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June 30, 2022

Ryan’s Grilling Tips: Fuel and Fire

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tomahawk steaks, grilling, fire, summer grilling, steaks on the grill Summer is the time for grilling tips and fantastic food!

In an earlier blog, I suggested several ways you can up your grilling game. We discussed the pros and cons of using a gas grill versus wood or charcoal, and I mentioned that all the grills I personally own are charcoal. Why? Even though there are some advantages to a gas grill (such as ease of start-up and cleanup), it will never match the taste and temperatures you can reach with a charcoal grill. For me, it's worth dealing with the downsides of charcoal in exchange for those deep, smoky flavors!

But how do you get the incredible taste that only a charcoal grill can achieve? It all starts with mastering two things, Fuel and Fire. Oktoberfest, grilling, Culinary Crafts, sausages on grill, lederhosen, smiling chef, German, German hat, tongs, charcoal grill,

FUEL

At Culinary Crafts we always say that great food starts with great ingredients, and when it comes to grilling, charcoal isn’t just a heat source; it’s an ingredient. Unlike cooking in a microwave or oven (or even on a gas grill), the fuel you use in a charcoal grill will flavor your food dramatically, so it’s important to choose your fuel carefully.

Lump charcoal

My favorite fuel—at least for grilling steaks—is lump charcoal.

Lump charcoal is made by burning away all the sap and other volatile impurities in the wood, leaving thick black chunks of carbon. The water and gasses in the wood are also burned off, but not completely, which is why lump charcoal sometimes sparks and pops when you heat it, as little gas pockets expand and explode. It’s not dangerous, but it can get pretty exciting! lump charcoal, grilling, fire, coals, flame, burning fuel The main advantages to lump charcoal are
  • it gets hot quickly (in 10 to 15 minutes).
  • it reaches very high temperatures (up to 1400°F) which allows you to give food a wonderful char.
  • it burns more completely, leaving behind less ash.
  • it gives a clean, flavorful smokiness to your food.
The downsides to lump charcoal are that it’s a bit more expensive and it burns quickly, so you’ll need to keep adding charcoal for longer grills.

Briquettes

The most popular type of charcoal—the kind I use for barbequing or for lower-temp grills—is briquettes. Briquettes are basically crushed charcoal held together with starch. If they have no other additives, they’re called “natural” or “hardwood” briquettes. Briquettes can be made from many kinds of wood, but I mostly use mesquite for its strong, flavorful smoke. Hickory is also great. The bags you buy in the store don’t always list what wood it’s made from, but if the briquettes are dense (i.e. the bag feels heavy for its size), it’s probably good wood. briquettes, coal shovel, grill, grilling with charcoal, grilling demonstration, Culinary Crafts, catering in Utah The main advantages of briquette charcoal are
  • it’s readily available.
  • it’s less expensive than lump charcoal.
  • it’s easy to fit onto your grill and move around to control your fire.
  • it gives a more consistent grilling temperature.
  • it burns longer (100 briquettes ought to let you grill for up to an hour).
The biggest disadvantage to briquettes is that they won’t burn nearly as hot as lump charcoal (briquettes max out around 800°F), but for barbequing and for grilling some foods that’s okay.

Briquettes can also be a little more difficult to light, but using a chimney starter will solve that problem. (See below.) If you want to give your charcoal some help by dousing it with lighter fluid, that’s okay too, so long as you leave plenty of time—at least 30 minutes—for the lighter fluid chemicals to burn away before you start to grill. Don’t ever add lighter fluid after the fuel is hot! Some brands of briquettes are pre-soaked in lighter fluid, but I don’t recommend ever using those types of briquettes. The chemicals will not completely burn away, and they will give your food a nasty flavor.

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Wood

Unless you’re out in the wild and grilling over a campfire, using raw wood for your sole fuel is not ideal. Wood is full of tar and other contaminants that will produce a thick, dirty smoke when burned. Most people don’t like the flavors it adds to food. Scraps of construction lumber make even worse fuel for grilling because they’re treated with chemicals.

That said, there are ways that raw wood can be used in your grill to add great flavor. Pure wood chips, soaked in water, can be dropped directly on top of your charcoal to add aromatic flavors of your choice. I love the strong smoke from mesquite, hickory, or oak wood chips. Woods like cherry, apple, or plum add a nice fruity flavor, but stay away from soft woods like pine, cedar, or fir. Their smoke tastes terrible.

