011

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


VanillaBeanIceCream

I’m a Vermonter. I grew up in the land of maple syrup, green mountains, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Ice cream made with milk from some of the happiest cows roaming some of the most beautiful fields in the country.  This makes what I am about to say that much harder. This vanilla bean ice cream from David Lebovitz is the best I’ve ever tasted in my whole life.  30 years spent enjoying plenty of scoops of Ben & Jerry’s alongside apple pie, atop my favorite chocolate birthday cake, and beneath hot fudge sauce and whipped cream.  Don’t get me wrong.  Ben & Jerry’s still makes a mean ice cream and I’m sure I will enjoy my fair share of it for years to come, but this stuff has won me over for the time being.

The texture is outrageously creamy, and – thanks to adding both a vanilla bean and vanilla extract – it is so deeply vanilla flavored that you will want to savor every last drop.  And it’s just vanilla!  There are no chunks of cookie dough or swirls of caramel involved.  I’d really be in trouble then.  But now that I know this base vanilla flavor was such a success, I can envision endless possibilities for a promising ice cream making (and eating) future.

It’s worth it to splurge for high-quality vanilla beans here.  I think part of the reason why this came out so well (aside from the recipe, of course) is that I found some really fabulous beans.  It’s such a key ingredient and it will turn great vanilla flavor into holy-crap-this-is-amazing vanilla flavor just like that.

Head’s up: You will want to chill your ice cream maker bowl in the freezer for 24 hours before churning your ice cream. You may also want to chill your custard overnight well. Doing both of these things will ensure that you’ll have creamier, smoother ice cream in the end.

VanillaBeanIceCream2

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Source: David Lebovitz via Fine Cooking Magazine
Yield: 1 Quart

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Table salt
5 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengtwise and seeds scraped out (use both the split bean and the seeds)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup of the cream with the milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Warm the cream mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the split vanilla bean and seeds to the cream mixture. Cover the saucepan, remove it from the heat, and let it sit for 1 hour. Taste and let it sit longer if you want a stronger flavor (1 hour was long enough for me).

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller metal bowl (one that holds at least 1 1/2 quarts) in the ice water. Pour the remaining cup of cream into the inner bowl, and then set a fine strainer on top of the inner bowl. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl.

Re-warm the cream and vanilla mixture over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 1-2 minutes. In a steady stream, pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproofcooking spoon or rubber spatula until the custard thickens slightly (it should be thick enough to coat the utensil and hold a line drawn through it with a finger), 4-8 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 175° to 180° F at this point. Don’t let the mixture overheat or boil, or it will curdle. Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream over the ice bath. Press firmly in the strainer with the spoon or spatula to extract as much flavor as possible from the vanilla bean. Cool the custard to below 70° F by stirring it over the ice bath. Stir the vanilla extract into the cooled custard.

Refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 4 hourse (I would recommend overnight). Then freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to an air-tight container and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.

Posted by: tinkande | June 2, 2011

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins

So do you all remember my big strawberry haul from a few weeks ago?  We actually used all of them up before they went bad, which may have actually been a first in the Me and My Roommate kitchen.  We ate many of them fresh, of course.  Some of them made their way onto the top of that fabulous tart.  Some of them got washed, frozen, and stored away for smoothies, and the rest of them went into these muffins.  In fact, some of those muffins are still in our freezer waiting to be enjoyed some day (very) soon.

I think the cream cheese was what drew me to this recipe, because, really, how could a baked good be bad if there’s cream cheese in it?  Correction: how could anything be bad if there’s cream cheese in it?  Also, I know that sour cream makes awesome banana bread, coffee cake, and pancakes, and I had a feeling that cream cheese would have a similar effect on these muffins.

As I suspected, the cream cheese did exactly what it’s supposed to do.  You don’t really taste it but it makes these breakfast goodies perfectly moist and brings just a hint of tanginess that goes well with the sweetness of the berries.  I would definitely consider making these again with blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries as we move through the summer hoarding berries from our local farmer’s market!

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins
Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride
Yield: ~15 muffins

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup chopped fresh strawberries, divided

Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.

In a mixer cream together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix until just combined.

In a bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and the salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix. The batter will be thick, almost like cookie dough. Fold in 1 cup of strawberries.

Spoon batter into a paper lined muffin pan. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full and top with remaining 1/4 cup chopped strawberries (2-3 pieces per muffin.)

