grilled asparagus manchego breakfast quesadillas

This meal came about as a result of a few different forces and ideas joining together. Let’s start at the beginning…
1. A few months ago, I made a quesadilla recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson. Read the original recipe and you’ll see that this quesadilla isn’t at all about cheese. It’s unique and the flavors are stunning together.
2. At the Union Square farmer’s market on Saturday, looking for something simple to bring to a friend’s birthday picnic, we picked up a loaf of organic sourdough peasant bread and a nice chunk of manchego cheese.

Shaved manchego

Beth’s Rhubarb chutney

Then, mostly just hunting for samples, we stopped by a table full of jams called Beth’s Farm Kitchen. I was not expecting the variety we encountered – jalapeño jam, blazing tomato chutney, rhubarb, chili cranberry, garlic rosemary jelly… we probably would have tried all 40-ish flavors had we not felt like total pigs. I walked away with a jar of rhubarb chutney (I feel like you have to buy something if you eat samples for over ten minutes) and a frequent jam punch card – believe me, I’ll be back!

Brooklyn Salsa

3. Last fall, I discovered Brooklyn Salsa, probably one of the best salsas I’ve ever had, made with fresh local organic ingredients, at the Brooklyn Flea in Ft. Greene.  It comes in five flavors, one for each borough. Having only bought it at the Flea, I was ecstatic to see it on the shelves of my supermarket around the corner a few days ago! When I mentioned it to Chris, he said we should recreate one of our great brunches from last September – scrambled eggs with heirloom tomatoes, roasted red peppers, hot peppers, avocado, lime, and the “Bronx” (curry eggplant) Brooklyn Salsa. However, heirloom tomatoes aren’t quite out there yet (well, there were some tiny ones at the market for $4.75 a pound!) and I was up for trying something a little different.
So now that you have the back story, here’s the brunch. We took the egg-tortilla method from the 101 cookbooks recipe, threw in some grilled asparagus, and thin shavings of leftover manchego cheese from the picnic, and served them with both Brooklyn Salsa (the Staten Island “Green” kind) and the rhubarb chutney.
Beat three eggs well (I use Pete’s cage free organic large) and set aside. Wash a large handful of asparagus and trim them (just snap the bottoms – they will break where they are meant to). I like to use the skinny variety of asparagus for a recipe like this.

Grilled asparagus

Heat a cast iron grill pan and spray it with a light coating of olive oil. Grill the asparagus until just slightly browned and charred. Remove from the grill and set aside. Heat a small pan and spray with olive oil. Pour in about a quarter of the beaten egg and after about one minute, place a small yellow corn tortilla on top and press down gently with a spatula to help it adhere. When the egg is set, flip it over and place asparagus in the middle. Shave some manchego cheese (as much as you like; I use just a basic vegetable peeler for this) over the asparagus and flip one side of the tortilla over like an omelette. Give it a minute for the cheese to melt, remove from the pan, repeat steps for the remaining three quesadillas, and serve!

Don’t forget to add your favorite salsa or chutney. Our verdict?

The rhubarb won this round.

when it’s too hot to cook: shrimp ceviche

When it’s 98 degrees out and I have no air conditioning in my apartment, office, or car, the last thing I want is hot food. So I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make ceviche, which I’ve been wanting to experiment with for a while. I decided to go with a shrimp variety, just because I didn’t feel like journeying all the way to the really nice fish market to get something extra fresh, like red snapper, sea bass, or scallops, which wouldn’t be cooked first. The issue with ceviche is that the the fruit juice “cooks” the fish with acid, but doesn’t kill bacteria, so the fish has to be sushi-quality fresh. With shrimp though, you can flash boil it and then toss it in ice water before marinating it in juices.

For my ceviche, I started with a pound of shelled deveined medium shrimp. I removed the tails and

Refreshing shrimp ceviche with avocado, cucumber, jalapeno, and red onion

boiled them in a large pot with two tablespoons of salt for just about one minute until they turned pink, and then quickly put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. I then chopped them into smaller pieces an marinated them in the refrigerator (using a glass bowl, not metal) in the juice of six limes and two lemons for half an hour. Then I added a cup of finely chopped red onion and two minced jalapeno peppers (serrano would be even better, but I couldn’t find one that day) and marinated for an additional half hour. Right before serving, I tossed in a cup of fresh chopped cilantro, a diced cucumber, and chunks of avocado.

While delicious, it needed a bit of a sweet kick. Next time I will definitely add a bit of orange juice to the marinade, and maybe some diced mango! Also, this was enough for two main course servings and two full days of leftovers, so if you’re just going for appetizer sizes, cut the recipe in half unless it’s a big crowd.

an experiment with radish tops

I went to the farmer’s market this morning and was excited to find summery goodies like radishes, strawberries, and sugar snap peas. (I’m still counting the days until I find peaches out there though… stay tuned for my peach avocado salsa!).

Farmers Market finds

Farmers Market finds

As I was walking home, I started wondering if you could eat the radish tops. It seems weird and wasteful to cut off the radishes to eat and throw away a huge pile of leafy greens. But I knew some research would be required; some vegetables have toxic parts that you’re not supposed to eat, like the tops of rhubarb. After a little googling, I’d learned that radish greens can be eaten – raw, juiced, in soups, or braised or sauteed as you would other tough greens like mustard greens or swiss chard. The only warnings were of the pungent peppery, bitter flavor which some people don’t like. I also found out that the radish greens are high in potassium and folate, and have six times as much vitamin C as the radishes themselves.

So I got to work. I knew I didn’t want to make a soup (it’s June and I have no AC) and I don’t own a juicer. One touch of the brittle prickly leaves told me I didn’t want to try them raw either, so I started hunting for a recipe ideas that involved pan cooking. I came across an Asian stir-fry type recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen, and decided to use that as a guide but alter it based on what ingredients I already had.


Separating radishes from radish tops

I didn’t have peanut oil so I used sesame oil. I also doubled the amount of garlic, and didn’t remove it before adding the greens (if you’re not as obsessed with garlic as I am, stick to the original recipe). And I substituted honey for the agave nectar in the sauce and added more sriracha (I have a high tolerance for heat). I was really skeptical as I was chopping the greens. They are very rough and have almost a needle-y hairlike quality to the leaves. After I sauteed them, I took a taste before adding the sauce. I have to say they were probably too bitter to be enjoyed without some sort of seasoning help. But after I added the soy-rice vinegar-honey-sriracha sauce? Delicious! And, as of an hour after eating them, I haven’t collapsed yet. So let’s hope all those people on the internet were right about radish tops not being toxic.

Sauteed radish greens

Final product: sauteed radish greens w/ garlic & asian sauce