Category: Side Dish

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.

Corn Pudding and a Rant

August 18, 2011

And now, for a bit of a rant.

Like most parents, my mom and dad tried to teach my brothers and I certain things.  There was a long list but some were more non-negotiable than others.  One was Clean Up Your Room.  And Always Be On Time.  Also If Someone Extends an Invitation Do Your Very Best to Be There.  The first one didn’t stick with me but the other two did.  Randy and I are always on time and we also make a big effort to attend any event/party/gathering to which we are invited.  I’m always amazed when people don’t follow suit.  Occasionally, I send out an invitation to something and most people take forever to respond if they do at all.  Is this a Seattle thing?  Does our casual lifestyle mean that we don’t need to RSVP?  Does this happen in your city?  The only thing that bothers me more than the people who don’t respond is the people who decide, on the day of the event, that they can’t make it.  Manners, people.

Done!  Moving on.

The fabulous Jen Yu breezed into town this week.  Do you know Jen?  Her site is one of the very first blogs I read.  Her talent, strength, determination, and her serious cooking and baking chops have made Use Real Butter a must read for me for years.  Jen and her husband were in town for a very limited time and I suggested a potluck at our house to gather the people she wanted to see.  She gave me her list, I sent an evite, and I was surprised by the quick response.  Apparently, Jen rates highly.  I decided to make several dishes to highlight our spectacular produce but, as per usual, on the day of the potluck, I got several cancellations.  I opted to be realistic and bag one of the planned dishes, a corn pudding I have been wanting to try since the corn left the markets last fall.  There was plenty of delicious food for everyone and we had a truly wonderful evening.

But I still had a bag of corn waiting to be used.  My good friend Deb came for dinner last night with her kids and I thought it was time to try out that pudding.  The original recipe uses four ears of corn and feeds 10 people.  I cut the recipe in half and microwaved the other two ears (it’s ok! Melissa Clark does it!) for the kids to eat straight off the cob.  My Graham is now missing both his front teeth so I cut his off the cob for him.  As I watched the corn tumble onto his plate, I had one of those memories that nearly knock you off your feet of my mom doing the same for me at a long-ago kitchen table in a long-ago house.

Anyway, this is not the kind of recipe you usually find here unless you are baking.  Butter, cream, milk, cheese, eggs.  I eat all those things, just not usually all together in one dish.  I thought it might be too heavy, a gut bomb.  But it wasn’t at all.  This is a dish where everything works together in harmony so that you don’t taste too much of any one thing and the only true standout is the summer’s pitch perfect corn.  The only bad thing I can say about this recipe is that it doesn’t look like much on the plate.  But looks aren’t everything.

One Year Ago:  Lavender and Honey Tea Cakes and (more corn in my red baking dish! and much prettier on the plate!) Polenta Baked with Corn, Basil, and Tomatoes
Two Years Ago:  Mushroom, Walnut, and Rosemary Pâté
Three Years Ago:  Chilled Roasted Tomato Soup with Mint

Corn Pudding
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4-6  (4 as a main, 6 as a side)

1 cups milk
¼ cup heavy cream
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
½ stick of unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
¼ cup cornmeal
3 large eggs, separated
½ cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
½ tsp. plus a pinch of salt
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.  In a saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer over moderate heat.  Add the corn, cover, and cook over moderately low heat, turning a few times, until tender, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the corn to a plate and let cool.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and swirl in the butter until melted.  Let cool to room temperature.  Using a large knife, cut the kernels off the cobs and add to the saucepan.  Scrape the shallot into the saucepan.  Whisk in the cornmeal, egg yolks, Cheddar, and the ½ teaspoon of salt along with a few grinds of pepper.

In a large stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt at high speed until firm peaks form.  Fold the whites into the corn mixture and pour into the prepared baking dish.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until the corn pudding is puffed and golden brown.  Let the pudding rest for about 5 minutes before serving.  (DT:  I served this about 30 minutes after it came out of the oven.  It had fallen slightly but the texture was still nice and light.)


Asparagus for a Party

May 1, 2011

Last weekend, we hosted a 30th birthday party for our babysitter Erika.  Babysitter is not really the right word.  To me, it implies someone doing their homework and watching TV while your kids sleep.  Nanny is not the right word either; she was with us too few hours and besides, “nanny” sounds condescending to me somehow.  Erika is a unique and special woman who has shared her love and her kind heart with our family for the past 4½ years.  What do you call that person?

