Friday, May 8, 2009

Bertha Stewart

I am by no means a domestic goddess. I’m trying (sort of) hard to get there, but sometimes these things don’t come so naturally to me. I overcompensate on one end and then completely scrap it on another. Like for instance, when I moved and contributed probably two to three hours of my life considering the where’s and who’s of where Erica and I’s respective bathroom accessories (including like, 6 blow-dryers) but then I go and do something like not even bother to sweep or mop the organized bathroom in the three(!) months since we’ve moved in. My friend Michelle would never let this happen. This is a girl that despite climbing (leaping, hurdling) up the corporate ladder (read: working insane hours that I would whine about to anyone and everyone that even looked my way), devoted at least four to five hours last Saturday to switching out her summer clothes for her winter clothes and aggressively cleaning her whole entire apartment. She also had time that night to have me and Erica over for a dinner that included some fancy cheeses course and a fig spread that I have since been fantasizing about. She has homemade gimlets in her fridge at all times during the summer months. She has been, since college and most likely before, our crew’s Martha Stewart. Me, I’m more like Bertha Stewart, Martha’s sloppier, slightly less together cousin. Martha trims topiaries and makes pate brise in her sleep, Bertha can barely keep alive her overweight aloe plant and makes mostly no pudge brownies with yogurt that is suspiciously close to its expiration date, in the fricken microwave no less.

Anywho, Bertha is giving it a try and trying to get better. I mean, I wiped down the sink with a piece of toilet paper this morning as I brushed my buckers, so it’s progress. But anyways…I ramble on and I present to you, the salad which I made last weekend for said dinner at Martha’s. I made it from things in my fridge that needed to be used and that being said, it came out pretty tasty. I was a little nervous, because sometimes when I play this game of Oh-I’m-Such-an-Experienced-Cook-Now-That-I-Can-Just-Throw-Anything-Together-and-It-Will-Make-Eaters-Squeal-with-Delight-and-Beg-Me-for-the-Recipe I end up with straight crap and more embarrassed than one should be in front of her bestest pals.


(with Brown Buttered Corn from the NYT, by way of Orangette)

Salad Fixins:

1 bunch asparagus

A few pieces day old 7 grain bread (I used one whole and one half sandwich rolls- any bread should work but I pref. 7 grain because it has more texture and flavor)

2 ears of corn

½ purple onion, thinly sliced

½ head butter lettuce (I only used a half of a head because I wanted the lettuce to be a supporting player here, with the emphasis on the croutons and the asparagus)

2-3 teaspoons unsalted butter

For the dressing:

Juice of half a lemon

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon walnut oil

1 ½ teaspoons honey

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

S n’ P

[sidebar: this is wicked hard, I should have written it all down as I did it, now almost a week later, my tiny brain is maxed out trying to recall measurements and steps. I vow to get better at this. Plus, I don’t tend to make salads with exact measurements, so please taste this (esp. the vinaigrette) before serving it to anyone judgmental.]

Preheat oven to 375. Chop the bread into large cubes (whatever size you like your croutons I like mine on the hefty side) and toss on a sheet pan with some olive oil. I usually try to be oil conscious so I find that a palm full of olive oil coats them just fine. Salt and pepper and a little dried parsley for pizzazz. Toast the croutons in the oven and meanwhile…get to the veggies. Check on the croutons after about 15 minutes. You want them to be crunchy so if they’re not ready yet, give them another 5-7. Mine took longer then expected (like, 25 minutes I think) but my oven is horrible.

MMkay, so first I needed to get rid of some corn. I saw a great recipe for Brown Buttered Corn that looked pretty dreamy on orangette. Since my corn is early season, and most likely from a distance that is not politically correct, I decided jazzing up the corn with some brown butter might make it a little tastier. Turns out I was correct as usual. First, hack the kernels off of your corn. I balanced my ears in a wide, low bowl and hacked down the ears with my giant kitchen knife. Melt two to three teaspoons butter in a small saucepan over med-high heat until the buttered has browned to a nice amber and smells nutty. Gather up any rogue kernels that have run across the counter and dump all of the kernels into your browned butter. Add some S n’ P and give it a nice stir. I then lowered the heat and placed a lid on my pot. My goal here was to warm the corn through and give it a little flavor, no more no less. Too much cooking would make the corn too starchy and gummy, and truth be told ‘twas a tid bit too starchy anyways but we all made it through.

Once the corn was all set I heated up my grill pan (for those without the luxury of a backyard grill these grill pans from Target are ideal for borrowing from your roomie and doing a budget grill job inside) over med-high heat. I snapped off the woody ends of my asparagus and gave them a light drizzle of the oil, working in batches, I grilled the asparagus for a few minutes per side, giving them time to get some grill marks but not so long that they would be mush. Since we’re talking salad here, I wanted them to still have a bit of crunch. Once the asparagus were grilled and cooled a bit I sliced them in half, about two inch spears was what I ended up with.

To make the dressing my preferred method is to use my immersion blender, which was my first kitchen gadget ever back at the tender at of 20 and I still love it so today. It fits in a regulation size coffee mug, emulsifies dressings to perfection and also can blend soups and on days when calories don’t exist, read: Sundays it can also blend milkshakes. Another tried and true method I always use when not in my own kitchen and traveling on the go is to combine the ingredients of my dressing in a jar. Make sure the lid is on good and tight and give it a good violent shake. The oil and vinegar (or in this case lemon juice) will come together right nice. I had never made this dressing so I blended at home, taste tested, added more honey and a touch more walnut oil because I over did it with the Dijon in round one and it was overpowering. When I served the salad I just gave my traveling jar a few hard shakes and it re-emulsified just right.

Toss the dressing with the entirety of the salad fixings just before serving or else the croutons will mop it all up and get soggy. This salad was great, brown buttering the corn and grilling the asparagus gave the veggies depth. The purple onion added some punch, both visually and flavor wise and the dressing was a great compliment to it: bright and lemony but with some richness courtesy of the walnut oil and a little pepper from the Dijon. We served it with prosciutto wrapped cod and roasted potatoes, and like four bottles of wine for (don’t judge us) three girls and then we finished off the meal with some sticky buns that were a supreme level of deliciousness but may or may not have given me diabetiss.

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