Lemonized Asparagus Hummus

I used to think asparagus was disgusting. Slimy and stinky, usually served with cheez sauce (okay, probably real cheese but it looked a lot like cheez-whiz)- that was the asparagus of my childhood. My niece used to eat it straight from the can which might be the only thing more disgusting than covered in bright yellow sauce after being boiled to death.

Sometime in the last 5 or so years, I changed my tune. I believe this reversal occurred in a restaurant where I was served some asparagus dish, roasted perhaps, that I chose to eat because I was that hungry. A fortuitous hunger as it turned out to be unlike any previous exposure- it was tasty! Not slimy! And definitely not covered with cheesy sauce.

I do, however, carry the gene that causes an odor to be found after consuming asparagus. In an odd sort of way, I am intrigued by the phenomenon because it happens within a short time of eating, far quicker than a full digestion would take. Fortunately my husband doesn’t seem particularly sensitive to it because he’s a stinky boy as it is (kiss kiss honey, love you!!!). On a marginally related note, I am very glad I don’t have the genetic abnormality that makes cilantro taste like soap. Because if I didn’t cook with and eat cilantro, I am not sure Chris would have married me!

At the height of spring asparagus season, we’ve been eating a lot of roasted spears and occasionally steamed ones. I especially like to toss barely steamed asparagus tips with top-notch Parmesan cheese, fresh cracked pepper, good extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Last week, I saw this recipe on a food blog I rather enjoy and decided to make it at my first opportunity. Then Chris came home with the biggest bunch of asparagus I’ve ever seen- a good 8 inch diameter bundle.

Despite the overflow of asparagus, I still halved the recipe because Chris, while liking asparagus, claims to strongly dislike hummus. I do not entirely believe him but nonetheless, even half a recipe makes a whole lotta hummus.

The recipe, by way of Tammy @ Food on the Food* is actually found here at Yankee Magazine along with a recipe for pita chips to accompany.

Lemonized Asparagus Hummus

What I used

1 1/2 cup fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 7 1/2 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well (small cans found at Meijer!)
1 medium clove garlic
1 Tbsp. tahini, sesame paste
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half-lemon plus a bit more
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil + 1 Tbsp
salt & pepper

What I did

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Toss asparagus with 1 Tbsp olive oil and roast 15 minutes. Some spots of caramelization shoudl be apparent but the spears are still bright green.

3. Combine asparagus (set aside a number of tips for prettying up the bowl if you want to take a picture), chickpeas, tahini, 1/2 lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, a pinch of salt and couple grinds of pepper in a food processor**, puree until fairly smooth

4. Add olive oil, preferably slowly while food processor is running but that’s not required.

5. Taste and adjust salt/pepper and lemon zest to taste.

For best results, refrigerate one hour or longer to allow flavors to meld. To serve all pretty, top with a few asparagus tips and any remaining lemon zest. Eat with pita, veggies or um, you might just try a fingerful straight up. I don’t recommend this if you are sharing or presenting this as a party dip. Also, spread on a flatbread, combine with fresh tomatoes and cukes, maybe some falafel and call it lunch.


*I do like the Food on the Food blog but I struggle with feeling of envy when I read about the CSA and the Fish CSA and the whole living on the Eastern Seaboard thing. Its the kind of trigger that makes me nostalgic for our honeymoon in Vermont and sometimes leads me to check off states like Massachusetts, Maine and the like when I look at job postings (and I’m not even looking for a new job here!)

**I initially tried this in our blender. A very nice blender it is but not suited to blending this thick, relatively dry mixture. We have one of those $20 single speed food choppers rather than a nice fo-pro but it did the job, albeit at a slowish rate.

Mushroom Sauce (gravy?) for ravioli

Quick dinner tonight, once I got it going. We bought a 2-pack of a chicken & 4 cheese ravioli at Sam’s Club a week or so ago. The first batch, I just made with a jarred tomato sauce, slightly improved upon with herbs and balsamic vinegar.

