Sunday, July 31, 2011

Corn pudding

I first tasted corn pudding two years ago at Redbones, a popular barbeque restaurant in Davis Square. I'm actually not a huge fan of barbeque, so I was focusing on appetizers and sides for my dinner. I'm not exactly sure what made me order the corn pudding - I don't much like bread or rice pudding and tend to steer clear of the word "pudding" on a dinner menu - but I'm glad I did. I loved the savory custard filled with corn kernels, and I couldn't wait to try making it on my own. But two years later, I still hadn't done it, in spite of having bookmarked multiple recipes. I hadn't even eaten corn pudding again since that first time.

Today I finally changed that. Ever since corn appeared at the farmers' market last week, I've been daydreaming about ways to enjoy it, and corn pudding was at the top of the list. I decided to try the recipe in Deborah Madison's cookbook Local Flavors. It's packed full of fresh corn kernels, with some cheese and herbs, and a sprinkling of hot smoked paprika on top. It perfectly showcases the amazing corn that's available right now - complementing the sweet corn flavor without hiding it at all. Hopefully now I won't go two years without eating corn pudding again!


Monday, July 18, 2011

One year old!

My blog is one year old today! It's hard to believe how fast the last year went. I started this project with the intention of exploring the local foods that Massachusetts had to offer, and my shopping and cooking habits have evolved quite a lot in the last year as a result. I think at this point, I have settled into a pattern that I feel really good about, and I plan to maintain it. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to tell you more about the way that I eat.

Before I start, I'll just say that I don't like to put any labels on my eating style - I am not a locavore, or a flexitarian, or a lacto/ovo anything. My philosophy is to eat a variety of foods that make me feel healthy, energetic, and strong, which are sourced in a way that I feel comfortable with, as far as my budget allows. My top priority is to enjoy cooking and eating delicious food while maintaining a (mostly) healthy diet. And I am not trying to push my views on anyone else. I do think that it is important to give some thought to the food you eat and where it comes from, but many factors play into each person's choices, and I'm not going to judge that. Anyway, back to the point - here's a little bit about what I put on my plate and where I get it:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zucchini carpaccio salad


It is finally time for me to introduce you to my favorite summer salad! I am the kind of person that almost never repeats recipes, because I always get distracted by new ones that I "need" to try, but I like this salad so much that I make it several times each summer. For me, summer hasn't really arrived until I can get arugula and zucchini at the farmers' market and make this. I first ran into this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. The salad is simple - arugula and paper-thin slices of zucchini, with lemon juice, olive oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese - but it is so, so refreshing and delicious. A mandoline slicer definitely makes it easier to cut the super thin zucchini slices, but a vegetable peeler will work in a pinch. 


Zucchini carpaccio salad
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4-6
3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound arugula, stems discarded and leaves cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1 oz.)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Cut zucchini crosswise into paper-thin slices. Toss zucchini in a colander with 1 tsp salt and allow to drain (in the sink or over a large bowl) for 20 minutes. Rinse zucchini well and pat dry with a kitchen towel or paper towels.

In a large salad bowl, toss arugula with 1/4 cup cheese, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 1/2 tbs olive oil. Arrange zucchini slices over arugula, drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tbs olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and pepper.

Salad is best served immediately.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beet and chickpea salad


With the hot weather in Boston, we've been eating cold dinners more often. We usually do a green salad along with a more substantial salad that includes some protein. The other day, I was trying to come up with a main dish salad including beets that I could serve cold for dinner on a hot summer night. I thought chickpeas would work well with the beets and would help make the salad more filling. I like beets best roasted and tossed with vinegar, so I decided to stick with that idea. I got some inspiration from this recipe, and decided to add some cumin to the dressing. And with some chopped onion, parsley, and mint, the salad was complete.

I loved the way this salad came out. It was very flavorful and made a great light dinner. And the leftovers were even better at lunch the next day! 

Beet and chickpea salad
Serves 3 as a dinner portion

1 pound beets
1 can chickpeas (15.5 oz)
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup (packed) parsley leaves, chopped
2 tbs chopped mint leaves
Heaping 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Wash beets and trim stems to 1 inch. Place beets in a baking pan or oven safe dish, add enough water to cover the bottom, and cover the dish tightly (use aluminum foil if the dish doesn't have a cover). Roast beets in preheated oven until they can be pierced easily with the tip of a sharp knife. This could take 30-60 minutes or so, depending on the size of the beets. When beets are tender, remove them from the dish and cool.

