Monday, July 16, 2018

Scalloped Corn

I was so pleasantly surprised by the somewhat early arrival of sweet corn at the local farmer’s market last week, I almost didn’t know what to do. Am I ready for this? Is it even real? Can it be any good yet?

But of course I bought the obligatory dozen ears and grinned all the way home. We ate it all before the next farmer’s market, some grilled as whole ears and eaten right off the cob, some in a quesadilla with chile and bacon (!), and most of it in this scalloped corn recipe that I adapted from Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis (the same book from which I got this jam recipe.)

I made this recipe once last year, but I had some extreme chile peppers that turned out to be wonderfully spicy, but too much so for this recipe, at least in the quantity I used them. I sensed this was a great recipe, however, and have been looking forward to fresh, sweet ears to try it again.  I tamed things a bit for this year’s trial, and the rich, creamy and, well, corny nature of the dish was allowed to show through much better. 

It’s wonderfully delicious, quite rich with plenty of butter and half and half. I cut out some of that half and half and replaced it with sour cream, and loved the combination. It’s really all about the corn, though, and every buttery, creamy bite proves that point.

I think you could make this dish as rich or as light as you want by playing with the fat content of your added dairy. You could also add some herbs, maybe bacon, perhaps tomatoes. I liked celebrating the first ears of 2018 sweet corn (plus a bit of chile pepper from my garden), so I kept this rather simple. The corn was better than I expected for being young and a bit small, so the time cutting it and mixing it with some ingredients that compliment it rather than dominate it, was very well spent. And my months and months of anticipation were well rewarded!

Scalloped Corn with Sour Cream and Chile

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup diced onion
½ teaspoon coarse salt, divided
1 medium size garlic clove, minced
1 small chile pepper, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup half and half
½ cup sour cream
3 cups corn kernels, preferably fresh, frozen will work
2 egg yolks, beaten

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Place the butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted. Brush some of the melted butter up the sides of the skillet as it melts.

2. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the garlic and chile and cook for about 1 minute more.

3. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the half and half and cook at a very gentle boil until the mixture thickens. Stir in the corn and remaining salt and cook about 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolks and sour cream.

4. Place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture is set and the top is beginning to brown.

Makes 4-6 side-dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Corn and Green Onion Tart with Bacon, Corn and Tomato Pie

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Spiral Shredded Salad with Miso Dressing

I was going to make a chopped salad with a miso-ginger vinaigrette. I had a recipe to start from, but was planning to just use the idea, the approximate ratios, and the dressing, adding whatever vegetables I had available.

And then a friend went nuts with her spiralizer, seemingly experiencing such kitchen bliss that I felt shame that my spiralizer had spent the last two years sitting in its box, unused. Because there was the potential for something good to eat, shame became inspiration, and I took my spiralizer to whatever vegetables would tolerate it to make this salad. What I had on hand that worked was daikon radish and cucumber.

You wouldn’t need to use a spiralizer to make this dish. It just makes it more fun! You could simply shred your vegetables as I did the Napa cabbage or diagonal or matchstick slice them as I did the sugar snap peas. In the end, let’s be honest: you could chop your vegetables, too.

This dressing is zesty but mellowed by mild miso. I used white miso, but whatever you like will be fine. The ginger is sharp, but something needs to stand up to the radish I threw in the mix. I’m also convinced you could make the dressing with citrus juices instead of the rice ginger, or add some garlic and chiles.

I’m glad I pay attention to my friends, because the end of my spiral procrastination was way too much fun to have missed. If you’re in the market for a spiralizer, you can get them almost anywhere and I, along with some wiser folks on the foodie internet, like my hand-cranked adjustable spiralizer. I know this all may be going out of fashion (at least I hope pretending spiralized zucchini is spaghetti is going out), but I’ve never been fashionable. Just hungry.

Spiral Shredded Salad with Miso Ginger Dressing
Based on a recipe in Cooking Light magazine (from long ago)

1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced sugar snap peas
1 cup spiralized or shredded daikon radish
1 cup spiralized or shredded cucumber
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons white or yellow miso
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, snap peas, radish, cucumber, and cilantro.

