Asparagus Gratin

About 10 years ago I established an asparagus bed in my garden. Each year in late April through June I get a handful of asparagus out of the garden everyday. By the end of each week, I have 2-3 pounds in the refrigerator. Since the harvest time is so short, I freeze some for later, but we eat a lot of it while in season. Our standby is to drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with our favorite seasoning blends and carmelize it on the grill or in the oven.

This weekend, I decided I needed something with a bit more substance as the weather was unseasonably cold and my original plan of grilling was rained out. Having cream on hand, and dibs and dabs of cheese left from making homemade pizza few nights before, I pulled together this quick gratin at the last minute.

This is a great side with any roasted meat, or as a vegetarian main dish. Although it assembles in under 10 minutes, It can easily be made earlier in the day and stored covered and refrigerated until time to bake.

Ingredients

2 pounds Asparagus, trimmed
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1 cup blended Italian cheeses, such as Pecorino, Fontina, Mozzarella, Provolone, etc. (your preference)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Pour melted butter in the bottom of a 2.5 quart oval baking dish.
  3. Toss asparagus with lemon juice, and then add asparagus to baking dish. Add garlic slices, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients together so garlic and seasoning is evenly distributed. the butter will help these ingredients cling to the asparagus..
  4. Drizzle with heavy cream and sprinkle cheeses over the top.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until asparagus is tender and the cheese is melted.
  6. Set oven to broil and place dish under broiler. Broil 1-2 minutes, watching closely, until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven when desired browning is achieved.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Pop the flavor: add favorite herbs to this recipe, adding with the garlic, salt and pepper. Thyme, rosemary, sage, or parsely would all be good additions, individually or as blends.
  2. Turn up the heat: add red pepper flakes to taste.
  3. Explore cheese variations: Gruyere, Emmentaler, Gouda, or white Cheddar would work well in this recipe.
  4. Lower the calories and saturated fat: Use half and half in place of cream, choose low-fat versions of the cheeses, use avocado oil instead of butter.
  5. Keep warm: After broiling, remove gratin from oven and reduce heat to 250 degrees F. Gratin can be kept warm in a low-temp oven for up to 30 minutes, but some cooking of the asparagus will continue.

Lemon Bars

This is one of my son’s favorites. This recipe is quick to prepare, and can be doubled. I usually have the 7 simple ingredients on hand. For the best taste, use fresh lemon juice.

Best served chilled, this makes a wonderful summer time dessert. Easy to make in small or double batches for potlucks, picnics and BBQs, or just to have around the house for a sweet treat.

Ingredients

Crust:
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour

Lemon Filling:
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temperature
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice, room temperature

Optional Topping:
1/4 Cup Confectioner's Sugar 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with parchment paper. Leave enough paper to hang over the sides to make lifting the finished bars out of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Make the crust by mixing the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together in a small bowl. Add the flour and stir to completely combine and form a thick dough. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the crust for 16-18 minutes until the edges are very lightly browned.
  4. Make the lemon filling by sifting the flour and sugar together into a medium bowl. Stir the flour and sugar until they are completely combined. This will allow the flour to fully incorporate into the remaining ingredients for the lemon filling. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until completely combined.
  5. Pour the filling over the hot crust. Bake the bars for another 20-24 minutes until the center is set and no longer jiggles.
  6. Remove bars from oven and let cool in pan until room temperature.
  7. Using the parchment paper, lift the bars from the baking dish. Cut into squares.
  8. For optional topping, sift confectioner’s sugar over the bars.
  9. Cover and place bars in the refrigerator. Chill before serving about 2 hours. Bars will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • Use a glass baking dish for best flavor. Metal dishes react with the acid in the lemon and leave a metalic taste.
  • Doubling the recipe will require the use of a 9 X 13 pan. Bake crust for 18-20 minutes and the filling for 22-26 minutes.

Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

An amazing co-worker has a birthday this week. He is brilliant and never lets our team down. More often than not, he comes to our rescue and is a “go-to” guy for our team and many outside our group. Not an easy feat in a demanding engineering environment. He deserves a sweet treat to celebrate with the office crew in honor of his special day. He is very healthy. He works out, eats right and stays in shape. I rarely see him eat anything sweet, but he does enjoy the occasional Dr. Pepper. I set out to create a cupcake that would echo one of his few indulgences.

This is a rather simple recipe, one that can be thrown together the night before and chilled for morning delivery to the office. It starts with a cake mix, what could be easier?

