Friday, April 30, 2010

Asparagus Coins

In the next week or so asparagus should be making its grand entrance at most of the farmers markets here in northeast Ohio. Since we try to buy most of our vegetables from local producers we typically find ourselves scrambling to find good recipes as things come into season. On the whole, I think we’re actually ahead of the game a little bit since we have a couple of seasons under our belt. Always looking to add to the arsenal, this little recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc is about as easy as they come.

I think on the whole the recipe is pretty good; it certainly has plenty of room for free styling if you so choose. I like the fact that there are roughly five ingredients that aren’t oil, salt, pepper, or water. Nothing sucks worse than skipping the mis en place and finding that you don’t have enough of something, (five ingredients make it that much easier to do). Note that the Chive Oil needs to be made the day before. I tried the mandolin on these suckers and found it a little difficult. (I am terrified of shaving off the top of my knuckles.) Make sure you get rid of the toughest parts of the asparagus. If you get thicker pieces they don’t cook up very well. Make sure your asparagus are thin pencil like stalks.

Asparagus Coins
Asparagus Coins
By Thomas Keller Ad Hoc

Chive Oil
1 cup ½ inch pieces chives
1 cup canola oil

Put the chives in a fine mesh basket strainer and run under hot tap water to soften them and remove any chlorophyll taste. Drain them and squeeze as dry as possible.

Put half the chives in a Vita-Mix, add oil just to cover, and blend for 2 minutes. Add half the remaining chives and oil to cover and blend for another 2 minutes. Add the remaining chives and oil and blend for another 2 minutes. Pour into a container and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Place a piece of cheesecloth over a bowl and secure with a rubber band to make a smooth, tight surface. Pour the chive oil onto the cheesecloth and let sit for an hour to allow the oil to drip through.

Remove and discard the cheesecloth; do not wring out the cheesecloth, or it may cloud the oil. Refrigerate the oil in a covered container for 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes about ½ cup

Parsley Water
6 Tbs water
1 tsp canola oil

1 Tbs honey

3 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems, washed and patted thoroughly dry

Pour the water into a small bowl and freeze until the water is ice-cold.

Heat a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the honey and heat to melt and lightly caramelize it for a few seconds. Add the parsley with the honey and wilt it, about 30 seconds. Transfer the contents of the pan to the ice-cold water to chill the parsley leaves.

Transfer the parsley and liquid to a Vita-Mix and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh basket strainer into a storage container. The parsley water can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Makes a scant ½ cup

Asparagus Coins
1 ½ lbs. pencil-thin asparagus
3 Tbs chive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Parsley Water

Divide the asparagus in half and bundle each with a rubber band. Snap off the bottom of 1 stalk of asparagus to see where it breaks naturally. Cut across the bunches to trim all of the spears to the same length.

Slice on a Japanese mandolin. Alternatively, you can slice the asparagus with a sharp chef’s knife.

Put the tips in a large frying pan, add the chive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, swirling the ingredients together, until the tips are coated with oil and begin to sizzle, 1 ½ - 2 minutes. Add the asparagus rounds and cook until the edges look cooked but the centers are still raw. Add 3 tablespoons of the parsley water, stir to coat, and cook until the asparagus is tender, 1 ½ - 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining parsley water, and stir to coat.
Serves 6

Friday, April 16, 2010

Red Velvet Ice Cream

Hubby loves Red Velvet Cake. I love ice cream. We both love ice cream mixed with cake. Therefore, I decided to see if I could pull off a concoction that married the best of both worlds.

Red Velvet Cake recipes are everywhere…so much so that I was overwhelmed by the options I found on the Internet. Some call for butter, others use oil. Almost all call for a generous serving of red food coloring (Though, I did see at least one recipe that used beets to dye the cake).

I finally settled on a largely reviewed and positively received recipe for Red Velvet Cake from I can’t comment on the entire recipe because I stuck strictly to making the cake (sans berries and icing). The cake was surprisingly light and made waaaay more cake then I would ever need for this project. Next time, I’ll cut the recipe in half.

For the ice cream, I went to the source: Dave Lebovitz’ “The Perfect Scoop” and was delighted to find a recipe for Cheesecake Ice Cream. When I went to make the ice cream base I averted almost near disaster after opening the package of cream cheese at 10pm to find that 2 ounces were missing…I must have used some before and forgot about it! A wonderful resource that had I just discovered earlier that day helped me do some quick conversions to account for having less cream cheese than the recipe called for. I tasted the mix before chilling and it was perfect…tasted just like cheesecake.