PRO GRILLING TIP: If you’re using a gas grill, you can still add smoky flavor to your food by burning woodchips in a smoker box or in a tinfoil packet with holes punch in it. Just place the foil packet over a heat source where it will slowly smoke and burn. You can also add dried rosemary or basil for another level of flavor. (Leave the stems on.) For a rich, fruity flavor, save and dry your grapevine cuttings and add them to your fuel.

 

FIRE

wood grill, grilling, flames, barbeque, outdoors, grilling in the backyard Once you know what you’re going to be burning, it’s time to talk about how. The first concern, of course, is safety.

Set Up Safety

  • Set up your grill safely far away from potential fire hazards like structures or low- hanging trees. (Anticipate possibilities like things falling or being blown around by wind.)
  • Position your grill where pets, children, or foot traffic won’t accidentally bump into it.
  • Think about the mess. I’m not just talking about the ash; I’m also talking about the mess from the food itself. For example, if you’re grilling meat, you’re always going to have drippings, so don’t set up your grill on any decorative or porous surface. Stay away from concrete, nice flooring, or patio wood if you can. Grass is good.
  • Arrange your tools and space ahead of time. When you’re holding a scorching-hot chimney in one hand and tending to a sudden flare-up with the other, it’s too late to be thinking about where you’re going to safely put things down.

grilling tools, grilling demonstration, cookbooks, tools for grilling, barbeque toolsFire Safety

  • Don’t wear anything loose like a tie or dangling, long hair while you’re grilling.
  • Keep “helpful” neighbors and everyone else at a safe distance from your fire.
  • If you ignore our advice and use self-igniting briquettes, at least don’t use them in a chimney or with an electric coil starter.
  • Once your fire is going, never leave the grill unattended.
  • Be careful when opening the lid of your grill. When you turn or move meat, be especially alert for flareups from melting fat falling onto your coals.
  • Wear proper protective gear and don’t set hot items near flammables, where someone can accidentally touch them, or where they can be knocked over by the wind.
  • Have a functioning fire extinguisher and/or a water hose nearby, just in case.

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Food Safety

When you’re grilling, you also need to be careful about the way you handle your food.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially raw meat.
  • Keep your plates and platters clean. Don’t put cooked foods onto the same plate with raw foods or where raw meat has been.
  • Keep your tools clean too. If you use a fork or tongs on raw meat, wash it thoroughly before you let it touch any cooked food.
  • Especially for less experienced grillers, it’s a good idea to use a meat thermometer to check your food and make sure it reaches the recommended internal temperature.
  • Don’t leave uncooked, perishable food sitting out (even to thaw) for more than 2 hours. In hot weather, don’t leave it out for 1 hour.
  • Don’t put grilled food into your fridge until it’s had time to cool off. Putting hot food into your fridge can change the temperature enough to make your other food spoil.

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Planning Your Fire

Once you’ve set up your space to grill safely, it’s time to think about how you’re going to arrange your fuel and build your fire.

A good fire takes planning. Think about what items you’ll be cooking and what temperatures each of them will need. You may also choose to leave room on your grill for wood chips and/or an aluminum pan to catch meat drippings. Personally, I like to let fat drip right onto the charcoal. I love the added flavor from the smoke of the burning fat, and I don’t mind dealing with the flames of an occasional flare-up by temporarily shifting my meat to a cooler zone.

Good Grub sign, signage, barbeque, grilling outdoors, Culinary Crafts, catering event in Utah, outdoor grilling You also need to plan out your grilling schedule. Charcoal takes time to heat, and after you put your hot coals onto the grill, you’ll need another 10-15 minutes to let the grill itself get hot before you start cooking. Coordinate your schedule so that your meats will be well-rested and your other food will be coming off hot and juicy right when everyone’s ready to eat.

Light It Up!

If you’re using briquettes, the best way to light them is to use a charcoal chimney. Open the air vents of your grill, remove the cooking grate, and set the chimney on the charcoal grate. Fill your chimney with charcoal. (One chimney full of briquettes should be enough to grill four thick steaks.) Use lighter fluid if you want, but as I said, a chimney makes lighter fluid unnecessary. Pile a wad of newspaper under the chimney and light the paper. The bottom briquettes will heat up and light the briquettes above them.