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of one muffin comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes.

Posted by: tinkande | May 27, 2011

Grilled Turmeric Ginger Pork Chops

I think it may be safe to say that grilling season has arrived for most of us. We’ve been happily basking in the early days of summer for weeks down here in the South, but our friends and family in New England haven’t been so fortunate. By now, though, their snow has finally melted away and turned the ground into a lovely soggy brown mess. Hey, at least it’s not snow, right?!  It may not quite be summer up there yet, but even those late bloomers deserve to celebrate the upcoming holiday weekend somehow, don’t you think?

These pork chops are a perfect way to kick off the season.  I love burgers and dogs as much as the next gal, but these are an interesting way to spice up your Memorial Day table.  As you can imagine, the 4-hour marinating time is very important and well worth the wait.  The marinade is full of bold and warm spices that really penetrate the pork, meaning more flavor later on.  Just prep it earlier in the day and enjoy a few beers by the lake (or by the fire, depending on where you are) while you wait.  I used boneless pork chops when I made these because it’s what I had on hand, bun bone-in chops will certainly make them even juicier. I served them with some simply grilled sesame zucchini and peanut noodles, which were great, but you could play with other sides as well – perhaps an Asian slaw or potato salad would work.

So even if summer hasn’t quite arrived where you are.  Even if it’s 50 degrees and raining.  Grab your sweater and your raincoat and get your butt out to the grill and cook some of these chops up this weekend. These lively flavors will keep you warm while you wait for the sun to come out.

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

Grilled Turmeric Ginger Pork Chops
Source: Adapted from Blue Kitchen
Serves 4

3 Tablespoons minced ginger
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
3 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
4 thick bone-in pork chops, about 8 ounces each
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine ginger, garlic, oil, soy sauce, sugar, turmeric, five-spice powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a bowl. Pat pork chops dry with paper towels and place in 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Spoon marinade over chops and turn several times to coat them evenly. Cover dish with plastic wrap and marinate chops in the refrigerator for 3-1/2 to 4 hours, or more.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling (with the coals or heat on one side of the grill). Thirty minutes before the grill is ready, remove the pork chops from the refrigerator and allow them to come to room temperature.

Lightly oil the grill and place chops so they are not directly over the coals or heat source. Cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn chops, cover grill and cook on second side for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer reads about 140º F when inserted into the thickest part of the chop (be careful to avoid the bone, which heats up faster and will give you a false reading). Move chops over the coals and cook uncovered for about 2 minutes per side to brown slightly. Watch the grill carefully for flare-ups, and move chops away from any flames as they finish. Test the chops again, and once they have reached at least 145ºF, remove them from the grill.

Transfer chops to platter, tent with foil and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled Sesame Zucchini
Source: Blue Kitchen
Serves 4

2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 1/2 Tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
4 medium-sized zucchini
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toast sesame seeds in a dry nonstick skillet over medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently or shaking the skillet to keep them from burning. Transfer to a small bowl to cool and set aside.

Combine sesame oil and canola oil in a large bowl. Rinse the zucchini, pat dry with a paper towel and slice them on the diagonal into 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick slices. Gently toss zucchini slices with oil mixture to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss some more.

Grill the zucchini. Working quickly with tongs, arrange zucchini slices directly over coals or heat source. Grill for just about 2 minutes per side. Essentially, once you get them all on the grill, start turning the ones you placed there first. And after you’ve turned all of them, you can start transferring them to a serving plate.

Just before serving, sprinkle the zucchini with the toasted sesame seeds and toss lightly.

Posted by: tinkande | May 25, 2011

Shaved Asparagus Salad

We enjoy asparagus in all forms: grilled, roasted, in soup, on a crudité platter with wasabi sour cream dip.  When it’s in season, I can’t get enough of it, and I always welcome new ways to serve it and jazz up our usual routine.  I’ve noticed a lot of recipes featuring shaved raw asparagus popping up all over the food world this spring – pizzas and salads mostly – so I thought it would be fun to try this salad one evening last week.

We both absolutely loved it.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I thought the raw stalks might be too tough or bitter, but my roommate and I were both pleasantly surprised by how tender they were. The salad was nicely peppery – almost like arugula – and just so green tasting, like extra virgin olive oil straight from the press.  And all of those lovely green ribbons looked so pretty as I arranged them on our plates!

