Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and with the season in full swing now I have been doing a lot with it. Both last week and this week I came home with no less than 4 bunches of asparagus! While I take a break from posting about my adventures with asparagus last week and before I start cooking up the asparagus that I picked up this morning, I thought that I would take a moment to share some of my favorite asparagus recipes with you. Asparagus is so versatile and you can do so much with it that I am sort of glad that there is a fairly long period of time from when the asparagus shows up in spring until summers produce starts to flood in so that I have the time to fully enjoy it.
With grilling season here I have been thinking about burgers a lot more and this idea for jalapeno popper burgers has been haunting my dreams all winter! The basic idea behind these burgers was to include all of the flavours of jalapeno poppers , which I am totally addicted to, and serve them up in burger form. Jalapeno poppers are jalapenos that are stuffed with cream cheese and/or cheddar that are coated in bread crumbs and fried until crispy and golden brown. Stuffing the burgers with cream cheese seemed like the natural place to start but that left the question about how to incorporate the jalapenos. I was thinking about mixing them right into the cream cheese but raw jalapenos are crispier than I wanted so I decided to roast or grill them first to tenderize them and add a nice smokiness.
Mayonnaise is a great condiment all by itself but it is always fun to add different flavours to it! These flavoured mayonnaises can be as simple as adding fresh basil for a chicken club sandwich or chipotle chilies in adobo for dipping sweet potato fries into. The possibilities and applications of flavoured mayonnaises are near limitless! For a recent project I was looking for something spicy and green with jalapenos and since raw jalapenos are a bit crunchy, roasted was the way to go. After throwing in a few extras including fresh cilantro and a hit of lime juice and this roasted jalapeno mayo was looking pretty tasty and ready to go.
Right now we are in the middle of asparagus season and I have certainly been taking advantage of it, picking up several bundles of it each week. Not too long ago I came across the idea of topping a popover with things and I was thinking that an asparagus popover would be a great way to try out the new idea. A popover is a light hollow roll, similar to a yorkshire pudding , that is made with an egg batter that is baked at a high temperature and when it bakes the batter puffs up "popping over" the top of the baking dish. Popovers are normally made in a muffin pan but you can also make them as single large one as I have done here and this allows you to get more toppings on. Since the asparagus seemed kind of lonely on the popover all by itself, I invited double smoked bacon, leeks and cheese as well and turned it into a party!
After making the chicken satay burgers earlier in the week I had some of the spicy peanut sauce leftover and I was just itching to use it in something new. The spicy peanut sauce along with the sweet chili sauce have to be two of my favourite condiments and I have found that in a lot of cases that where one works in a dish then the other can just as well. Since I was still thinking about the sweet chili chicken quesadilla from not too long ago, it was only natural that I thought about trying a spicy peanut chicken quesadilla next. These quesadillas are dead easy to throw together and you simply need tortillas, some leftover chicken and plenty of cheese to go along with the peanut sauce. After throwing the quesadillas together they only need a few minutes on the heat to grill them up until the cheese melts and they turn a nice light golden brown. It is hard to believe that in less than 15 minutes you can be enjoying bliss on a plate!
Continuing with the themes of both salads and grilling is this chicken souvlaki salad that was inspired by Gina's recent Mediterranean chicken kebab salad . I am a big fan of all kinds of skewered and grilled meats from around the world but Greek souvlaki has to be one of my favourites! There is just something irresistible about char grilled meat on a stick and I knew that you could not go wrong turning it into a nice light summer meal by placing some in a salad. The first thing that I did was dust off my trusty chicken souvlaki recipe which calls for marinating the chicken in a garlic, lemon, yogurt and oregano
mixture before grilling it to impart it with a ton of flavour. The salad is a simple one consisting of a base of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and red onions along with some Mediterranean flavours including kalamata olives, crumbled feta and a tzatziki dressing.
I am back from my short vacation in Vegas and just in time to enjoy some amazing warm weather right here in Toronto! In fact it has been almost warm enough to be full on summer and that means that it is time to get some grilling on! I have had the idea for these chicken satay inspired burgers on my mind for months and now that with the warmer weather it was time to make them! The basic idea behind these burgers is to include all of the flavours of tasty Thai style chicken satay right down to serving them topped with a spicy peanut dipping sauce ! In chicken satay the meat is normally marinated in a marinade before being grilled so I started out by seasoning the ground chicken for the burgers with a slight variation of the satay marinade along with an egg to help hold things together. After the chicken has been seasoned it is formed into patties and grilled and these burgers are just that easy to make! I served the burgers topped with one of my favourite guilty pleasures, a spicy peanut sauce along with some Thai inspired slaw to provide a contrast in textures though you could easily go with other options like cucumbers and onions.
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a fun filled couple of days in Monterey California for a summit put on by Dole where we learned more about where our salads come from and how they make to our tables. While we were there we got to eat some tasty food including a lot of salads which got me thinking about salads. As luck would have it May is also the National Salad Month so it was about time that I got down to making some salads!
