Archive | May, 2013

Asparagus and Arugula Pasta with Almond Butter Crisp

29 May


’twas a rainy [Memorial Day] Monday, and I had done a bit too much “celebrating” over the weekend. I needed something that was hearty, appetizing, and didn’t involve too much effort because man was I tired. Extra points for including asparagus. I went back and forth between 2 pasta dishes: one had a pork and apple ragu, one had an asparagus and an almond crisp. After what seemed like months of deliberation, I settled on the asparagus.

{ Asparagus and Arugula Pasta with Almond Butter Crisp – Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izzard }

Why did I make that decision? Well it involved a topping that was made up of butter, toasted almonds, roasted garlic, and parmesan. Wowza, I think that’s what I want my tombstone to read (“Here lays Erica, she was a big fan of the following products: butter, toasted almonds, roasted garlic, and parmesan”…but then again “Here lays Erica: Breakin’ necks and Cashin’ checks since 1987” has a nice ring to is as well, just rolls off the tongue really). 

So the first thing to tackle was the whole head of roasted garlic (I get chills every time I write/think/say that). The one time I’ve tried to make a whole head of roasted garlic I put it in the microwave with some type of garlic roasting apparatei, and the whole thing started smoking and I was upset because my entire head of garlic was ruined, the kitchen smelled like weird smoke for 3 days, and I was out $0.75. I was determined to turn things around. I followed instructions.

Take your head of garlic and slice off the top 1/4 exposing the cloves

GarlicPlace on tinfoil, and drizzle with olive oil and salt

GarlicDrixxleWrap tinfoil into a Hershey’s Kiss-like teardrop around the garlic, and roast at 400F for about 40 minutes (feel free to pop in some almond slices for the last 5 minutes of roasting to get them a nice toast)

Now combine room temperature butter, the whole head of roasted garlic (no skins, please), bread crumbs, some chili paste, parmesan cheese, and the newly toasted almonds (be careful, don’t you crack those almonds)

AlmondMixIt’s okay to sneak a taste of this, because sweet jesus I would eat this out of the garbage. I will now find excuses to make this as a “garnish” for upcoming dishes

AlmondCrispPop this in the fridge to harden up. Oh, it’s hard now? Throw it in a pan over med-high heat and let’s crisp this sucka (and yes, it smelled JUST as good as you’re imagining)

AlmondCrispCookNow: Asparagus Time.

AsparagusCookSaute for a good 3-4 minutes to get a nice vibrant green color (think a cartoon character getting sea sick), and add some chicken stock, soy sauce, and water. Hell, let’s throw in some more chili paste because I just can’t get enough

AsparagusStirLet the liquid cook down to about half and add some fresh peppery arugula

ArugulaGive it a good stir to wilt, top with some cooked linguine (I opt for whole grain because it’s good for you you guys), fresh lemon zest and the glorious almond butter crisp

MixDig in.

ForkTwirlJust. Delightful. And hey, one more for the road: whole head of roasted garlic.


Adapted from { Asparagus and Arugula Pasta with Almond Butter Crisp – Girl in the Kitchen by Stephanie Izzard }

  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 Tbs butter, warmed to room temperature
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs (I went with panko)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs Sambal or other Chili paste
  • 1 C. sliced almonds
  • 1 box linguine (1 lb)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 lb asparagus, sliced in diagonal 1-in pieces
  • 1/2 C. chicken broth
  • 1.5 Tbs soy sauce
  • handful of baby arugula
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  1. Place butter out on the counter to come to room temperature. Just forget about it now and be surprised when you stumble upon it later in the recipe when you need it.
  2. Roast your garlic. Slice off the top 1/4 of the garlic head to expose cloves and place on tinfoil. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and fold up tinfoil edges to a point. Roast for 40 minutes at 400F. Mince the garlic pieces that you cut off and set aside. Pop in the almonds during the last 5 minutes of roasting to toast.
  3. Mix you almost-forgotten-about room temperature butter, bread crumbs, 1 Tbs of the Sambal, and parmesan together to form a paste. Gently (gently!) fold in your almonds. Pop in the fridge to harden.
  4. Cook pasta in salted water and reverse 1/2 C of the cooking liquid.
  5. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and add asparagus and reserved garlic mince. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Add chicken broth, pasta cooking water, remaining 1 Tbs Sambal, and soy sauce to asparagus and simmer until cooked down(town) to about half.
  6. Add arugula and lemon zest to asparagus mixture and mix to wilt. Toss with pasta.
  7. Serve this as a Choose-your-own-adventure: mix the almond butter crisp right in with the pasta (like I did), or serve the crisp on top of the pasta (which gives more of a “wow” factor)







A Collection of Thoughts

24 May

I’ve been saving a few articles over the past few months until I thought I had enough to create a post you could really sink you teeth into and seeing how I’ve been too busy to put words to the preverbal paper (I’ve got the pictures and the meals under my belt, oh ho ho, don’t you worry), today seems to be the day.

