Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad

grilled corn on the cob

I love corn on the cob, doesn’t matter if it’s steamed, boiled or grilled, just add some butter and a light sprinkling of salt and I’m in heaven. But even when you love something there is a limit to how much is too much.

grilled corn saladLast week was the first week for fresh sweet corn at our local Farmers Market. So I bought five ears. Some of you would think that’s not an unusually large number but I’m the only one eating it. I happily gorged myself on two ears that evening knowing that there were still three left. Plenty to satisfy my corn cravings. Two more were happily consumed the next day but somehow I just couldn’t eat that last ear in the same sitting. Was my corn craving slowing down?

Having corn somewhat on the brain by now, I noticed a recipe for Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Dressing while browsing some recipes online. Having all the ingredients on hand I decided to give it a try. Not only did it sound good it would use up the last ear of corn. The only deviation from the recipe I made was the addition of some fresh salad shrimp that needed to be eaten. The combination of ingredients was tasty and made the perfect light meal for a hot summer evening.

Now it’s the fourth day and there is no more corn to enjoy or worry about eating. The pressure is off but deep down I can hear the tiniest voice saying “You should have gotten more than five”.

You can find the recipe here.  It’s from For The Love of Cooking, July 2009.

Curiosity

When you’re shopping and you see veggies or fruits that you don’t recognize do they peak your curiosity? Have you ever bought something at the Farmers Market just because you wondered what it would taste like or you were just intrigued by the way it looked? Well I am curious and really love finding things that I don’t know about.

The other day while shopping at the Davis Farmers Market I noticed something that looked like a pointed cabbage and inquired about it. The conversation went something like this: What is this? It’s a cabbage. OK, why is it pointed and not round? It’s pointed so that there is more to use. The core isn’t as large as in the round cabbages. Made sense so I bought one to try.  The other thing that sold me was that the head wasn’t too large. Most cabbage are big enough to feed a football team. These weren’t.

It had good cabbage flavor that wasn’t overpowering, the leaves were crisp and the sliced pieces came apart easily. And he was right there is more to use, the core was very small compared to conventional round cabbage heads.. I sliced mine in half and made a slaw with  with one half. Very nice on an evening where the temperature is hovering just below 100. The other half I’m saving to use in fish tacos  later this week.

Poking around on the internet I found that this cabbage is quite easy to grow from seed and that the heads can be stored for up to 10 weeks. Maybe I’ll try to plant some this fall. The plant itself is quite pretty and might look great in the flower bed. Caraflex will definitely be added to my list of veggies to keep an eye out for.

Cole Slaw

A recipe from Omega Nu’s Recipes in Review 1948 – 1976, a compilation of recipes from the Alpha Gamma Chapter of Omega Nu, Woodland, CA.

I received this cookbook from someone I used to work for as a gift many years ago. It’s quite a hoot to read some recipes that were in vogue at that time, like Mandarin Orange Salad with Topping, which uses canned mandarin oranges, mayo, crushed pineapple and Cool Whip. Cool Whip was a very “in” ingredient during the ’70s.  I’m sure this book could fetch a nice price in an antique store but I could never part with it. The person who gave it to me used a red pen to note her favorite recipes and put little tips like, Our favorite!, Outstanding!, Excellent!, and my favorite at the bottom of the Hot Crabmeat Dip recipe,  P.S. Use the cheapest crab you can find. The best entry though was a note she wrote on the inside cover:

Dear Ann,
I thought about getting you a “gold watch”—but decided, since you’ll now have plenty of time, this would help you fill those empty hours ( and tummies!) Many, many thanks — how I will miss you!
 
Fondly,
Jan & the rest of the family

She was a very gracious lady, generous and kind,  a very good employer.

Cole Slaw
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 T vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 T + 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp pepper
2 carrots
6 cups cabbage, finely sliced
1/2 cup snap peas, finely sliced*
1/2 to 1 cup salad shrimp*
2 T roasted sunflower seeds*
2 T chopped chives*
(additions to the original recipe)
 
Mix together and chill. Serves 6
 

What a difference a month makes.

Koralik Russian Heirloom Cherry tomato

Well it’s warming up here in the Central Valley and the garden is growing quite nicely so thought I’d give you an update. Tomatoes are ripening and I have enjoyed several of the little jewels as I wander through the garden early in the morning. My favorite time in the garden is around 6 or 6:30am. It’s perfect then, not too hot or cold and it’s quiet with only the songs of the birds to break the stillness.

