Roasted corn off the cob

Sometimes it’s nice to have summer corn OFF the cob. My favorite way to do this is to sauté corn with olive oil, peppers and red onion, and then let a bit of garlic join the party near the end. Takes about 10-15 minutes tops to cook. Or you can pop in a hot oven on a sheet pan if it’s not 90 degrees.

That’s it.  The technique comes from White Dog Café cookbook, which has long been a favorite cookbook. Judy Wickes has you make a salsa with lime after the corn cooks, which is a very good idea, but I haven’t gone to that stage yet and have been happily mired in the eat after the first step stage. It’s good. Here’s her recipe: https://tinyurl.com/y8up78sl

Here’s a rough guide:

Remove kernels from corn cobs with a big sharp knife. Dice some nice peppers — a medium hot/sweet and a serrano or other hot pepper makes a nice balance. Or you can use also a red sweet pepper. Rough chop red onion. Mince a garlic clover.

Heat a pan, add olive oil, and corn, peppers and onion and cook at high temp for up to 10 minutes, stirring often. Altnernatively, heat the oven to 450 degrees, mix your corn, onion and peppers together with S&P in a bowl, and toss with a bit of olive oil, glob on some olive oil, dump in your corn, and roast for 10-15 minutes, adding in garlic a minute before it’s all cooked — or you can add the garlic when it comes out of the oven.  All good. Let sit until the rest of your dinner cooks, and enjoy! Corn may only marginally be considered a vegetable, but peppers, onion and garlic are high in the healthy scorecard, and hey, it’s all better than potato chips! Enjoy!

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Sautéed chicken breasts, for a change

Let’s say you’ve got the boneless chicken breast sauté technique down, and you have worked it into your repetoire: Cook some vegetables, and then throw a chicken breast or three into a hot sauté pan, make a quick butter/lemon pan sauce and you’re done. Done that 10 times and over it.

Here’s a change of pace I discovered in Diana Henry’s brilliant chicken-all-ways cookbook A Bird in the Hand:  Chicken Breasts with Wild Mushroom sauce.  Here’s an exact recipe: https://tinyurl.com/yd3el7ar

But you will want to buy this book because it will bring chicken back into weeknight — and dinner party — rotation, in a very happy, and low-stress way.

Basically you soak some dried porcini or other wild mushrooms in boiling water for 15 minutes, Sauté some fresh mushrooms in butter — cremini is now my standard fresh mushroom — throw in the soaked dried mushrooms, add in the soaking liquid and some chicken stock, and reduce, and then add in some cream, and reduce again. Easy-peasy. You can make the sauce ahead of cooking the chicken and let it hang nearby while you cook the rest of your meal. Then when you’re ready, you sauté a chicken breast or three, and serve with the sauce. It is very, very delicious. Like the best mushroom bisque. Not too rich, and the soaking liquid adds a bass note/unami flavor. (You may be more of a lady than moi, and serve a delicate amount of sauce with chicken!)

Diana Henry has you serve the chicken and mushroom sauce over lentils, which seems to be a fine idea. But I didn’t take the time first go-round. I made a variation of White Dog Cafe’s roasted corn salsa since I had the first of the summer’s corn on hand.

 

Early summer salad — cauliflower

When Spring hits full-on and it’s time for some warm weather dinner (or lunch) salads, there’s still not much available in the northeast.  But there’s California cauliflower, so enjoy this!

Ingredients:

Cauliflower, 1 head
red onion, 1/2
shallot, 1
hot pepper, 1
red pepper, 1
carrots, 2-3
Artichoke hearts, 1 can (packed in water, not soybean, etc oil)
lemon juice
apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg’s)
olive oil
smoked paprika
Cayenne
Cumin
Optional: garbanzos; blanched green beans, chopped parsley
Grape tomatoes

Directions:

Prepare dressing:
Squeeze juice of one lemon, and strain into medium bowl.  Add cider vinegar, about 2-3 T.  Slice onion thinly and add to vinegar/lemon; chop shallot and mix in to macerate.

Put in large bowl: Rinse and cut cauliflower into florets. Wash peppers and dice.  Peel and cut carrots. Drain and rinse artichoke hearts; dry, cut into quarters or half and add to bowl. If using, drain and rinse canned garbanzos and add in.

