Asparagus, Cashews, and Mint with Quinoa and Lemon Vinaigrette

There’s something about the springtime and asparagus starting to grow that brings a smile to my face.  So, as I was reading through the Vegetable Butcher cookbook and came across this recipe for Asparagus, Hazelnuts, and Mint with Quinoa and Lemon Vinaigrette, I knew I wanted to put it together.  Even better: the recipe suggested I could substitute cashews for hazelnuts, which I had found an abundance of while cleaning out the pantry.  It was time to put this dish together.  When I brought leftovers for lunch, people commented how healthy the recipe looked, and it really was a full meal in one dish, but would also be a nice side dish.

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Asparagus, Cashews, and Mint with Quinoa and Lemon Vinaigrette

zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 c olive oil
1 lb asparagus
3 c cooked quinoa
1/3 c toasted cashews or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/3 c thinly sliced scallions
1/4 c packed fresh mint leaves, finely sliced

For vinaigrette, whisk together zest and juice of 1 lemon, 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp maple syrup, ¼ tsp fine sea salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Slowly add ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, whisking constantly.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil; place a large bowl of ice water next to stovetop. Cook 1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed, tips intact and spears cut into 1-inch pieces, 2–4 minutes or just until crisp-tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer to the ice water. When cool to the touch, drain well and spread on a towel to absorb any remaining water.

Combine asparagus and 3 cups cooked white quinoa in a large bowl. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat all of the ingredients, about ¼ cup. Add ⅓ cup toasted cashews or hazelnuts, coarsely chopped, ⅓ cup thinly sliced scallions, ¼ cup packed fresh mint leaves, finely sliced, and ¼ tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper; toss again. Add more salt, pepper and/or vinaigrette to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crisp, Lemony Baby Yukons

I was ready to eat a summery meal last week and was came across the recipe for Crisp, Lemony Baby Yukons in the Ruth Reichl my kitchen year cookbook.  This is the first recipe I’ve made out of her cookbook, but as the academic year came to a close, I’m making a commitment to cooking at home with more real food.  I was about to make some sausages to eat and potatoes sounded really good.  I’m not always a potato fan, but the idea of putting some together seemed incredibly appealing on this night.  I had seen this recipe the day before in the cookbook and the idea of lemon with potatoes in a crisp form was exactly what I wanted.

Crisp, Lemony Baby Yukons

Crisp, Lemony Baby Yukon

3 lb baby Yukon gold potatoes
3 c chicken stock
1-2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, smashed
olive oil
sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the chicken stock into a medium-sized pan and stir in the zest of a lemon or two and the smashed garlic.  Add the potatoes, bring to a boil, cover, and cook for about 12 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, reserving the lemon zest from the stock, and allow them to cool a bit.  Put them on a sheet pan that is liberally covered with olive oil.  Gently flatten eat potato, using the back of a chef’s knife, a rolling pin, or a small skillet.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and the lemon zest, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are crisp.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and a bit more salt.

Lemon White Chocolate Puff Corn

Remember that student group that was meeting for 5 hours every single night for a week in order to hand out money for the student organizations?  Well, I know I mentioned the Gopher Bars I brought in one night, but another night I took in the Popcorn Granola I made and this sweet popcorn with white chocolate.  It’s a modified version of another recipe that called for cinnamon frosting, but in lieu of finding any of that, I thought I’d spread a little more springtime flavor and incorporate the lemon frosting into it.  It had just enough sweetness to the recipe to be full of flavor and sweetness without being overpowering, although I imagine had I really been not eating sugar for a while, this would taste a little over-the-top.  My mom has done a similar version during the holidays and sprinkled with crushed peppermint candies to add that in.

Lemon White Chocolate Puff Corn

Lemon White Chocolate Puff Corn

1 square white almond bark
1 Tbsp butter flavored shortening
1 bag white chocolate chips
1 package lemon frosting
1 bag puff corn

Put puff corn in a large bowl.  Melt almond bark and shortening in double-boiler.  Add white chocolate chips and melt, stirring occasionally.  Mix in frosting.  Stir until well-covered.  pour white chocolate mixture over the puff corn.  Mix until it is completely covered or put the cover on the bowl and shake it!

Put puff corn on wax paper and sprinkle with sprinkles.  Leave on the wax paper until set.  Store in airtight container.