The first fruit from the Ichiban Japanese eggplant is ready to pick, which I’ll do in the morning and the Astia zucchini has been producing just fast enough that I don’t have to eat one a day. They are nice little (I pick em small) squash and are a really good dipper for the edamame hummus that I have been buying at Trader Joe’s. I haven’t tried any cooked yet. They taste too yummy raw.

 Here’s the difference a month can make. On the left is how they looked on May 9 and on the right June 10.

Here’s a look at the rest of my little plot.

On the left is my bean tepee which is growing green, yellow and purple pole beans, the squash is a zucchini called Zephyr. I’ve grown this one for a couple of years and really like it. Two thirds of it is yellow and the blossom end is light green. Quite pretty. If you look closely you can see one just to the right of the chives.  Squished just past the squash are Persian Baby cucumbers (Green Fingers), an Ambrosia melon and a Romanian Sweet Pepper, that isn’t really taking off like everything else. Think it needs more heat, which is forecast for this week. The little green berry basket is protecting some parsley seedlings from the snails. Herbs are thyme by the beans, chives by the squash and tarragon by the cukes and melon. Tarragon is supposed to be a good companion plant for just about everything so we’ll see how happy the melon is when I taste it later this summer. There are already several 1″ melons growing so that’s a good sign of things to come. The beans have only recently started blooming and I’m looking forward to seeing some sets in the next week or so. The other plants in the foreground are; Sweet Alyssum, Snow in Summer and Santa Barbara Daisy, which was recently clipped to encourage a second bloom and also give the melon and cukes room to spread. Later in the season the squash will flow out over the Snow in Summer which it did last year. That arrangement didn’t seem to hurt either plant.

The beans, cucumbers, container zucchini and parsley were all grown from seed from Renee’s Garden, local seed company. The other plants were from starts I picked up at various local Farmers Markets. The size of the plot is 4′ x 10′ and this is it’s second season as a veggie garden. Last year I had beans, squash peppers, melon and cukes too but this year I rotated the positions of the plants putting the squash where. A mini crop rotation if you please. I also added organic manure before the rains last winter and let it soak into the ground not mixing it into the soil until this spring. Think I’ll try to plant a cover crop of legumes or clover this fall and see what that’s like. Must be why I love gardening so much, there’s always something to learn and it’s always an adventure.

How’s your  garden doin?

Monday’s Two-fer

Ok, so it’s been forever since I’ve posted. I could sit here and give you a hundred reasons why I haven’t but I’m not going to. I’m only going to say that this winter has been very mild, in fact it is Spring here in California’s Central Valley and has been for over a month. I have Spring fever so bad that I can hardly get anything done that doesn’t have to do with fiddling around outside and since blogging and cooking are indoor activities they are both down the list of fun things to do, at least to my thinking lately. But as sometimes happens, guilt shows up and I start to rethink my priorities. A very nice email from a blogging friend in Texas, Jack Mathews of Sage to Meadow, recently arrived. It was Jack’s choices for his 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging. The award recognizes bloggers Jack follows for their excellence in writing, photography and art on the blog. He included Anniespickns. That heated up the guilt. An award for blogging should be given to those who blog and that hasn’t been me lately.  It was also a nice reminder to myself that I do miss the writing, the research and discovery and I miss interacting with you, my readers.

So as I started to think about dinner tonight a post was born.

Monday’s Two-fer

Sometimes its just time to gather the leftover this-n-thats from the fridge and either toss em or get creative. Tonight was one of those times. Luckily the this-n-thats were worth saving so I got creative. I sliced the handful of Brussels sprouts, about the same amount of crimini mushrooms; some pieces of fried bacon along with half an onion then added a few cloves from some baked garlic.  First I fried the mushrooms, next the onion, then the sliced Brussels sprouts. Chop the bacon and garlic and toss with the other ingredients and there you have it. I had a little brown rice that I warmed up and served with this. That’s what you call a two-fer, clean fridge and full tummy.

There was even enough natural light coming in the kitchen window to shoot a quick photo.