When the top coals in the chimney are lightly glowing or are flickering with flames, they’re ready. Using thick gloves and following the manufacturer’s instructions, carefully turn the chimney over to dump the briquettes onto your charcoal grate. Use a charcoal rake to arrange them according to your plan to create your temperature zones.

Replace your cooking grate and wait for it to heat up. By the time your briquettes finish turning ashy white, you shouldn’t have any more tall, yellow flames. You want your flames to be low and blue or red; that means that your fire is burning hotter and more efficiently. You should be seeing only a small amount of clear-ish colored smoke from your briquettes. The hotter your fire burns, the cleaner the smoke will be. Remember, thick, black smoke is dirty smoke, and no one wants that in their food.

grill flare-up, grilling hamburgers, outdoor grill, outdoor cooking, campfire cooking, summer catered event in Utah, orange flame, smoke, charcoal grill After 10-15 minutes, check the temperature. To do the popular “hand test,” place your hand about four inches above your coals, approximately at the height where your food will be placed. (Don’t touch the grate, obviously.) See how long you can comfortably keep your hand there. If you can hold it there only 1 or 3 seconds, your grill is at a high cooking temp. 4 to 7 second means you’re at a medium heat, and 10 seconds or longer means you have a low temperature.

For grilling steaks, pork chops, burgers, or thin veggies you’ll want a high temperature. Medium heat is great for chicken, fish, or thickly-sliced veggies. For larger or tougher cuts like ribs or brisket, you’ll want to grill them at low heat for longer times.

If you need to decrease your heat, try cutting off some of the oxygen to your fire by partially or fully closing the grill’s air vents.

To turn up the heat, try increasing the airflow by opening the vents. Raking the coals or breaking your charcoal into smaller pieces will increase the surface area that can burn, which will also raise the heat. Just be careful not to knock ash onto your food. If those methods don’t work to increase the heat, you probably just need to add more fuel.

grill, trout, santa maria grill, outdoor event, summer party, catering in Utah, SLC caterers Don’t worry if you encounter some difficulties building your fire, creating your grill zones, and keeping their temperatures constant. Learning to master fuel and fire takes practice. But now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to turn our attention to the food.

That, my friends, is the subject of our next grilling lesson! Stay tuned.

June 1, 2022

10 Tips for How to Make Any Space a Wedding Venue

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forest kiss, outdoor wedding, bride in the forest, Utah outdoor wedding, unique wedding venues, Culinary Crafts wedding, trees, gorgeous wedding photo, picturesque wedding, ivy covered trees As traditional wedding venues book up, many couples are converting ordinary spaces into exciting, unique places to get married. We’re seeing beautiful weddings staged beside a forest stream, in a rustic horse stable, or on top of a mountain! If you like the idea of doing something original, here are 10 tips for how to make practically any space into a magical, one-of-a-kind wedding venue.

1. Think Big

A museum or art gallery. The beach. An aquarium, aviary, or greenhouse. Any place that has special meaning to you as a couple may be a fantastic stage for a celebration that’s both personal and poignant. A favorite camp site or national park. A nightclub, ski resort, or skating rink. Even the gym where you met. Or maybe what represents you best is a Beatles-like concert on a rooftop or skeet shooting at your favorite hunting club. What we’re saying is, free your imagination. mountain wedding rocky mountain bride, lake, secluded, luxury, picturesque wedding, high end unique, waterfall, photos, pristine, outdoor wedding, unique Utah wedding destinations

2. Be Practical

As you dream big, bear in mind that when you create your own wedding venue, you’ll need to supply everything that a traditional venue would generally provide. That includes water, electricity, restrooms, transportation, parking, accessibility, permits…the list is longer than you think. But if you’re willing to work with your planner and address each aspect of the event thoughtfully, creating your own wedding venue can be pure magic! Salt Flat light, wedding on Utah Salt Flats, microwedding, micro-wedding, Utah outdoor wedding, wedding party on Salt Flats, white lights, night, draped lights, curtain of lights, special catering, catering events in Utah, outstanding events in Utah, picturesque wedding, Utah catered events