Remove onions from lemon/cider and add to bowl with cauliflower.  Whisk into liquid:  dash of cayenne, bit more smoked paprika, and 1 t cumin.  Add S&P.  Whisk in olive oil, increasing liquid volume by 3.  Taste with carrot. Add grape tomatoes to individual servings (you won’t want to refrigerate tomatoes with leftovers).

Lime pie and its friends

Lemon meringue pie, key lime pie, or The Amazing Lee Bros. Sour Orange Pie. They seem like large endeavors, and that tricky meringue to boot, right? Here’s what I recently learned: there are two ways [there’s a 3d way — frozen, see Nora Ephron] of making these citrus pies: the complicated-curd-on-a-stove-whisk-in-butter way (which is not *that* hard, just a wee stressful tempering the eggs) or the super-simple: mix some juice with sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks, and you’re good to go. Every single time it sets up right!

And then instead of meringue — whipping the egg whites and broiling or tracking down a torch (yeah, right!), just whip some heavy cream with a bit of confectioners sugar and plop it on top and into the refrigerator and you’re done! And besides, doesn’t everyone prefer to see whipped cream on the pie set before them?! Indeed.

So here’s the technique: Juice some limes (or lemons or sour oranges), crack some eggs and separate to use 5 yolks, stir in some sweetened condensed milk and put into pre-baked pie shell and bake for oh, 15 minutes. Remove from oven to let it set for about 1/2 hour, and then pop into the refrigerator and add your whipped cream perhaps with some appropriate zest decorating the top.

What to do with the whites? Coconut macaroons are an easy choice. I’m thinking if I can dig up a recipe I came across, oh here it is! chocolate pavlova with chocolate mousse. Because it’s spring and a girl can’t help but keep her winter poundage! Or to not get into an endless cycle of using yolks, then whites in a recipe that also calls for yolks, then having leftover whites . . . try this or this which features whipped cream with mascarpone on top, a fave of mine, or perhaps Nigella’s coffee pavlova.

Here’s my recipe for Lime Ginger Cream Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (standard or convection oven)

juice of 6 limes, about 3/4 c, strained
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
5 egg yolks
14oz can sweetened condensed milk

Crust:
1-1/2 c almond flour

3 T sugar
pinch salt

3 T (1.5 oz) butter, melted [or 1-3/4 c almond flour with 2 oz butter for insurance that crust is not skimpy if you use a larger pie plate]

Combine almond flour, sugar, salt with whisk in a bowl, then stir in melted butter. A pastry blender and a spatula work here. Press contents into pie pan, and bake about 20+ mins until just turning golden.  Remove from oven and either let cool, or jump on in and make the filling.

Put pie dish on a sheet pan.
Juice and strain limes into measuring cup. Add grated ginger.
Separate egg yolks, putting yolks into large-ish bowl.  Whisk egg yolks 1 minute or so by hand. Stir in condensed milk and whisk to combine well, then stir in juice. Mix it all around, and then pour into pie shell.

Put pie pan on sheet pan into oven, and bake about 15-20 minutes, until it’s just starting to set. Put on cooling rack and let cool for at least one hour.  Then cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Best within 24 hours, but it’s fine sitting around and waiting for its whipped cream topping.

Whip 1 pint (or less) heavy cream until getting thick, then add a couple T confectioners sugar and whip to soft or medium peaks (not firm! — too dry).  Top chilled pie with cream, and grate some appropriate zest on top and serve.

Sources:
The Life I picked blog
Bittman How to Cook Everything (ten? year anniversary edition) — lime pie

p.s. Here’s another variation

Simple Syrup

Simple syrup is a handy thing to have in the sweet kitchen. I like mine flavored with lemon and vanilla. (Vanilla adds a floral, tropical scent which I adore.)

It is in fact simple: equal parts by volume sugar and water. Increase ratio of water for poaching pears.

To use for fruit salad:

¾ c sugar

¾ c water

Heat over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Raise to boil, then simmer one minute.

Remove from heat and add:

1-2 slices lemon peel (taken off with peeler, pith removed w/ knife)

1-1/2” vanilla bean, split lengthwise

 

Pour into heat-proof dish (Pyrex measuring cup is good)

Let cool to room temp. Scrape vanilla bean with knife to put seeds into liquid; put all back in, probably removing lemon peel then or later.

Refrigerate up to 2 weeks.