Both Chris and I agreed that this was not quite the right topper for this ravioli that is primarily chicken. We also agreed that something more brothy or even gravy like would be better. There was even talk of treating the raviolis like pierogies and topping them with carmelized onions and mushrooms. That takes a long time and Thursday night is homework night so I did this, instead:

Ingredients

1/2 onion, finely diced
8 oz mini bella mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
2 tbsp white wine
1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter (may be optional)
1/2 tsp olive oil
1-2 tablespoon flour
thyme
rosemary
1 garlic clove, crushed

Directions

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and herbs, stirring 20-30 seconds until fragrant. Add onion and season with a pinch of salt.

2. After onions have cooked down, stir in mushrooms and another pinch of salt (helps release the water). Cook the mushrooms until the pan is nearly dry. Add wine.

3. Add broth and bring to a boil then reduce to medium temperature. Allow to cook down a bit then add red bell pepper.

4. Stir in butter and flour to thicken slightly. Or thicken more or less by varying the amount of butter and/or flour.

Serve hot and garnish with a little cheese of your choice and fresh parsley (I used a bit of cheese leftover from our weekend trip to Petoskey: it had lavender and espresso beans washed over the rind).

Done! I started the onions then put the raviolis in their boiling water when I reached step 3 above.

Chicken Satay

I have been looking forward to making this since it was first posted at Runs with Spatula on the 15th. Trying to figure out the right night to have time to set the marinade up and let it do its job meant I had to put it off until today.  Totally worth the wait.

Daring Cooks: Pork Chicken Satay

Marinade

  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tablespoon ginger root, grated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Protein/meat

1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

In a food processor or blender, dump in everything except the chicken and blend until smooth.
Cover chicken with marinade. You can place the pork into a bowl, cover/seal and chill, or place the whole lot of it into a ziplock bag, seal and chill.  If using wooden or bamboo skewers, soak your skewers in warm water for at least 20 minutes before preparing skewers.

Gently and slowly slide meat strips onto skewers. Discard leftover marinade.

Broil or grill a 3 – 4 minutes per side on a hot grill or grill pan or until the edges just start to char. Flip and cook another 3 – 4 minutes.

Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic-chili paste, or to taste (highly recommend at least this much)

Mix the brown sugar, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes and garlic-chili paste in a small bowl. Add soy sauce and lemon, mix well.  Over low heat, combine coconut milk, peanut butter and soy-lemon seasoning mix. Mix well, stir often.  All you’re doing is melting the peanut butter, so make your peanut sauce after you’ve made everything else in your meal, or make ahead of time and reheat.  Adjust seasoning as needed at this point.

I used chicken instead of the pork that Amy originally used. When I think satay, I think chicken. Plus, we had pork for dinner last night.

Chris’s verdict: home run, make this again*

Because I am incredibly lazy and because during the marinating time, I ran to the pharmacy which took too long and I got home after the MSU game started, I skipped skewering and just laid my strips out on to the foil for going under the broiler.

My other major change: I added more peanut butter after tasting. We use Simply Jif, a low salt/low sugar peanut butter. After melting, the sauce felt too thin and also not very peanutty. I think this might be due to the reduced salt along with the competition from the other strong flavors.

Served with shiitake mushrooms and bell pepper stir-fry (soy sauce, sesame oil and a dash of fish sauce) and rice seasoned with cardamom.


I imagine this sauce would go well with any protein. The vegetarians will just want to skip the fish sauce. I can’t offer any substitutes but I can say to not add more soy sauce. You may need to adjust your salt as fish sauce has a fair amount. I use low sodium soy sauce and didn’t any salt to any part of the dish.


*Lucky for Chris
, I had a whole extra chicken breast that I tossed in the marinade after dinner. He’ll have a nice treat tomorrow.

Thanksgiving 2009

A small gathering this year, just 4 people, Chris, my parents and I.

Not that I would let that stop me from making too much food. I had the usual suspects: turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. Then, a few things to try. In consideration of my vegetarian mom, I make the stuffing with vegetable broth. This year I am also adding a wild rice dish, also vegetarian. I did not plan a strictly vegetable dish. I have a in-law family recipe for green beans as a back-up but I’m hoping no one misses it. I was never a fan of the green bean casserole anyhow. I also wanted to make an apple based dessert after buying a bag of Michigan Empire apples at Whole Foods.

