Archive for September, 2011

Corn with Tons of Herbs

September 13, 2011

I’ve been writing this blog for 3½ years.  In blog years, that is like, eternity.  I’m sure there are those who wonder, why bother?  Why spend money to get it up and running and then hours a week on something that brings you no income, no direct contact with your audience?  I can very easily tell you why.  It’s reading about people’s favorite teachers which gave me so much hope about our new school and the upcoming year.  It’s sharing some personal and kind of painful stuff and getting love and support in return.  I often say this but sitting here in our little study, typing, watching the cars drive by, I most often feel that there are five people reading my blog.  And then I share on a more personal level, and I am blown away by the support.  So.  Whether you are a first time reader, a first time commenter, someone who visits often and comments often or someone who has just commented for the first time, I want to thank you for being here and for supporting me, on many different levels.

One more thing, before we move on to corn.  The winner of the $50 Target gift card is comment #92 (randomly generated and coincidentally, the year I graduated college).  Congratulations Jennifer!  I will contact you to get your mailing address!

Without further ado, I have to ask are you tired of corn yet?  Is it possible to be tired of corn?  Let’s talk about corn.  What is your favorite way to eat corn?

Up until very recently, I would have said “boiled for three minutes, slathered with butter, showered with salt”.  Because corn is pretty perfect that way.  Especially if it is height-of-the-season farmers’ market corn.  Which is the only time I buy it.  Certain vegetables I buy all year regardless of the season.  Broccoli, carrots, onions, potatoes, the usual.  All of those taste pretty good to me whether I buy them in January or July.  Tomatoes taste terrible in the winter but I need tomatoes in my life and yes I know they are a fruit.  Corn and asparagus are things I eye warily in the produce aisle, suspicious of why they are there when spring and summer are one or two seasons away.  But come late summer/early fall, I buy a lot of corn.

I catered a party for about 40 people last week and as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I needed it on the menu.  I tested it several times beforehand and with one bite, I knew I had a winner.  I’m sure there are some of you out there who stubbornly believe that you don’t need to do much to corn to make it taste good and I encourage those of you to realize that not much is actually done here.  The corn doesn’t even cook for that long but the time it does spend in a hot pan, it is accompanied by a bit of butter, shallots, cumin seeds, and tons of herbs.  Like, tons.  The original recipe called for higher quantities of tarragon and dill, but I say use what you have.  At this time of year, I always have a lot of bits and bobs of herbs floating around and I used them all.  Cilantro, basil, tarragon, dill, mint, parsley, chives – all of them went in.  We are coming to the end of corn season but before we do, please give this a try.

One Year Ago:  Saffron Cauliflower, Summer Squash Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Mint
Two Years Ago:  Holly B’s French Bread, Thai Green Curry, Nectarine and Mascarpone Tart 
Three Years Ago:  Rosemary Aioli

Summer Corn Sauté with Tons of Herbs
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 6-8

The only herb I wouldn’t use here is rosemary – I don’t think its unique flavor would mesh well with corn.  Fresh oregano is pretty strong if you are using that, just add a bit.  If you are doubling this for a party of 40, use two sauté pans and prepare for it all to be eaten.

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 large shallots, chopped
1 tsp. cumin seeds
6 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 8 large ears)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped assorted herbs
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add shallot and cumin seeds.  Sauté until shallot is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Add corn kernels, 1 tsp. coarse salt, and 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Sauté until corn is tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and mix in all herbs.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

First Grade and Pre-K

September 11, 2011

In the Seattle school district, the Wednesday after Labor Day is The First Day of School.  So we had a big day in the Dana Treat household last week.  Graham had his first day of school in his new school (1st grade!) and Spencer moved up from the Orange Room to the Yellow Room at preschool.  The Yellow Room is pre-K, the room with the biggest kids.  How it came to be that my baby is in that room, I can’t really explain.

Emotionally, I’m a bit all over the place.  I don’t feel the crushing nostalgia that hit me last year at this time.  I feel thrilled about Graham’s new school.  Being there for an open house last week, meeting some parents and kids at a 1st grade brunch, being there on the first day as the ribbon was cut and the community was welcomed – I just feel such relief.  This is the right place for him.  He will thrive there.  I want to get involved.  I see myself making lifelong friends and really joining this community.  Why didn’t I feel that way last year at his other school?  Was I afraid that Graham would not be successful there and was I protecting myself?  If so, how selfish.  I’m not sure truthfully.

