Spring is in the air which means your local grocers will have their produce aisles stocked with plenty of colorful seasonal veggies. One of the most accessible vegetables during this time of the year is asparagus. This green, stalk-like vegetable (that’s infamous for making your pee smell funny) is fantastic because it’s so very versatile — you can boil, blanch, broil, grill, steam, saute, and even roast it.
But lately, I had become bored with asparagus because I’ve used it in almost every way possible, and in just about everything. (Except in my cereal. That would be gross.) Luckily, while perusing a recent issue of Food and Wine magazine, I stumbled upon a recipe that used asparagus as a base for pesto. Huzzah! I had to try it, but of course, put my own spin on it as well.
The original version is very similar to traditional Italian pesto, containing basil, olive oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I decided to use mint in place of basil as it adds a cooling note to the dish. My adaptation of the pesto will also put a spring in your step as it is lighter in calories than most other recipes. I didn’t use much oil in it (water is great for thinning it out without adding calories) and I omitted the Parmesan cheese that’s traditionally used in most pestos — therefore it’s also vegan. But I promise this recipe doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavor (but it’ll still probably make your pee smell funny).
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Incredibly easy recipes for all you beer (and carb) lovers.
Confession: I love craft beer and I’ll drink just about any kind, but I also enjoy eating my suds. No, not in a bowl with a soup spoon, but actually in food. Beer can be used in cooking, much like wine and spirits, to add flavor to dishes. Braising, stewing, poaching — you can really do just about anything in the kitchen with beer. And believe it or not, you can even bake with it.
I was recently looking for a new vehicle in which to enjoy my suds and came across a recipe that uses beer in a bread recipe. Not being an avid baker, I usually steer clear of recipes that require lots of exact measuring and mixing, but this dish caught my eye as it only requires a few ingredients and very little mixing. This beer bread is very similar to Irish soda bread: soft on the inside with a flavorful, crusty exterior. I recommend using a strong-flavored beer for this recipe, like a stout or porter, so that the flavors in the beer can really shine through.
After baking the bread I realized that it needed an accompaniment: beer cheese! Creamy and dreamy with a hint of beer flavoring, this condiment is also incredibly easy to make and the only special equipment needed is a food processor. I recommend using a lighter beer for this one, like a pilsner, wheat beer or low IBU pale ale, as you don’t want the cheese’s flavor to overpower or clash with the strong notes in the beer bread.
My biggest piece of advice when making these recipes: Please, do yourself and your guests a favor and don’t use crappy beer. You wouldn’t use a foul-tasting wine or spirit to cook with, right? (Your answer should be “no”.) Then steer clear of using any macro brews (e.g.: fizzy yellow water type beers).
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USE A CONDIMENT: Make your own ketchup, mustard and Ranch dressing to gussy up those summer spreads.
With summer officially in full swing, many minds conjure up ideas for outdoor parties which then turns to the thought of food. The fare at these warm weather parties often include grilled items, cold salads and various other spreads. But while most folks are envisioning burgers, brats and deciding what to include on the crudité platter, I’m ruminating over what accompanies said items.
To me, the stars of the show are the condiments — able to mask any overcooked hunk of meat or bland sandwich — and Heinz just doesn’t cut it for me anymore, so I choose to make my own condiments. The ingredients are inexpensive, plus they’re easy to make and customizable to suit any taste. Check out the following recipes to impress your cookout guests (and never get caught buying boring condiments again).
‘Better than 57’ Ketchup
Before making my own ketchup, I assumed Heinz 57 was the end all, be all because that’s what the commercials tell us, right? Try this simple recipe on for size and you’ll won’t have to battle with that infamous glass bottle again.
Makes a little over 1 cup
14 ounces of crushed tomatoes or plain tomato sauce (1 small can or 1/2 large can)
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
A dash of freshly ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan, whisk together and put on medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a heavy simmer, then lower heat and simmer gently for about 20 minutes, whisking occasionally. Partially cover the pot as the mixture will splatter as it cooks. The mixture will thicken as it simmers. Let cool to room temperature, then either serve it or put it in a covered container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
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I was in another Latin mood last week when I decided to make this recipe. I had a taste in my mouth for that combination of vinegar, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs that chimichurri possesses and was simply looking for an excuse to make it, and a vehicle on which to consume it. Chimichurri is a traditional, uncooked condiment from Argentina that is used on grilled meats and fish. I could eat it on almost anything.
My inspiration for this came from a dish I’d eaten recently, grilled flank steak with chimichurri, at Cafe Dufrain in Harbour Island. Flank steak can be tough and needs to be marinated for a long time and I wanted a tender, thick and juicy hunk of meat, so I opted for a New York strip instead (my cut of choice). This cut of meat really doesn’t need to be marinated because it’s tender enough already, but I wanted to infuse a bit more flavor before throwing it on the grill. You can use any beer you’d like for the marinade (I used Dos Equis Amber) but I’d suggest a somewhat dark beer, like a Mexican amber beer or a medium ale, nothing too light or fruity. Read the rest of this entry