For pre-dinner noshing, we had onion dip (from 101 cookbooks, a personal favorite of mine and always a hit at parties) and chips with cheese, crackers and a fruit platter.

Dinner is:

Smashed Red Skin Potatoes:  Made these last year too, but subbed thyme for rosemary this year. Still think they are awesome on every level. Creamy, good on their own but also tasty with gravy. The cream cheese adds a tangy level of flavor you won’t get using milk.

I am still interested in making a whole mean of mashed potato varieties some time, just not for a holiday dinner.

Wild Rice-Corn Casserole: From Pioneer Woman, using of  course, frozen corn because you can’t find fresh sweet corn in Michigan in late-November. Comments on PW’s site indicate this is either a love it or hate it dish. It was a love it dish for us. I added a little shredded cheese and onion crisps for the last 10 minutes of cooking (reasons listed below). My dad, the usually quiet type, actually commented on my Facebook about this dish!

Stuffing/Dressing: No recipe really. I used some stuffing cubes with seasoning, adding celery and onions, chopped apples, and vegetable broth, generally following the guidelines on the bag of cubes. Baked in the oven, separate from the bird, again in consideration of my mom’s needs. Chris doesn’t really like it this way and has been correcting my use of the word “stuffing” as it was not actually stuffed in the bird. Whatever.

Garlic-Rosemary Roasted Turkey: I brined the turkey overnight, just using salt, sugar and a handful of thyme plus a bit of rosemary. The next day, the turkey is thoroughly rinsed and allowed to air dry slightly. Then, using the cell phone photo of a recipe in Cooking Light magazine (as seen at the dentist on Wednesday but later located on the internet),  I created a butter-garlic-rosemary rub to put under the skin on the breasts then over the skin everywhere.

Gravy:  No picture, no recipe. After taking the turkey out of the oven, I removed it to a serving dish and covered it in foil to rest. The drippings from the pan were poured off and I set the pan over two burners set to medium. Using a wooden spatula, I scraped up the bits and goodies, then added a few tablespoons of flour to make a paste. I then added 2 cups of chicken broth before mixing in the drippings which had been skimmed of most of the fat. Cook over medium-low until a little less thick than you want at the table. Because of that garlic paste on the bird, this gravy was uber-garlicky. And delicious.

**Dandelion Greens: Even though I didn’t plan any green vegetable dish, my mom mentioned having a bag of dandelion greens and suggested I could do something with them. I wasn’t sure if Chris would like them as they can be quite bitter but he does like arugula, a lot. I really did not want to do something like creamed spinach or otherwise add a lot of cheese/cream/dairy to the greens. I decided to just saute them in garlic and olive oil with some lemon juice added at the end. I also added a bit of sugar to counter the bitter. I should have added a lot of sugar. Even then, though, I don’t think this dish was going to work. The leaves were fully wilted but the stems were still very crunchy, even after trimming a fair amount of stalk off. Either this batch was just far too bitter for anyone in the family to eat or every recipe on the internet is only for people who really like bitter greens because all the sauteed versions I found recommend cooking for no more than 10 minutes; seemingly nothing was going to make it less bitter except perhaps more sugar. Which defeats the purpose, in my mind.

Apple-Cranberry Crumble: No picture, sorry. Actually, my parents didn’t stay to eat dessert so Chris and I tried this later on. It was decent, the crumble topping was especially tasty- of course I’d expect that of something made with brown sugar and butter! I should have peeled the apples. The recipe is Martha Stewart but I found it by way of the blog Lisa is Cooking. As Lisa did, I skipped peeling the apples but I think I would have been happier if I had although it could just be that the Empire apples were not the best choice even though they are recommended for baking.  Maybe a little more sugar? I did add a few splashes of our apple brandy from Uncle John’s Cider Mill & Fruit Winery in St. Johns. I had planned to serve this with ginger ice cream but didn’t. I guess I’ll just have to eat that some other way!