How I learned to Love Brussels Sprouts – Anniespickns

Soup – The Perfect Food

The weather here in sunny Northern California has definitely changed.  Night temperatures have been in the 40’s, with the last couple of days barely hitting 60 with no sun to speak of.  Not exactly my favorite kind of weather. I much prefer the sunshine.  It’s these crisp fall days that remind me it’s time to start making one of my favorite meals again, soup. To my mind there is nothing better on a cold drizzly day than a hot bowl of homemade soup.

Soup was one of the things my mom often made during the late fall and winter months. It was the perfect way to feed eight growing children a healthy nutritious meal on tight budget. Sometimes it was made using beef bones, sometimes she used chicken or turkey and often it was with split peas or beans and veggies, lots of different veggies. Her soups were always delicious, filled you up and made you warm inside.

According to ehow\’s The History of Soup , soup making is considered to be as old as the history of cooking. Soup was and still is inexpensive to make; it’s filling and easy to digest making it the perfect food for young and old and all those in between.

I’m not much on canned soups. For me, they have far too much salt (needed as a preservative). But for many it is the only kind of soup they have ever experienced. I hope if you are one of those who has only experienced canned or processed soup you will try this simple soup recipe. It will provide you with a delicious soup in about a half hour. I know it takes more than opening a can but I promise you the little bit of work you do will be well worth the effort.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

First pour yourself a nice little glass of wine. Take a sip and then pour a little olive oil in a two-quart pot, add about a cup and a half of quartered crimini mushrooms and sauté until they just begin to brown. Remove to a bowl. Next add equal amounts of chopped carrot, onion and celery (this is called mirepoix) I added about a cup of each. Sauté the mixture until the onion softens, the celery and carrot may not be soft but that’s OK. Then add about a quart of chicken or vegetable stock (your preference homemade or canned, but be aware of the salt content if your using canned) a diced potato (firm red or white skinned variety is preferred) and some fresh herbs, I used sage, thyme and parsley and bring to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are just tender when you pierce them with a fork. With a potato masher, mash the mix a little to thicken the soup. Don’t mash too much unless you want a thick soup. At this point if you have mashed the stock and veggies a lot and want a thicker soup like chowder you can add some ½ and ½ and make it a cream stock and then add some diced cooked chicken or turkey. I didn’t go that route, but the more I write about it and think how tasty that would be, I may be trying that soon. Along with the chicken I added some leftover cooked green beans. Once it’s all together give it a good stir, let the chicken and green beans warm up and your soup is ready to serve. For a delicious topper I added some fresh sage leaves that I had sautéed in butter until they were crisp.  Shredded Parmesan cheese is also a nice addition to this soup but I didn’t add it this time.

Remember the mirepoix, it’s a basic for many soups and sauces.  Add some stock, fresh herbs, vegetables, grains, and meat if you wish and in about 30 minutes you’ll have an economical meal that will warm your soul and make you smile.

How Can I Tell If It’s Ripe?

You would think that a person that has gardened off and on, for fourty years or so would know just about everything there is to know about gardening and harvesting. Not so.  That’s one of the things I love about gardening. Every year it’s different. Every year I learn something new. So join an old dog like me in learning a few new tricks.

Not quite there yet.

So our gardens are doing well. The plants are healthy and they are starting to produce. That’s terrific, but how do you know when it’s time to start harvesting? Trial and error is how most of us learn this phase but there is an easier way.

This one is ripe.

One of my favorite gardening sites is Renee’s Garden. I received an email the other day with an article by guest author, Alice Formiga, it was called When the Time is Ripe: Harvesting Vegetables for Best Flavor. I immediately wrote Renee’s and asked permission to share the article with all of you. Heidi Harris their Customer Service Representative’s response “We would love you to use the article!” The active link to the article is here.

OK, so a few of you are saying to yourselves. Well I don’t garden so this article isn’t important to me. Well it is important if you buy fresh produce (and I hope you do). Just because it’s fresh doesn’t mean it was harvested at it’s peak. You the consumer have to know what you are buying. You have to know what to look for. Alice’s article will give you the tips you’ll need for choosing the veggies that will give you the best flavor.

A personal note:

Renee’s Garden is one of my favorite sources for seeds. This year I’m trying Persian Baby Cucumbers, Green Fingers, French Baby Carrots, Babette, Pole Beans, Tricolor Mix, and Old Fashioned Zinnias, Cut and Come Again. Like the other seeds I have purchased from Renee’s they all germinated well and are growing vigorously. You can read more about Renee’s Garden by visiting her website which also includes more “How to” articles, cookbooks and recipes and a nice gardener’s resources page. They also have a Facebook page.