The addition of Chinese Five Spice powder may seem odd, but it amplifies the undernotes of the Dr. Pepper and is surprisingly complimentary to the chocolate and cherries.

Ingredients

For the cake
1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1/2 cup Butter, melted
3 Eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the frosting
2 Cups Whipping Cream
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Confectioner's Sugar
1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper Reduction (recipe below)
1/4 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the Dr. Pepper Reduction
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Dr. Pepper

Optional Topping
Dr. Pepper Reduction
Maraschino or Bing Cherries

Instructions

  1. Line cupcake pan with paper or foil cupcake liners.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, prepare cake per package directions, substituting oil with butter, and water with Dr. Pepper. Blend Chinese Five Spice into cake batter.
  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Remove to a rack and cool completely.
  5. While cupcakes are cooking, make Dr. Pepper reduction by combining sugar and Dr. Pepper in a quart size sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until reduced to a thick syrup. Cool completely.
  6. Prepare whip cream frosting. Combine whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar in a chilled mixing bowl. Use all of the confectioner’s sugar to stablize the whip cream. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in Dr. Pepper reduction and Chinese Five Spice. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  7. Spoon or pipe frosting onto cupcakes. If desired, drizzle with remaining Dr. Pepper reduction and top with a cherry.

Fresh Red Salsa

Makes 4 Cups

This is a raw Salsa with simple, fresh ingredients that can be whipped up in less than a half hour. It stores well for several days, or can alternately be cooked and kept for up to a week. After cooking, it freezes well. Recipe can be adjusted up for canning.

Fresh Red Salsa

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 4 cups

Equipment

  • Food Processor or hand chopper
  • If you do not have a food processor, recipe can still be made by mincing ingredients with a knife, it just takes a bit longer

Ingredients
  

  • 6 medium Tomatoes, seeded and quartered
  • 1 medium Red Bell Pepper, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1-2 medium Jalapenos, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1/2 – 2/3 medium Yellow Onion, cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp Salt to taste, add more if desired
  • 1 each Lime, juiced
  • 1-3 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro Leaves, loosely packed or more to taste

Instructions
 

  • In a food processor fitted with an S-blade, pulse onion, bell pepper and one jalapeno to a large chunky stage. Do not over pulse at this stage.
  • Add tomatoes, lime juice, cilantro, salt and 1 clove of garlice to the food processor bowl, and pulse to a chunky stage. Stop and taste. Adjust onion, garlic, jalapeno, salt and cilantro by adding more to your desired tastes.
  • Pulse a few more time, being careful not to puree, unless you wish a very smooth sauce consistency.
  • Chill for 2-4 hours before servine to allow flavors to blend.
Keyword cilantro, fresh, garlic, jalapeno, pepper, red, Salsa, tomato

Kentucky Hot Brown

It’s Kentucky Derby Day! This year I decided to prepare the decadent Kentucky Hot Brown open-faced sandwich as a late lunch/early dinner while we enjoy the Churchill Downs race – the first in the great race for the Triple Crown each year. This year marks the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, and the first result upset in the history of the Race.

The Hot Brown actually has its own history. Still served today at the historic Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, the Hot Brown was invented in the 1920’s for the 1200 guests that frequented their nightly dancing at the hotel. The chef wanted something more glamorous to serve the tired dancers instead of just ham and eggs. The original recipe is shared by the Brown Hotel. The original recipe and history can be found at https://www.brownhotel.com/dining/hot-brown

I stick close to the original recipe, but make a few changes. Not a fan of Texas Toast, I changed the bread to Brioche. I also make a very traditional Mornay Sauce which is made with Gruyere vs. the Pecorino called for by the Brown Hotel. I omit the nutmeg as I have a food intolerance to it – even in small quantities. You, however, can add it back if you prefer its distinct flavor in this creamy cheese sauce.

Ingredients

For the Mornay Sauce
2 1/2 Tablespoons Salted Butter
3 Tablespoons All Purpose Flour
8 oz. Heavy Cream
8 oz. Whole Milk
2 oz. Gruyere Cheese, grated (plus more for garnishing)
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
Pinch of Ground Nutmeg (optional, I omit)

For the Sandwich
Herb Roasted Turkey Breast, Sliced https://betwixtandcuisine.com/2019/05/04/herb-roasted-turkey-breast/
4 Slices of Brioche Toast (Crust Trimmed)
4 Slices of Crispy Bacon
2 Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
Paprika
Parsley

Instructions

In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter and slowly whisk in flour until combined and forms a thick paste (roux). Continue to cook roux for two minutes over medium‑low heat, stirring frequently. Whisk heavy cream and whole milk into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2‑3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Gruyere cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper. Optionally, add nutmeg.