I feel glad to see Graham back in school.  We had a nice summer.  He spent a few days a week at a day camp near our house but he also got plenty of time with me and Spencer.  We had a couple of Lopez weekends and two trips involving airplanes.  I love and adore that child with all my heart but he does tire me out.  The fact that he still, at the age of 6¾, requires so much of my attention is exhausting.  I can’t just say something offhand to him, every remark, every request has to be extremely deliberate.  At school he has a lot of success.  He has many people who adore him and are cheering for him.  He will have the same resource room teacher as last year and the same beloved librarian.  I am ready to hear about how well he is doing instead of focusing on challenging he can be.  I hope that doesn’t sound too callous.  I have to add the caveat that Graham continues to be a sweet, loving, charming, sensitive child who really truly always tries his best.

My emotions about him continue to be so complicated.  I still feel that I have failed him every night when I get into bed.  I need more patience, more acceptance, more tolerance, more light-heartedness, more thankfulness, more celebration in the things that make him uniquely Graham.  I need to be easier on him, kinder to him, more generous with him.  I first wrote about these struggles years ago and I am ashamed to say that rather than improving I am worsening.  Sometimes I feel that I don’t really “get” him.  I don’t know what he is thinking or experiencing because often he can’t really tell me.  It is hard to see the world through his eyes.  But on the first day of school, I did get a glimpse.

Because it was the first day for everyone in this building, they had a photographer on hand to get a picture of all the kids.  The parents stepped away for a few moments as the photographer clicked away, hanging out an upstairs window.  Before we knew it, the ribbon was cut and there was a bit of a crush as all the kids, parents, and teachers went up the steps and through the doors.  I hurried over to find Graham and saw him a few paces ahead of me and his body language (shoulders rounded, head down) told me that he was trying to hold it together.  I pushed past a few small people, touched him, said his name, and he spun around with a look of terror on his face.  Once he saw it was me, he burst into tears and wailed, “I don’t know who my teacher is!”  Oh my.  Of course.  Here we are, walking into a building that he has only seen once before, to a classroom he has only seen once before, to see his teacher who he has only met once before.  Overwhelming for really any young child but particularly one who doesn’t totally understand what is going on.  This poor kid who tries so very hard but spends a good part of his day a bit confused.  He knows he is at a new school, he does not know why.  At times he embodies that saying “fake it ’til you make it”.  He smiles and charms people all the while not truly understanding what is going on.  And yet.  He thrives in school.  He is learning at a pace similar to his typically developing peers.  He does not have any behavioral problems.  He eats and sleeps well and is nice to his brother.  Sometimes being a mother is a bit bewildering.

This post is not about me but I do have to say a word about my hair.  I’ve stopped coloring it.  I am not sure how I feel about it.  As it was starting to grow out, I even considered writing a post called “Gray – No or Yay” but that seemed a little vain.  My mom has the most gorgeous all-silver hair and while I know I am far from that, it seems to be the path I am taking.  Randy loves it, my family loves it, I think my friends are puzzled by it.  I’m on the fence but I don’t miss paying a fortune to sit with chemicals on my head every six weeks.  Thoughts?


How to Win Fans

September 6, 2011

It’s simple really.  Homemade ice cream sandwiches.  Chocolate dipped.  Sprinkles.

But first!  I have to tell you about a way that you can try one of my treats, if you live in the Seattle area.  Do you know about Savour?  It’s a fabulous specialty foods store in Ballard.  In addition to having a wide selection of carefully selected and very fine goods, they also have an incredible cheese counter (burrata!), and prepared foods.  They serve sandwiches and quiches all day and really the place could not be any lovelier.  My friend Julie (she of Julie’s Salad) works there and has started a new program called Savour September.  Each week, the store will feature a local food blogger and a treat of their choice.  I am the first!  So, if you would like to try my now-famous-and-much-requested Brown Sugar Pound Cake in mini form, head down to Savour.  And say hi to Julie!

We had some friends over for Labor Day.  We were 8 adults and 8 kids.  I needed to make a cake to thank our friend Brad for fixing my oven but I also wanted to make something special for the kids.  Few things are better than seeing a child’s entire face light up at mention of a special dessert.  Soon after photographing these treats, the kids descended on them.  Some asked that they be cut into slices because they couldn’t get their mouths around them.  Others (my Spencer included) just chowed right down on them.  I sat with the kids.  The girls all eyed me carefully.  “Did you make these?”,  they all asked, one and then another and then another.  Shock and awe.  What a great feeling.

These are huge sandwiches and one by one, the kids brought the remnants into the dining room so the adults could taste them (except Spencer, who was the 2nd youngest kid there and the only one to finish his sandwich).  I’m glad I got a taste because these are really good.  I mean, of course they are.  They are homemade ice sandwiches for crying out loud.  But I was surprised by how well they turned out and by how good the cookie part was.  This is a surefire way to win fans young, middle (ahem), and old.