3. Prioritize

Assuming that you and your chosen one have agreed on your wedding priorities and budget (you have had that talk, right?), think about how well those priorities line up with the venue you have in mind. Are stunning photos at the top of your list of must-haves? Is your priority to make sure the whole clan can be there? To treat your guests to an amazing sit-down dinner and then party and dance the night away? Whatever your top priorities are, make sure the space you’ve chosen lends itself to those things. You may not be able to afford everything you dream, but you’ll get what’s most important to you if you prioritize. flower swing, the Hallows, wedding venue at Sundance Utah, couple in swing, swing of flowers, wedding in forest, bride on groom's lap, Culinary Crafts wedding, specialty wedding, unique wedding venue, married in the forest, trees, Utah outdoor weddings

4. Size Matters

If the space you’re considering is huge (like, say, a horse pasture, or the Bonneville Salt Flats), there are tricks to make a venue feel smaller and more intimate. However, if a space is too small to handle your guest count, there’s no way to fix that except to trim your list.

As a rough rule of thumb, for a seated dinner you’ll need about 12-14 square feet per guest, or 8-9 feet if you’re serving cocktail style with some people sitting and some standing. Add another 4-5 feet per guest if you want dancing. You’ll also need room for your caterer, a head table, cake table, bar, gift table, etc., but the measurements really depend on the particular venue. That’s why the eye of an experienced planner is crucial. Do a walkthrough together and make sure your space can handle everything you have in mind. forest table, wedding in the woods, forest wedding in Utah, table setting in forest, outdoors wedding venue in Utah, Utah County catered wedding, beautiful outdoor wedding, intimate outdoor event, candles, plates, glasses, trees, chairs, canopy, forest canopy

5. Amenities

At a minimum, you’ll need to provide the basics: food, water, electricity, and restrooms. (Nothing can turn a dream wedding into a nightmare faster than a problem with restrooms.) If the space you’ve chosen doesn’t already have restroom access—and enough access to avoid long lines—it’s worth hiring professionals. Electricity can be supplied by a generator, but remember that ordinary generators are way too loud; you’ll need a whisper generator or two. If your site doesn’t have clean water, you’ll have to pack in enough for drinking, washing, and on-site food prep. Consult your caterer about water, food, and beverage issues. grilling outdoors, flames at night, catering event in Utah, Utah outdoor wedding, Culinary Crafts chefs, cooking over open flame, bbq, barbeque cooking, firing a grill, wedding catering in Utah

6. Protect Your Guests from the Elements

If some of the festivities will be outside, you’ll need to protect your guests from too much sun, wind, rain, or other inclement weather—not to mention bugs. A tent, kata, yurt, or marquee are all good options, but make sure you know how they’ll be transported to the site, set up, and taken down.

In hot months, start dinner around 7:30 to avoid the heat of the day. But if you’re going to be in the mountains, move that start time up to around 4:30. Trees will provide enough shade, and the sun sets much sooner in the mountains, so temperatures drop quickly. couches, tent, lounge in the woods, sofas in the forest, comfortable wedding guests, wedding venues, outside wedding, forest wedding, children's tent, play camping, play campfire, relax at wedding, relaxing outdoor weddings, wedding guests relax, Culinary Crafts, catered weddings in Utah

7. View the Space Through Your Guests' Eyes

This is where creating your own wedding venue really starts to get fun!

Think of the celebration as distinct stages that move your guests from one event to the next throughout the night. What do you want them to feel and experience in each stage? Maybe as they arrive and mingle during cocktail hour, you want them to feel welcomed and relaxed. If so, what elements of your venue can contribute to that experience? A lounge vignette with comfortable sofas and a murmuring brook in the background? A fun display of memorabilia that shares your personal connection to the place? Whatever it is that you love about your chosen venue, find ways to weave it into your guests’ experience.