Cut the crusts off the brioch toast. For each sandwich, keep one slice of toast whole, and cut the other in half diagonally to make toast points. to assemble place a whole slice of brioche toast in an oven safe dish. Add desired turkey slices. Original recipes suggests about 7 oz. Take the two halves of tomato and two toast points and set them alongside the base of the turkey and toast. Next, pour one half of the Mornay sauce to completely cover the dish. Sprinkle with additional Gruyere cheese. Place the entire dish under a broiler until cheese begins to brown and bubble. Remove from broiler, cross two pieces of crispy bacon on top, sprinkle with paprika and parsley, and serve immediately.

Lettuce Sandwich Wraps wraps with Asian Pork Tenderloin

Lettuce sandwich wraps can be substituted for traditional wraps. In this recipe, parchment paper is used to keep the lettuce wrap held together vs. a traditional bread or grain based wrap.

Ready to wrap and roll!

Ingredients

Broad Leaf Lettuce or Greens (collard greens, dinosaur kale)
Carrots, julienne cut
Red Bell Pepper,julienne cut
Cucumber, julienne cut
Cilantro Sprigs to taste
Asian Pork Tenderloin, thin sliced https://betwixtandcuisine.com/2019/04/27/asian-pork-tenderloin/
Rice Wine Vinegar (optional)
Thai Style Almond Butter Sauce https://betwixtandcuisine.com/2019/04/27/thai-style-almond-butter-sauce/
Parchment Paper

Instructions

  1. Place large sheet (15 X 18 or so) on a work surface.
  2. Layout leafy lettuce in a 10 inch circle. This will be the outside of the wrap.
  3. Layer carrots, cucumber and red pepper julienne strips in the center of the lettuce in a thin column.
  4. Add cilantro sprigs to layered vegetables.
  5. Top with sliced pork.
  6. If desired, sprinkle with rice vinegar to taste.
  7. Wrap lettuce around the filling in the same manner as wrapping a burrito, placing the “seam” side down.
  8. Wrap the entire lettuce wrap tightly in parchment paper, and secure with tape.
  9. Serve with Thai Style Almond Butter Sauce for dipping.

Asian Pork Tenderloin

This easy marinated pork can be either grilled or roasted in the oven making it a versatile year round dish. Grilling on is my preference. It imparts a subtle smokey complexity.

I like to serve as hot with stir fried vegetables and noodles or rice. It is also excellent cold and sliced thin for sandwiches and wraps, or incorporated in dishes such as pork fried rice.

Ingredients

2 - 2 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup Sesame Oil
1/3 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
1 Large Lemon, juiced
4 Cloves Garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons Ginger Root, grated
1 Tablespoon Dry Mustard

Instructions

  1. Place pork tenderloin in a shallow dish.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all other ingredients. Pour over pork, turning to coat.
  3. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  4. Remove pork from marinade. Discard marinade.
  5. Preheat oven or grill to 450 degrees.
  6. If using the oven, place pork in a foil lined oven safe dish. This will help with clean up when the marinade carmelizes during cooking. If grilling, pork will be placed directly on the grill grates.
  7. Cook for 25 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches 160 degrees. If grilling, turn roast 1/2 way through cooking time to insure consistent cooking and browning.
  8. Let pork rest for 10 minutes before carving to seal in juices.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Be warned, this creamy soup packs in a lot of calories. Most of the calories come from fat, and this does comply with the Keto diet if that is your thing. Fat is where the flavor is at! But it is balanced with highly nutrious vegetables and stock. Changing to vegetable stock and omitting the bacon makes this a hearty vegetarian meal.

I start this soup with a classic Mirepoix, the fundamental element of classic cuisine. Three aromatic ingredients (carrot, celery and onion) come together to provide flavor and aroma to stock, soups, sauces and other foods.

This soup can be made quickly on a weeknight. The recipe makes about 3 quarts of soup. It can be divided easily to make less. It does freeze well because of the emulsion of the cheeses into the soup and stores in the refrigerator for several days.

