Roasted Asparagus, Leek, and Feta Frittata

Apparently, I apologize a lot.

It’s funny, because I really don’t apologize that much in real life.  Mostly because… I’m perfect.

Just kidding.  I’m definitely not perfect.

But just for that, I will say this: I am not sorry for having not posted in a couple of weeks.

Why?  Because I’m busy as hell.

Anyway, I’m celebrating my birthday tonight.  The weather is perfect.  I spent the morning making this frittata.  I’m on an asparagus kick right now.  Did you notice?

Recipe after the jump.  I have to go put on an oversized UCLA shirt and jorts for a barbecue.

Roasted Asparagus, Leek, and Feta Frittata

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 bundle of fresh asparagus – I prefer the thinner stalks
Garlic salt, pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
10 large eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 leeks, sliced
1 cup feta cheese
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Fresh Parmesan cheese, as garnish

WHAT TO DO:

First, you must roast the asparagus.  You could saute it, but roasting asparagus is to die for.  Trim the tough edges off of the ends of the asparagus.  Then, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spread the stalks evenly.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until the asparagus is sizzling and cooked through.

Then, whisk your eggs in a large mixing bowl with the heavy cream and feta.

In a skillet, melt your butter, and saute your leeks until they start to brown on the edges – about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  When cooked, lower your oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the skillet from the heat, and pour the egg mixture into the pan.  By hand, place the roasted asparagus in the pan, evenly spread out.  Then, bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Serve with plain Greek yogurt.

An Asparagus and Parmesan Tart

Clementines are known for many things, the most famous of which include cuteness, seedlessness, and easiness to peel (importance descending in that order).  I can vouch for the first one, and the first one only.  I ate three clementines today, all within about five minutes, and encountered seeds and could not avoid clementine rinds creeping into my fingernails.
What?!  Why?!  Clementines, whyyyyy have you forsaken me?

Now, how did I get myself into this mess?  Where did this all begin?
See this tart?  I made it last night.  I was going to eat part of it for lunch, and I was going to give some of it to some food-appreciating friends at work.  Instead, I left it on my kitchen counter, where Rachel came to the rescue and secured it in the refrigerator (and then texted me, saying that she ate the whole thing).  Don’t worry, Rachel is a big, fat liar.
So here I was, lunchless.  Swamped with work.  Itching to play piano.  Naturally, I didn’t resolve any of these issues with fierce logic.  I didn’t buy lunch — too expensive.  I procrastinated at work — too tempting.  I didn’t play piano — too busy playing catch-up from my procrastination.  And the entire time, I was wishing (daydreaming?) I could eat my tart.  I even considered going home for it.  but instead, I rummaged through my purse to find three clementines, for the win.
So I ate them.  And pondered methods of overcoming writers’ block.  I really have been writing a lot, lately.  I was up until 2 AM writing a recap-newsletter for my adult kickball league.
It’s hilarious.
I also need to write a follow-up to this, since Cote d’Ivoire’s election disputes are finally settling.
Not hilarious.  But very interesting.
I also wrote this post.  You’re reading it right now.  You should do what I say, and make this tart — right now.  But don’t leave it at home — because your roommate will try to eat it, and you’ll be left lunchless with clementine pectin wedged into your fingernails.
It’s raining.  It’s pouring.  You know what that means?  It means that this California girl needs to be back in bed with a cup of tea and a few episodes of Archer.


WHAT YOU NEED:

One prepared, amazing tart crust.
Four eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
3/4 cup milk
1 handful of asparagus
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
WHAT TO DO:
Have your tart crust prepared in advance.  Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Either saute or roast the asparagus with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I prefer roasting it, but sauteing it is delicious, too.  Sauteing is faster — that’s for sure.
In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork or a whisk.  Stir in the milk, then the parmesan cheese.  Pour into the tart crust.
Very meticulously arrange your asparagus pieces in your tart.  I chose the rectangular tart pan, because it almost looks like a picture frame.  But you can decorate your tart however you like.
Sprinkle some salt and pepper, and then bake for 35 to 40 minutes — until the filling is puffy and firm.

