Category Archives: Side dish

World’s Best Corn on the Cob

Every summer, when the amazing fields in the area produce the most amazing vegetables, I imagine all sorts of delicious ways to devour them.  The recipes are in all of the popular magazines and newspaper food sections.  But then, year after year, I find that simply grilling the veggies and not adding anything beyond the occasional splash of balsamic is really the best.  No need to add cheese of this or that sort.  No desire to try the lovelies in casseroles.  Just grill the veggies lightly and let the natural flavors speak for themselves.  Mmmmm.

Until now.   This recipe may sound odd.    Ok, it does sound odd.  Mayo on corn?  But trust me on this one.  Your mouth will do the happy dance when you eat the world’s best corn on the cob concoction ever!

World’s Best Corn on the Cob

serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 6 TBS mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 8 ears of fresh corn
  • 2 limes, quartered

Directions:

Short version: mix first 4 ingredients, grill corn, schmear corn with mayo mix, roll in cotija cheese, serve with lime for squeezing on the corn.

Explicit version:

  1. Stir together mayonnaise, garic, salt and cayenne until well combined.  Crumble cheese onto a dinner plate.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium heat.  Carefully pull back the husks of the corn, remove the silks. and pull the husks back up.  Put the corn on the grill, turning every 10 minutes and moving the cobs on the grill so they each cook evenly.  When the corn is cooked, about 30 minutes, remove from the grill and set aside until just cool enough to handle.
  3. Pull back the husks so they create a handle for the corn cob, using a brush or your hands, cover each cob with a light coat of the mayonnaise mixture then roll in the crumbled cheese.
  4. Serve with lime to squeeze onto the cobs.
Notes:
  • If you can get your hands on some Brentwood Sweet Corn, use that!
  • For this photo, the corn was grilled straight on the grill.  I do that whenever I need to cook quite a bit.
  • Photo taken at Farmers’ Daughter in Brentwood, California,  after delivering enough of this corn for their amazing staff.
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Mini Chile Rellenos

So, you’re out at a restaurant, perusing the menu.  How do you decide what to order?  I abide by a pretty simple rule:  order something I don’t usually cook at home.  Sometimes this is because an ingredient is just not in my pantry, such as saffron or a mixture of wild mushrooms.  Other times there are ingredients just not available in the local stores such as goat or rabbit or a unique cheese.

But the absolute king of all reasons to order out and not cook a dish at home is that the preparation will make my kitchen look like Armageddon arrived, twice.  For that last reason, chile rellenos are a total favorite to order at restaurants.  At home, I’ve made some darned good versions, but gawd, the mess makes me crazy!  Those tempting casserole versions have been given a test drive, but they just didn’t satisfy the craving for the real deal.  Here is a nice compromise – no deep frying, but all of the roasted poblano and cheese love.  These mini chile rellenos have all of the love of  roasted peppers and cheese without completely trashing the kitchen.  Bueno!

Mini Chile Rellenos

adapted from the Chile Rellenos de San Joaquin recipe on AllRecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 5 poblano peppers, halved lengthwise, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can diced petite tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 6 ounces cotija cheese

Directions:

  1. Slice chiles in half lengthwise and remove stems and seeds.  Place chiles skin side up on a baking sheet, and broil until skins blister, about 6 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. Remove chiles from the oven and return to the plastic bag, seal and set aside for 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the skins.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in sliced onions, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the liquid and cook until onions and tomatoes achieve a sauce-like consistency, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Season with cumin.
  4. To assemble the chiles rellenos: Slice cheese into 10 long rectangles (or sticks) 1/4-inch thick and approximately as long as the chiles. Roll each cheese rectangle into a chile half. Place rolled chiles into a baking dish and top with the tomato sauce. Crumble any extra cheese on top of the sauce. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbly.

Notes:

  • The cojita cheese holds together nicely, so these make great sides without falling apart in the pan.
  • The cojita can easily be replaced with jack or a mixture or whatever light cheeses you need to use up.  I figure that once you have the amazing taste of roasted poblanos, its tough to go wrong.
  • Best chile relleno ever?  The Chilaca at the totally amazing Blue Agave.  Best food combined with the worst web site ever. 

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Tax day has come and gone, meaning it is time for the annual Feast.  We have a lovely barter deal with  our friendly CPA to prepare and file our taxes.  She gives us a nifty planner to fill out each year, we add the required forms and documents, hand it to her and she does all the rest.  While she certainly is honest in the preparation, she also knows how to get us every single deduction possible no matter how seemingly insignificant.  Gotta love that.  And in return, I make her family a feast for dinner just after tax season ends.  Talk about a win-win situation!

