Wednesday, May 20, 2009

cooking bender, part 1

In spite of the fact that I eat peanut-butter toast every day for breakfast and an egg on toast every day for lunch, I am occasionally seized by a deep desire to cook. When this feeling comes over me, I don't just want to cook, I want to cook like crazy. I want to cook every recipe I've read in the past six months. I want to cook a random assortment of unrelated foods and eat a bite of each. I want to go on a cooking binge, basically.

I called my stemom on my way to the grocery store to shop for a cooking binge tonight, innocently asked what she was planning for dinner, and then insinuated myself into her evening. "I'm thinking of making a chickpea salad," I told her when she mentioned she had some chickpeas in her fridge. I said I was also thinking of making a walnut crema to go with asparagus, she said she had walnuts. I told her I was on my way to her house, and then stopped on the way to get the ingredients for a lentil dish and dessert I'd been wanting to make, and some chicken sausage for the yachtsman.

The result was that I had expert help and wonderful company on my cooking binge, and the three of us had a dinner of delicious but completely random dishes. I'm going to post all four throughout the day, starting with the superstar of the evening, asparagus with walnut crema. MAKE THIS NOW. It's freakishly delicious.

The asparagus with walnut crema is also a soap opera star
and prefers to be photographed through a steamy lens.

Asparagus With Walnut Crema
A16: Food + Wine, via Orangette

This was the best dish of the night; the walnut crema is creamy and rich and delicious with the asparagus, though it would also make a nice dip or go well on pasta. We used manchego cheese instead of the Pecorino that is called for, and any kind of onion will do; we used part of a Vidalia.

For walnut crema:
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small red or sweet onion, diced

For asparagus:
a large bunch of fat asparagus
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Hard-ish cheese, such as Pecorino Romano, Pecorino Tartufo, or manchego
Lemon wedges

To make the walnut crema, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the walnuts, and boil for 10 minutes, or until tender in the middle. Drain the walnuts, reserving at least 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Set aside separately.

In a small skillet, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous pinch of salt, and saute until golden brown and softened. Remove from the heat.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the walnuts, 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, and the onion, and process until creamy. Add salt to taste. With the motor running, slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil, processing until blended. The crema should have the consistency of a creamy hummus. If it seems too thick, add a little more of the reserved cooking water. Taste again for seasoning, and set aside. (Crema can be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for a few days. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Snap the tough ends from the asparagust spears, drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then roast them on an aluminum-foil-lined baking sheet in a 500 degree oven for around eight minutes.

To serve, spoon the crema evenly across the bottom of a plate or platter, arrange the asparagus spears on top, and shave the cheese over the asapargus. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of lemon and serve immediately.


  1. Why is it that I never get invited to these dinners?!?!?!

  2. It was completely last minute and spontaneous. And all part of my Machiavellian, older-sister, evil plan to exclude you from things.

    If you swing by my house after work I will feed you chocolate pudding to compensate.

  3. I knew it was part of that machiavellian plan! You and Tupac, damn you!

  4. Did Tupac Shakur also have a Machiavellian plan to exclude you from dinner? I guess that explains why he never invited you to dinner.

  5. The gangsta?? Your loyal readers (me) need an explanation of this rap.