Now that you know how the meal came out, let’s talk about how it was made.

The night before, I made the carmelized onions for the onion dip and cooked up the wild rice too. And of course, brined the turkey.

When my parents arrived Thursday morning, following the Lansing Turkey Trot, I made up the dip and pulled the turkey out of the refrigerator. We had our snacks and generally, I goofed around. I planned to have dinner about 5:30-6pm so there was plenty of time.

Eventually, I prepped the turkey (it sits out for 1 hour with the rub on it) and started assembling my stuffing, corn/wild rice dish and scrubbing potatoes.

The turkey is roasted at 500° for 30 minutes then the temperature turned down to 250° and cooked until thermometer in the thigh reads 165°. My turkey, round about 11 lbs was the same size as the recipe version so this should have equaled 2 hours.

During the initial 30 minute high-heat roast, you can really hear the fat cracklin in the oven. And, upon opening the oven to insert the thermometer for the 2nd phase, I set off our smoke detectors briefly.  Oops.  Our oven, a gas version, doesn’t actually have a reading for 250° on the dial. It goes from “warm” to 260° to 300°. Knowing that it runs a little cold anyway, I set it just below the 300° mark.

After about 45 minutes, I put the stuffing/dressing and the wild rice dish in the oven too. Normally, these only need 30-45 minutes but with the lower temperature for the slow-roasted bird, I decided this would work. The temperature on the bird was still rising so I didn’t pay much attention when I put these dishes in alongside.

Another 30 minutes later (so 1 hr 15 min down, 45 to go), I realize that A) the temp isn’t going up anymore and B) I don’t hear anything “cooking” in the oven. I open it up and immediately notice that abscence of heat. I fiddled with the control and couldn’t make the flame come up, even cranking it to broil. I realize this means the pilot has gone out- randomly since we never shut the oven off, at all. According to the directions on the oven, the door, racks and bottom of the oven have to be removed to access and light the pilot. Fortunately, the oven door comes off easily but we still had to take all the pans out. As I did so, it became apparent that the oven had been off for awhile as I could remove everything, including the roasting pan which had been in for 30 minutes at 500° degrees, with my bare hands.

After removing everything, finding a lighter and getting it lit, we started reassembly, only to have it go out again. It took four or 5 tries for it to stay lit. After you light the gas, you have to hold the knob down for 60 seconds and they should say “60 seconds minimum.” Of course, you can’t turn the oven to on yet because otherwise you’ll scorch a finger or two during reassembly.

All told, this process took 30 minutes and overall delayed dinner by about two hours. I still made gravy though- must have my gravy for my turkey. And potatoes. And stuffing.

Two notes:

**Notice the little gizmo next to the dandelion greens? Its our Vinturi wine aerator and it rocks! One of many wedding gifts used during this meal including new wine glasses and the platter upon which the turkey is sitting.

**The turkey recipe from Cooking Light advises you to remove the skin after the formal presentation. HA HA HA. Do it if you want but we did not want.

Mushroom-Sage Sauce & Squash Risotto

We are in the midst of moving right now (literally, thinks to scheduled posting). Due to my work schedule, size of some of our furniture and general laziness, we hire movers from Two Men and a Truck and they are doing the heavy lifting this afternoon. This will be my 4th move with them since March 2007 and the fifth between Chris and I- how about a volume discount.

For me, using Two Men became a necessity after moving myself (with my parents & aunt’s help) in to a 2nd floor apartment in Charlotte: the building was 120 years old and the 2nd floor was 27 steps up. And it poured rain that day- there might have even been a tornado that night. I immediately started saving money aside for my next move so I could hire movers and I did just that a short 6 months later thanks to my hard-partying, drug-dealing upstairs neighbor. Meeting Chris and moving in with him was a wonderful thing but it also meant that most of my stuff went to storage while we finished out his lease in a 1 bedroom apartment. Our current place, while 2 bed/2 bath was still not big enough for both our belongings and things like my washer/dryer were not needed. Finally, after the dog came to live with us in July, it became glaringly obvious that we needed more room and a place with space to store things rather than pay the storage company another 100 bucks a month.

