Friday, April 30, 2010

My mayo revolution

Folks, I say this with total sincerity: this is one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. Light, lemon-laced, velvety, homemade mayo. And I don't even like mayonnaise! (At least not the stuff from a jar.) But this has changed everything for me. And, if you have a food processor at hand, it's very easy to make. Even if you don't, some people will swear that making mayonnaise by hand, with a whisk, produces the most perfect product. So it just might be worth it...

Homemade Mayo - adapted from Mark Bittman's "Basic Mayonnaise"
(makes about 1 cup)

1 egg
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup grapeseed oil

pinch of cayenne
salt and white pepper

1. Put the egg, mustard, lemon juice and zest, and 1/4 cup of the oil into the bowl of a food processor and give it a whirl. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in the remaining 3/4 cup of oil through the feed tube.

2. Season to taste and enjoy! Will keep in the fridge for a week.

And now, here's the first thing I decided to do with my melt-in-your-mouth mayo:


Tunafish Salad

(makes about 1 pound)

3 (5 oz.) cans white meat tuna
1 small red onion, finely chopped**
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons homemade mayo (see above)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional - found in most Middle Eastern groceries)salt to taste

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, chill, and serve plain or on some toasted multigrain bread with crisp romaine lettuce. Yum!

** If you are as gadget-obsessed as I am, and you happen to have a mandoline slicer (see image below), I find the most painless way to really finely chop onions is to first slice them using my mandoline, and then chop the slices with a big chef knife. This makes light work of an unpleasant, and often tearful, task.

"What can I eat my mayo with today??" I ask plaintively, peering into the fridge at 10:30 A.M.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

True Blue Cornbread

Since buying my cast-iron skillet, I've really only used it for one purpose: to make skillet cornbread. The skillet conducts heat extremely well, and totally evenly, so that the cornbread gets a lovely crust on the bottom, in addition to that characteristic golden top. And while we're on the topic of coloring, I should mention that the following cornbread is entirely blue, through and through! I not only used blue cornmeal, which I find just really pleasing in a cartoon-ish way, but I also added some frozen blueberries because of the extra punch of flavor and moisture they contribute to the cornbread. This stuff is really good, and quite easy to put together. Try it with a dollop of sour cream on top!

Blue Skillet Cornbread

Note: If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, not to worry; you can use any other baking dish on hand, or even make this into muffins!

2 tablespoons coconut oil (or other oil, butter, or lard)

1-1/2 cup coarse blue cornmeal
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar (or honey or molasses)
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 eggs

1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put the coconut oil (or fat of your choosing) into the skillet (or other baking vessel) and put into the oven to warm up while you make the batter.

2. In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and fold into the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

3. Add the blueberries last, and pour the batter into the skillet. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is slightly golden and a toothpick passed through the center of the cornbread comes out totally clean.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Asparagus salad (and Dan makes dinner!)

Last weekend, I walked into the apartment after a long day of working brunch to find that Dan was preparing a fantabulous dinner of grilled lamb chops with a minted cucumber-yogurt coulis! Wow! The food was delicious. And for once, I got to take the backseat. (Unfortunately, we were both so excited that I forgot to take a picture to show off.)

My only contribution was a simple salad of more of that lovely spring asparagus.

Warm Asparagus Vinaigrette
(serves 3-4 as a side)

- 1 bunch asparagus, blanched and cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn or chiffonaded

- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup olive oil
- salt and white pepper to taste

To prepare, simply toss the first three ingredients together, and make the vinaigrette with the remaining ingredients, whisking in the olive oil last. Season with the salt and white pepper and enjoy while the asparagus is still warm from blanching.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring is here!

And this means the asparagus has sprung!

Walking home from work yesterday, I spotted a sweet deal at my local green grocer: huge bunches of beautiful pencil asparagus for just $1 each! (Oh Astoria, how I love thee.) At the same time, my stomach was calling for tacos. Now, you might scoff at the idea of tacos with asparagus, but at that moment a lightbulb of craving went off in my brain (or my gut?), and a slightly crazy idea was born. The resulting repast? Shredded chicken tacos with crunchy asparagus and guacamole. Easy and very rich in vitamin S! (that's for Spring, silly.)
Pulled Chicken Tacos with Asparagus and Guacamole
(serves 3-4)

- 2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 bunch pencil asparagus (about 1 pound)

- 3 ripe avocados, halved and pitted
- 1 medium red onion, chopped small
- 1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and minced
- 2 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
- juice of 2 lemons- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- salt to taste

To serve:
- corn tortillas (I used blue corn - very aesthetically pleasing)
- sour cream
- Mexican beer with lime

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts and place in a medium baking dish. Coat with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt, cumin, and paprika. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the inside is not pink, or an instant-read thermometer reads 165 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Rinse asparagus and cut off the toughest part of the stem, at the very bottom. Chop the remaining asparagus stalks into half-inch segments and drop into boiling water for a minute only (you want the asparagus bright green, not yellow-brown and overcooked). Drain quickly and shock with cold water immediately to stop the cooking. Set aside.

3. Now go ahead and make your guacamole: Scoop the avocado out into a large bowl and break up roughly with a wooden spoon. Add the onion, jalapeno, tomato, lemon juice, cilantro, and season to taste with salt. Mix well and set aside.

4. When chicken is fully cooked, remove from baking dish and allow to cool completely. Then, using your fingers, shred the chicken into small, taco-appropriate pieces.

5. Finally, in a hot, dry skillet, warm your tortillas - about 1 minute per side - and keep warm by wrapping in a clean kitchen towel until ready to serve.

6. To serve, pile some chicken, guacamole, crunchy asparagus, and sour cream on a warm tortilla, roll up, and enjoy with your favorite Mexican beer!