 

Sources:

Baranbaum, Pie and Pastry Bible, p 260

Turnips!

Okay, kids, boil away!  “No way!” I hear hordes shouting.  Yes, indeed, I’m here to tell you that those staple roots available at very reasonable prices at farmers markets in early summer and fall to winter are actually an enjoyable vegetable to eat at dinner.  They’re a low carb alternative to potatoes on your dinner plate.  And if you cook them promptly the greens are delicious with ’em, so you get a double dose of veggies — roots and greens — for one effort. And everything is better with roasted garlic, which this has.

Here’s what you do, per the very excellent and wacky Power Vegetables by the Lucky Peach folks.  Boil them and toss them with a snazzy anchovy, caper vinaigrette and eat your low-carb veggies happily.  You boil the peeled, cut turnips for 15 minutes or less, throw in their greens at the end (or arugula or spinach, as I did), then toss with a Riviera/Italian wacky vinaigrette and … wow!  A great side to chicken or I’m told roast pork.

Ingredients:

5 garlic cloves, unpeeled

3 anchovy filets

1 t capers, rinsed and chopped

2 T chopped parsley

1/2 T red wine vinegar

1 T olive oil

4 turnips, peeled and cut into large bite-size pieces

Turnip greens, arugula or spinach (all optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees (or can go to 350 if need be)
  2. Put garlic cloves on pan and bake for 30 minutes until soft.  Peel when cool enough to handle.  Mash if you want.
  3. Put up large pot of water to boil.
  4. Make (low-volume liquid) vinaigrette: Put anchovies, capers, parsley, oil, vinegar & S&P in a jar and shake.  Add garlic if cool, or else just hold on side to add with turnips later.
  5. When water boils and you’re ready to eat in 15 minutes, salt water and add turnips and boil for 15 minutes or until no resistance when poked with a knife, but before turning mushy.  Add greens at end and drain, returning all to pot.  Add dressing and garlic and stir well. Serve hot.

 

 

 

 

Cookbooks

I love reading cookbooks.  I usually have several on my living room table out from the library that I read through and then after a couple months if I really do not want to return it, I end up buying a copy for my sagging cookbook-stuffed bookcases.

I especially love reading the introductions in cookbooks, in which the author sets out her philosophy, or view of cooking.  The usual theme is:  be fearless, start simple, and to be a good home cook, cook often.  I agree wholeheartedly and that’s the principle motivating my writing this blog.
THEN I take out a book called Taste & Technique, by Naomi Pomeroy, a restaurant owner.  Starts out with a friendly introduction encouraging folks to cook at home, promises helpful guidance if you follow her recipes in her book, and then proceeds to call for pickled mustard seeds, three different baking dishes for fennel gratin, and a recipe for “Mom’s simple salad” that has 16 ingredients including edible flowers(!) This is NOT weeknight simple cooking.  It is discouraging even for a confident home cook.  It is NOT what I have in mind.

If you’re still timid about home cooking, or even somewhat accomplished, I encourage folks to use cookbooks and not merely grab recipes helter-skelter on the internet.  (One exception: NY Times publishes good recipes.)

One reason for choosing cookbooks over internet recipes, is that getting to know an author builds trust and confidence.  We get to know their voice, their technique, and over time it’s like they’re there with us in the kitchen.

So here are some cookbooks I recommend for home cooks:

Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything.  (He is annoying and arrogant personally, but he does a good job of guiding one gently in home cooking, including variations.)  Bittman also wrote “How to Cook Everything Fast” which seems like a good idea, though I confess I have not used it even though I own it.

Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  This is a bible of good cooking, not fussy.  For example, there is a simple potato soup recipe that everyone who wants to develop soup-making skills should start with. Also, surprisingly good and easy desserts/baking at end of book, including A Little Nut Cookie, long a favorite of mine.

Marcella Hazan, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.  You can live a good, full life cooking entirely from this cookbook.  From her stupendously simple and excellent tomato sauce with onion, to sautes, meats and vegetables.  And she has lots of useful opinionated advice on ingredients (e.g., dried basil is to be shunned). Excellent vegetables. Marcella is a treasure.

Then if you want to also bake, pick up Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours.  Or a Rose Levy Beranbaum baking book and you’re good to go.  For years probably.

Bonus recommendation:  Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant.  Vegetarian cooking that spans the globe.  The Italian section in my copy is falling apart from use.