At this time of year, the magical time when New England farms begin to harvest some fresh green vegetables after a cold winter of barren fields, the temptation to serve asparagus at least once a day is powerful. Honestly, though, my husband Ted has a limit on how much asparagus soup, grilled asparagus, and asparagus stir-fry he's willing to consume. I don't really understand it, as I'm sure I could eat asparagus three times a day for the all-too-brief six-week season. Recently I had a nice bunch of spears in the fridge, and I turned to the pantry for inspiration. Chickpeas provided the first glimmer, and tahini the next, and this roasted asparagus hummus came together in minutes after that. Adjust the proportion of vegetable to chickpeas to suit your taste, and process it to a smooth texture or leave it fairly chunky, if that's what you like. The subtle flavor and light green color of the asparagus will delight you, without scaring off any kids who aren't firmly in the asparagus camp. Make this a day ahead for easy entertaining.
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The Year I Learn to Love Cauliflower continues to challenge me, and nothing scares me more than the prospect of raw cauliflower, undisguised by potatoes or hot sauce. Recently I decided to take the plunge, with this salad that pairs the vegetable of the year with creamy white beans, salty feta and crunchy pine nuts. Not a disguise, exactly. More like a distraction, with so much texture that I really didn't concentrate on the cauliflower. If you're a cauliflower lover, adjust the proportion of ingredients to highlight the vegetable. If you're a cheese-a-holic, add more feta. The lemon vinaigrette wraps everything together. The longer it sits, the more tender the cauliflower becomes, thanks to the mustard in the dressing. My husband Ted approved this salad for you; I can't say I'm in love with raw cauliflower, yet, but I'm working on it.
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Asparagus season here in Rhode Island lasts for an all-too-brief six weeks, and during that time, my husband Ted and I consume asparagus in one form or another almost every day. I love to throw totally naked asparagus spears on the grill until they're slightly charred, and eat them with my fingers like pretzel sticks. And I love to roast them in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, or maybe a squirt of lemon. Sometimes I wrap them in wonton skins, for a crunchy party appetizer. The other day I had the urge for something zingier, and what's more zingy than Sriracha? A little drizzle of creamy, spicy Sriracha mayonnaise played so beautifully with roasted asparagus that I managed to polish off most of this plate for lunch, without any help from Ted.
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Until I moved to Rhode Island a decade ago, I'd never heard of johnnycakes (which are also spelled jonnycakes, so let's get that out of the way up front). Johnnycakes, made of cornmeal and gluten-free, are to Rhode Islanders what pancakes are to the rest of the world. Most often they're served just like pancakes, with butter and a glug of local maple syrup. These savory two-bite roasted red pepper, basil and parmesan johnnycakes fit nicely into the end of the day, as a cocktail party appetizer or snack at a barbecue. As with any recipe that has just a few ingredients, be sure to use the best cheese, basil and pepper you can find. Serve them hot off the griddle, and spell them whichever way you like.
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