What’s worse: Garlic hands or cilantro hands?

(Mikan-san, I already know your answer.)

In yet another “what do I do with all this?” dilemma, today I found myself with a bunch of cilantro. Even though Mikan detests the very concept of cilantro, she made a very handy suggestion of trying out a cilantro pesto.

Now I’m a huge fan of basil pesto and I’m a huge fan of cilantro—but I wasn’t too sure that ever the twain should meet.

Tomatoes stuffed with cilantro pesto

I ate the pesto plain on linguini, and I have to say it packs a delightful punch. To me a good basil pesto is the hallmark of late summer, as that’s when my herb garden basil is at its peak, but since I can’t easily grow cilantro up here in Boston (or can I?), I can definitely see me eating cilantro pesto any time of the year I like! (Sorry Mikan-san!)

Just for fun, I decided to take some of Plumduff’s beautiful garden-grown bell tomatoes, hollow them out a bit, and stuff some of the pesto inside. It makes for a cute presentation, that’s for sure. Not to mention you can toss some of these pesto-stuffed tomatoes in your mouth or on your pasta and it’s all very neatly compartmentalized.

I need to take a plating class or something as these still don’t look as neat and pretty as I’d hoped they would. But they sure did taste good!

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Making fridge leftovers into something worthwhile and new

Well, I was in a bit of a pickle that I’m sure everybody can relate to. I found myself with a real mishmash of random ingredients in the refrigerator and absolutely no plan for any of it.

Namely, and I’m a bit embarassed to admit this, I’m not very good with meat. I don’t cook with it as often as I’d like, simply because I’m a poor planner and I’m only cooking for one. (Single servings of meat require repackaging meats and making sure they don’t get freezer burned and blah blah how tedious!) So while I can whip up almost anything from legumes or leafy greens, god help me if I know what to do with some idle chicken breasts.

Weird, right?  Most people I think have the opposite problem!

So, to set the scene, I had 3 boneless chicken breasts, a bunch of swiss chard, and a larder full of… well, canned things. My spice rack is not too exotic but it covers the basics.  I did a little bit of searching and found this fascinating recipe. Sounds like the best chicken wrap ever with my favorite leafy green in the world. It uses the two crucial components I need to cook, plus oregano and cumin? Count me in!

The only ingredient it calls for that I don’t have, and honestly never have had in my life, is annatto seed, also known as the achiote seed. It’s known for its earthy and slightly bitter flavor, apparently?  I am very curious to try it and will seek it out tonight at the grocer’s (or Penzey’s if need be).

I’m going to be bad though—the recipe calls for marinating the meat for eight hours. I’m too impatient to do that. It’ll be hard enough waiting for these to bake, let alone marinate!

A birthday cake fit for a Captain

Rumor has it that like fine wine, plumduff (a.k.a. the Captain) gets better with every passing year! To mark that fact on her birthday, I made her a very simple birthday cake. Since we’re big fans of Cooking Lite here at the Awesomesauce of Greater Boston, this is the relatively-healthy cake and icing recipe I used.

A whale cake for the Captain
Here’s the wet batter mix. I hand beat everything, as I totally refuse to use an electric mixer unless I really really have to.

A whale cake for the Captain
The batter all set and ready to go in the cake pans. Instead of making buttermilk as milk + white vinegar, I actually bought real buttermilk at Trader Joe’s. Maybe it’s just my imagination but to me this was why the cake came out well.

A whale cake for the Captain
See, here are the cakes exactly 30 minutes later, perfectly moist and delicious. It was not a lie.

A whale cake for the Captain
Blehh. Now just to spite the awesome cake, the icing was a disappointment — it was supposed to be a merengue, the flavor and general texture was good, but the consistency was all wrong. I clearly fatigued the egg whites while making the icing. Merengue is so hard to make so I’m not too disappointed. After letting the icing sit it did solidify just enough to coat the cake, though it kind of looked… gloopy.
Flavor-wise it was good though. I added a teaspoon of rose water to the icing just to see how it would affect the flavor. Conclusion: barely detectable. Maybe next time I’ll add a bit more to the cake itself to give it fragrance.

A whale cake for the Captain
Here’s the whale decoration I made for the top — cut out a whale shape from a piece of paper and used spray-on decoration that I had left over from Halloween. It’s black spray food coloring, but sprayed lightly enough it looks gray! I used a whole clove for the eye and put the candle on the blowhole.

