Taste Testers and My Easterelle App (Or Mint, Leek, and Pea Puree in Parmesan Crisp Cups)

OK, one more Easterelle post and then I’ll get back to the Taco Bell fiesta discussion.

In addition to the inside out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes I told you about yesterday, I also made two appetizers for our Easter beach soiree because I’m an over-achiever like that.

I did end up making the melon with mint and prosciutto app (recipe here) because it’s easy and it involves pig. (You absolutely can’t do Easter without pig. I mean, that’s the whole point of Jesus coming to earth. He died so I can eat bacon. Duh!)

OK, maybe not really, but ANYWAY.

I also made a mint, leek, and pea puree and put it in parmesan crisp cups because it just sounded good and Easter-y to me. (I also liked that both apps involved mint. I like overlapping ingredients for cost-saving and menu coherence purposes.)

I was still suffering from the lingering effects of my nuclear germ assault at the time, so I had to call in the reinforcements to test the recipe because I couldn’t taste ANYTHING.

Luckily, I had plans to watch the Michigan Spring Game with my friend Mike the day before, so I made him try the app to tell me if it was a mess. He’s a really good cook, and he’s honest with me when I screw things up in the kitchen, which I appreciate. You can’t have a taste tester who is too “nice” to tell you when there’s too much mayo in the deviled eggs and whatnot because it’s just not nice to serve things that suck. I do NOT need a bunch of sycophants patting me on the head and telling me I’m marvelous when my food actually isn’t amazing. (What is the point of THAT?!?)

So anyway, the app passed the Mike test, and then it totally passed the test at Easterelle Day too.  People DEVOURED it at the picnic.

Along with all of our other great food.

Along with all of our other great food.

My crew knows how to rock a beach picnic. For real.

And here’s a close up of the pea puree situation in case you’re wondering what pea puree looks like.

Boom!

Leek and pea puree in parmesan cups.

SO parmy and cute, right?

I’m planning a few picnics for May and June, and I think I may make these again.

I’m totally looking forward to being able to taste them next time too!

Here’s how I made them just in case you wanna…

Leek and Pea Puree with Mint
Serves 12

2 T Olive Oil, divided
2 Leeks, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
1/4 C Water
1 C Frozen Peas
1/4 C Grated Parmesan
20 Mint Leaves, 12 reserved for garnish
Sea Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper

Heat 1 T of olive oil in a non-stick skillet on medium. Add leek and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add water and reduce heat to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add more water by 1 T, if necessary, if the pan becomes dry and the leek isn’t soft yet. Cook until the water evaporates.

Meanwhile, blanch the peas in boiling water for 3 minutes, or until still bright green but softened. Strain the peas and add them to the leeks and stir.

Transfer peas and leeks to a food processor. Add remaining 1 T of olive oil and pulse until coarse. Add the parmesan and mint and pulse again. The mixture should remain a little chunky.

Parmesan Cups

3 C Freshly Grated Parmesan
Non Stick Olive Oil Spray

Preheat oven to 350. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.

Put 1/4 C scoop-fulls of parmesan onto the parchment paper. Pat the piles down a little so the parm is evenly distributed. It will spread, so make sure you leave enough space between the piles. (You will need to do this in batches or use two baking sheets.)

Bake for 3-5 minutes or until bubbling. Remove baking sheet from oven. Allow discs to cool slightly before placing them into the muffin tin.

Assembly

Scoop the pea puree into the parmesan cups, garnish with mint leaves and fresh cracked pepper.

Devour.

And now I will leave you with this song I’m crushing on while writing. It’s “Pink Medicine” By Bearson. Consider it my gift to you today. It was my medicine while I was sick. I looooooove it.

OK, I’m off to make Paleo Porn’s Beef Brisket for my dinner party tonight.

Yee haw, brisket, ya’ll!

#texasforever

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Lunatics Hanging Out of Trucks (Or How to Make an Orange Julius)

Remember on Friday when I said I thought I was coming down with a cold?

Yeah, well, I was kind of right.