As I told you here, we met Erika at the Boyer Clinic where Graham started on his speech therapy journey.  When Graham was diagnosed, I was five months pregnant with Spencer.  I could not imagine how I was going to bring a child to a twice weekly appointment with an infant in tow.  As with everything we moms do, I figured it out.  But it caused me a lot of stress.  I would often have to wake Spencer up so that we could get to the clinic on time.  I nursed him in the waiting room or in the classroom.  I put him in the Bjorn and did that crazy dance moms of infants do to try and lull him to sleep.  I suffered through those days and dreaded the evenings when colic turned Spencer into a demon who would not stop crying until he wore himself out around midnight.

Meeting Erika and learning that she needed some hours offered me hope.  I was able to let Spencer take his morning nap undisturbed.  I was able to focus on Graham who was now doing preschool at Boyer along with his speech therapy.  I was able to get some distance from my challenging infant which, if you have ever had an infant, you know is crucial to your sanity.  And because Erika is as amazing as she is, I was able to walk out of the house and not worry about that infant, trusting that he was in capable hands.  There is no price you can put on that security.

Time passed.  The boys grew.  Erika stayed.  She was getting a Master’s degree so her schedule was flexible and we moved her two mornings a week to one full day.  I love my children but I looked forward to Thursdays for two full years.  I could go to yoga and get my hair cut and go to the doctor and meet a friend for lunch if I wanted.  Erika sits for us at night as well and has taken the boys over weekends when we have gone away.  In all that time, all those years, all those days, all those nights, she has never called me with a problem.  Not once.  My boys are easy and she knows them well, but she is also extremely capable.  When we have been out of town and I call to check in, I feel like I am actually calling to make sure she is all right.  I know the boys are fine and having a blast.

So Erika turned 30 and she (sob!) got a job.  She is no longer here on Thursdays and just typing that makes me want to cry.  The main reason that I feel weird calling her a babysitter or a nanny is that she is truly family to us now.  She has been with us since Spencer was six months old and Graham was two.  She know my children better than anyone besides me and Randy.  She loves them and they love her.  We are lucky in that she will always be a part of our lives.  She will sit for us on weekend nights and when we leave town.  I like to tell her she will never be free of us!

To celebrate her 30th birthday, I thought it was only right to throw her a party.  Erika is a vegetarian and an enthusiastic eater of my food.  A night with 20 of her friends and lots of food and wine would be right up her alley.  In true Erika fashion, she thanked me 426 times before the party even started.  We all had a fun night.  Graham thought he had died and gone to pretty girl heaven with all the dresses and jewels and long hair and makeup.  It was wonderful to be able to celebrate her in a personal and relevant way.

Among many other things, I made these asparagus.  I do a lot of party food, but often the party is not at my house.  I have been eying this dish for a long time, but have not been able to make it because I knew it would not travel well.  In my book, asparagus is best simply steamed or roasted, but I was intrigued by the crunchy coating.  Truthfully, these were not as crunchy as I wanted them to be and they wilted more than I wanted them to, but they were pretty and still tasted good, especially that drizzle of sauce.  If I made them again, I would be sure to use very thick asparagus so that they are just cooked by the time the breading browns.

One Year Ago: Tagine with Carrots, Potatoes, and Olives
Two Years Ago: Sushi Rice Salad

Roasted Sesame and Panko Coated Asparagus with Soy-Ginger Drizzle
Adapted from Bon Appétit
Serves 4-6

Because I used thinner asparagus, I didn’t bother to peel them.  But as I said above, I would use thicker ones next time and peel them as the recipe suggests.  The measurements here are very fussy (1/4 tsp. sesame oil?) so I just did it all by taste.  I’m keeping their notes as a guideline.

¼ cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar, divided
3 teaspoons soy sauce, divided
1¼ teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger, divided
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
¼ cup sesame seeds
1 pound thick asparagus spears, trimmed, bottom 2/3 of each spear peeled
1 teaspoon golden brown sugar
½ teaspoon chili-garlic sauce

Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil large rimmed baking sheet. Whisk mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger in pie dish. Mix panko and sesame seeds in another pie dish. Toss asparagus in mayonnaise mixture to coat, then roll in panko mixture. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons sesame oil. Roast until browned, turning once, about 16 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk 1 teaspoon water, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, remaining 3 teaspoons vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil in small bowl for sauce.

Transfer asparagus to platter; sprinkle with salt. Drizzle with sauce.

