Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Recipe: Marinated Grilled Asparagus

This is my photographer friend Arthur's asparagus recipe. The recipe is very simple to make, easy clean up and super tasty. I actually cooked them in the oven, but they can easily be cooked on the grill.

Wrapping the asparagus in foil keeps them from falling between the grill grates and makes clean up easy. Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the asparagus. Pencil thin asparagus are my favorite, but they are not always available. This time around they were rather thick so they took a little longer to cook. I usually trim asparagus about 2" or a little less, depending on how fresh they are, basically you want to go as high on the stalk to the point that you could snap off with your hands- cutting off the dry area. From start to finish the recipe can be prepared in about 25 minutes.

Marinated Grilled Asparagus:

2 bunches fresh asparagus
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1. Trim and wash asparagus and lay on two pieces of overlapped foil (see photo). Pull up the sides of the foil to keep the liquids from running out and sprinkle asparagus with remaining ingredients.

2. Enclose asparagus is foil making sure to seal edges well. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or place package on medium hot grill for the same amount of time.

Friday, May 29, 2009

RECIPE: Peach Glazed Grilled Chicken

In my life I always find that actions speak much louder than words and apparently this applies to my blog as well.  I keep saying I'm back, but then months go by and there's no sign of life around here.  Well, I think 2 posts in one week officially means I have returned.  This is evident not only in my blog, but in my surroundings and activities as well.  I did not realize until this week how deep a hiatus I had taken from myself and my life.  I slowly started working in my garden again and there it was- ocd all over again.  I think it's been lurking somewhere all along, I had just not engaged in the activities where my desire for perfection so prevalent.  Not resting until whatever it is I'm doing is finished is I think more gratifying to me than it probably should be.  But, this is the little thing that drives me and makes me who I am, and while I am half way kidding about the ocd thing, rising to a challenge and making something better than it was before gives me immense satisfaction.  Cooking, gardening, writing about it... that's what was missing- I'm all good now.

  Add to that my new little blue grill and posting becomes barely an effort.  In addition, I also have recruited a fellow cook, Arthur.  But cooking isn't why I'm introducing him to you, although he has made an asparagus recipe contribution- next post.  Arthur is a photographer for the local newspaper, he loves to cook and the bonus is my photos are about to get a whole lot better- he will be taking them.  I still get to set everything up and play with the food, which for me is half the fun,  but I wont spend an hour on picassa making my tomatoes not look like they glow in the dark! 

Yesterday after working in the garden- and I mean WORKING in the garden, I took a little break and read the June issue of Gourmet magazine cover to cover.  In it I found a great recipe for BBQ chicken wings with a peach glaze.  I am not a fan of wings, so I adapted the recipe to grilled chicken breasts.  I actually changed the recipe quite a bit, it really doesn't resemble the original at all.  But, it certainly led me to my end result and after all this is the reason my mailbox is always full of cooking magazines- inspiration.  If you are a fan of wings, you might want to take a look at the original, it's in the fast cook section of the magazine.

I have been cooking food on the grill for a long time, but only recently have I personally had to actually prepare the grill for cooking.  This process has had a bit of a learning curve and this is what I've learned this week: Grills are hot, timing is everything, and the type of coals you use make a big big difference.  When I master the process- and I will, I 'll post about that and my many little mishaps.  

On to the chicken... oh, and P.S. I did warn about the grill craze.

Peach Glazed Grilled Chicken

4 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
1 cup peach jam
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
3" piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. Place garlic and ginger in the bowl of a food processor,  pulse until finely chopped.  Add jam, soy sauce, pepper, and water.  Process until all ingredients are combined.

2. Wash and pat chicken dry with a paper towel.  Place breasts in a small bowl and cover with marinade, leaving some marinade aside to baste chicken while grilling.

3. Prepare grill while chicken marinates, about 30 minutes.  Cook over medium hot coals for 10-15 minutes on each side, moving chicken to cooler side of grill once charr marks are made.  Brush additional marinade on chicken while cooking.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recipe: Grilled Pizza with figs, freshwater mozzarella, goat cheese, balsamic onions and Arugula.

 I have come out of my gardening strike in the last week and I'm well on my way to getting my garden back in order.  I find it hard to believe I have neglected it for the past year like I have... weeding has consumed the last few days.   I have planted tomatoes, peppers and re-vamped the herbs, but my most pleasant discovery was finding  figs on my tree.  I have a beautiful little fig tree in the backyard, which apparently did not mind the neglect.  The tree has done just fine without me- bursting with figs.  The challenge now is to harvest before the birds do, since they seem to like them as much or more than I do!  The figs I used for the pizza are black mission, but any type or combination of fresh figs will work well.  Figs are highly perishable and are best eaten soon after picking. Using them in a grilled pizza works well because they don't get much overhead heat and remain plump and juicy.  

 I just recently bought a new kitchen toy, one that took numerous trips to the kitchen store and quite an agonizing search for the perfect grill.  Only after returning the black model to then buy the same exact grill in blue (yes, color makes all the difference) did I finally make the purchase. Accordingly, I have decided that in order to truly reap the benefits of this painstaking journey, I will enjoy all things grilled for at least the next month or so.  First on the agenda, a delectable grilled pizza! 