Go For Greens when Spring Comes to Market – Detroit Free Press

  • Remember that post I did for the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market? Well apparently it sparked some interest in our neighbor to the East (I’m talking about Detroit, obviously) and someone from the Free Press came down to our quaint market to do a little more research. Now Entering Flavor Country: inspiring the hearts and minds of Southeast Michigan.



10 Food That (Thankfully) Flopped – Neatorama

  • Some of these items are hilariously sad (a food product aimed at Single adults? Wasn’t that a staple of Edna Krabappel‘s diet?), and some of them were pulled before their time (I would get DOWN on some coffee-flavored Jell-O).



Eye Candy: 20 Visual Recipes –

  • Food + Infographs = the perfect way to waste your afternoon



Healthy Baking Oil Substitutes – Excellent Eats

  • While this blog isn’t based necessarily around healthy cooking, I have used these tips quite a few times. And hey the less I have to refill my oil bottle the better (I purchased a giant tin canister of olive oil from Plum Market a while ago because it was $17 off!! However it makes the refill process of my pourable glass container quite messy)



27 Ways to Make Your Groceries Last as Long as Possible – Buzzfeed

  • If I had a dollar for every time I had to throw out some produce…wait, it’s more like “if I threw away a dollar for every time…”



World’s 50 Best Restaurants – Grub Street New York

  • I always love looking at these lists and planning out which ones I could conceivably go to even though we all know I’m too cheap to ever step foot in any of these establishments.



Why Your Dinner Doesn’t Taste as Good as it Looked Online – Buzzfeed

  • As a food blogger, this hit home. However, I now realize why my food photography doesn’t stack up against some of my “colleagues”, it’s because I spend MAYBE 90 seconds on my photo shoots because I’m ready to eat my camera by the time the food is ready. Bygones. 


Well, I hope this wasn’t too much of a cop out! I’ll be back (hopefully) soon a-posting away like I normally do, complaining about the impending heat and how much everything costs. Wow, I kind of suck, don’t I?

Chicken and Asparagus with Green Goddess Dressing

15 May

The first time I had Green Goddess dressing it was a vinaigrette with an olive oil base. Seeing as this was the first time I was trying it, I assumed no further investigation needed to take place as far as how authentic what I was putting into my mouth was. I noticed items adorned with Green Goddess dressing a few times after with a creamy version of this herby sauce. Well I guess that’s a way you can present it, if you want to muddy the waters I thought. After a few years of seeing this repeated offense, and coming across a tasty-looking recipe for a Green Goddess Chicken and Asparagus Salad this past weekend, a thought creeped into my head that stopped me dead in my tracks: what if I was the one who was wrong, and not society. It couldn’t be. Finally, after exhaustive research (read: a quick trip to wikipedia) I was hit with the harsh truth: Green Goddess Dressing is a cream-based sauce. I was operating under false pretenses for years. I had no choice but to man up, and follow the crowd.

[ That was a Dramatic Reenactment for entertainment purposes, certain liberties were taken for exciting embellishment ]


So guess what? It’s asparagus season! I was about to barrel into a story about how I don’t smell Asparagus pee, but guess what, I’ve already talked about it. I am charming. This time of year I try to eat AT LEAST a solid pound of Asparagus a week because it’s delicious, it’s fresh, and the price is right. See that picture above? I took that at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market and all I wanted to do was get on that vendor table and start rolling around. But I digress…. I was flipping through some handy books of cooking, and came across a recipe that not only utilized my favorite speary Spring vegetable, but also was heavy handed with my favorite herb: Dill (…I feel a Dill post coming on soon…)

{ Green Goddess Dressing with Chicken and Asparagus – Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool }


Here’s the jist: Take some asparagus and blanche it for 2-3 minutes (I like mine with a little snap left in it), take some chicken (I opted for a grocery store rotisserie chicken, de-skinned and shredded), put them together to await saucing.


