Massaged Kale 

This afternoon, I took advantage of the sun by laying outside and downing two cans of La Croix. Instead of getting a glowy tan, I got a handful of new freckles on my face. The rest of my body is just as pasty and doughy as before. It’s 96°F in my neck of the woods, and the only thing I want to eat is salad.

I’m into contrasting colors and contrasting flavors. In a jar, I mixed white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, a few black peppercorns, and a smashed clove of garlic. Then, I sliced a red onion into thin rings and placed them in a sieve. To par-cook the onion, I poured boiling water over the sieve. I stuffed the onion slices into the jar and let it cool to room temp before chilling the jar in the fridge. The onions go from a dull purple to bright pink within an hour. I could eat pickled onions by themselves.

I washed a bundle of curly kale and separated the ribs from the leaves. Then, I used a sandwich bag as a makeshift glove, and massaged the following into the kale: olive oil, lemon juice, whole grain mustard, sesame paste, salt, and sugar. Massaging kale seriously makes a difference. If you’ve ever had raw kale that wasn’t massaged first, you’re probably lying if you say you enjoyed it. Massaging each leaf really helps break down the tough texture and gives your jaws a break. It’s cool to see the leaves get darker and more tender. After massaging, my bundle of kale reduced to half the original volume.

I drained and rinsed a can of great northern beans and tossed them into the salad, along with shaved parmesan/asiago/romano cheese. I also chopped up some orange honey almonds, my favorite farmers market find. One of the best parts of massaged kale salads is that the leftovers are even tastier than eating it fresh! This will be my lunch for the next few work days 👍👍.

Sponge Layer Cake with Raspberry Curd Filling 

Swiss meringue buttercream. Do it. You will not regret it. 

I wanted to experiment with Swiss meringue buttercream and figured I would do so by making a Mother’s Day cake. For my sponge layers, I used this recipe and failed miserably. Luckily, the buttercream came thru.  

For my buttercream, I whisked 4 egg whites and 1 cup of sugar over a double boiler. As soon as the mixture reached 160°F, I began whipping until the egg whites were white and glossy. Then, I added a splash of vanilla. I added 3 entire sticks of softened butter (this cake will give you a  heart attack) little by little. At one point, the icing became soupy, but based on my extensive research, that’s supposed to happen. I let the KitchenAid whip the icing for a good 10 minutes until the soupy mixture pulled itself together into one cohesive icing. The end product is 100% smoother, lighter, and less sickeningly sweet than American buttercream is. It’s like eating a cloud.

I free-handed the filling by cooking a pint of fresh raspberries, a stick of butter, 5 egg yolks, and a few scoops of sugar on the stove. After the curd thickened, I forced it through a sieve to separate out the raspberry seeds. 

After hours of baking, mixing, stacking, and icing, I took the easy way out of cake decorating by topping the cake with fresh flowers and greenery. 

Creamy Avocado Pasta with Grilled Shrimp and Tomatoes 

Honestly one of the worst feelings is when you buy an entire bag of unripe avocados, and they ripen overnight, all at once. Good thing I’m from California and Californians use avocados in everything. It’s the most versatile fruit (it’s a FRUIT).

Ideally, I would’ve used avocados and basil as the base of this pasta sauce, but our basil plant is completely wilted. So I used green onion and cilantro instead. Not the taste I was going for, but still a taste. I processed together the flesh from two avocados, juice from half of a lemon, a garlic clove, two green onions, and a handful of cilantro. I let the processor run while I drizzled in some olive oil and salt/pepper.

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I marinated some defrosted shrimp in a bag full of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, Tapatío, and salt/pepper. After about 15 minutes (definitely not enough time for optimal flavor seepage), I skewered the shrimp and threw them on the barbie (grill pan) until they were orange and opaque. I also grilled some oiled up heirloom tomatoes, which are also fruits. Meanwhile, I accidentally overcooked some spaghetti noodles.

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Too creamy.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates and Baby Kale Salad

Bacon wrapped dates are basically meat candies. They’re crispy, sweet, savory, and wrapped in a tiny little package. I stuffed Deglet Noor dates with the cheapest blue cheese I could find at Nugget. I used thick cut bacon, and wrapped a third of each strip around each stuffed date. I used toothpicks to hold the little packages in place, and baked them on a rack (You know, to allow all the grease to drain onto a pan. It’s healthy.) at 400°F until crispy. 