Grilled pizza has always been a favorite of mine. More recently, I stumbled upon a similar recipe in an issue of the Donna Hay magazine and it inspired me to craft my own. FYI - if you don't want to go through the trouble of making pizza dough, a pre-made pizza disk, frozen pizza dough (whole foods carries it),  or pita bread are good substitutes.

I used a combination of goat cheese and freshwater mozzarella to start.  There is a great cheese maker at my local Farmer's market whose goat cheese with dill caught my eye this latest time around and so far it's my favorite.  Mache' would be a great substitute for the arugula (rocket) if unavailable.  You can either caramelize your own onions as I did in balsamic vinegar, or use an onion jam.

The dough can be made ahead of time and left in the refrigerator until it's time for the second proofing.  The pizza can then be assembled as the coals heat up in the grill.  

Grilled Pizza with fresh figs, freshwater mozzarella, goat cheese, Balsamic onions and Arugula.

1 pint fresh figs, stemmed and halved
1/2 pound freshwater mozzarella
1/2 cup goat cheese with herbs
1 red onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, plus extra for drizzling
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
about 2 cups arugula

Pizza Dough:

2 packets active dried yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1-1/4 cup lukewarm water (110 degrees)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Place the yeast, honey and water in the bowl on an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Add 3 cups flour and salt and mix.  While mixing slowly add remaining flour (1 cup) until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.  Knead dough with mixer additional 10 minutes.  Remove dough from mixer and knead by hand on a lightly floured surface turning it 1/4 turns each time.  When finished the dough should be smooth and elastic.  Place in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and allow to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.  

Divide dough into 6 portions, roll each with a rolling piece or pat out by hand into 6-8" rounds.  Place on counter or baking sheet, cover with towel, and allow to rest for an additional 10 minutes.  (at this point you can refrigerate dough until ready to use- a few hours).  

Pre-heat grill to medium heat.   Brush with olive oil and chargrill for 4-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through.  Layer cheese, onions and figs on pizza place back on grill until cheese is just beginning to melt.  Remove from grill, add rocket leaves, drizzle with additional balsamic vinegar and oil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

To caramelize onions: In a medium saucepan over med-high heat saute onion slices in olive oil until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper.  Add balsamic vinegar and de-glaze pan.  Set aside to cool until ready to use.

Monday, March 23, 2009

RECIPE: Lemon Blueberry Pound Cake

I think I am officially back.  I know I keep saying that and then disappear for months at a time, but this time I really mean it! My life was turned upside down, but is now back together.  Life is good.

This pound cake is one of my favorites.  The recipe is easily adjusted to accommodate almost any flavoring you choose.  I like the lemon blueberry combination, it is one of my best sellers at a local coffee shop.  The cake comes together easily, but it is extremely important all ingredients be at room temperature.  When creaming the butter and sugar beat the mixture until very very fluffy, I usually use a timer and set it to five minutes.  Once the flour is added, take the bowl out of the mixer stand and fold.  After the flour comes in contact with liquids, the gluten starts to form a chemical reaction and if stirred too much the cake will have a tough texture and uneven grain.


1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
zest of one lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
3 eggs at room temperature
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint fresh blueberries
juice of one lemon
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

12 cup bundt pan, buttered and floured.
preheat oven to 350

1. In bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add lemon zest.  Add eggs one at a time, scraping bowl between additions.  Making sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next.  Add vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.

2. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt onto a pice of parchment paper.  Add flour  to butter mixture alternatively with milk, beginning and ending with flour.  Remove bowl from mixer.

3. Fold in blueberries with a spatula.  Scrape batter into bundt pan and smooth top.

4. Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.Cake should be golden brown.  Cool in pan 15 minutes, then invert onto serving platter.

5. Mix powdered sugar with juice of one lemon until a thick paste is formed.  Spread on cake while still warm.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

RECIPE: Southern Caramel Cake Icing

 Finally- Caramel cake conquered!  My last post,  yielded a couple of recipes- Thank you!  Today I set out to make the cake, I made the icing substituting cream for the half and half.  Half and half... not so fond of it- I much prefer heavy whipping cream, sorry I love fat.  Proportions were perfect though, I stirred the sugar and cream mixture to 238 degrees- soft ball stage.  The icing thickened up perfectly during cooling, it is a little time consuming- an hour's worth of stirring over the stove.  But, I will say- worth every single stroke, I licked the spoon and pot clean (yes, I know I have a problem).  The icing is perfect- the true test will come when I try to make this mid-summer in 100% humidity, but for now I'm happy and I'll worry about that in June.

Caramel Icing

3 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy pot combine sugar and cream and cook over low heat while stirring occasionally until mixture reaches soft ball stage- 238 degrees. (about 30 minutes)

Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla and stir an additional 20-30 minutes or until thick enough to spread on cake.  I used my favorite 2 layer yellow cake, baked it in 8" pans and had just enough icing to cover and fill the cake.  

Store cake covered at room temperature.

I'll post a photo soon- 

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