Take yer greens (parsley, dill, garlic, green onions) and whizz them around in a food processor



Got some Basil or spinach or anything else fresh? Go ahead and toss it in. Everybody in the pool! Now add and mixture of sour cream/buttermilk/yogurt and some salt and pepper. Give it another whizzing.


Now coat those your Chicken and Asparagus, and serve over some chopped greens (for me: Red leaf lettuce).


Since there is raw garlic and raw green onion in the dressing get ready for a blast of fire with your first (and subsequent) bites. Oh boy, just delightful. The perfect fresh, Springy, filling-yet-light meal I could have hoped for.

While I won’t post the exact recipe here, I found a recipe adapted from the original here.


Happy Asparagusing!


Charcuterie Board: Meat and Cheese!

10 May

The topic of a homemade Charcuterie Board has been bouncing around our house for about a week. Why? Because have you ever had one? They’re delightful. Various cured and spiced meats sliced thin, paired with cheeses of varying textures (hard AND soft??), laid next to pickled vegetables and strong sauces. All these friends are preparing for their journey to the mouth, hopping on a fresh crusty baguette to serve as their vessel for deliciousness. The downside of making one at home? The amount of cheese you inevitably end up consuming. At a restaurant at least it’s pre-portioned, but at home…ooooh at home, your ravenous instincts are the only things keeping you from “I just ate $45 worth of product”.

So anyhoo, we deiced to embark on this task to cap off one of the greatest weekends of 2013 to date (I said the words “…and so began the craziest summer of my life” at least 4 times that weekend. I was in the moment). So how do we complete a task such as this? You head to Plum Market and get ready for expert advise and quality product.


The general run-down:

  • Proscuitto (thinly sliced, almost to a melt-on-your-tongue thickness)
  • Black Pepper Hard Salami (rich and salty with the perfect bite from the black pepper)
  • Zingerman’s The City Goat Cheese (the texture is a bit lighter than other Goat cheeses, and has a deliciously sweet tang to it. And it’s rolled in fresh Tarragon, which I didn’t think I’d like, but yowza it was the perfect accompaniment to this creamy gem)
  • Vella Golden Bear Dry Jack Cheese (described as “The Grandfather of Jack Cheese” with a texture similar to Parmesan, this hard Jack has amazing nutty and earthy flavors. The rind is also a mixture of cocoa powder, oil, and black pepper, so you can eat it!)
  • Olives (all different types, pit-in of course. My favorite ended up being the bright green kinds)
  • Oil-Packed Artichoke Hearts (I could eat 2 lbs of these, no problem)
  • Marinated Peppadew Peppers (the vinegar gives the perfect tang to balance out the natural sweetness of the cute little peppers)
  • Lemon-Parsley Chickpeas (while these were good, they were more of a “let’s get some deli salads and have a picnic” item, not so much a “this complements my meats and cheeses on my Charcuterie board” item)
  • Cornichons (small pickled Gherkins–Cornichon is actually the French word for “Gherkin”.  I already had some from Trader Joe’s, they’re delicious and reasonably priced seeing as a jar of these can run you up toward $6)
  • Pickled Garlic Cloves (yes, they were quite pungent)
  • Orange-Fig Spread (this ended up being the runaway hit of the evening. The key to any good board–whether cheese or otherwise–is having a nice balance of flavors, hence the sweet counter-part. Everything went well with this spread: cheese, meat, even anything marinated or pickled)
  • Whole Grain Mustard (a classic Charcuterie staple)
  • Bell’s Oarsman (full disclosure: I used to hate this Berliner Weisbier. It’s not your average Wheat beer, it has sour notes that many people may not be accustomed to, but if you’ve got the palate for it, this session beer is a real delight)
  • An Assortment of Crackers and Sliced Baguette

This shot is nice and blurry (too much Oarsman?) however it offers a better idea of the set up (the key is rolling up your Proscuitto for extra fanciness)

PlateAnd the vessels…

BreadOh, not quite full enough yet? How about a mini carrot cake to share!

CarrotCakeWho needs a plate when you have a capable plastic clamshell to eat out of?

Needless to say, we all ate WAY too much, and sat awkwardly and uncomfortably on the couch trying to watch “World Wackiest Water Parks” (or something along those lines) to take our minds off the massive amounts of items of the pickled and dairy persuasion that were currently setting up camp inside of us. I was so full and tired that I blew off my normal Game of Thrones viewing party and opted to go to bed at 9:30pm. Would I do it all over again? 1000%.