Black Pepper Pound Cake

When looking through the Iowa State Fair cookbook a few weeks ago, I was wanting to make some desserts for a group of students coming to visit.  I knew that there was one member of the group who was allergic to chocolate, which made this the perfect opportunity to try out the black pepper pound cake recipe I’d been eyeing for some time.  I didn’t know what to expect — would the pepper seem out of place?  I’ve tasted some great pairings of lemon and black pepper with chocolate, but what would this look like without the chocolate there?  Luckily, the recipe still had lemon flavoring within it.

I have to admit, I was pretty delighted with the taste of the cake.  The black pepper added some spiciness that was unexpected.  With dessert, I do not often think I want something that is hot, but this was a subtle heat that added to the cake, but did not distract from it.

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Black Pepper Pound Cake

1 c butter, softened
3 c sugar
3 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tsp lemon extract
6 eggs
3 c flour
1 c heavy cream
Powdered sugar

Cream together butter and sugar.  Beat in pepper and extract.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add flour alternately with cream; mix well.  Pour into greased and floured 10-inch tube pan.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 70 to 75 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes; remove from pan.  Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo

After making some salsas as of late, and pulling out the Twin Cities Chef’s Table cookbook to throw together the Crusher Cookies, I was flipping through it and one recipe caught my eye.  This recipe for Brasa’s Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo looked ideal for a week when I had evening commitments and could eat on this recipe over and over.  The cookbook is a collection of recipes from different restaurants in the Twin Cities, this one from Brasa.  Click on the website and tell me you don’t want to go there today to eat.

Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo

Brasa’s Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c minced onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 c fresh lemon juice
1 c fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt
5 lb bone-in pork shoulder

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the lemon and orange juices and simmer for 2 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar.  Transfer half of the mojo to a blender and let cool.  Refrigerate the remaining mojo.

Meanwhile, in a jar, shake together the garlic and onion powders, pepper, and cumin.  Add 2 tablespoons of this dry rub to the mojo in the blender, reserve the remaining rub.  Add Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon salt to the blender and puree until smooth.

Put the pork in a sealable 1-gallon plastic bag and pour in the marinade.  Press as much air as you can from the bag and seal.  Refrigerate pork for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.  Bring the pork to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in a roasting pan large enough to hold the pork.  Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.  Rub the meat all over with the remaining dry rub and transfer pork to the rack.  Roast pork for 3 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees.  Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees and roast the meat for approximately 3 hours longer, until very tender and an instant-read thermometer reads 180 degrees.  Remove the roast from the oven and cover with foil; let rest for 30 minutes.

Shred the meat, discarding the bones and excess fat.  Season pork with salt and pepper.  Serve with the remaining mojo.

Salt-Roasted Turkey with Lemon and Oregano

As has often been the case in recent years, I hosted Thanksgiving for our family this year.  My parents and sister came to dine at my house, while my other sister, brother-in-law, and their kids remained in Ohio.  I was trying to figure out how to make my turkey and came across this recipe from the November 2010 Bon Appetit magazine that I had clipped six years ago and decided to try it out.

I ordered a fresh turkey for the first time, from New Pioneer Food Co-op, and in the style of our family, I did the dry-brining on the Monday before Thanksgiving and cooked it on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving so that we didn’t have to deal with the carving and mess of the turkey on the table the day-of.  Plus, I was able to put together a stock on Wednesday with which to make my gravy.

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Citrus Dressing

I’ve decided that part of what will be helpful in continuing to cook, and part of what I have hoped to do, is invite a few staff members over for dinner.  This week, I started with one colleague, her husband, and their daughter.  As I was putting the menu together, I decided to make a few things I had wanted to try making.  In addition to some sausage burgers that will be coming up, I made these Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Citrus Dressing, from the Make it Paleo II cookbook.

These may be the best sweet potatoes I’ve made recently.  Seriously. I think everyone should follow this recipe.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Citrus Dressing

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Citrus Dressing

3 large sweet potatoes
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp sea salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Citrus dressing:

Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbsp water
pinch sea salt and black pepper
2 tsp sugar
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
1 tsp fresh chives
1/4 medium shallot, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into bite-sized pieces.  Spread the sweet potato pieces evenly over a large-rimmed baking sheet lightly greased with coconut oil.  Toss with the melted coconut oil and season with salt.  Roast for 40 minutes, or until fork-tender, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure they cook evenly and to prevent burning.

While potatoes are roasting, making the dressing.  Combine lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt, and pepper, whisking to blend the oil and acid together.  Add the sugar and whisk again until it has dissolved.  Add the cilantro, chives, and shallot and whisk again to combine all the ingredients.

Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Pour the dressing over the potatoes and carefully mix to coat the potatoes evenly in the dressing.  Sprinkle the lemon zest over and stir.