Blueberry Muffins

Hello, world. It’s been a while, for which I apologize. Life has been hot, humid, and busy. I’m leaving my job at the federal government! It has occupied almost a year of my life, and the vast majority of my post-undergraduate career. And I’m moving into the non-profit sector, for an international development organization that I am very excited to be a part of. Plus, I mentioned this blog in my first interview, and then received some good reviews in my second interview. Working with foodies is becoming a priority in my life; I can sense it. Anyway, between my running schedule and frantically tying loose ends at my government job, cooking has fallen short of blogging. Of course I have been cooking – I just haven’t had the time to photograph and consciously think about the recipes that would benefit you all as the sous chefs you will all become at some point in your lifes. Rather, I have my friends over for dinners in my microscopic kitchen, and I give them lessons on how to properly chop onions, or how to brown chicken, and we all come up with get-rich-quick schemes to market my love of food. And then I decide against it, because I’m terrified of turning my passion into work and money. My entire life, the people I love have cooked for me, and taught me to cook for myself. I could only return the favor by cooking for those I love, and teaching them to cook for themselves. It’s only fair, and it’s one of the many things I love to do.

I know the focus of this blog was originally intended for sweet, confectionary foods, but let’s be honest. Who wants to turn their oven on in this heinous Mid-Atlantic heat/humidity wave? Not this blogger. No, sir. Not me. But my colleagues at work and my friends have been pestering me for an update. I’m sorry – it has been too hot to cook. I have literally lived off of raw vegetables for the past month or so. I’m very happy for that, since it is literally too hot to run. Until this past weekend. Well, it was still to hot to run this weekend, but I started my new half marathon training session this morning – let’s see how long it will take to get used to waking up at 6:30 to run and shower before work! I’ll keep you guys updated.

Anyway, I spent this morning running around the National Mall to jump start my metabolism from all of the blueberry muffins I ate yesterday. It was Sunday, and we had blueberries galore, so I couldn’t resist the temptation of making blueberry muffins. It’s such a family-like food to me, since my mom made them on the weekends when I was a little girl. The boxed mixes, of course. Now, I’m definitely not the person who condemns boxed mixes of any sort. I actually started cooking with them through college, because it was so easy. And then I added to them, and messed around with the ingredients, and then I reached an epiphany: boxed mixes are expensive. So I advise you to do this, if you are looking to cut back on your food spending. When baking, keep your kitchen stocked with flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Most baking recipes include some variation in the measurements of those ingredients. I don’t remember the last time I spent three bucks on mediocre muffin mix.

WHAT YOU NEED:

2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 to 3 cups fresh blueberries

WHAT TO DO:

First, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  Then, in a separate bowl, beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.  Then, add the eggs and milk, mixing until smooth.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until the batter is lava-like and thick.  Fold in the blueberries.  Divide into baking cups in a muffin pan — it should make about twelve.  Then, bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Two Balsamic Salads: One Sweet, One Savory

Summer. It’s hot. And humid. And the thought of heating up my oven seems unbearable on those hot summer days. So we opt for the easier meals in summer — salads, smoothies, fresh fruit, and so on. How can we blame ourselves? The farmers’ markets are all open, the sun is shining, and all of our favorite fruits and vegetables are in season. Not to mention all the memories that summer produce ignites in our systems; especially for California girls, like me.
The summer foods make me long for my parents’ backyard pool and patio kitchen: the site of pool parties upon pool parties, starting in high school and lasting until the week before I said good-bye to my beloved patio grill, and John Wooden, featured here, who still bartends my Dad’s precious kegerator. With regards to John Wooden’s recent passing, my dad sent me an email with the subject title “Hey, at least I have a pretty valuable bartender now.” I guess it’s only okay because my dad has dedicated such a large portion of his life saluting JW. I suspect the same print out of JW’s pyramid of success has been hanging in his offices for the past 25 years. A lot of my recipes are derivatives of things my parents whipped up on that beautiful patio — mostly things that I haven’t posted here, usually because I can’t take photos at night without a light box, and the fact that the dinners rarely ever last through the morning for photographs. It might be because I don’t like to eat dinner alone, so I generally have people over all the time. What can I say? I enjoy good company.

