Asparagus, Cannellini Bean & Sourdough Salad

Asparagus Cannellini Bean Sourdough Salad1
Last Friday I had trouble sleeping. It wasn’t because my mind was racing with anxiety or nerves. Nope. It was actually just pure excitement. Saturday morning was the official start of outdoor farmers market season in Chicago. It was a day I had been waiting for since the last market of 2016. Yes, stands appear indoors in the slog from November to April, but it isn’t the same feeling.

I joined the early crowd—before 8am. The almost glove-worthy weather was windy and cool, but I didn’t mind. The selection was dominated by greens with a few pops of color here and there. I bought a couple bunches of slender asparagus. They were so fresh they didn’t require much fuss. When I got home I made an asparagus, cannellini bean & sourdough salad with Parmesan & scallions.
Asparagus Cannellini Bean Sourdough SaladAsparagus, Cannellini Bean & Sourdough Salad

Serves 2-4

6 ounces sourdough bread, torn into rough pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for serving
1 teaspoon black pepper pus more for serving
1/2 lb. asparagus, bottom ends trimmed
3/4 cup cooked cannellini beans (I used canned beans.)
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh chives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the bread on a sheet pan and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bake the bread until it toasted and deep golden brown, about 15 minutes, stirring halfway through baking.

For the asparagus, preheat a grill pan over medium high heat. Toss the asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Lightly grill the asparagus, until it is warm, but is still a bit crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Slice the asparagus into 1-inch pieces

In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread, asparagus, cannellini beans, scallions, chives and Parmesan. Stir in the remaining olive oil and lemon juice. Taste and season with additional salt & pepper before serving.

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies

Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies
I was a bit late to the spicy food party. I don’t know remember exactly when or why I decided to be brave when it came to heat, but I’ve never looked back since. I love that buzzy feeling on my tongue when I bite into something spiked with a chile pepper, no matter if it’s savory or sweet. Actually, I can’t get enough when desserts are surprisingly spicy.

When I saw the recipe for these Mexican hot-chocolate cookies, I knew I had to try them. With their combination of cinnamon, cayenne pepper and semisweet chocolate, these had a lot more going on than your standard cookie. I brought them to a get-together with friends, and they were a hit. I might be baking another batch for Cinco de Mayo.
Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies
Mexican Hot-Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living May 2017

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed-dark brown sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, roughly chopped
1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, salt, cayenne and baking soda.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high speed to cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed until the dough is just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough by the heaping tablespoon to create 1-inch diameter balls. Roll the balls in turbinado sugar before placing on the sheet pan 2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 11-14 minutes until the tops are cracked. Cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pan before transferring to a wire rack. Once cooled completely, store in an airtight container.

Spicy Tomato Salsa

Spicy Tomato Salsa
Salsa is my pantry security blanket. I always have a jar at home because it makes me feel safe and secure knowing that even a spoonful can transform something that’s lacking in the flavor department. I use it in eggs and grain bowls. It doesn’t matter if the dish is Mexican, Tex-Mex or fits in another ethnic category. Salsa adds a spicy, acidic boost that’s good for just about all savory food.

I usually buy my salsa at the grocery. I have my go-to brands and varieties, but with Cinco de Mayo this week, I thought I should put in a little extra effort and whip it up from scratch. I found some locally greenhouse-grown vine-ripened tomatoes to make this spicy tomato salsa that had a kick thanks to jalapeno and dried chile de arbol. Of course I paired it with chips, but this salsa will end up in another dish.
Spicy Tomato Salsa
Spicy Tomato Salsa
Adapted from Epicurious

Makes about 2 cups

5-6 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (about 1-1/4 pounds)
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, stemmed and deseeded
1 dried chile de arbol, stemmed and crushed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Score an x in to the bottom of each tomato and carefully lower into the boiling water along with the garlic. Boil for 2 minutes before removing from the water and transferring to a bowl of cold water. Peel and core the tomatoes and peel the garlic.

Place the tomatoes, garlic, jalapeño, chile de arbol, lime juice, salt and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Puree the mixture until almost smooth, but still a bit chunky. Pour the mixture into a bowl and stir in the cilantro and red onions. Taste the salsa and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Note: If you want thicker salsa, you can drain the excess liquid by placing it in a fine mesh strainer.

Tin Roof Ice Cream

Tin Roof Ice Cream
I’m kind of a kitchen hoarder. Whether it’s pots, pans, or gadgets, I have a hard time getting rid of things because no matter how small the chance is that I will use something, I cling to that glimmer of hope that I might need it. I have the same approach when it comes to ingredients. I do everything I can to not waste food. That explains why I have a freezer full of baked goods and other odds & ends.

I had a bunch of frozen egg yolks in little baggies, so I figured the best way to get rid of them was a batch of ice cream. Since I’m such a fan of chocolate and peanuts, I made a quart of tin roof ice cream—chocolate covered peanuts with a fudge ripple in vanilla ice cream. I folded the peanuts into the ice cream right after it was churned and then alternated layers of ice cream and fudge before freezing.
Tin Roof Ice Cream
Tin Roof Ice Cream

Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Makes about 1 quart

For ice cream
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For chocolate covered peanuts
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts

For fudge ripple
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the ice cream, pour 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl and set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl.

Combine the milk, sugar, salt and remaining heavy cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk half the milk mixture into the yolks and then pour it back into the saucepan. Stir continuously until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl with the heavy cream and stir in the vanilla.

For the peanuts, melt the chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat. Stir in the peanuts coating them in chocolate. Spread out the peanuts on a parchment-lined plate. Chill in the refrigerator until the chocolate hardens and then roughly chop.

For the fudge ripple, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Whisk the mixture constantly until it just starts to simmer. Continue whisking for 1 minute before removing from the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and cool to room temperature. Chill completely in the refrigerator.

Churn the ice cream mixture in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Stir in the chocolate covered peanuts. In a quart-sized container, layer the fudge ripple and the ice cream in alternating layers, starting with the fudge. Freeze until firm.

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