Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dear Asparagus, I Heart You

My significant other and I have been staying at his parents while some stuff is being done at our apartment. His dad does a lot of (excellent) cooking, so I haven't been doing much myself, besides a few odds and ends. I am guilty though of being a midnight snacker, and sometimes the things I want aren't really snack like. Asparagus would be one of those things.

I want to eat asparagus all the time these days. It was only recently that I decided I didn't hate this weird green vegetable. Now, I feel like I need to make up for lost time and consume all the asparagus I was missing out on the last 24 years or so. However, there are only two cooking methods I consider acceptable for cooking asparagus:

1. Grilling
2. Roasting/Broiling

The first is my preferred method. Grilled asparagus just has a taste and texture so good, it makes you want to punch other vegetables in their hyperbolic faces. It gets tender, and yet stays crisp at the same time. The heads get all toasty and delicious and crunchy...and now I want some asparagus! Damnit. However, I'd like to note that any cooking method that stands to turn the asparagus all soft and mushy is unacceptable. So boiling is out. So is using canned asparagus. Steaming or pan frying might be okay, if done right. Still, nothing beats the taste of the grill.

This is how I prepare my asparagus prior to grilling:

Wash the asparagus, and chop off any extra bits at the bottom of the stalks. If it's not green, you probably don't want it. After the asparagus is nice and clean, toss it with some olive oil and kosher sea salt, a sprinkle of garlic powder, and some fresh grated Parmesan cheese. Let it sit and absorb all the goodness for about 15-20 minutes before throwing it on the grill or in the oven. Cooking times will vary based on the heat of your grill or oven and the size of the asparagus, but rule of thumb I'd say no more than 10 minutes at high heat. Allow the asparagus to cool (or don't, if you're impatient like me), sprinkle a little more of that fresh Parm on it, and then have a mouthgasm.

For all you asparagus haters...just trust me on this one. I HATED asparagus, until I tried it grilled. Give it a shot. It's so worth the funny smelling pee!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemon Cupcakes. Duh.

It's been over a month since I made a post here. I got wrapped up in the office politics of a pretty shitty job that I'm somewhat relieved not to be working anymore. At any rate, it was sucking my soul, and as we all know, soul is essential to cooking, so most nights when I got home from work were either spent lamenting over my Burger King, or boiling some yellow rice and calling it a day.

But I'm back with a vengeance you could say, and today I bring you lemon cupcakes with fresh raspberry and a lemon-raspberry glaze.

(Look at us! We're so fresh and tasty! Don't be jealous!)

It is a fact of life that lemon + raspberry=win. When cake is involved, that equation actually equals awesomesauce.

Keep in mind, this is the lazy cook's version. If you went ahead and did everything from scratch...well, that would take a long time. Sometimes, I have a need for almost instant gratification with my baked goods. Last night, watching Food Network at 3am was one of those times.

Here's what you need:
-1 box lemon cake mix, plus whatever ingredients the mix calls for (in my case, it was 3 eggs, 1/3 cup oil, and 1 and 1/3 cups water)
-1 container lemon frosting
-1 carton of fresh raspberries
-1 jar raspberry jam or jelly
-1 6oz cup raspberry yogurt

Grease two cupcake pans and preheat your oven to 350*. Adjust temp as needed for higher altitudes.

Next, make your cake! I followed the directions on the box, but instead of using 1 and 1/3 cups water, I used a cup of raspberry yogurt and 1/3 cups water. Fill each little cup in the cake pan halfway with the mix. At this point, you'll eat about half the carton of raspberries. Then, you'll put a raspberry in the middle of each little cup of cake mix. During the baking process, the cake will rise and the raspberry will be trapped in the middle, like a hidden treasure of raspberry goodness. Pop those bad boys in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.

While the precious is in the oven, stick your tub of frosting in a bowl of hot water for 3 minutes. Pour the semi-liquid frosting into a bowl. Mix 1/2-2/3 cup of the raspberry jam into the frosting. It's going to be runny, so more like glaze than frosting. Once your cakes are out of the oven, and while still warm, generously spread the glaze on top. Allow to cool (or don't), consume and enjoy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Crack Nuts

Aptly named by my boyfriend's dad, you can't eat just one. These little guys make a nice, sweet snack, or a great topping for ice cream, salads, etc... You can use whatever nuts you want, really, but I recommend walnuts, pecans, almonds, or a mixture of the three. Walnuts are usually my go to choice, but only because pecans are more expensive. ;-)

What you need:
*brown sugar
*vanilla extract (imitation will do if that's all you have)

To be honest, I'm not one to be strict about measuring ingredients, and these always turn out delicious. So you know, use your discretion based on the ingredients you have available to you.

Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Not quite a Paula Dean amount of butter, but you want there to be enough to entirely and thickly coat the bottom of your frying pan. Carefully, add your vanilla-just a splash will do, as this stuff is generally strong, and the addition of alcoholic substances to hot pans can end badly if the heat is too high (read: you might catch something on fire). Next, add your nuts. Shake them around in the pan until they're completed coated with the vanilla butter mixture. Next, add a nice, heaping handful (Or cup. Whatever) of brown sugar (regular sugar will work too). Stir well, and remove from heat.

Spread your mock caramely nut mixture over a sheet of tin foil. Sprinkle liberally with salt, and just a dash of cinnamon, or if you have it, Penzey's Baking or Pumpkin Pie spice. It's strongly recommended you allow them to cool before consuming...unless you like hot nuts in your mouth (I know it sounds funny, but 2nd degree burns on your tongue are not as amusing as you'd think). Nuts should be toasty and candy like, and ultimately delicious.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Domestic Goddess Guacamole

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Actually, according to the recipe, this stuff is called Caribbean guacamole. However, after first tasting it, my boyfriend declared me a domestic goddess, so I figure I'll roll with it.

I can't take credit for scheming up this delectable concoction. I found the recipe on avocado.org, but rather than follow the directions, I just threw it together using the ingredients in the amounts I had. I cannot lie-when it was completed, it looked somewhat like vomit. I sliced some limes and stuck them on top to keep it fresh, stuck it in the fridge, and waited for my boyfriend to come home and guinea pig it for me, since I was little afraid. His reaction was favorable, so I had some myself, and it tastes like a tropical summer. Do not let looks fool you, as this is way more delicious that it appears. Here's what you'll need:

Domestic Goddess Caribbean Guacamole
*2-4 limes (2 if eating immediately, more if planning to store or transport)
*2-4 large, ripe Hass avocados, or whichever avocados you have handy
*1-2 fresh mangos (or 1-2 cups of canned)
*1 can of diced pineapple (fresh is better if you have it on hand)
*fresh cracked coconut (or 1/2 cup unsweetened flake coconut, if you're not that determined)
*red pepper flake

Generally, fresh will taste better, but if you're not inclined to do the extra work involved with extracting fresh coconut or mango, the pre-packaged stuff will get the job done. However, if you want to go fresh but have never worked with these ingredients before, continue reading (it's like a choose your own adventure!):

Extracting Pineapple:
Just kidding. I've never done it, so you're on your own. I'd imagine a good start involves a large, sharp knife, though.

Extracting Coconut:
There are several ways you can do this. The prim and proper way usually involves drilling or nailing into the three holes on the shell, and letting the water drip out into a glass, then cracking the shell with a hammer or cleaver. I have enjoyed enetertaining moments as a child, watching my mother hammer away at a coocnut while cursing, but if you're not too concerned with keeping the water or you're worried you'll nail yourself, there are easier ways.

You can bake the coconut for 10-15 minutes in a 450* oven. You'll still need to drill those holes though, to let the water out ahead of time, but the heat will cause the coconut to crack.

The third method, which is my preferred method, requires only a few plastic grocery bags and some pent up rage. Double or triple bag the coconut, take it outside, and fling it as hard as you can against the pavement. Do this several times. The water will get everywhere, but that's why this is an outdoors activity. The coconut should be in small, easy to manage pieces. Use a cheese grater to grate up about a half cup or so of fresh coconut flakes.

Extracting Mango:
Mangos are an enigmatic fruit. They're kind of big, but they contain deceptively little meat once you get rid of the unedible bits. First things first, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the thick outer skin. Stand the mango upright (if you have them, those little things you jab into corn on the cob help to use as a handle), and slice off the 'cheeks'. If you hit something tough and fibrous, that's the core, which is not useable, so slice around it. It's kind of like cutting an apple, but you'll cut a little further out since the mango has a much larger core. Cube the remaining fruit.

Extracting Avocado:
Avocados are pretty easy to peel. Take a knife, and slice from the top of the avocado, in an even line, all the way around the fruit. It should separate into two halves,at which point you can use a spoon to remove the large pit. The skin should peel away in one piece, you just might have to get your finger nails in there to get it away from the fruit and started. Discard the skin, slice the avocado, then cube.

Combine all your fresh ingredients into one bowl. Slice the limes in half, and squeeze the juice on top. Add a liberal shake each of salt and red pepper flake. Mix well, and enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Not Just Another Cooking Blog (Okay Maybe It is)

The funny (read: terrible) thing about my post baccalaureate education, is that it was determined all too fast, on little more than a whim. I applied to culinary school and grad school at the same time. Grad school was cheaper, so that's where I went. Aside from the fact that there's 2 years and $30,000 or so I'll never get back, I've always kind of wondered what would have happened if I'd gone the culinary route. My neighbors seem convinced I would have developed a nasty coke habit, but I'm not so sure. Most of the people in my immediate circle of friends can't cook for shit, so I'm always the one experimenting in the kitchen. Some of these experiments are successes, and others are failures. This blog will be the documentation of those culinary adventures.

Bon Appetit!