Each year I ask her what she would like, and each year she gives that awful response that cooks hate, “oh anything since everything you make is great.”  Sigh, no direction there to point the way.  Fortunately, her teenage son was home while I dropped off the paperwork this year, so I asked him.  Bingo!  He had an answer.  The beef skewers with peanut sauce were a hit with him last year, so this year the meal was built around that along with shrimp and vegetable skewers.  This Mediterranean orzo salad, loaded with veggies, was the perfect accompaniment.  It was simple and delicious, with clear flavors that don’t overwhelm the main dish.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

inspired by this recipe at My Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 3 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 3 TBS red onion, chopped
  • 3 TBS kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1  jar marinated artichoke hearts
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled, divided

Directions:

  1. Cook the orzo according to the package directions, omitting salt and oil.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine orzo, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, olives, salt and pepper.
  3. Prepare artichokes and vinaigrette by removing the artichokes from the jar, leaving the oil behind.  Chop artichokes and add to orzo mixture.  Add 1/2 of the feta cheese to the oil in the jar, put the lid back on the jar and shake to mix.
  4. Finish salad by adding feta vinaigrette to the orzo salad and tossing gently.  Sprinkle with remaining feta.

Notes:

  • May be served cold or at room temperature.  
  • This was easy to double by just using a larger jar of marinated artichoke hearts.
  • Check your grocery store’s olive bar for kalamatas so you don’t have to splurge for a whole jar.  Unless they are a staple in your pantry, of course.
  • This recipe was originally printed in Cooking Light magazine in 2005.
  • The full menu: beef, shrimp and vegetable skewers, peanut dipping sauce, Joe’s Stone Crab sauce, Caribbean Cocktail sauce, grilled asparagus, Mediterranean Orzo salad, lemon pound cake with fresh strawberries.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Creamed Corn and Basil

Back in the recess of my mind, when conjuring up the basics for this blog, I figured that summer would take the cake.  You know, the endless visits to farm stands, the delicious dishes made from local foods, the interesting farmers to chat with.  And I do make endless trips to the farm stands and secretly feel sorry for those not as fortunate.  And I do make delicious dishes, but most tend to be slicing the veggies, adding perhaps some good salt and pepper, maybe cooking them quickly on the grill.  And the farmers are great, but they are in the midst of a crazy selling season and are just trying to keep their wits about them.   My mantra, especially in the summer, is “start with the best and don’t mess it up.”  While I don’t have full time foragers like Alice Waters, I do live just down the road from several of her favorite purveyors.  Living large while living local is so possible in my humble abode.

And then I saw this recipe that combined creamed corn with fresh tomatoes.  Perhaps Dante had a special level of hell for that.  But I read, I considered, I adapted, and I was convinced.  Consider this a substantial side dish, or a perfect main a bit of bread.

Corn and heirloom tomatoes from Smith Family Farms

Adapted from a recipe printed in The Week

Creamed Corn with Brie, Tomatoes, and Pine Nuts

Ingredients:

2 ears corn shucked, kernels removed

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 TBS brie, rind removed

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

2 large tomatoes, thickly sliced

fresh basil, sliced

Directions:

1.  Combine corn kernels and cream in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cover and cook 5 minutes.  Uncover, stir, and cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir in brie cheese and pepper and cook until sauce thickens, about 5 more minutes.

2.  For each serving, start with a tomato slice, top with 2 TBS creamed corn, top with another tomato slice and more creamed corn.  Garnish with pine nuts and basil.

Notes:

  • Be sure to get a bit of basil in each bite!
  • The original recipe called for Gorgonzola for a “funky flavor that worked well” but I didn’t want anything that would complete with the corn and tomato, hence the brie.
  • Now I’m looking for a savory main to dress with this creamed corn.

Pickled Corn Relish

We’ve got corn coming out of our ears, and  no one is complaining.  Grilled corn, boiled corn, corn in casseroles and soups, corn on the cob and corn off the cob are all welcome when Brentwood Sweet Corn is in season.  Everyday we see corn fields that have been harvested and plowed, waiting for next year.  This local treat will run its course soon so we’re enjoying it as often as possible.

Corn tends to be a side dish, so when I spotted a recipe for corn relish in the San Francisco Chronicle, I was ready to give it a go.  There is a pickling process here, but do note that the resulting relish is still pretty sweet.  While not thrilled with this on some grilled chicken, the relish was quite tasty with a simple fish fillet and it was simply fantastic on a sheboygan sausage in a hoagie roll.   And while I’m generally not a relish type of person, this was nice on hand in the summer when simple grilled foods are the common theme at dinner time.  Oh, and don’t tell anyone, but a quarter cup of this stuff makes a nice little snack when no one is looking.  But let’s just keep that between us.

Corn and red bell pepper from The Farmer’s Daughter farm stand.