Our new house, while still a rental, is awesome. Its not huge but we have 3 bedrooms: one for us, one for guests and one as an office/craft room (for me, Chris is not a scrapbooker). A bigger kitchen, a great view of the 10 acres inhabited by deer, wild turkey and something I heard running around in the trees last night. Oh yeah, and a garden tub in the master bath plus, drumroll please: a gas stove!!!

To save time (and money) with the movers, we have been taking boxes of things over to the house, a bit at a time, since October 1. As of Thursday morning, we had the pots and pans, some utensils and most of the dishware in the house. But other than pantry foods, we hadn’t moved or bought any edibles. With Chris’s brother in town, eating out was an opportunity/excuse to eat out but that was getting expensive. So, last night, Chris bought some chicken, squash and beans before calling me on my drive home from work to ask if I “wanted” to come to the house and cook dinner. As soon as he mentioned squash, I knew he wanted the risotto so I sent him out for broth while I stopped at the apartment to load another box with things like butter, olive oil and the like. While at the apartment, I did a quick search for some kind of sauce for the chicken as I didn’t have time to marinate nor did I feel like doing the whole breadcrumbs thing.

Over at Elise’s blog, I found a recipe for Mushroom Sage Sauce. Simply Recipes is one of my go-to websites although I often end up varying from her original based on what’s on hand. While you are there, check out the pictures of her parents’ new kitchen. I’m definitely saving those links for some future reference (I hope).

As per usual, I varied but did use the main elements from this Mushroom Sage sauce recipe. I probably would have been slightly more faithful except I didn’t write anything down and did not have access to the recipe once I got to the house.

Original Ingredients
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
8-10 ounces mushrooms, cremini or shitake, thickly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream (light cream may curdle, so use heavy cream)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pieces pounded to an even 1/4 inch to 1/3 inch thickness
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

I only had 1/2 package of mushrooms and no parsley. I did have creme fraiche but didn’t use it here because I forgot. With less mushrooms, I used less sage, about 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped. To add liquid, I used some of the extra broth from the risotto and then swirled in one tablespoon butter at the end.

In Elise’s version, she cooked the mushroom sauce separate from the chicken. Since I already had a burner going to simmer the broth and another for the risotto, I opted to cook the chicken first, hold it warm in the oven and prepare the sauce using any pan drippings/fond to add more flavor.

Basics:

1. Season chicken with salt, pepper and seasonings of your choice. While in Vermont, we bought some Maple Pepper with Garlic so I used that (just like it sounds, pepper with maple sugar and garlic).

2. Heat pan over medium-high heat with olive oil. Saute chicken breasts until light golden, about 5 minutes per side.

3. Remove from pan, cover to keep warm.

4. Add chopped shallots and garlic to pan, plus a little more oil if the pan is a bit dry. Cook about 1 minute then add mushrooms. Allow mushrooms to soften and release their juices. Add 1/2 cup wine to pan to deglaze.

5. Add about 1 cup broth to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer until slightly reduced. Just before serving add 1 tablespoon butter to thicken sauce.

 


 

To accompany the chicken with mushroom sauce, I made the squash risotto which Chris loves so much. This time, I used some butternut squash from the freezer. Chris had bought me a squash- the biggest butternut squash I’ve ever seen. Peeling and chopping that sucker is going to take some time so I was quite happy to have my freezer stash for last night!!

For this version, I used Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc which was on sale at Horrocks and received 90 points from Wine Spectator. Seasonings were sage, thyme and a little cayenne (to counter the sweet squash). I also used about 1/3 cup of Creme Fraiche instead of butter at the end. For cheese, I had picked up of chunk of their special of the week: a really nutty, easily grateable variety from D&W in Williamston last weekend. Fresh sage at the end really added to the “oomph” factor and made the whole house smell delicious!

Both boys went back for seconds so its still a hit.