Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Leftover Cherry Sauce

Before I left for Boston, I jokingly warned my husband to keep the kitchen clean while I was away "or else." There are some things that peeve me, and coming home to a kitchen littered with day old knives, sticky pots and bowls stuck with hardened rice grains is one of them.

To my happy surprise, the kitchen really was clean when I came back. "You're wonderful!" I exclaimed, as my husband smiled proudly.

The next day I opened the refrigerator to help myself to some breakfast, and my heart sank.

My normally neat and arranged fridge had been transformed to complete chaos. Containers and jars were in complete disarray, a bowl with half-eaten strawberries (strawberries with a bite out of them, eek!) was awkwardly askew atop a carton of eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables that I had purchased for him before I left had remained untouched. Most disappointing was the bag of cherries about to spoil. Cherries still cost a good amount even when they're in season, and I hated for it to go to waste.

What to do?

I had planned on making pancakes that morning, so as I whipped up a batch I realized I could make cherry sauce. Perfect. Any time you have fresh fruits and vegetables about to go bad, cook it. This will extend its life by a few more days.

Cherry Sauce

1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

1/2 cup orange juice
2 cups sweet cherries, without the stem

1) Pit and halve the cherries.
2) Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt. Do not be zealous with the cinnamon. A tiny pinch is all you need.
3) Add the orange juice and cherries. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a medium-low.
4) Simmer until thickened.

Serve with whipped cream on top of pancakes or waffles. The sauce tastes even better the next day. Needless to say, my husband ate it all up.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette and Prosciutto

Do you like asparagus?

Ask your friends this question, and half the time you'll receive a wrinkled nose as an answer. Asparagus is notorious for its aftermath aroma when one heads to the toilet after dinner; if you haven't noticed it, consider yourself lucky.

Which is too bad, because it's not only low in calories, fat and cholesterol, but a good source of folic acid, potassium and dietary fiber. And it's in season right now, which means it's deliciously juicy and sweet. Oh, and cheap.

It takes some people a great recipe in order for them to eat asparagus, and this one is a sure winner. Here I adapted a recipe from America's Test Kitchen and made it my own.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette
adapted from America's Test Kitchen

1 1/2 lb asparagus
4 T olive oil
Ground black pepper

1 lemon, cut in half
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 t fresh thyme leaves
Ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2) To prep asparagus: Often you will see recipes that say, "Snap off ends of asparagus." If you try this, not only will you snap away nearly half the asparagus, but half the money you spent on buying it (and please don't try snapping away AT the grocery store, you may never be allowed to return again). In addition, it's time consuming.

I like to take five or six stems at a time, line them up at the tips, and cut away approximately 1 1/2" or more from the stem. It's fast, efficient, and all the asparagus will now be the same length.

The trick to making them less fibrous and laborious to chew is to gently peel away the top layer of the stem. Just hold the tip of the asparagus with one hand, the vegetable peeler in the other, and start peeling about two inches from the tip, turning the asparagus as you peel. It will end up looking something like this:

Bonus: They look gorgeous!

3) When finished, place the asparagus in a baking dish or sheet pan, and toss gently with the olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. The asparagus should be lightly but completely coated in olive oil; add more if not.

4) Place the asparagus in the oven, and roast for 5-7 minutes. You don't want to overcook them, so start checking after 5 minutes! They should be tender but still have a bite. When ready, let cool.
5) Meanwhile, drizzle 1 T of olive oil onto a cast-iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. When hot, place the lemon halves cut-side down and grill until tender and slightly blackened, about 3 minutes. Let the lemon halves cool.
6) Squeeze the lemons (you should have about 2 T of juice) and combine with the extra-virgin olive oil, minced shallots and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7) Strain the vinaigrette into a measuring cup, then drizzle over the asparagus.

At this point, you can serve them as is! It's a great side dish for dinner.

For an elegant appetizer or a potluck dish, read on:

1 1/2 lb asparagus, dressed with lemon vinaigrette (recipe above)
12-14 slices prosciutto, halved (the short way, not the long way)

1) Allow the asparagus to marinate in the lemon vinaigrette for 15-30 minutes.
2) Drain the asparagus on a plate covered with a paper towel.
3) Carefully lay a slice of halved prosciutto on the cutting board, and place the asparagus on one end. Gently roll upwards.
4) Repeat with the rest of the asapargus/prosciutto.