MidAssemblyLook at how innocent they look. They have no idea they’re mere moments away from total consumption












Raw Vegan “Lasagna”

7 May

Please don’t revoke my meat and cheese card.

So I came across This Rawsome Vegan Life and…well, just click over there and check it out. See what I mean? It’s amazing. I was feeling inspired and thought “what the hell, let’s go raw tonight” and raw we did.

{ Raw Lasagna with Cashew Cheese and Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto – This Rawsome Vegan Life }

RollsThe pictures she has are amazing, and look so fun to eat, and I had most of the ingredients already, so how perfect of a no-brainer was this (I even had lots of snacks on hand…just in case…)

There are 3 components to this dish: Cashew “cheese”, Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato “pesto”, and zucchini “noodles”. I feel as though if I were reciting this post my fingers would cramp up from the amount of air quotes I’d have to perform.

CheeseIngredientsThis is what goes into the “cheese”. See what I mean? There is nothing remotely cheese-like with these ingredients (not to say they’re not tasty), hence the “s. What’s pretty awesome about this recipe is the way in which she just gives general (even vague) information about the steps (add some of this…add more if you want more, blend it all together). I love it.

For the “cheese”, simply blitz together lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, cashews, water,  and nutritional yeast together until you get a paste

CheeseBlendCheeseI didn’t add enough water to mine so it turned out as a spicy-garlicky-cashew nut butter, and less of a spreadable “cheese” (really tasty though)

The “pesto” is a mixture of broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes (wait a second…isn’t that considered heating?), olive oil, and herbs (I used basil)


PestoAnd then it’s a simple cutting of the zucchini into thin strips of lasagna “noodles” and giving them a nice layer with the fillings

AssemblyI didn’t use a mandolin for cutting, so my noodles are a lit-tle bit too thick for easy rolling. It was a struggle to put these together

Rolls2I knew they’d be a fall-apart mess to eat, so I dis-assembled them (is that a word?) and cut the “noodles” into “spaghetti” (ow my quoting fingers)

ZucNoodlesAnd then re-assembled them to a delightful non-fall-apart-into-your-lap-on-your-freshly-washed-pants dish


This was definitely something different…but really tasty! I would NEVER be able to come up with something like this on my own. I thought “hey, this cashew ‘cheese’ would probably spread better if I warmed it up” before realizing that defeats the purpose of the raw essence of this dish. So no warming of the “cheese” for me.

Raw Lasagna with Cashew Cheese and Broccoli Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto – This Rawsome Vegan Life }

Lasagna Noodles

  • 1 zucchini

Slice the zucchini on a mandolin. Or very thinly with a sharp knife. Set aside.

Cashew Cheese

  • 2/3 cup cashews
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Water, as needed

Blend all ingredients in your food processor or blender until smooth and thick, adding as little water as possible. Set aside.

Sun-dried tomato and broccoli pesto

  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (only if your sun-dried tomatoes aren’t already stored in oil)
  • Salt, pepper and dried herbs, to taste
  • Water, as needed

Blend all ingredients in your food processor or blender until smooth and thick, adding as little water as possible.

Layer the noodles with the pesto, cheese and whatever you else you like, alternating as you go.

Carrot Muffins with Brown Butter and Currants

2 May

This is quite the departure from the last batch of carrot muffins I made which used no sugar and lots of healthy and life lengthening ingredients (I ate some dates, I’m going to live forever). It was a rainy Sunday and I was “tried” from the weekend’s events, there was only one thing to do: Bake. There is nothing better than  an afternoon of baking to finish up the weekend, especially if it’s raining. So grabbed (another) new cookbook I was able to get my greedy little hands on and saw a muffin recipe I couldn’t pass up. And wouldn’t you know it, the full recipe is happily available online (thanks NPR!)

{ Carrot Muffins with Brown Butter and CurrantsThe Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas }


Now this is a real-deal baking recipe (sorry for the Guy Fieri verbiage) that calls for eggs AT ROOM TEMPERATURE, and butter THAT HAS BEEN BROWNED,  flour THROUGHLY SIFTED, and carrots THAT NEED GRATING. Was I up for the challenge? You bet you ass I was. And besides, the alternative was watch a full season of Arrested Development throughout the day, which let’s just say is not a foreign activity in our household on the weekends.

So what is browned butter exactly? It’s unsalted butter that is put over low heat for some time to allow the butterfat and milk solids to separate. Once this occurs the milk solids will start to turn a delicious brown color as they begin to toast from the heat.