Ingredients

3 Tablespoons Butter
Drizzle of Avocado Oil
1 Whole Medium Onion, Diced
1 Whole Large Carrot, Diced
3 Celery Stocks, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
2 Quartz Chicken or Vegetable Stock
8 Cups Broccoli Florets (fresh preferred, can use frozen)
8 ounces Cream Cheese
3 Cups Cheddar Cheese, Grated

Optional Toppings:
Additional Steamed Broccoli Florets
Cooked Bacon Crumbles
Cheddar Cheese, Grated

Instructions

  1. Over medium heat, melt butter and avocado oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven.
  2. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook until onion is translucent. Stir frequently for even cooking. Do not brown.
  3. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1-3 minutes more, garlic will soften.
  4. Add stock and fresh broccoli. If using frozen broccoli, see step 5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes. Broccoli will be very tender. If using frozen broccoli, do not add it until the last 10 minutes of cooking time as it is already partially cooked before it is frozen.
  6. Remove from heat and blend with an emmersion blender or in batches using a food processor or traditional blender.
  7. Return to low heat and add in the cream cheese and cheddar cheese. Cook stirring continuously until cheese are melted and incorporated into the vegetable puree. If you wish, use the emmersion blender to thoroughly incorporate the cheeses.
  8. At this point, the soup is done and ready to serve.
  9. Top with optional steamed broccoli, bacon crumbles and cheese if desired.

Meatloaf Parmesan

Russ usually eats whatever I put in front of him, preferring to be surprised, but every once in awhile he comes up with a request. When I was menu planning this weekend, he mentioned that we haven’t had meatloaf in a long time and that it sounded really good. I cringed inwardly.

As a general rule, I really dislike meatloaf. There have been a few occasions where friends have served it and I’ve really enjoyed it, but those have been few and far between.

Over the years, I have been trying to find a meatloaf recipe that I could even marginally enjoy. We’ve had dozens of meatloafs, but for 30 years it’s like a once a year thing. For some reason Russ liked them all, but I’ve never warmed up to meatloaf.

During this same discussion, Russ also asked me to make some Chicken Parmesan. Inspired, I decided to make a mash-up of the two which became Meatloaf Parmesan. The result was good enough to write down and make again. I could even be persuaded to take leftovers for lunch.

Ingredients

1 pound Ground Geef
1 pound Ground Pork
15 ounces Ricotta Cheese
2 Large Eggs
1 1/2 Cups Italian Style Bread Crumbs (I used Progresso brand)
1/2 medium yellow onion,grated or processed fine in food processor
1 Tablespoon Worchestershire Sauce
1/4 tsp. Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
32 ounces Marinara Sauce, divided (purchased or homemade) 
1 1/2 Cups shredded Mozzarella
1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Preheat ove to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients up the salt and pepper. Add in 1/3 cup Marinara Sauce. Combine well and form into a loaf in a 13 X 9 pan.
  2. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Carefully remove dish from oven, remove foil, pour remaining Marinara Sauce on top. Add shrededded cheeses on top.
  4. Return to the oven and bake uncovered another 30-40 minutes until fully cooked and cheese is browned on top.
  5. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice into squares, spoon reserved sauce from pan on top and serve.

Linguine with Clams Bagna Cauda Style

This is actually a really quick meal to make. Lots of bold flavor. Don’t let the anchovies throw you off. They brighten the flavor, just like they do in Caesar’s salad dressing.

Ingredients

2 pounds Clams, live, scrubbed and rinsed well
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Butter
2 Ounces Anchovies in oil
4 Cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 Cups dry White Wine
8 Ounces Clam Juice
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, minced
8 ounces dry Linguine
Fresh grated Parmesan (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Follow package direction to cook the linguine while preparing the clams. When done boiling linguine, drain and keep warm.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter in a deep sided sauce or saute pan over medium high heat. Cook until butter is melted and beginning to bubble. Add Anchovies and stir into the butter and olive oil. Mash as you stir, incorporating the anchovies into the butter and oil.
  3. Add minced garlic and cook 1-2 minutes longer.
  4. Add clam juice, white wine and red pepper flakes. Increase heat until liquid boils.
  5. Add clams to boiling liquid. Cover with lid. Cook until clams open fully. Discard any clams that do not open.
  6. Add minced parsley just before serving.
  7. To serve, place linguine in deep bowls or pasta dishes and top with the clams and broth.
  8. Top with fresh grated Parmesan cheese if desired.