Search This Blog

Showing posts with label asparagus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label asparagus. Show all posts

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bulk Up and Trim Down for the 4th of July: Brown Sugar Ribs and Open Faced Cheese sandwiches

For 4th of July there's always a tug of war in our house. Do we go traditional and make ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled corn on the cob, cole slaw, potato salad and apple pie? Or, should we keep an eye on calories as we watch the fireworks, serving fresh fruit, salads and lighter fare?

In the spirit of liberty and freedom, why not do both? That means brown sugar ribs, deliciously fatty, sweet and salty and open faced melted cheese sandwiches with shrimp for a lighter but no less finger-licking-food entree with  tossed arugula and homemade crouton salad and end of the season sautéed asparagus for greens.

And, because the farmers market is filled with delicious berries and fruit, for dessert have a fresh fruit salad with blue berries, freshly picked strawberries, ripe yellow peaches and dark purple pluots.

The good news, none of these dishes take much time to prepare and they all work beautifully in the backyard or packed in a picnic basket.

Open Faced Cheese Sandwiches with Grilled Shrimp

Serves 4
Ingredients:

2 large slices of white or whole wheat French bread or 4 smaller slices of bread/person
16 medium, raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, washed and pat dried
1/2 pound white cheese (Comte, cheddar or Monterey Jack), thin sliced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mustard (deli, dijon or brown) (optional)
Sesame seeds, roasted (optional)
2 tablespoons scallions, white and yellow parts, thin sliced (optional)

Directions:

Heat a bbq grill. Toss the shrimp in the olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Grill evenly one minute on both sides to get light charring. Remove.

Lightly toast the bread. I prefer thin slices so the cheese and shrimp predominate. Line up the slices and prepare them assembly line style. If you like mustard, spread a thin layer on the bottom of each toast, topped with 2-4 shrimp, depending on the size of the slice.

Lay thin sheets of cheese over the shrimp and for added flavor sprinkle sesame seeds and/or scallions on top.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 F degrees. Lay a sheet of aluminum foil or a silpat sheet on the bottom of a cookie sheet. Place the open-faced sandwiches on top. Place into the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted.

For a beautiful crusty finish, raise the temperature of the oven to broil and cook until the cheese lightly bubbles and browns. Be careful not to burn.

Remove from the oven and serve.  If transporting to a picnic, let cool on a wire rack, pack in an airtight container with sheets of waxed paper between layers. Do not refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.

Variations:

Instead of mustard use remoulade sauce or mayonnaise

Dust the shrimp with cayenne for added heat

After the shrimp are grilled, toss with 1 tablespoon finely chopped mango chutney

Brown Sugar Pork Ribs


The cooked ribs can be kept in the refrigerator covered 2-3 days or frozen in an air-tight freezer bag.

Yield 4 servings

Ingredients

1 3-pound rack, pork ribs, washed, pat dried
2-3 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Olive oil
Black pepper
6 ounces Italian tomato paste
1 small yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped

Directions

Trim excess fat, the membrane, and flap from the ribs. Caprial Pence the owner-chef of Caprial's Bistro in Portland, Oregon shows how to prep the ribs with easy-to-follow photographs. Reserve the flap, trimmed of its membrane, to grill for tacos.

Spread a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter 5” larger than the rack. Dust the meat side of the ribs with the cumin.

Mix together the brown sugar, cayenne and kosher salt. Spread half the dry mix on the plastic wrap. Lay the ribs on top, then spread the remainder of the dry mix to cover. Place a second piece of plastic wrap over the ribs, seal, fold in half and place into a Ziploc or plastic bag. Place in a pan overnight in the refrigerator.

In the morning remove the ribs. The dry mix will have transformed into a slurry. Very alchemical! 

In a sauce pan sauté the onions and garlic with olive oil until lightly browned, season with pepper. Remove the ribs from the plastic bag. Capture the liquid from the plastic bag and transfer to the sauce pan. Add the tomato paste and simmer the sauce on a low flame for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the flavor as necessary.

Line a large baking tray with tin foil. Place a wire rack on top of the baking tray and lay the ribs on the rack. The ribs can either be cooked in a 350 degree oven or on the “cold” side of a covered grill with the heat on high.

Whether on the grill or in the oven, cook the ribs 30 minutes, turn them over, cook another 30 minutes and turn over again. If the ribs are tender, then baste the ribs with the sauce and cook another 30 minutes on each side or until the meat is tender. 

Remove from the oven, cut apart the individual ribs, and serve.




Friday, May 18, 2012

Asparagus Stalks Memorial Day Picnics

Burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw and fresh fruit salads are Memorial Day classics. I look forward to those favorites but to keep them interesting, it's good to add something new and a little unexpected.
When I was growing up, asparagus was one of the fancy vegetables. Carrots, corn and broccoli were the everyday vegetables. Asparagus was saved for special occasions. These days asparagus is affordable, easy-to-prepare and versatile.