I made a quick salad with baby kale and celery. For a vinaigrette, I whisked together some apple cider vinegar, whole grain mustard, honey, lemon, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I topped the salad with some red onion, crushed pistachios, shaved Pecorino Romano, and segments of the last few oranges from our backyard tree. 

While the bacon cooked, I brushed a few baguette slices with olive oil and grilled them on a grill pan. When toasty, I rubbed some raw garlic on each side. If only you could smell what I’m smelling!

This salad hit the spot. It hit all the spots. 

Funfetti Macarons!

Macarons are a finicky food to make. So many factors determine whether macarons will turn out or not (temperature, humidity, weight measurements, etc.). When I first started making macarons during my college years, I lucked out every single time. I had fun creating different flavor combinations. Coffee shells with Kahlua buttercream, raspberry shells with lemon buttercream and berry preserves, cayenne cocoa shells with chocolate ganache, Earl grey shells with lemon and honey buttercream, and many more. I don’t even care for macarons, I definitely have more of a salty tooth than a sweet tooth! I kept making them because it was a challenge and I love proving a point. Around this time last year, I decided to try doubling a recipe, since one batch will typically only make 12-18 macarons. I should’ve known better than to alter a macaron recipe. It was my first ever failed batch of macarons and it was a huge blow to the ego. Today I tried to redeem myself, only to toss yet another failed batch. I took note of all of my failures (overmixing, using the wrong sized piping bag tip, low oven temperature) and tried again. The second batch turned out a little better, as pictured. Not pictured are the hollows of each shell, which is not a favorable macaron trait. Nobody’s perfect!!!
I measured out 70g of almond flour and 120g of confectioner’s sugar. Then I combined them and processed them in the food processor, and sifted out the clumps. I started beating 2 room temp egg whites on low, gradually adding 1/4 cup granulated sugar and a splash of vanilla. Then I turned the mixer on high until glossy peaks formed.

I folded the dry ingredients into the eggs by scraping around the edge of the entire bowl, cutting through the middle of the batter, and repeating about 40 times. When the batter felt ready (seriously, you just have to know), I folded in some sprinkles.

I piped 1 inch circles on parchment paper, and rapped the pan on the counter a few times to help the macarons spread and to pop any air bubbles that might’ve formed. One of the most crucial steps is to let the macarons sit, undisturbed, for at least 30 minutes. This will allow the batter to form a shell, and to help it grow ‘feet’ in the oven. A humid day can ruin this step!

I baked the macarons at 305°F for just under 14 minutes. After cooling, I sandwiched the shells with a quick and easy vanilla buttercream.

I am almost certain that I have at least 2 new cavities after eating a few of these.

Red Wine Braised Lamb Shanks with Polenta

Lamb is gamey, overpowering, and I love it. Being the stubborn A-hole that I am, I said ‘No thank you, I will trim them myself’ when the butcher asked if I wanted him to clean up the two dinosaur lamb shanks I picked out. Honestly I saw things and felt textures that I cannot erase from my mind, while attempting to French trim the shanks.

My mom has this ridiculous programmable pressure cooker called the ‘Instant Pot’. It’s basically a pressure cooker made for dummies like me who don’t want to risk blasting their faces off with a stove top pressure cooker.

I heated up some oil and cooked half of an onion, three cloves of garlic, and five carrots on the stove. I also stirred in a couple spoonfuls of tomato paste. Then, I dusted the shanks with salt, pepper, and flour. I tried to brown the shanks in the same pot as the vegetables, but it got a little crowded and things started to burn. I deglazed the brown bits with chicken stock and red wine. For extra fun and flavor, I tossed in some rosemary, thyme, and cayenne.

Once the wine reduced, I threw the entire contents of the pot into the pressure cooker. Meanwhile, I cooked some creamy, cheesy, polenta on the stove.

 

The lamb was so fall-off-the-bone tender that the meat literally fell off the bone.

Excuse me while I disinfect my entire body. Raw meat is disgusting.