One Year Ago:  Grilled Padrón Pepper Pizza
Two Years Ago:  Corn and Zucchini Timbale with Ancho Chile Sauce
Three Years Ago:  Chocolate Peanut Toffee

Chocolate-Dipped Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes 8 large sandwiches

Nonstick vegetable cooking spray
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
2 large egg yolks
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups premium ice cream (I used cookies and cream), softened
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2½ tbsp. vegetable oil
Assorted decorations (I used colored and chocolate sprinkles, you can use nuts, toffee bits, whatever you want)

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Line a 13x9x2 metal baking pan with foil, leaving 1-inch overhang on long sides.  Lightly coat with nonstick spray.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and pinch of salt in medium bowl.  Melt butter in medium skillet over medium heat.  Cook until milk solids on bottom of pan turn deep golden brown, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Transfer browned butter to small bowl.

Place sugar and corn syrup in large bowl.  Pour browned butter over.  Whisk to combine (mixture will not be smooth).  Whisk in egg yolks and vanilla.  Add flour mixture; stir just to blend.  Transfer soft dough to prepared pan; press into an even layer.

Bake cookie layer until golden brown around edges and sides are just beginning to pull away from pan edges, 15 to 17 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on rack.

Using foil overhang as aid, lift cookie layer from pan and place on work surface.  Place sheet of plastic wrap lengthwise in same pan, leaving overhang on both short sides of pan.  Place another sheet of plastic wrap in pan, leaving overhang on long sides of pan.  Cut cookie layer in half crosswise.  Return 1 cookie half, top side down, to pan, placing snugly in 2 short end of pan.  Slightly soften ice cream in microwave in 15-second intervals.  Spread ice cream evenly over cookie in pan.  Place second cookie half, top side up, atop ice cream, pressing slightly to adhere.  Fold plastic wrap up and over ice cream-filled cookie.  Freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

Line baking sheet with parchment paper or wax paper.  Unwrap ice cream-filled cookie; place on work surface.  Using serrated knife, cut cookie lengthwise in half, then cut each strip crosswise into 4 sandwiches (8 in total).  Place on sheet; freeze.

Stir chocolate and oil in medium metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water until melted and smooth; cool to lukewarm.  Arrange decorations on plates.  Working with 1 ice cream sandwich at a time, dip half of sandwich in melted chocolate, allowing excess chocolate to drip back into bowl.  Press sandwich gently into decorations on plate.  Return to sheet in freezer.  Freeze until chocolate sets and freezes, about 1 hour.  (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Wrap each sandwich individually in foil and keep frozen.)

Target Giveaway and Labor Day Ideas

September 4, 2011

If you live in the U.S., you are smack dab in the middle of Labor Day weekend.  If you are not on a camping (or some other kind of) trip, you are most likely either hosting a gathering, or are attending a gathering.  We are hosting two gatherings for which I will be making one ton of food.  I will share some of the recipes later in the week but that won’t help you with ideas for what to make, will it?  Labor Day will have passed.  So, I’m going to remind you of some of my very favorite salads if you need salad inspiration for your Labor Day festivities.  But first, a giveaway.

One of the most challenging things about writing is editing.  Doing your own, or someone doing it for you.  I took a history class in high school where each week we would have a pithy contest.  You had to bring in a current event and talk about it clearly in the fewest words possible.  I think about that contest often when I am writing.  I know I am not the pithiest writer but I could be worse.

I started a post that was, honestly, all over the place.  Cookies, bad cookie cookbooks, back to school, and Target.  It was far from pithy.  So let me just dial it down for you.  Target contacted me recently asking if I wanted a $50 gift card to check out their new food offerings.  Did you know that many Target stores carry more than just potato chips?  Like a full-on fresh food section with beautiful produce to boot?  I didn’t either.  We did our back to school shopping at Target and I was thrilled to be able to get the things I couldn’t find at the farmer’s market in the same place as the pencils and erasers.  One stop shopping taken to a whole new level.

Now.  When I am offered something like this, I always ask if I can have two.  One for me, one to give away.  The Target people didn’t bat an eyelash.  So, who wants a $50 Target gift card?  In the comments, tell me the name of your favorite grade school teacher and (optional!) why he/she was your favorite.  You have until Friday, September 9th at 9am PDT to enter.  And now, salad!  (UPDATE: Contest is now closed!)

Zucchini and Olive Salad could not be easier and it elicits oooh’s and aaahh’s when you bring it to the table.

Everyone loves Greek Salad and in this post, I offer some tips on making a great one.

That old saying, “What grows together, goes together” is exactly what you find here.  Peaches, heirlooms, green beans.  Perfection.