For each stage of the celebration, you want to provide your guests with at least one “WOW!” factor. A breathtaking view of a waterfall. The divine smells of a gorgeous floral setting. Mouthwatering BBQ. The heart-pumping beats of your favorite band. Engage all the senses! fairy lights, event tent, gauze tent, outdoor wedding in Utah, catering event tables, view of Utah mountains, outdoors wedding, unique wedding venue, beautiful outdoor wedding, outdoor catering in Utah

8. Lighting

There’s no better way to add beauty and mood to your venue than with the creative use of lighting. Uplights placed near walls or drapery can create a muted, open feel that makes a space seem larger. On the other hand, a canopy of bistro lights can make a space feel more intimate and enclosed. Candlelight is a sure-fire way to heighten the romantic mood, while fairy lights incorporated into your tablescape add a playful whimsy. Inexpensive and easy to transport, lights are a great way to create the right mood. dancing smile, wedding dancing, antlers chandelier, bride and groom dance, first dance, blue night sky, fairy lights, bistro lights, wedding in Utah, outdoor wedding venue in Utah, Wasatch Front wedding, catered wedding in Utah

9. Permits, Licenses, and Insurance

Before you finalize plans, ask yourself, “Do I need a permit for my wedding venue?” Depending on where you want to create your venue, there may be parking permits, fire permits, fireworks permits, or noise ordinances to deal with. A fire marshal may even need to do a walk-through prior to the event. Some cities require a special use permit for a wedding, and state parks generally do too. (Those park permits take time, so get started early!) If you’re planning to set up a tent or other temporary structure, some municipalities require a temporary building permit. An alcohol license may also be required if you’ll be serving any kind of alcohol.

Contact the city or county where you’re planning to host your event and find out what legal hoops you’ll have to jump through. It may also be worth looking into insurance for your event, especially if you are holding it in a museum or some other setting with a threat of significant property damage. outdoor wedding in Utah, Utah summer wedding, married outdoors, wedding by a river, trees, river, mountains, Utah mountain wedding, white sky, bride and groom walking by a river, hand in hand, love, picturesque, beautiful wedding moment, Utah catered events, bridal gown outdoors, bride in dress in Nature

10. Work with a Planner and Vendors

Creating a wedding venue of your own opens up all kinds of beautiful possibilities, but also lots of challenges. You probably don’t want to deal with every one of those issues on your own, so look at your budget and decide which worries are worth passing off to the pros. Here are a few vendors we recommend in the Wasatch Front area:

Our main advice here is that you work with an experienced wedding planner. A planner’s expertise can save you time, money, and trouble. Plus, your planner may have recommendation of local vendors who can greatly reduce the headaches of converting any space into a wedding venue.

May 12, 2022

Culinary Crafts Works with Renowned Chef Wolfgang Puck

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Culinary Crafts recently had the honor of co-catering an event alongside world-famous chef Wolfgang Puck and his amazing team.  The occasion was a retirement celebration for one of Utah’s movers and shakers, Todd Pederson, Founder and CEO of Vivent. With 600 guests, it wasn’t the biggest event we’ve done, but it certainly was one of the most memorable.

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May 4, 2022

May Recipe of the Month: Perfect Pizza

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Applewood fired oven pizza

A few months ago, Culinary Crafts had the privilege of co-hosting an event with renowned chef Wolfgang Puck and his amazing crew. For our May recipe of the month, we’re going to share one of the appetizers we served at that party, our perfect pizza. When we do pizza for big events, we make it in big applewood fired ovens, but when we bake it in our own ovens at home, this is the recipe we use.

The key to perfect pizza (besides using delicious, fresh ingredients) is the dough. If you prepare and bake the dough correctly, it’s going to taste delicious no matter which of your favorite toppings you put on top. Dough in hands For perfect pizza—with a light, chewy inside and crispy outside—you’ll want to prepare your dough the day before so it has time to proof overnight.

Dough Ingredients (makes enough for three 12-inch pizzas)

  • ¼ oz yeast (one packet)
  • ¼ oz sugar
  • 2 ⅔ cups water
  • ¼ oz salt
  • 1 pound of flour (half all-purpose flour and half bread flour)
  • ⅓ cup olive oil