ButterBoilIt also smells amazing. While this is happening, you want to take some dried currants and re-hydrate them in boiling water

CurrantsAnd might I add, I just love currants. I’m a fan of raisins as well, but no matter what, the flavor of raisins will always elicit a vivid sense memory of how much I used to hate them as a kid. I don’t have that with anything else. Just raisins. Babysteps. Drain these, and let cool down to room temp, along with your newly browned butter, and your eggs. Now is a good time to squeeze in some episodes…or work your way through your growing pile of New Yorkers because why do they come so fast.


nowenteringflavorcountryBeat [room temperature] eggs, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, and salt until fluffy. Now, we don’t simply mix, but we layer the carrots, currants, and sifted flour mixture (which is just flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger), and gently fold them together. I used about half the amount of carrots needed for this because I was (again) using baby carrots, and kept grating myself when I got close to the nubs. Will I ever learn? Probably not.

nowenteringflavorcountryBut Erica, what about the browned butter? I thought you’d never ask. Once you have your gently folded batter, you tenderly massage the browned butter in with a caring spatula.

nowenteringflavorcountryOnce mixed, tenderly schlop your batter into prepared muffin tins. Now here’s my favorite part: top with sugar AND a pinch of salt. GENIUS! Why have I never thought of that before. You get a nice sugary top with a little caramelized crunch, and you have that added flavor complexity with the salt…OH it’s just too much, I love it! My new secret weapon.

nowenteringflavorcountry…this is where I stopped taking pictures. Why? Because by the time they had cooled enough for me to handle (enough to take a picture at least) I was settled on the couch, ready to get my lethargy on. And what makes this worse is I didn’t even realize it until THE NEXT DAY. So here I have a half eaten, day old muffin, and some of its associates in a glass prison I like to call my baked goods jar.



nowenteringflavorcountryIf you look closely, you can barely see any carrots….

On an unrelated note, John and I were in Seattle over the Summer, and we had the pleasure of dining at one of Tom Douglas’ restaurants, Palace Kitchen. Of course I only had my phone with me, so all the pictures are horrible, but it was absolutely delicious. One of the (if not “The”) best meals I’ve ever had. You could actually taste the love. We never got a chance to make it to the Dahlia Bakery while we were there, but they did feature some of the baked goods at the restaurant.



Carrot Muffins with Brown Butter and Currants – The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas }

  • 1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces/227 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1⁄2 cup (2 ounces/60 grams) dried currants
  • 1⁄2 cup (4 ounces/115 grams) water
  • 13 ⁄4 cups (10 ounces/285 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 ⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 ⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 large eggs at room temperature (see “how to Bring ingredients to room temperature,” page 12)
  • 1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 ⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (5 ounces/142 grams/about
  • 2 medium) peeled and grated carrot (use the largest holes of a box grater)
  • raw (turbinado), granulated, or crystal sugar and kosher salt as needed for sprinkling
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line the muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
  2. To make the brown butter, place the butter in a small saucepan over medium- high heat and cook until the butter solids are browned and smell toasty, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes or a little longer. Watch carefully so the butter does not burn. As the butter browns, the foam rises to the top and dark brown particles stick to the bottom of the pan. As soon as the butter is dark golden brown, pour it into a small bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature. (You can put the bowl in the refrigerator to cool more quickly, but do not let the butter solidify.)
  3. Combine the currants with the water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Simmer until the currants are plump, about 10 minutes. Remove the currants from the heat, drain, and transfer to a small bowl to cool to room temperature.
  4. Into a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger together twice, then set the dry ingredients aside (see “How to Sift,” page 13).
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, and salt. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium- high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. The egg mixture should begin to “ribbon” but not hold the ribbon. (In other words, when you lift the whisk, you will start to see a ribbon forming, but it will dissipate quickly.)
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Without stirring, place the carrots and currants on top of the egg mixture. Then pour the dry ingredients on top and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold everything together. Finally, fold in the browned butter, combining everything thoroughly but gently.
  7. Scoop the muffins into the paper- lined muffin cups, dividing it evenly, using about 3 ounces, or about 1 ⁄3 cup, of batter per muffin (see “How to Scoop Muffins, Cookies, and Cupcakes,” page 74).
  8. Lightly sprinkle about 1 ⁄4 teaspoon raw sugar and a pinch of kosher salt on top of each muffin. Bake until the muffins are cooked through and golden, about 18 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through the baking time. A wooden skewer inserted into a muffin should come out with a few crumbs clinging but no batter.
  9. Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack about 10 minutes before unmolding.

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