When it came time to actually make the ice cream, I decided to briefly chill in the freezer the bite size pieces of red velvet cake that I wanted to mix in. I then added them as I transferred the finished ice cream into the container, finding that they broke apart pretty easily.

My husband, the Red velvet cake afficianado, declared that the finished product tasted just like a piece of red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, but colder. We augmented the final dish with some buttered pecans and extra pieces of cake. Revisions for the next batch will include adding larger pieces of cake, and possibly some of those yummy pecans.

Cheesecake Ice Cream - Adapted from “The Perfect Scoop” by Dave Lebovitz

6 ounces cream cheese – cut into small pieces
Zest of 1 lemon
¾ cup sour cream
¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons half and half
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt

Zest lemon directly into a blender; add sour cream, half and half, sugar, salt and cream cheese. Puree until smooth and chill in fridge at least 24 hours.

Churn mix in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Mix in chilled pieces of red velvet cake as you transfer ice cream from the machine to its container. Freeze, wait patiently and then enjoy!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

AMP 150

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Over the years I’ve been to enough “in hotel” restaurants to know that unless you’re in the middle of nowhere or staying in luxury accommodations, the menu is going to be pretty pedestrian. In most cases the only thing blander than the food is the décor. When I look for a place to eat while traveling, the hotel restaurant is something I avoid like the plague.

You can imagine the lukewarm response I initially gave when a friend of mine suggested we go to AMP 150 on West 150th and I-71 in the *gulp* ….Marriott. Exciting buzz about a new chef in town putting out great food – yes. Dinner at a hotel in Cleveland not named Ritz Carlton or Baricelli Inn – no thanks.

As we walked through the lobby toward the restaurant it was fairly typical in terms of the open style of the layout. A stylish bar area with a well stocked bar packed with unwinding hotel patrons sits off to the left of the dining room. The seating is comprised of a spacious mixture of tables and booths. (The semi-circular booths in the center of the space are prime real estate.) The bones of the interior architecture still tell the story of a hotel restaurant, but the décor certainly has an updated feel to it.

Enter Chef Ellis Cooley.
This is where the idea of the chain hotel restaurant and the predictably bad menu diverge. If I had to sum up Cooley’s approach, it would be an undeniable commitment to using high quality ingredients while offering an affordable menu. His strategy is to keep the entrees under $20, while not cutting corners on the quality produce and proteins. . The greater vision is to appeal to both guests at the hotel, as well as the Cleveland dining scene.

The last time I was there Ellis was talking about putting in a garden in the back of the hotel. When I contacted him through Facebook asking him about the planned garden, this is what he had to say:

“The garden is underway it is going to be huge…about a 1/4 acre for the vegetable garden and the herb garden will consume our courtyard. KJ Greens’ owner Jeremey Lisey will be helping get everything started and teaching me as we go. Also Jorgensens Apiary will be donating some bee hives to put on the roof of the hotel to help with pollination.”

So what is the food like? My heart was won over when I ordered the Double Bacon Cheese Burger (complete with unbelievably awesome Benton’s Bacon, Ohio Cheddar, and house made pickles). Their unconventional Chicken Paprikash is really good. I actually think it would work well as an entrée (just a bigger portion size and price). I’m also a fan of the Sweet Soy & Peanut Chicken Wings with Kim Chee. Craft beer is the only thing you’ll find on tap here; a wide variety (and by that I mean over 100) of both imports and domestics are offered in a bottle.

Amp 150 is on OpenTable so make sure you get your 100 points. For parties of 4-6, I would highly recommend the aforementioned booths, (tables 31, 32, 33). One the amazing things I learned is that the kitchen is open every day until midnight! When I fly into Hopkins Airport my routine is usually picking up pizza from Donte’s in Berea. With these late night hours, though, I think the new routine is going to be a stop at AMP 150.

It would be very easy for Ellis to simply mail it in and run a typical hotel restaurant that offers up middling food and charging business travelers inflated prices. It would also be easy to qualify himself as using local by sprinkling a couple of local sourced ingredients on the menu and calling it a day. Cooley has made a tremendous amount of progress in a relatively short period of time of wiping away the stigma of the typical hotel restaurant. I look forward to watching AMP 150 grow as the seasons change in the upcoming year. Whatever you do, don’t let the hotel scare you off.

AMP 150
4277 W 150th St
Cleveland, OH 44135
(216) 916-0104