I do, however, really enjoy the sporadic rain and thunderstorms in Washington. This Sunday, Silje and I made an impromptu trip to Eastern Market, only to rush home within twenty minutes of arriving, because the market had packed up right as an isolated T-storm raged on. Umbrella-less, we decided to hit my kitchen and throw together fresh snacks. Here are a couple of easy balsamic recipes that I promise you will love.
For the Cucumber and Tomato Balsamic Salad:

WHAT YOU NEED:

Sliced cucumbers
Sliced tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

WHAT TO DO:

It’s pretty self explanatory from the photos.  Thinly slice the cucumbers and tomatoes, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.  Grind salt and fresh black pepper to the seasoning of your preference.

For the Balsamic Strawberries:

WHAT YOU NEED:

Strawberries.  Lots of them.
Balsamic vinegar

WHAT TO DO:

First: don’t hesitate.  I know you are all thinking: what is this girl talking about?  Who mixes vinegar with fruit?

Well, get over it, and trust me.  Every single person I’ve made this for has given me a look of disgust until I force fed them these strawberries — and then they end up finishing the strawberries before I even get the chance to pair it with anything else.  Needless to say, my friends do trust me in the kitchen, so I don’t actually force feed them… but sometimes I like to think that, just to feel like I had the power to change someone’s mind, dramatizing the event in my own head.

Balsamic vinegar and strawberries might actually be my favorite unexpected combination in the world.  I grew up eating strawberries with whipped cream, or sugar.  Until I met balsamic vinegar — which actually makes the strawberries taste unbelievably sweet.  If anything in this world could make a bowl of red, ripe strawberries taste even more like strawberries, it’s balsamic vinegar.

So, get out your best paring knife.  I prefer to slice the strawberries first across the top, to chop off the greens, and then vertically, so they form little triangles.  Then, go crazy.  But not too crazy.  Drizzle your strawberries in balsamic.  Toss.  Eat.  Alone, or with vanilla ice cream.

Light and Airy Chocolate Waffles

When I first moved to Washington, I had no expectations — coming from the other side of the country, I really couldn’t.  Honestly, I had been flown to the district one weekend over summer to interview for a job in Tampa.  I purchased my one-way ticket to Washington two weeks after I returned home to Los Angeles.

My parents thought I had gone nuts and my friends were shocked at my abrupt escape.  But honestly, sometimes you just know — where to go, what to do, when to leave.  After three months of a hellish job and living at home, Washington had summoned me.  I slept on a gracious friend’s couch for just over two weeks and spent some quality time perusing Craigslist.  The house that I now live in invited me to an open house to meet the roommates and look around.  To my surprise, the open house was packed with girls around my age, clawing at each other’s throats, vying for attention.  I, however, was haggard in my UCLA t-shirt and running shorts.  So I laid low and chatted with each of the roommates to introduce myself, and I got a fortunate invitation to live there the next day.  Phew!

What I learned later, was that by laying low, I gave the impression that I would lay low as house mate.  I didn’t reveal to the house mates that I had a number of friends, itching to visit and anxiously awaiting my couch.  To my knowledge, having a friend crash on our couch every now and then hasn’t offended or annoyed my house mates; rather, they usually end up hanging out with my visitors, because my friends are (naturally) awesome.  But it wasn’t what they expected.

Anyway, if anyone gets irritated at any point, I am generally capable of making up for any hard feelings with some spectacular food — like these chocolate waffles (adopted from Ghirardelli).  A friend from my hellish Xerox job in Los Angeles came to visit for the weekend… having now spent her first weekend in Washington, it seems as though she has become smitten with this city in the same way that I did, just six months ago.