If you are interested in seeing the photos that I took while in beautiful Monterey California you can check out the gallery here: Monterey California Photo Gallery
I always enjoy making my own salad dressings! Not only is it easy to do but you have complete control over what goes into them and how much to make. If you feel like having a different dressing every night of the week you can make a small batch and if you want the same one all week you can make a large batch. One of my favourite dressings to make at home is the balsamic vinaigrette which is so easy to make and always better than store bought. The other day I was thinking about a strawberry salad with a balsamic vinaigrette and an idea hit; I could get even more strawberries into the salad by adding them right to the dressing and to get every last drop of flavour from the strawberries, I could roast them first! Although this dressing takes a bit longer to make with roasting the strawberries, it is still really simple and it is so worth it! Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are great together and even better when combined in this roast strawberry balsamic vinaigrette! Next up is the salad that I used it on.
A few days ago I noticed that I was quickly approaching post number 1500 and then I realized that I had just missed Closet Cooking's 5th birthday on April 29! As both of these milestones are pretty big, I though I would take a break and instead of sharing a new recipe for post 1500, I would take a moment to reflect on those milestones.
1500 Closet Cooking Recipes!
Sometimes my freezer seems like it is an uncontrollable monster that is always full and I am engaged in an unending battle to free some space in it. Although it is sometimes scary to do so, I like to try opening it up every once in a while to try to find something to use to make some more space. When I braved opening the freezer up this time I found the last of the salsa naranja that I had made a few weeks ago and I decided to finish it off. The salsa naranga is a salsa with a base of oranges and sweet chili sauce that is built up with chilies and plenty of fresh herbs. I was thinking that some sweet chili sweet chili quesadillaswould hit the spot, I mean its hard to go wrong with a lightly toasted tortilla overflowing with melted cheesy goodness, and as luck would have it, I also had some leftover shredded chicken in the freezer. In addition to the cheese, chicken and salsa I added some sauteed onions and even more fresh herbs to round things out. I guess I have to admit that these quesadillas prove that there are some really tasty meals lurking around in the freezer!
Although I was out of town for most of the week leading up to Cinco de Mayo I did get the chance to celebrate by making a few Mexican inspired dishes the week before. One of the recipes that I tried was these crispy shrimp tacos that I came across on White on Rice Couple who were in turn inspired by Rick Bayless recipe. Although I am an avid fan of tacos, I had never really considered rolling them and then frying them until golden brown and crispy and I was immediately fascinated by the idea. You really cannot go wrong using shrimp as a taco filling, especially not when the shrimp are coated in a quick, easy and tasty tomato based sauce. These tacos have a really nice texture combination going on with the crispy fried tortilla exterior and the juicy succulent shrimp filling! Rick Bayless suggests serving these tacos with a simple and yet tasty tomato broth but you could go with your favourite salsa or even guacamole . The only thing that you have to worry about is how quickly they are going to disappear so make a double or triple batch! :)
Throughout the winter I have been heading down to the local farmers market every weekend even though the only things that they have had for a long time is apples, pears and a few heartier vegetables that had survived the long cold days and this week I came across something that I have been looking forward to for a while, the wild leeks. Wild leaks , aka ramps, have a garlicky aroma and an onion-y flavour and around here they are one of the first signs spring produce and the promise of things to come. As soon as I had finished picking up a bunch of the wild leeks I was off to the butchers and then on to the cheese monger to pick up the few ingredients to make this wild leek and double smoked bacon tart that I had had on my mind for weeks on end. This tart is a spring inspired version of the ham and leek tart and it is just as easy to make! You simply cook the bacon, saute the whites of the wild leeks in some of the grease, mix the both up with the greens of the wild leeks, along with some eggs, cream and cheese, pour it into an all butter pie crust and bake it until lightly golden brown.
Mothers day is almost here and what better way to show her that you care than by making her a nice home cooked meal? A great way to do this is in the form of a breakfast or brunch for her after wakes from sleeping in. A while ago I made some quinoa cakes , basically a fritter made with quinoa, and I thought that they would also be great when made with different flavours such as asparagus which is in season right now. Although asparagus quinoa cakes are darn tasty all by themselves they are not enough for a special brunch so I decided to top them with some more asparagus along with some smoked salmon, a poached egg and a buttery, lemony hollandaise sauce! I am sure that these smoked salmon asparagus quinoa cake eggs benedict are sure to please for any special occasion!
I am finally back at home and just in time to share one last minute Cinco de Mayo recipe. A while ago a friend mentioned that Rick Bayless has a salsa that has olives in it and I was immediately taken by the idea with images of salsa verde with green olives dancing in my head. I am a big fan of fresh homemade salsa verde and I was thinking that adding olives to it would only add to the complexity of its flavour and to its robustness and I figured that Cinco de Mayo was the perfect time to try it out.