I loved the addition of pine nuts.  I always have some in my freezer because, well, I’m Italian and I never know when I’ll have to whip up a quick pesto!  Toasting them is very important, so don’t you dare skip that step or you’ll really be missing out.  The best thing about a salad like this is that you can really make it your own.  For example, we had a ton of feta cheese and olives that needed to be used up, so I tossed some of those on for good measure.  Then I turned to my favorite lemon and honey vinaigrette, which was perfect because it didn’t overpower the star ingredient like a balsamic dressing may have.  You could use any other nuts and/or cheeses that you have on hand and it will surely be fabulous.

Shaved Asparagus Salad
Sources: Inspired by Fine Cooking and Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 cup pine nuts or sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
1 pound asparagus, rinsed
1 to 2 ounces Feta cheese
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice with the honey, olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Whisk well and set aside.

Toast pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350° for 5 to 10 minutes. I do this in my toaster oven. Keep an eye on them, because they will burn easily!

Working with one stalk of asparagus at a time, lay each one on its side on a cutting board. Holding onto the toug, wide end, use a vegetable peeler to shave off thin asparagus ribbons from stalk to tip, peeling away from the tough, end in your hand. Discard the tough ends once you’re done peeling. Gently pile your ribbons on serving plates and sprinkle with pine nuts, crumbled feta cheese, and olives. Dress as desired with vinaigrette, season to taste with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

Posted by: tinkande | May 23, 2011

Lemon Pasta with Chicken & Cauliflower

I love white pizza. Thin crust, of course. Topped with fruity olive oil, minced garlic, and cheese. Occasionally I like to toss on some spinach, artichokes, or broccoli florets just for fun. This pasta with lemon and olive oil (Spaghetti Al Limone) is magical all on its own, much like a pure white pizza. It needed absolutely no embellishments to make it sing with lemony freshness. I would definitely make it again as a stand alone dish, but on this particular evening I decided to dress it up a little bit with a cauliflower recipe that my mother gave me as inspiration, and the results were fantastic.

Do not be fooled by the above photo. It may look like a bowl of plain, undressed spaghetti with some stuff thrown on top, but there is some big time flavor lurking within. I’ve talked before about the magic of using pasta water to make a simple pasta sauce come together. About how the cooking method infuses the sauce – in this case comprised of olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and cream (holy moly the cream!) – into the depths of every single strand of pasta. It will blow your mind.

It’s almost like those Italians knew what they were doing when they started this gig. I’m totally on board, and you should hop on, too.

Spaghetti Al Limone with Chicken & Cauliflower
Sources: Cauliflower: Gourmet (September 1994), Spaghetti: Smitten Kitchen
Serves 2-3

For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
Zest of one lemon
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

For the cauliflower:
2 Tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives (about 6) or other brine-cured black olives
1 Tablespoon red-wine vinegar
3 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
4 cups 1-inch cauliflower florets (about 1 head)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

For the spaghetti:
1 pound spaghetti
Salt
3 lemons
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil , plus additional for serving
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus additional for serving
Ground black pepper
Small handful fresh basil or arugula leaves, shredded (I used arugula and it added an awesome peppery punch!)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for your spaghetti.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the chicken pieces with the lemon zest, 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Marinate for about 15 minutes while you prepare the cauliflower.

In another small small bowl stir together the olives, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. In a large non-stick skillet heat one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Cook the cauliflower, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover the skillet and sauté cauliflower until tender and browned, about 3-5 minutes more. Transfer the cauliflower to a bowl and toss with olive mixture and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Using the same skillet that you cooked the cauliflower in, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Saute the chicken pieces until completely cooked through and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken to the cauliflower mixture.

Add a small handful of salt to your boiling water, and cook spaghetti until al dente. While the spaghetti is cooking, zest the lemons until you have a little shy of a tablespoon of zest. Juice lemons — you’ll have anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 cup lemon juice.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water (AKA “the magic”). Dry out your pot, then boil the olive oil, cream, zest and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water together for two minutes over high heat. Return pasta to pot and stir until coated. Add the cheese and 1/4 cup lemon juice and toss, toss, toss everything together. Add more pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, if you’d like your dish a little looser. Quickly taste a strand of pasta and see if you want to add the remaining lemon juice. Stir in arugula and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the chicken and cauliflower to the spaghetti and serve immediately, drizzling individual portions with a bit of extra olive oil and sprinkling with extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

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