WHAT YOU NEED:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
4 eggs, separated
2 cups milk (as always, I used skim)

WHAT TO DO:

Preheat your waffle iron according to directions.  Sift the dry ingredients together, and add the egg yolks and milk.  Whisk together until smooth.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Then, carefully fold the chocolate batter into the meringue.  Finally, fold the batter with chocolate chips.

Ladle the batter into the waffle iron, and use a high-temperature resistant tool to make sure the batter spreads evenly.  Close the iron, and allow for cooking time indicated by the iron manufacturer.  Serve with fresh fruit and chocolate syrup.

Crepes with Caramelized Sugar and Rum

Life introduced to me to crepes only recently, when I lived in Los Angeles. My roommate had a French boyfriend that made crepes at our apartment–pretty much 24/7. So wonderfully typical of the French. I always wished he’d just make crepes in a black beret and a horizontally striped shirt, and let me sharpie a curly mustache on him. He refused. Sigh… such is life.

Since I’ve moved to the district, however, I’ve started a Sunday morning ritual with my roommates (and the friends who frequently spend the night). Our kitchen has turned into a haven for crepe experimentation–plowing through whatever ingredients that could lead us to the perfect sweet crepe that can either make or break your hangover. This morning, though, I decided to take the experimentation to the next level. You see, last night was our first soiree with me living in the house. I stumbled into the kitchen this morning to find some dwindling bottles of dark rum, which brought me back to my college days in Westwood… not only because of the excessive drinking, but because back then we were lucky enough to have a Frenchman to make crepes en flambe (is that right? I don’t speak French) with our rum stockpile. Crepes are traditionally cooked on one side only–but if you pour alcohol on top of it as it cooks, and then light the alcohol on fire, the surface of the crepe cooks as the alcohol burns away, and therefore caramelizing the sugar you sprinkled on top.

If you don’t like egg nog, substitute the egg nog for more milk. If you can’t use almond flour, substitute all-purpose flour. If you’re short on ingredients to put in the crepes, regular shredded mixed cheese and sugar is a personal favorite of mine–you would not normally expect to mix the two, but trust me on that one… it’s epic.

WHAT YOU NEED:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almond flour
1/3 cup egg nog
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon butter (melted)
1 Tablespoon dark rum
1 Tablespoon sugar

WHAT TO DO:

First, you might be wondering what almond flour is. You can buy it at specialty stores, but it’s actually cheaper to make it. (Almond flour is one of the main reasons why I bought a Cuisineart food processor). Almond flour is actually quite simple to make–you just grind almonds in a food processor until it forms a light, fluffy consistency. It probably will never be as fine as all-purpose flour, but you want it to be fine enough to blend into a mixture without being lumpy.

Anyway, almond flour is a staple I keep in my kitchen. It gives a good almond flavor to practically anything.

Once you have that, stir together the almond flour, all-purpose flour, milk, water, and egg nog in a mixing bowl. Then, stir in the eggs and melted butter. When the mixture is even and smooth, heat a large non-stick frying pan over the stove, and pour the desired batter amount in the pan after it is already hot. You can pick up the pan and tilt it whatever way you need to in order to let the batter spread out–I personally, prefer my crepes to be as thin as possible. But use your judgment, and welcome experimentation into the kitchen.

Immediately after, sprinkle the sugar evenly on the surface of the crepe, and then pour the rum on top of it as well. Light a match to the rum, which catches fire and caramelizes the sugar as the alcohol cooks away (the first time I did this, I had excessive amounts of rum and almost burned my eyebrows off, so BE CAREFUL and don’t use too much). When the alcohol has burned away, the fire will go out, and the crepe will be safe to eat. Fold it over as you like, and enjoy :)

P.S. Why is my layout in Spanish? Told ya, I’m still working out some bugs.