Gooey butter cake, chess cake, whatever you call it, it's good.

Gooey butter cake, chess cake, whatever you call it, it’s good.

Y’all have read of my Memphis guinea pig, who visits periodically and allows me to try out all sorts of new and experimental recipes on him. And, bless his heart, happily eats anything and pronounces it good. (Personally, I think he periodically lies through his teeth, but I do love him for it.)

Anyway, he’s a native of St. Louis. As such, he is a devotee of Imo’s Pizza, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard, and Budweiser. (Thankfully, NOT Bud Light.) And St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake.

Well, dearest Guinea Pig, here’s a news flash for you: I CAN MAKE ST. LOUIS GOOEY BUTTER CAKE!

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Asparagus and egg; a match made in heaven.

Asparagus and egg; a match made in heaven.

I continue to do fun things with asparagus.

Shut UP. I am not being perverse. I am enjoying the prime fruit of spring in as many ways as I can manage to do so, before it’s gone for another year.

So far this spring, I’ve had asparagus wrapped in proscuitto; roasted asparagus; steamed asparagus and sauteed asparagus, the three above both with and without hollandaise; asparagus in a frittata (I don’t think that one made the blog, but it was good), asparagus in a pasta, and asparagus in a salad.

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May 15, 2015

One for the Sweet Baby Jesus logbook, this is.

One for the Sweet Baby Jesus logbook, this is.

People. Make this. Make this as soon as you can, and above all, make it while asparagus is still in season.

Don’t make a lot of it. It’s rich as Bill Gates, and you can’t eat a whole lot of it at a sitting. And my guess would be that it doesn’t hold over well. But damn, folks, it’s good. It’s Sweet Baby Jesus good. And you can put this on the table from start to finish in a smooth 30 minutes, because I did so last night.

This is an asparagus fonduta, fonduta being “a preparation of melted cheese (such as fontina) usually with milk, butter, egg yolks, and sliced white truffles,” according to Mr. Merriam and Mr. Webster, and comes from, of course, the French “fondue.” This had Parmigiano instead of fontina, and it did not have any white truffles, but it did not seem to suffer from the changes.

So here’s how your 30 minutes in the kitchen goes.

Grate a little more than a cup of Parmigiano; you want a cup for the sauce, and some extra for sprinkling. The recipe called for five ounces, but that is a boatload of parm, and I did not use anywhere near that much. Set it aside, and put your pasta — I used regular spaghetti — on to boil. I think it would have been excellent with some linguine, but I didn’t have any.

Whisk together a couple of egg yolks (I didn’t read closely enough, and used whole eggs, again to no discernable ill effect) and add a cup of creme fraiche. (Creme fraiche is something I generally have on hand; it’s easy to make. Pour a cup of heavy cream into a container, add a couple or three tablespoons of some cultured dairy product — I have used Greek yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk at one time or another, but generally gravitate toward Greek yogurt — and whisk it together. Let it sit on the counter, loosely covered, for several hours, until it’s as thick as you want. Then refrigerate it. You can sweeten this and it makes a marvelous dressing for fruit or to spoon over desserts, but obviously, for this purpose, you want it unsweetened.)

Whisk the eggs and the creme fraiche together, add the cheese, and turn on the heat under the double boiler; when it boils, cut it back to medium low and let it cook until it starts to thicken, whisking periodically. When it thickens, set it off the heat.

Meanwhile, break off the tough ends of the asparagus and cut it into 1-inch or so lengths, Saute that in about 3 tbsp of butter over medium heat until the butter browns.

By that time, the pasta ought to be close to done. Drain it, dump it back in the pot, and add the asparagus and butter to it; toss. Then pour the sauce over it, and toss again.

Ladle it up, sprinkle it with fresh basil — tarragon would have been excellent, too — and more parmigiano. Take a bite and savor, while your eyes roll back in your head.

It’s sort of like a cross between an alfredo and a carbonara sauce, and I could see using it as a sauce for a kickass spaghetti primavera, with all sorts of barely-cooked spring veggies. I think green peas would have been excellent with this, as would some diced carrots, barely blanched, and some radishes, not cooked at all. It would have been excellent with some ribbons of proscuitto added in, or crisped and on top.

In fact, I can’t think of much that this wouldn’t lend itself to. Chicken? Shrimp? Why not? Pizza sauce? Sure. I suspect there are more ways to use this method than I can begin to think of.

Glad to have a new one in the repertoire. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em try it, before asparagus season is over!


Mid-week dinner treat

May 14, 2015

A very pretty, and quite excellent, dinner.

A very pretty, and quite excellent, dinner.

Since I hadn’t cooked much all week, I wanted to step it up a notch last night, and work on a few new things.

So, we had roasted asparagus, squash “pasta” tossed in butter with tarragon, arepas with what I’ll call carnitas although it wasn’t, and, of course, a caprese. It was quite a mid-week treat.

Squash “pasta” is one of my favorite things to do in the summer. This was a medium zucchini and two small yellow crooknecks, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler until one gets to the seedy core, which one discards. I steamed the resultant “noodles” for about five minutes, then tossed them with melted butter and some minced tarragon from the herb garden.

So simple. So easy. So good.

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Breakfast. Bacon, eggs, cheese bread. Needs coffee.

Breakfast. Bacon, eggs, cheese bread. Needs coffee.

I spent much of yesterday in the kitchen baking. Because I could, and I was in the notion. Even if things didn’t go exactly as I’d planned.

I had a quarter of a recipe of bread dough in the fridge that wanted to be used, so I decided to put some of that good farm-made country sausage to work and make some breakfast hand pies. So I got it out and divided it into eight equal balls, and contemplated where to go from there.

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May 12, 2015

Let us have a moment of thanks for the first caprese of the year.

Let us have a moment of thanks for the first caprese of the year.

As promised, the Amish farmer had tomatoes Saturday morning. Lovely, big, bright red tomatoes — that taste like tomatoes!

So of course, this weekend it was time for the first caprese of the season. I stopped off by Kroger and got mozzarella, and snipped some basil from my front yard herb garden.

It was as good as it looked. Judging from the taste of this first tomato, it’s going to be a good tomato year. Last year wasn’t, particularly. The year before was exceptional. Don’t know if it has to do with weather, or what. But this was a sweet, ripe, flavor-bursting-all-over-your-tongue tomato, an ideal tomato to have for your first “real” tomato of the season.

I had another slice of it yesterday with some bacon and mayo (didn’t bother with bread), and I’ll finish the first one off today or tonight. Then I’m on to the second one.

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Excess, you say? Nahhhhh.....

Excess, you say? Nahhhhh…..

Of course, when is NOT the season of excess? Thanksgiving — you cook way too much, eat way too much. Ditto Christmas, New Year’s Super Bowl watch party, Easter, and on through the calendar. But the season of excess right NOW is driven by the facts that (a) I can finally get fresh veggies and I want to eat all the fresh vegetables I can cram in my fact, and (b) the season for some of these fresh veggies is really short, so I need to pig out while I can.

Thus, 3 bundles of purple asparagus at the market this morning. At 7 a.m. In the rain. Compulsive, much? Nah, not me. Lucy, however, was a wet dog, and made the car smell like same on the way home.

And yes, there WERE ripe tomatoes, two of which are residing on my counter as I type. Part of one is going in a caprese tonight.

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