Monday, July 27, 2009

Cooking with Mayo

Yes, I tried something new last night on a whim: I used mayonnaise like I've never used it before. It was late and after a day of yard work, my husband and I were hungry - and I hadn't even thought about what to fix for dinner. Looking in the fridge, I discovered I had a drawer full of veggies but no protein to speak of... what to do, what to do? Determined to use only what I had available to me, I threw some frozen cheese tortellini (easy protein and starch in one) in a pot of boiling water and started chopping asparagus and yellow squash. But how would I tie these things together with no sauce to speak of? With mayo? Yes, with mayo!

In my experience, mayonnaise is only used in cold summer salads, sandwiches, and maybe to coat some chicken before dredging it in something. However recently my husband and I tried a Food and Wine Magazine recipe for smoky glazed asparagus - asparagus, in a mayonnaise-based marinade, grilled to perfection. The marinade consisted of mayo, smoked paprika, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin, garlic and some kosher salt and I had just enough leftover to taunt me. After some contemplation and another look through the fridge for something (anything) else I could use, I grabbed the marinade and a lemon from the veggie drawer and decided to go for it. After all, I figured, the mayo is just an emulsified form of most ingredients I would use in a saute - oil, vinegar, seasoning, egg...? Okay, maybe not but it's worth a shot.

The marinade itself was a little thick so I added the juice of one lemon and whisked it together, which gave it a zesty, smoky flavor that was great on a hot day like yesterday. After sauteing the vegetables in a little olive oil, I added the pasta to the skillet to brown it a little before adding my sauce. Once browned, I incorporated the sauce and cooked it down for a couple of minutes before tossing it with some fresh Parmesan. A quick taste told me this was something different but good. But the real verdict wouldn't come in until my skeptical (but hungry) husband tried my experiment.

We paired the pasta with a Pirovano pinot grigio and dug in. The smoky lemon flavor complemented the cheesy richness of the tortellini, and the sauce itself coated the tender vegetables with flavor. The tanginess of the mayonnaise and added lemon made it a true summer meal. The official verdict: a tasty dinner that left us wanting more! Next time, I won't be so hard on the mayo and maybe, just maybe, I'll use it in something other than tuna salad.

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