Roasted Shallots

April 17, 2011

A student in one of my recent classes told me that her favorite vegetable is shallots.  I was amused at first – I mean, who puts shallots at the top of their list?  And then I started thinking about it.  Shallots are pretty amazing.  They are sweeter than onions with more complex flavor.  They are delicious simply pan-fried, add so much to any soup or stew, they are a mainstay in my salad dressings, and they turn into something downright addictive when allowed to get crispy and set atop something like a rice bowl or even a green bean casserole.  That is one pretty awesome vegetable.  Broccoli is my favorite and I don’t think it brings nearly as much to the party as the shallot.

I had never roasted shallots and I figured, after realizing how much I love them, that it was time.  Time to roast them with thyme.  Sorry.  I’m a little punchy these days.  Ahem.  This is what I think of as a well-behaved side dish.  It is easy, not time consuming, has few ingredients, and can be made in advance.  They come out of the oven soft, smoky, sweet, and with that wonderful sour wine-i-ness that comes from balsamic vinegar put in a hot oven.  As they sit, they mellow even more.  I tend to think of side dishes as green vegetables, but this dish was such a welcome change.  I served these alongside a filo dish with artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes and they were perfect.

One Year AgoCrostini with Goat Cheese and Leek Confit
Two Years Ago: Gruyère Gougères

Roasted Shallots
Adapted from Fields of Greens
Serves 4

1 pound shallots
Olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  Cut the ends off the shallots and peel them.  If you are struggling with getting the skin off, make a shallow cut along the length of the shallot and then peel.  Place them on a small baking sheet and drizzle them lightly with olive oil.  Pour on the balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Use a rubber spatula or your hands to mix well.  Lay down the time sprigs and cover the pan with foil.  Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.  Allow to cool and serve.

Spicy Cauliflower

February 10, 2011

I really really try not to be, but sometimes I am a picker.  You know, dinner is over, you are stuffed.  And yet the remnants of the meal are beckoning to you.  And so.  You pick – find the bites with your fingers that are the most tempting.

Recently, I made a pasta that starred many of the things you see here.  And it was good.  But when all was said and done, I picked at the cauliflower.  Ignored the pasta all together, nudged it aside, so I could get to the tangy, slightly sweet, savory, and spicy cauliflower.  Clearly this vegetable needed star billing.

So, I made it.  I sautéed garlic – more garlic than this somewhat garlic ambivalent person usually does.  I added a full teaspoon – maybe more – of red pepper flakes.  I added some chopped up caper berries because a dear friend bought me some for my birthday and a small handful of kalamata olives.  I wanted raisins and I remembered that same friend gave me some pickled raisins (swoon!) and tossed a couple tablespoons of those.  Acid was needed so in went half a can of crushed tomatoes.  And, of course, the cauliflower.

My mom used to make steamed cauliflower when I was a kid.  I ate it because she made me.  This is not that cauliflower.  Randy sometimes imagines he doesn’t like cauliflower.  He loved this.  You could certainly add pasta and have a knockout dish.  But you don’t need it.

These raisins.  I have to give some away.  Maybe you are thinking – raisins?  As a giveaway?  Well, if you are a fan of things pickled, you will love having these in your pantry.  They are a local treat, made by the good folks at the Boat Street Café.  I will send two winners each a jar.  Just tell me what you would do with them!  Winner will be picked this Sunday.

UPDATE: Contest closed!

One Year Ago:  Apple Torte
Two Years Ago:  Gratinéed Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes

Spicy Sweet and Savory Cauliflower
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4 as a side dish

If you are not a big fan of spice, you can dial the red pepper way back here.  I wanted to add toasted pine nuts to the finished dish, but I was out.  I think they would be terrific here.

3 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp. red pepper flakes
3 tbsp. caper berries or capers, rinsed, drained, and roughly chopped
12 kalamata olives, halved
1 medium cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
½ cup dry white wine
3 tbsp. golden raisins
About ¾ cup canned crushed tomatoes
Generous ¼ cup of basil, julienned

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.  Pour in the olive oil, swirl it around, then add the garlic.  Sauté, stirring constantly, and once it is golden, add the red pepper flakes, capers, and olives.  Be careful that the garlic does not burn.

Add the cauliflower, give everything a good stir, then pour in the wine.  Allow to cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half.  Stir in the raisins and the tomatoes.  Turn the heat down to low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is fork tender – about 10 minutes.  Stir in basil and serve warm.

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