I am sick, but it’s more of a nuclear germ assault affecting everything above my neck than your average garden variety cold. I’m actually going to the doctor today because I can hardly swallow, it hurts to speak above a whisper, and each day it gets worse instead of better.

When I woke up this morning I wanted to tear out my own tonsils with a kitchen knife but decided to make myself an orange julius instead. I didn’t have any concentrated orange juice in the house, so I had to walk up to the market on the corner to get some.

I threw on some fleecy pants that add at least five pounds to my legs, a huge cashmere granny sweater that gives me an ass for days, and I twisted my un-brushed hair into a makeshift bun. I was wearing my glasses and my chucks, and I generally looked (and felt) like all-around hammered shit.

As I was walking home, frozen OJ in hand, I heard incessant whistling over my shoulder. I looked over to see some lunatic hanging out of the side of a pick up truck waving at me. When things like this happen I often wonder why I ever bother to brush my hair or apply make up because I swear weirdos will nearly fall out of moving vehicles gawking at you no matter how heinous you look.

I’m sure there’s some lesson in there somewhere only I’m too tired to figure out what it is right now….

I was on the fence about whether it was culinarily responsible to post my orange julius recipe when I couldn’t actually taste the one I made this morning but decided to do it anyway because I’ve been drinking them since I was a kid and they always tasted OK before.

I’m sure this one was great too.

At least it looked like it tasted good.

At least it looked like it tasted good.

Orange Julius

4 oz Orange Juice Concentrate
1 C Whole Milk
8 Ice Cubes, Crushed
2 T Honey, Melted
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 C Water, optional*

Put all of the ingredients into the blender. Blend and enjoy.

And before I head to the doctor, here’s a cheerful break up song to add a little skip to your step. I can’t get enough of it even though I haven’t really broken up with anyone since February, and that was only sort of break up adjacent because we didn’t go out that many times.

Whatever.

The beat is awesome, and Kygo is everything.

* I like mine to have more of a kick so I skip the water, but you do you. 

Supper and the Single People (Or How to Make Zucchini Lasagna)

This recipe uses the same marinara sauce as the spinach manicotti I made earlier. Total time saver.

Even though I like to cook fairly elaborate dishes that include expensive ingredients, I’m always looking for ways to cut costs or make the dishes simpler to prepare. Sometimes that means cutting back on the more items expensive like the lobster in this seafood macaroni and cheese or making dishes I can freeze easily like this sausage and white bean dish. Other times it means repurposing an ingredient or an element of a dish.

This week, I used the same marinara sauce for two different dishes, and I will be freezing extra servings of both.

See, I have lived alone for more than ten years, so unless I’m throwing a dinner party for like 25 friends, I’m probably eating alone. Since I don’t like eating the same meal more than twice a week, this means the freezer is my friend.

What’s this about living alone? I have been keeping you company in the kitchen for like five years, lady. I don’t do it for the celery that sometimes falls from the counter either.

And if you really live alone, then who is this enormous animal using your pillow?

OK, point taken. I haven’t exactly lived alone for the last ten years, but it’s not like the dogs sit at the table for meals, though.

Oh, never mind. I’m losing this argument.

Let’s just get to the lasagna recipe.

It’s my aunt’s recipe and it probably came from a 1980s issue of Bon Appetit, but I can’t find any links to it online.

Zucchini lasagna

Marinara Sauce
(I made extra marinara when I made the spinach manicotti and saved it for the zucchini lasagna.)

4 T olive oil
1 C finely chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks
2-1 lb can diced tomatoes
4 T minced parsley
4 T tomato paste
1/2 C red wine
fresh basil, torn in small pieces
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic and cook until softened about 5-7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, juice, parsley, tomato paste, wine, and half of the basil. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Add the remaining basil and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Filling

1/2 stick of butter
2 small zucchini, sliced into ¼” slices
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms cut into 1/4” slices
1/2 C whipping cream
4 T,  plus 1/2 C fresh grated parmesan
8 oz provolone cheese
salt and pepper

Lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 450.

