Saturday, February 14, 2009

Aaron McCargo Jr.'s Asparagus & Tomato Salad

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In honor of Black history month, I prepared this following dish for this month's Chef Spotlight dinner where we highlight African American chefs. This adapted recipe comes from Aaron McCargo Jr.

Aaron McCargo, Jr. competed on and won season four of The Next Food Network Star in 2008, beating out thousands of culinary hopefuls for the ultimate dream job – his own Food Network show. Big Daddy's House premiered August 3, 2008 and ranked as the number one "In the Kitchen" weekend show during its initial six-episode run. Food Network renewed the show for a second season, which premiered January 4, 2009. Big Daddy's House averages a 25% African-American audience, helping to raise the overall racial diversity of the network's viewers.

On Big Daddy's House, Aaron shares his passion for big, bold flavors and fun, family cooking. From comfort foods to barbeque favorites to breakfast delights, Aaron whips up mouth-watering recipes inspired by many years of culinary experience and his fun-loving family while bringing a down-to-earth vibe and warm smile to the kitchen. Whether cooking with his children, relatives, friends, or even by himself, big food and big fun reign supreme.

A family man who adores all things flavorful, Aaron's passion for cooking was sparked at the age of four when he started baking cakes in his sister's Easy Bake Oven. Always an entrepreneur at heart, Aaron began making and selling cakes and cookies to his childhood friends. At the age of 13, Aaron was as a Junior Volunteer in the kitchen at Cooper Hospital University. He has since worked in nine New Jersey restaurants including casual and fine dining. In 2003, Aaron opened his own restaurant in Camden, N.J., called McCargo's Restaurant, which closed in 2006. Most recently, Aaron served as the executive VIP catering chef at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. He attended Atlantic Cape Community College's Academy of Culinary Arts. - Food Network

Asparagus & Tomato Salad
recipe adapted from Aaron McCargo Jr.

2 bunches asparagus, stems trimmed and split lengthwise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped thyme leaves
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
12 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced thin

Preheat grill on medium-high heat.

Add asparagus, chopped garlic, vegebtable oil, salt and pepper, rosemary and thyme to a large bowl. Mix together. Grill asparagus for 3 to 4 minutes. Place asparagus back into bowl. Add tomatoes. Mix together.

Remove 2 tablespoons oil from asparagus mixture, and place into saute pan. Add mushrooms; cook for 3 to 4 minutes until browned and crisp.

Remove mushrooms and mix into asparagus mixture. Serve at room temperature.

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