A whale cake for the Captain
And here’s the candle all lit and ready for birthday wishes.

Many happy returns to the Captain of the Awesomesauce!

Ramps!

I think they’re going out of season soon but I managed to snag the LAST BUNCH at Russo’s today!

Ramps

I just chopped them rough, sauteed them lightly (in olive oil of course) with halved cherry tomatoes and put it over fettuccine. It’s really good!

Ramps dish

My final ramps dish closeup
Ramps have an interesting flavor, a fresher, greener scallion, kind of a bit like Chinese leeks, too. Definitely a strong flavor though. They don’t need a lot of fanciness to make for a delicious dish, so this simple one worked well. Simple flavors delicious all together.

Also I went to Seban Bakery in Watertown and bought some random Middle Eastern stuff, including:
Abali Yogurt Soda

Yep! It’s like liquid tzatziki.

Asano-mama’s Trial-By-Cupcakes

It just occurred to me that I never posted about the coconut-lychee cupcakes that I made for the Equinox party. I’m too lazy to write it all up again, so here’s what I put in my LJ more or less:

I arrived at the Awesomesauce at about 1:45 or so and started working on my cupcakes probably around 3pm and was working on them for a good two to three hours. You wouldn’t think cupcakes would be so labor intensive, but the bulk of the work for these involved getting the flesh from the fresh coconut. I’d never worked with a coconut before so it was a lot of fun to drill, drain and smash the thing. Lots of flashbacks to Tom Hanks in “Castaway.” Separating the flesh from the shells was really work-intensive as well.

Brute force needed

Smashed coconut!

When I shredded the flesh in stealth_eater’s Cuisinart, the coconut oil gunked the hell out of the machinery. Man, it made a humongous mess. I cleaned it up but for a while there it was like I made a disaster zone out of the whole kitchen.

Still, after tasting the end result, I don’t think it would have tasted nearly as delicious had I used pre-dried shredded coconut. The fresh stuff was just so chewy and gave the cupcakes a fun texture. Plus I got to hit a coconut with a hammer, and that was cool 😛

Somehow the cupcakes were perfectly spongey and soft. I don’t usually have much luck with getting baked goods the *perfect* consistency but I lucked out this time.

Cupcakes fresh out of the oven

The dough itself was actually a lot drier than I was expecting, which is great. Lychee are so juicey I was afraid I’d get a really goopy dough and end up pouring the stuff into the cupcake molds, but the liquid was just right — the recipe calls for a little bit of coconut water, which I didn’t imagine I’d even need, but you really do! Otherwise the dough is *too* dry. I never would have thought that! So the dough was very easy to handle and the fruits cooked very well.

The frosting also took a while to make — it was a huge amount of creamcheese with just a touch of vanilla, grated fresh ginger and powdered ginger, but the effect was a wonderfully delicate flavor, so it was VERY VERY popular.

Coconut lychee cupcakes with ginger-cream cheese frosting

I left the frosting off four of the cupcakes you see in the lower right corner so one of the guests, who is lactose-intolerant, could enjoy these as well 🙂 I just sprinkled some coconut powder and powdered sugar on those.

…And it seems the cupcakes all went over really well, which made all the effort very well worth it!
I am horrible at frosting cupcakes (I … just lack the inherent ability to do it properly for some reason) so Omni volunteered to do it. Here she is doing what I simply cannot — frosting the cupcakes:

That giant bowl of frosting you see there… I still have most of it in the freezer.

I don’t know why the recipe called for SO MUCH frosting but now I have enough ginger-creamcheese frosting to last several millenia.

The garnish was a tiny piece of crystallized ginger.

Here is the recipe for the cupcakes I made from the CupcakeBlog, which is one of my favorite websites EEEEVAR.

This is not a joke and the cake is not a lie: The spring equinox party

Rumor has it there was a fabulous potluck chez Awesomesauce on Sunday.

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Alas plumduff’s amazing coconut chicken soup was not in this photograph, but it was in all our bellies soon enough.

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Behind the amazingly good mango mousse cake was Mikan-san’s fantastic pannacotta and syrup WHICH WAS NOT HONEY-BASED as I kept asking her over and over again. Mikan-san, I leave you the honor of divulging your syrup secrets if you so desire.

Commentary please? 🙂