2. In a small bowl, combine the rice vinegar, miso, ginger, sugar, and sesame oil. Whisk together until smooth. Stir in the sesame seeds.

3. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss gently to coat.

Makes 4-6 servings. The salad is still delicious after a day or two in the refrigerator, but it will get significantly watery.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Way I Make Classic Potato Salad

Even though I’ve never posted a recipe for a classic potato salad with a mayonnaise-based dressing, it really is my favorite way to serve up cold potatoes with a summer meal. It can be changed up, varied, and improvised upon, and I often do those things simply to take advantage of what I have on hand, or make up for what I don’t have. I think a lot of gourmet cooks turn their noses up at this potentially gloppy and uninspired dish, but I love it.

Of course you can’t get too far toward making a good potato salad without good potatoes. That being said, I find that freshness and quality, rather than type of potato, are the keys. I make this with whatever potato I happen to be liking at the moment, often small, red-skinned “new” potatoes, which are plentiful here in the summer. Whatever they are, the potatoes need to be cooked with their skins on in a big pot starting with cold water. The skins keep the potato flesh together during cooking rather than having it disintegrate away at an exposed surface. Starting with cold water helps keep the potatoes from turning squishy on the outside while the inside remains undercooked. If the potatoes have thin skins, I will leave the skins on to serve them, but I will peel Russet or other thick-skinned potatoes once they have cooled. (A cold cooked potato peels very easily.)

For the dressing, I like a combination of mayonnaise and sour cream with a highlight of Dijon mustard. Other mustards are good, too, and plain yellow mustard was probably what was in the delicious potato salads on which I grew up. A bit of dill makes everything better, in my opinion. Fresh dill is my preferred option, although I would choose to use dried dill rather than nothing at all.

I really like to combine my potatoes with onion, celery, and bell pepper. Green pepper is fine, and I’m happy to use it, but sweeter red, yellow, or orange peppers are even better. I’ll also include other vegetables, such as radishes, and there are probably many other vegetables that would work here, too. I find that if I toss together the cooked potatoes and the vegetables with some salt before dressing the salad, the flavor is somehow enhanced more effectively with less salt.

I also stir some chopped hard-boiled egg into my salad, but you wouldn’t have to. In fact, if you use a vegan mayonnaise, like this one, and omit or replace the sour cream with a vegan option, you can make a vegan potato salad. You wouldn’t want to miss out on such a traditional staple just because you do not use eggs and dairy in your cooking, would you?

The way I see it, a creamy mayonnaise-based potato salad is summer fare that is not to be neglected. Done poorly, I suppose such a dish can really rain on your parade, but there’s a reason such things earn the title of “classic.” Potato salad as it is familiar to many in this country will be around for a long time, and I for one am not afraid to admit how much I enjoy it.

Classic Potato Salad
Full fat or reduced fat mayonnaise and sour cream are both good here. I do not recommend fat free versions.

1 pound potatoes, skin on
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
1 medium-size bell pepper, any color, chopped
½ teaspoon coarse salt, divided
¾ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 hard-boiled eggs, shells removed, chopped

1. Leave the potatoes whole and do not peel. Place the potatoes in a large pot. Fill the pot with cold water, covering the potatoes by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Gently boil until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes for small potatoes, longer for larger ones.

2. Drain the potatoes and cool completely. This can be done a day ahead.

3. Peel the potatoes if desired. I do not peel them if the skins are tender and relatively unblemished. Cut into bite-size cubes (1/2 – 1 inch, or to taste) and place in a large bowl. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Sprinkle in ½ teaspoon salt. Toss together to combine.

4. To make the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, black pepper, dill, and remaining salt in a small bowl. Pour over the potato mixture and stir gently to coat well.

5. Add the hard boiled egg and toss together gently to combine. Taste for seasoning and creaminess, and add more salt or other seasonings or more mayonnaise or sour cream to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 6 side dish servings.