Salmon With Tarragon Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes

I really love French tarragon and have it growing in my garden in several places. I do this not to provide abundance, which I certainly have, but because tarragon is a good companion plant.  Tarragon has a scent and taste disliked by many garden pests making it a natural pesticide. I have it planted amongst the veggies, not just with other herbs; I have some in the flowerbeds too. Just like some human companions work better together than others, you  kinda have to learn which ones work in the situations  you are thinking about. There is a good site with compatibility information and more about organic gardening  here.

You don’t need a large yard to have fresh herbs, they do well in pots on a patio, deck or terrace and you can companion plant them that way too. I also love the way the textures and colors of their foliage looks amongst my flowers. My in ground gardening area is really pretty small so I also garden in pots on my patio. This year I created a space about 4’ x 10’ in the sunniest part of my yard. I dug out the ground cover that was planted there and  planted green beans, carrots, Persian cucumbers, bell pepper, summer squash, an heirloom melon, and various herbs, including chives, thyme and basil and even some zinnias. I expect that the squash and the melon will overflow into the adjacent flowerbeds later in the season. I also have pots on my patio planted with a Japanese eggplant and cherry tomato, along with more herbs such as parsley, sage and rosemary and more flowers (some of which are edible). The garden and pots are all organic with insects being controlled by birds, a few lizards and beneficial insects. Even if I do have to share with the pests sometimes, there always seems to be plenty left for me (the insects take pretty small bites). A garden is always an adventure, different every year.  Maybe that’s the reason I enjoy gardening so much.

Tarragon and chicken are good companions but tarragon sauce and fresh wild caught salmon make excellent companions. This is one of my favorite ways to use fresh tarragon. I can’t think of a more delicious meal on one of these hot summer evenings.

I have found it’s a good idea to  steam the potatoes and make the sauce ahead of time. That way all I need to do at dinner is pour a nice glass of wine,  light the BBQ and grill the salmon and make a salad. To serve, spoon sauce onto 6 plates and arrange some potatoes in a circle, overlapping slightly, on top of sauce. Arrange grilled salmon on top. Garnish with fresh tarragon, gather your family and enjoy.

Tarragon Sauce

(for use with grilled salmon or as a dressing on grilled chicken sandwiches)

2 large bunches fresh tarragon (about 1 ounce total)

1 large bunch fresh chives (about 2/3 ounce)

1 large shallot

3/4 cup fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves

1 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Pick enough tarragon leaves to measure 1/2 cup (do not pack). Chop enough chives to measure 1/3 cup. Coarsely chop shallot. In a food processor puree tarragon, chives, and shallot with remaining sauce ingredients until smooth and season with salt and pepper. Sauce may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring sauce to cool room temperature before serving.

Steamed Fingerling Potatoes

Cut 1/12 pounds of fingerling or other new potatoes into 1/8” slices and steam over simmering water until just tender. 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Mange-tout – Eat The Whole Thing

Sunday while at the Farmers’ Market I bought some Sugar Snap peas. The French call them mange-tout, or eat the whole thing and they area absolutely right, there’s no shelling involved. I love these crisp peas and often eat them raw like carrot sticks. In fact, I’ve had them twice this week in my lunch just that way. But when it comes to preparing them as a vegetable with my dinner I usually sauté them until just crisp-tender. Tonight I sautéed some sliced Crimini then tossed in Snap Peas than had been cut in half diagonally. When the peas were crisp-tender I added a touch of Sesame Oil and a splash of Tamari, quick, simple and delicious.

To make a one-pan meal of this add some cooked diced chicken or pork after you add the peas. You could substitute Snow peas for the recipe above if you can’t find the Sugar Snap.

Peas are a cool weather crop here in the Central Valley. May has a tendency to get much warmer than the peas like so we should be at the end of the season but it’s been cool and rainy so the peas are still happily producing and I’m still buying them and enjoying them.

Here are a couple of sites that I found while surfing around that I thought you might enjoy. The first one is from a blog called Vegetarians in Paradise. The article includes more history than you might ever want to know, but it’s interesting all the same. Included were sections on: Folklore and Oddities, Genetics, Cuisine, Growing, Nutritional benefits, Preparation and Recipes.

