White Bean and Asparagus Salad

I don’t think I am alone when I say that as much as I adore cooking, the heat of the summer can really test that love.  I don’t find myself extremely hungry when it is hot and humid and since it is my hunger and cravings that usually prompt a wild rendezvous in the kitchen I am less and less likely to be inspired to get in there and get busy. That said, however, there are nights when I am really hungry and the physical heat of the kitchen becomes my deterrent.  That is when the grill out back becomes my hero. And what goes better with a grilled protein than a cool fresh summer side? Enter this White Bean and Asparagus Salad.

Not only is this superfood-packed salad a perfect accompaniment to grilled steak tips, lamb kebabs, or burgers, but also it stands up on its own just perfectly.  I really enjoyed eating the leftovers for lunch.  This is one of those salads where the flavors actually improve after a few days. And because asparagus is nice and fibrous it doesn’t get mushy. 

*A Note about Raw Garlic: I am a garlic fiend. I love eating chunks of fresh raw garlic in foods, therefore, in salads like this one, if I am preparing it for myself and my family, I only roughly chop the garlic. However, chunks of raw garlic aren’t pleasant for most people. If you are preparing a dish containing raw garlic for a crowd, I recommend always finely mincing it or passing it through a garlic press.

White Bean and Asparagus Salad:

  • 2 bunches fresh asparagus, trimmed and rough ends snapped off
  • 7 sundried tomatoes (not in oil)
  • 3 cloves of garlic*, roughly chopped or minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • a pinch or two of crushed red pepper
  • 1 (19 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a steamer basket over boiling water, place asparagus and dried tomatoes. Cover and steam until asparagus is crisp and tender–approximately 4 minutes. Remove tomatoes and set aside. Using tongs, remove asparagus from basket and place into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain the water. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces and set aside.  Roughly chop the tomatoes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. Add asparagus, tomatoes, beans, and capers. Toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Adapted from recipe found here on MyRecipes.com.

Strawberry Lime Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was a bit wary about the combination of strawberry and lime in a cupcake but I decided to give it a go anyway. What a fantastic surprise! The freshness of the two flavors is a winning combination! The lime flavor was not overpowering and really complemented the strawberries nicely. I kept these in the fridge just until serving time, which turned out to be a great move. I served them on one of these excruciatingly hot Boston days and the coolness of the cake and the frosting really enhanced the freshness of the flavors.  The cream cheese frosting continues to speak for itself.  If you haven’t tried it yet I have only two words: you must!

Here are some other recipes using cream cheese frosting. (I promise–your friends and family will thank you!)

Strawberry Lime Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/2 pound (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (about one lime)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest (about one lime)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Fill one cupcake pan with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the vanilla, strawberries, lime juice, and lime zest into the mixture.

Fill the cupcake liners 1/2 – 3/4 full. Bake for 26-30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan for ten minutes and finish cooling on wire rack before frosting.

Adapted from recipe found in Crazy About Cupcakes by Krystina Castella.