Instructions

      1. In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let them sit while you measure out the other ingredients.
      2. Add the salt, flour, and olive oil to your bowl. Mix slowly for 3 minutes. (If you’re using a KitchenAid, use the speed setting of 4.) Adjust the dough’s consistency as needed by adding a little more water or flour. Then increase the speed and mix for another 4-5 minutes.
      3. Dust your hands lightly with flour before you handle the dough. Divide your dough into three even portions. (Or, if you prefer to make two larger pizzas, simply divide the dough in half.)
      4. Roll the dough portions into round balls and place each of them into an airtight container. You can use regular bowls if you cover them with plastic wrap, pressing it down over the dough. Eliminating air will keep the dough from drying out.
      5. Place the dough in your fridge overnight.
      Pizza Preparation
      1. Approximately 15 minutes before you’re ready to work your dough, remove it from the fridge. Turn on your oven to 500 degrees or as high as it will go. Place a pizza stone or metal baking sheet into the oven to pre-heat. Use more than one stone/sheet if you’ll need more surface area to hold your pizzas.
      2. As your oven is heating, dust your hands with seminola, cornmeal, or regular flour. Dust a flat counter surface where you’ll work your dough. Also give each of your dough balls a light dusting.
      3. Work the dough balls using the technique shown in the first three minutes of this video.

      Pro Tip: When our chefs are making pizza at an event, they don’t always have a convenient surface to work on, so they stretch the dough in the air. The technique is similar except that you let the dough hang from your thumbs as you turn it, using gravity to help stretch it. Use whatever technique works for you, but don’t use a rolling pin—if you squash the dough flat, it will lose all that wonderful airiness that it gained by proofing overnight!

      1. When your oven is heated, remove the hot pizza stone/cooking sheet and give it a light dusting.

      Pro Tip: If you’re using a baking sheet, flip it over and use the bottom side to cook your pizza. That way, when the pizza is done, it will slide off the hot sheet easily.

      1. Place your stretched dough onto your stone or cooking sheet. Use a pizza docker or a fork to score the surface of the dough. Don’t make holes all the way through the dough; just lightly indent it to prevent large air pockets from forming when it cooks. Air pockets will cause bubbles that tend to burn.
      Margherita Pizza
      1. Top the pizza with your favorite ingredients. Be careful not to overdo the sauce! Too much sauce will prevent the pizza from cooking properly, and you’ll end up with a soggy underside. If you’re using fresh herbs like basil or spinach, we recommend leaving those off until the last few minutes of cooking. Otherwise they’ll overcook and wilt.

      Pro Tip: If you like lots of sauce, consider baking your perfect pizza “Detroit style” by placing your cheese and other ingredients directly onto the dough. Then you can add the sauce on top of the other ingredients so that it doesn’t touch the dough. Or you can even wait until the pizza has finished baking before topping it with all the sauce your heart desires!

      1. Place your pizzas in the oven and keep a close eye on them as they bake. You may have to rotate the pizzas after a few minutes to give them an even bake. Once your crust is bubbling and forms a dark, golden brown, you know it’s done.
      Eat well!

April 14, 2022

April Recipe of the Month: Arugula Salad with Asparagus

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Arugula salad with asparagus, snap peas, and parmesan

Spring is the time to celebrate all things fresh! Our April recipe of the month, arugula salad with asparagus, snap peas, and parmesan, is one of our favorite ways to feature delicious veggies that are in season right now.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

Salad

  • ½ pound of arugula, washed and dried
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, deveined, blanched, and cut on a bias
  • 1 cup avocado, diced
  • 5-10 spears of asparagus, blanched and shaved with potato peeler
  • 1 cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup pistachios, coarsely chopped

Dressing

  • 2 ½ tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tbsp mayonnaise
  • ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄6 – ¼ tbsp sugar
  • ¼ lemon zest
  • 7 ½ tbsp canola blend oil

Directions

  1. Combine all of dressing ingredients except oil in a blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. While blender is running, slowly add oil until emulsified.
  3. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  4. In a large bowl, toss arugula with dressing.
  5. Plate the arugula (approx. 5 servings).
  6. Top with peas, pistachios, avocado, asparagus, and cheese.

Enjoy!

Pro tips:

Blanching the veggies takes off their bitter edge and makes them a bright vibrant green color.

When zesting citrus, only zest the outer layer. If you get to the white fibrous part of the citrus (called the pith) you've gone too far. The pith is very bitter.

If your greens and produce start to look limp and wilted, you can give them new life by submerging them in ice water for a few seconds. They’ll perk right up!

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