Pickled Corn Relish

adapted from the Pickled Pepper and Corn Relish recipe in the San Francisco Chronicle

Ingredients:

1 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons dried oregano
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large red peppers, seeded and diced
Kernels from 4 ears of corn
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

1.  Bring the vinegar, sugar, water, oregano, and cumin to a low boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
2.  Heat the oil in a skillet, add the peppers, season with salt cook for 4 minutes or until the peppers just start to soften.  Add garlic and corn to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3.  Transfer corn mixture to a non reactive bowl, pour in the liquid and mix gently.  Cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate overnight.  Will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator.

Notes:

  • I cut back on the sugar in the original recipe, yet it was still sweeter than the term “pickled” implies.
  • This makes a ton of relish!  Next time I’ll cut the recipe in half.
  • While cooking the corn for just a bit is needed, I want to try this without cooking the red bell peppers, just to cut back on the sweetness.

Beat the Heat “Baked” Beans

Once the “aha” moment arrived, it was humbling to realize how clear it should have been all along.  I’ve been wondering why in the world cooking the basics can be so darned difficult.  For example, whipping up a new to me watermelon salad?  Simple and delicious.  Making potato salad?  Years in the making.  Roasted Dungeness Crab for the first time?  Nailed it right off the bat.  Deviled eggs that fly off the plate?  Too many strike outs to even count.

Why does it take so long to get the classics down pat?  Its because we each know what they should taste like.  Take potato salad for example.  You’ve had potato salad from the grocery store, from delis, at picnics, and barbecues all of your life.  You know there are different styles and preferences, and you have a concept of what the perfect potato salad should taste like.

When making food for our 4th of July gathering, I realized that in the past year I’ve finally mastered a few more of the basics such as deviled eggs and potato salad.  But I’m still not a fan of canned beans.  At our most recent Gourmet Dinner Club event, the SubUrban Cowboy dinner, the hostess made the most amazing homemade baked beans.  Now I knew it was a possible task.  This recipe, adopted from one by Emeril, is an instant classic and will stay in rotation in these parts for years to come.

Beat the Heat “Baked” Beans

makes about 2 quarts

Ingredients:

1 pound bacon, diced
2 cups onions, diced
1 TBS  garlic, chopped
1 pound dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained or cooked with the quick method*
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
2 TBS dry mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

* For the quick method for soaking beans, add beans to a pot and cover with water plus 3 more inches of water, cook until small bubbles appear, cover, and remove from heat for 1 hour.

Directions:

1.  Heat a large pot, add the bacon and cook until the edges start to crisp, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the onions and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and beans and cook for 1 minute. Increase the heat, stir in the chicken stock and bay leaves, and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the beans for about 2 hours with a lid partially covering the pot.  After 1 hour, stir the beans and remove the lid for the remainder of the cooking time if the amount of liquid needs to be reduced.

2.  Add the molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard. Continue to cook for another 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and flavors have come together. Season the beans with salt and pepper, to taste, before serving.

Notes:

  • For a hint as to why these beans are so tasty, note what typical step is missing in the first line of the cooking directions.  Righto, the bacon fat is never drained.
  • The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of bourbon but I omitted it to play it safe the first time around.
  • The beans were nice and sturdy and the sauce was just delicious!
  • The finger licking ribs in the photo were smoked by my husband in the famous Smokasaurus.  Serious yum!

Grilled Corn with Marinated Tomatoes

With the opening of Lon’s Organic farm stand, summer is officially here!  The cool Spring made for a late crop of tomatoes but they are finally gracing us with their presence.  Living amidst endless plots of Brentwood Sweet Corn and tomatoes, we eat them daily while in season then go cold turkey during the off season.  Even living in the land of plenty, it is easy to depend on just a few go to recipes.  Truly, I am a master of the corn with black bean and tomato salads.  Yes, it makes for a delicious mixture and provides a healthy snack for the nibblers in the family.  (ok, that would be each of us!)  And yes, I do have a few variations, but I was ready for a new version to come into my life.  Thank you Gourmet for offering that subtle spark and rejuvenating my standard side dish.  And thank you t0 Gourmet Unbound for nudging me towards this delish variation.

Grilled Corn with Marinated Tomatoes

Corn from Farmer’s Daughter, tomatoes from Lon’s

inspired by Corn and Tomato Scramble

Gourmet  July 2009

Ingredients:

2 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2 TBS rice vinegar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 pounds tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces

4 green onions

6 ears corn, shucked

Directions:

1. Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes, mix gently, and set aside.

2.  Heat grill to medium high.  Grill green onions and corn until each are slightly charred.  Remove from grill and allow to cool.  Cut kernels from corn cobs and slice green onions into 1/4 inch pieces.  Add to marinated tomatoes and mix gently.  Serve cooled or at room temperature.

Notes:

  • With seasonal ingredients, this is simply delicious!
  • I tend to go heavy on the black pepper with tomatoes, so hold back if that is not your personal bent.
  • The original recipe actually required you to dirty a pan.  Obviously that needed to be changed.
  • Yes, those are people fishing in our back yard.  Life on the lake is not for those requiring their home to be a sanctuary of privacy.