Right now asparagus is plentiful in farmers markets. Nutritious, delicious and loaded with healthy minerals, asparagus can be enjoyed raw or cooked, as a salad or a side dish to add zest to a backyard barbecue or afternoon lunch.

Raw Asparagus Salad
Look for small to medium sized stalks that are firm and without blemish or shrivel-marks.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions


Slice in half the long way the larger stalks just before serving. Just before serving, toss the asparagus with the seasoned olive oil.

Variations

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes.

Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flaky goat cheese over the asparagus.

Finely chop 1 garlic clove and lightly sauté until brown, sprinkle over the asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus

Use any size asparagus you like. 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat the grill on a medium flame.

Toss the asparagus in the seasoned olive oil and place on the grill. 

Tongs will help turn the asparagus on the grill. Be careful to brown but not burn the tender stalks. Serve warm.

Variations

Grill with carrots (sliced or whole baby carrots) and serve as a vegetable course or as a side dish.

To add heat, dust with a pinch of cayenne or an additional 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Steamed or Sautéed Asparagus with Caramelized Garlic, Shallots and Almond Slivers
Use any size asparagus you like. I prefer large or medium sized stalks, cut in half the long way so I can caramelize inside the asparagus.

The dish is as delicious whether you steam or sauté the asparagus. The choice is yours.

Blanched, raw slivered almonds are widely available in supermarkets. From my experience, Trader Joe's has good quality, affordable almonds.

To deceive the eye, the shallot and garlic clove should be sliced to resemble the almond slivers. The surprising sweet-savory/soft-crunch contrast adds to the fun of the dish.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound asparagus, washed, white ends trimmed plus an additional 2" cut off and discarded
1/4 cup blanched, raw almond slivers
1 large shallot, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 large garlic clove, washed, peeled, root end removed, thin sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Add the asparagus, cooking in batches if necessary. Don't crowd them in the pan so they cook evenly. Use tongs to turn them frequently to brown and avoid burning.

Remove the cooked stalks to a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pan, cook the shallot, garlic and almonds until lightly browned. Add a touch of olive oil if needed. Season with black pepper.

Either add the cooked asparagus back into the pan with the almond mixture and toss well or plate the asparagus and top the stalks with the almond mixture.

Serve warm.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Passing the Baton from Father to Sons

For my birthday my sons, Frank and Michael, paid me the best compliment: they wrote a remembrance of my cooking. As a dad I can honestly say that being appreciated is a great gift, worth all the blood, sweat and tears of parenting. For Michelle's birthday, they took their remembrance one step further: they cooked her a beautiful, multi-coursed dinner (I was happily included).

The quality of the food was impressive. So too were their organizational skills. Intuitively they knew that they had to divide up the work. In short order, they brought out starters: a selection of Italian cheeses, roasted red peppers, olives, grilled chicken wings, and bacon wrapped asparagus, mushrooms, and shrimp. Finished in the kitchen, they came out carrying platters of rosemary chicken, steak, carne asada, salsa, and a fresh fruit salad. "A Mexi-Italian feast," Michael called it.

As parents it's natural to worry about your kids. Will they achieve their goals, will they be happy, will they be safe? We also wonder if values we cherish will be as important to them. As Michael asked me, reacting to our oohs and aahs, "Aren't you glad you taught us how to cook?" Yes. Without a doubt.

Bacon Wrapped Appetizers

Simple and easy to make, the appetizers can be baked or grilled on the bbq.

12 asparagus, washed, white part trimmed off
12 pieces of bacon, cut into thirds
6 brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, cut in half
12 shrimp, washed, shelled, deveined
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
Toothpicks

Toss the asparagus, mushrooms, and shrimp in a mixing bowl with the olive oil seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Wrap a piece of bacon around each, secured with a toothpick. Grill or bake in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes on each side. When the bacon crisps, the appetizers are ready to serve.

Serves 4. Preparation Time: 20 minutes. Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Vegetable Sauté for a Farmers' Market Lunch

After weeks of cloudy, cold weather, today was all blue skies and 70's-warm. The Santa Monica Farmers' Market had a selection of Southern California winter produce: sugar snap peas, English peas, carrots, broccoli, spinach, turnips, beets, Yukon potatoes, fingerlings, asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, bok choy... Some days a simple vegetable sauté makes the best meal. Today that was our lunch.

Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetable Saute

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

2 large carrots, peeled, cut into large rounds
1 lb sugar snap peas, washed, ends & strings removed
4 Yukon potatoes, washed, cut into chunks (not peeled)
10 brown mushrooms, washed, sliced
2 bunches asparagus, fat ones, washed, bottom end trimmed
4 garlic cloves, peeled, thin sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons sweet butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Sauté the potatoes and gralic in the olive oil on a medium flame until browned. Add the carrots, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, and asparagus. Cook for 5 minutes, turning frequently. Add stock or water and butter, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cover, raise the heat, and reduce the liquid to coat the vegetables.