When beets are cool enough to touch, slip off their peels. Cut beets into approximately 1-inch pieces. Place beets in a large bowl, and toss with onions and 1 tbs vinegar. Refrigerate until cool.

Stir cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they are lightly toasted and turn a shade darker, about 2 minutes. Coarsely grind cumin seeds with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Whisk cumin together with olive oil and remaining 1 tbs vinegar. Add chickpeas, parsley, and mint to the beets, and toss with dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Salad can be served immediately or refrigerated for 1-2 days before serving.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Green beans with crisp onions, chile, and mint


We love green beans in this house and eat them with dinner at least once or twice a week during the summer. We usually eat them cooked with just olive oil, salt, and pepper, but that gets boring after a while so I'm always keeping an eye out for more unique preparations to try. I found this recipe in Gourmet Today. It has an interesting combination of ingredients that I wouldn't have thought to combine with green beans, but the result is really good. I like the combination of the hot chiles with mint, which I think of as a cooling herb. And it is pretty hard to go wrong with fried onions!


Green beans with crisp onions, chile, and mint
Adapted from Gourmet Today
Serves 4

1 1/4 pounds green beans, trimmed
2/3 cup vegetable oil
6 ounces small onions or shallots, very thinly sliced and separated into rings
1 fresh hot chile, such as Thai or serrano, thinly sliced (remove seeds if you are sensitive to heat)
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until beans are no longer warm.

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Fry onions or shallots in 3 batches, stirring often, until golden brown, about 3-6 minutes per batch. Working quickly, remove onions/shallots from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. They will get crisp as they cool.

Transfer 1 tbs of frying oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add chile and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and toss until beans are warmed through. Remove pan from heat, toss with mint, and add salt to taste. Top with fried onions/shallots and serve. This dish is best served immediately so that the onions/shallots stay crisp.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pasta salad


I'm sure many of you encountered a pasta salad at some point during the 4th of July holiday weekend. Personally, I really, really don't like pasta salads with mayo, and when I saw the mayo-free version over here, I was inspired to create my own. I had also recently made a tuna salad with fennel and olives, and thought that those flavors would work well with pasta. I added some snap peas for extra crunch and cherry tomatoes for summery juiciness, and finished it off with olive oil, lemon juice, and a lot of herbs. This is a great mayo-free pasta salad full of fresh market vegetables. We enjoyed it for dinner yesterday when the weather was too steamy to consider eating a hot meal, and the leftovers made a delicious lunch.

I was originally planning on using white beans for this salad instead of tuna to make it vegetarian, but I happened to be out of white beans - I think the bean version would be just as good as the tuna, so use whichever one you prefer.


Pasta salad
Serves 4 

Feel free to use whatever herbs you like here. I used basil, lemon basil, oregano, and parsley, but many other herbs would work just as well.

1/2 lb pasta (I used medium shells, but any small to medium sized shape should be fine)
1/2 of a large fennel bulb, thinly sliced with pieces cut into 1-inch lengths
20 cherry tomatoes, sliced
15 kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
10 sugar snap peas, sliced crosswise
1 (5 oz.) can tuna or 1 (15.5 oz.) can white beans, such as cannellini
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more if needed
2 large handfuls of herbs, chopped (some suggestions are basil, oregano, lemon basil, mint, parsley, and dill)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until pasta is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain pasta and run under cold water until pasta is no longer warm. Transfer pasta to a large bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice to taste. Add pasta water if the salad needs moisture.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Salmon fillet en papillote with julienne vegetables


I got a beautiful piece of wild salmon at the farmers' market yesterday along with my usual pile of vegetables. The ingredients were perfect for this Alton Brown recipe that I've made before and really like. It's really simple - all the ingredients are cooked "en papillote", which means cooked in a packet of parchment paper - and all you have to do is microwave the packets for 4 minutes, which reliably results in a perfectly cooked piece of fish. And with all the vegetables, the recipe gives you a complete (light) meal. I tweaked the recipe a bit based on the ingredients I had around - sugar snap peas instead of snow peaks, no leeks, etc. It's really pretty hard to mess this one up, so feel free to try some variations on the veggies or spices - just stick with crunchy vegetables.