Cook lasagna noodles until al dente. Drain and set aside. (Or you can use the no cook noodles. Either works.)

Melt the butter in heavy skillet over high heat. Add zucchini and mushrooms to the butter and sauté until the zucchini are lightly browned. Reduce heat and stir in the cream. Cook until the mixture is reduced to a smooth consistency. Add 4 T parmesan, salt, and pepper and mix to blend.

Put a thin layer of marinara in the bottom of a 2.5 quart casserole dish. Next add a layer of noodles, followed by a layer of filling and a layer of cheese. Repeat the layers of marinara, pasta, filling and cheese. Top the stack with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until the lasagna is bubbly and the cheese is lightly browned. Allow the lasagna to stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: If you wish to make a 9×13” pan, you will need to double the recipe and it may require additional baking time.

I’m Baking Tofu and Falling in Love (Or How to Make Baked Tofu Stir Fry with Broccoli and Quinoa)

I made something healthy. Can you believe it?

So, remember how I said I was working on falling in love with the new Yeasayer album? Well, it happened. I’m in love. Now, I’m not saying it’s perfect or anything, but there are three tracks I can’t live without so far. The others may never move me in the same way, or their meaning will hit me at another time. For now I’m all about Longevity, Fingers Never Bleed, and Glass of the Microscope.

And the working on falling in love part? Let me explain. But first, allow me to digress for a moment. Last March I heard Scott Snibbe speak at SXSW. He collaborated with Bjork on her last album, and he was absolutely my favorite speaker at the conference. I have pages of notes from his talk, but there’s one thing I didn’t need to write down because it blew me away with its profundity. It was this:

“We’ve lost the falling in love phase with music and we’ve gone to the hooking up phase.”

Think about that for a moment, ‘cuz it’s totally true. We’re not taking the time to fall in love with music. We’re quickly buying the track we liked on XM, discovered on Pandora, etc. We’re not sitting with the liner notes. We’re not looking at the album art. We’re having this impoverished experience in a way. Because I absolutely can’t shut my head off ever and this blog is mainly meant for making shapes with frosting, I am spinning off and starting another blog here. With that blog I will delve deeper into the intellectual and emotional quagmires that absolutely keep me up at night. Every night.

So anyway…

I’m taking the time to fall in love with the album, but it’s because I dug the band in the first place. See, I don’t think you can make yourself love music or a person if there isn’t some sort of spark there initially. But the falling in love? That probably takes some time. In my 34 years on this earth I HAVE NEVER grown to love someone I didn’t feel a bit drawn towards in the first place. Not really. You just can’t force these things.

It’s probably the same with our polarizing friend, tofu. I happen to have felt a spark for the extra firm variety the first time I tasted it, so I was willing to take the time to play around with it. If you don’t dig tofu, this recipe probably isn’t for you. And don’t worry: I’m not trying to turn you into a tofu convert. I’ll still be your internet friend if you don’t like it. I promise.

Baked Tofu Stir Fry with Broccoli and Quinoa

3T vegetable oil
3T rice vinegar
3T soy sauce
1 tsp red chili pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cornstarch

14 oz extra firm tofu
1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
1 C quinoa

Preheat the oven to 425. Mix together the first five ingredients. Drain the tofu and apply light pressure with your hands to remove excess water.

Slice the tofu in 1 cm (roughly 3/8 inch) slices. Cut each slice into thirds. Submerge the tofu slices in the marinade and then place them on a baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and slightly brown on both sides. You will need to flip the tofu over after roughly 10 minutes, so keep on eye on it.

Prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on the box. While the tofu is baking and the quinoa is cooking, bring water to boil in a separate pot. Add the broccoli florets and cook until al dente.
Add the cornstarch to the remaining marinade. Heat the marinade mixture in a skillet over low heat.

Serve the tofu and broccoli over quinoa, adding sauce to taste. If you prefer a less salty sauce, try using low sodium soy or cutting the sauce with a few tablespoons of water.