Batter Licker

May 2, 2012

marinated asparagus and lime-coconut milk hollandaise

Every few months or so, my friends Bill and Rebecca host a “Top Chef” dinner competition that’s actually more in line with “Iron Chef.” A secret ingredient is unveiled, and two teams of friends brainstorm to devise a menu featuring that ingredient in each dish before venturing out to the local grocery store.

Upon return, kitchen chaos ensues. Each team scrambles to grab the kitchen tools they require or, as often is the case, improvising when those tools – or stove burners or even counter space – are already in use.

Most recently, the teams tackled coconut. Although plantain and coconut crusted fish wowed its way to the top of the judges’ list, I walked away obsessed with marinated grilled asparagus (Bill’s genius) dipped in a lime-coconut hollandaise (I made it, but have no idea who on my team came up with the idea). (more…)

May 26, 2011

green garlic pestoed asparagus “noodles” with poached egg

After whipping up a spontaneous batch of Green Garlic Walnut Pesto in less than five minutes, I found myself adding it to everything I could think of. Smearing a knifeful onto bruschetta; mixing a forkful into scrambled eggs; tossing a heaping spoonful into pasta. As I’ve admitted before, I’m a garlic fiend.

Peering into my fridge to find another pestoed possibility, a friendly bouquet of asparagus waved back at me, and I contemplated a twist on the traditional asparagus with poached egg.


Vegetable peeler in hand, I scraped away at the elegant asparagus stalks and reduced them to noodle-like strands. Halfway through, I wondered whether I had gone completely mad and destroyed a perfectly beautiful spring vegetable. But it was a bit too late to turn back. (more…)

April 8, 2011

asparagus, radish and smoked trout salad with lemon, dijon and balsamic vinaigrette

I remember picking radishes out of my mother’s garden as a child. And I’m almost certain that I did not clean them with as much diligence (and an entire bottle of hand soap) as the first baby carrots I ever pulled out of the ground. Rather, I brushed off the dirt with my shirt, twisted off the ugly root, and dove right in. Crunchy and spicy, I enjoyed the radish in its freshest and rawest state without any adornments. But unfortunately, I never thought to approach asparagus in the same way.

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Fresh asparagus, as I appreciate it now, signals the decline of thick greens and hearty root vegetables, and ushers in the lighter, more uplifting assortment that spring has to offer. However, in my childhood memories, I recall asparagus as a rather sad, drooping and stringy set of spears that were often overcooked, as that is the easiest and most frequent method of preparing a veggie that barely needs any time to cook. Except for eating it raw. (more…)

March 27, 2010

creamy pesto sauce with sautéed asparagus and pasta

Way back in college, I was introduced to creamy pesto sauce, and promptly adopted it as my in-a-pinch go-to pasta sauce. Creamy pesto sauce had the fresh zing of pesto with the comforting creaminess of an Alfredo sauce, and could transform a simple, inexpensive penne and broccoli dish into something magical.

Except that, at $3+ per packet at Safeway (before I realized the amazing $1.61 per packet offered by Amazon), the price was less than magic. And, as a lowly sauce-in-a-packet, it contained quite a few of those mysterious -ate ingredients and was not, actually, very fresh at all. In other words, it was a perfect candidate for the 2010 Creamy Pesto Makeover Edition.

Pesto is such a fresh and easy-to-make sauce – just pop the ingredients in a food processor, blend until smooth, and Tah-Dah! Fresh pesto. Whip up a quick bechamel or other cream sauce, add a little of that (more or less, to your preference) to the pesto, and Tah-Dah Numero Dos! Fresh creamy pesto sauce. (more…)

March 7, 2010

The Olive Press cooking competition: 4 extra virgin olive oils, 4 extra vivacious courses

It’s finally that time. Time for me to unveil the results of a few excited weeks of learning about olive oils of various intensity and brainstorming fun ways to use them, all while recovering from a nasty accident involving an immersion blender and an index finger (but I won’t go into that, except to say that I eventually became remarkably adept at nine-fingered typing, shampooing, and cooking). So when The Olive Press invited me to partake in their cooking competition (please vote HERE), I was incredibly thrilled about the opportunity to experiment with the Sonoma, California-based company’s award-winning oils. The Olive Press sent me four different bottles of their extra virgin olive oils – Arbequina, Mission, Italian Blend, and Blood Orange – and challenged me to create a four-course meal using one of the oils in each course. Drum roll please …

Appetizer: Roasted Tomato and Garlic, Kalamata Olive, and Feta Bruschetta, featuring the robust Italian Blend olive oil.

Any time there’s an excuse to do so, I love coming up with different versions of bruschetta. Yes, it’s a relatively simple appetizer, featuring just a handful of complementary, fresh ingredients that can easily be adapted to use whatever you have on hand. But when done right, each bite packs so much flavor and texture. And crunch. (There’s something infinitely more satisfying (to me) when a dish comes with a little bit of crunch, probably because I consistently deprive myself of those pre-made, boxed-up salty snacks that others inconsiderately munch on during my Commercial Contract Writing class.)

For this version of bruschetta, I went a Mediterranean route because the intense flavors of the roasted tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta stood up to and were well-complemented by the incredibly robust (dare I say spicy?) Italian Blend olive oil.

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Main Course: Walnut-Crusted Halibut with Roasted Red Pepper Harissa, featuring Blood Orange olive oil.

This dish is near perfection. The halibut is enhanced but not overpowered by the relatively mild Blood Orange olive oil. Both the walnuts and the panko give the fish’s crust a nice crunchy texture, and the walnuts add a rich, buttery flavor while still keeping the dish healthy. (more…)

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