If you are thinking of making a potato salad, why not try something a little different?  Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Creamy Tarragon Vinaigrette.  Be sure sure to use the purples.

I’ve made this salad, Lentils with Capers, Walnuts, Walnut Oil and Mint, more than just about anything in my life.  I love it.  I’m making it this weekend.

Israeli Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes.  Think of it either as a salad or a side dish.  Either way, delicious.

Yogurt and Oregano Pesto Soup

September 1, 2011

One of the greatest things about being a vegetarian, a vegetarian who likes food and likes to eat, is the introduction to other cultures and their food.  If you are looking to eat less meat and you want to eat things other than pasta and salad, you would do well to start investigating Southeast Asian cooking, Indian cooking, Mediterranean cooking, Middle Eastern cooking…  You get the idea.  So many of the world’s cooks use meat more as a garnish than as the focus of the plate.  Those cultures do wonders with meatless foods.

It does take an open mind to start this journey.  You will taste different combinations, foods you have never tried before, things will look different.  You might need to take a trip to a well-stocked specialty food store, though today’s regular grocery stores stock more and more interesting ingredients.  A great place to start might be this soup.

There are very few things I don’t like.  The list is short.  Okra, figs, dates, papaya.  I think that’s it.  If a food doesn’t have those things (or meat) in it, I will eat it.  And actually, I will eat vegetarian gumbo (okra), this salad (fig jam in the dressing), sticky toffee pudding (dates in the cake), and papaya if I don’t know it’s there.  So when I see a recipe for something stars things that I like but used in a different way, I’m always happy to give it a try.  Unusual is good.  Same old same old is boring.

Here you make a simple stock and after it has been strained, you add just a bit of rice to give it body.  You mix together a bit of cornstarch, Greek yogurt that has been strained, and an egg yolk, temper it with a bit of stock, and add it back into the soup.  The whole thing gets a garnish of chickpeas and a pesto made with oregano leaves and their blossoms.  Originally I made this soup because I have a lot of oregano growing in my yard and, while I like it, I don’t find I use it all that often.  I also made it because it sounded so interesting and unusual and I wanted something delicious alongside my pilaf.  It was a huge hit.  A hint of sour in the soup, full body from the egg yolk, the heartiness of the rice and chickpeas, and the lemony oregano pesto made this an intoxicating bowl-ful of goodness.

As with previous recipes I have made from this book, I had to tweak.  I won’t bore you with what I did.  Just trust me when I say make this.  And make it this way.

One Year Ago:  Savory Scones
Two Years Ago:  Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes
Three Years Ago:  Fresh Summer Rolls with Tofu and Hoisin Peanut Dipping Sauce

Yogurt and Oregano Pesto Soup with Oregano Flowers
Adapted from Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume
Makes 4 smallish portions

If you are buying oregano and it doesn’t have blossoms, don’t worry, you just won’t have the pretty garnish.  I call for 7 ounces Greek yogurt here because I buy Fage brand and that is the size it comes in.  If you have a larger container, use 8 ounces.  I used their 2%.

For the oregano pesto:
24 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves and flowers
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup pine nuts
Kosher salt
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan

For the soup:
Olive oil
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups water or vegetable broth
2 tbsp. Arborio rice
½ tbsp. cornstarch
7 oz. Greek yogurt, drained in a cheesecloth-lined wire sieve for 1 hour
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup cooked chickpeas (I used canned)

To make the oregano pesto:
Set aside some of the oregano flowers for the garnish.  Add the rest of the blossoms, oregano leaves, garlic, pine nuts, and a pinch of salt to a mini food processor.  Pulse to a paste.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and process until somewhat smooth.  It will still have texture.  If you prefer it smoother, you can add more olive oil.  Stir in the Parmesan by hand.  This will make more pesto than you need for the soup.  Cover and keep the rest in the refrigerator.

To make the soup:
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and add the celery, carrot, and onion along with a large pinch of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the thyme, oregano, and bay leaf.  Pour in the water or broth.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes, then strain into another saucepan and discard the solids.  Add the rice to the strained stock and cook for 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Spoon the cornstarch into a small bowl, add a little of the soup and mix well.  Pour the yogurt into a separate bowl and add about 3 tablespoons of the soup, whisk for a moment, then add the egg yolk and the cornstarch mixture.  Stir well.

Pour the yogurt mixture into the soup and cook over medium-low heat, just to a simmer and until slightly thickened.  Take care not to let it boil, as this will curdle the yogurt.  Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and season with salt and pepper.

To serve:
Serve hot in deep bowls.  Put a few chickpeas in the middle, top with a spoonful of the oregano pesto, and finish with the fresh oregano blossoms.

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