Next was Formula For Life, there you can find Nutritional information, Varieties, Selection, Storage, Preparation Information, Historical Information and Recipes.

Last was a very cool historical timeline of the pea (1650 – 2011) on Google. I love timelines so naturally I found this interesting. If you’re not enamored with them, you’ll probably want to skip this one.

Try some peas while they are still in season. You might find you love them too!

Spring Garlic

You can see the cloves starting to form on this one.

Sunday I got to the Farmers’ Market later than usual, it was already packed with people but choices were still good. The first thing I wanted to do was find the egg guy and trade in my used cartons. It seems like the only time I remember that I’m going to take them back is when I am at the market buying more eggs. Very happy with myself for finally remembering. Egg cartons returned and a fresh dozen in my basket I was off to see what looked good as far as vegetables go. I bought a nice bunch of chard, a green that I much prefer to kale or mustard greens, some beautiful, thin asparagus, some very nice baby spinach, more Fuji apples, tangerines and the subject of this weeks post, green or Spring garlic.

Garlic is a species in the onion family and green garlic is simply immature garlic, which has been pulled to thin the crop. Garlic, onions, shallots, leeks and chives are close relatives. Since I love all garlic’s cousins I guess it isn’t any surprise I love garlic. I love it in its mature form and delight every spring when I can get it in its immature form.

Green garlic is much milder than mature garlic. To use it trim off the root ends and any tough part of the green leaves. Chop or slice the white, light green and the first few inches of the dark green leaves (using only the leaves that are tender).

I read that the sticky juice within the cloves of mature garlic is used as an adhesive in mending glass and porcelain in China and that garlic has been around for about 6,000 years and is native to Central Asia. I also read that it was highly prized in early Egypt where it was even used as currency.

Here’s a little dish I prepared tonight using some of my fresh Spring garlic, left over baked Japanese sweet potatoes (Satsumaimo), a little butter and baby spinach.

First I thinly sliced the garlic, then placed it in a fly pan with a little butter and let the garlic gently cook until it had browned and was a little crispy. This isn’t something you would want to do with clove garlic as the taste of the garlic would be bitter. That doesn’t happen with the young version.  I then added the cooked garlic and butter to the Japanese sweet potatoes that had been peeled and mashed with a fork. Once this was done I made some little patties from the mixture then added them back into the frypan with just a touch of butter and gently fried the patties until they were crispy and browned, then turned them and did the same to the other side. When they were browned on both sides I removed them added the spinach and a splash of chicken stock (you can use water) added a lid and cooked the spinach until it had just wilted. That’s it, another one-pan yummy treat. Perfect for a spring evening.

You can find a recipe for green garlic and baby Bok Choy from one of my March 2010 posts here if you’d like another idea on how I’ve used it. It’s also excellent in any egg dish, think cheese and bacon omelet with spring garlic. If you can find Spring or green garlic at your Farmers’ Market or market, give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

Spring Musings

I follow a considerable number of blogs, many of them on food, others on nature; its mysteries and wonder. To me they are all related for they all have one thing in common, earth and all that it has to offer, nutritionally and visually. But the earth like anything else can throw me a curve now and then offering up trying scenarios.

This weekend has been rainy and windy, encouraging me to deny my urge to get outside and instead stay inside and finish my income taxes and some other chores I have been procrastinating about. Thankfully, I completed those yesterday.

Those chores done, I have one more glorious day to myself. This morning my itch to get outside hasn’t lessened. It is the first day of Spring but unfortunately it is still very wet and very windy, so to ease the itch I donned my raincoat and headed out to take myself to breakfast, then over to the Farmers’ Market, which considering the weather was surprisingly well attended by both vendors and customers although I noticed a considerable lack of “easy-ups” because of the wind. We are lucky that our market is situated under an elevated part of the freeway so there is some shelter from the elements. Not the most beautiful location but definitely functional. This morning I bought Brussels sprouts, yellow onions, a small sized acorn squash, shitake mushrooms, Fuji apples and Purple Haze carrots, the subject of today’s post.

If you have never seen Purple Haze carrots you are missing a truly beautiful vegetable. Their wine colored skins encase bright orange cores that retain their color when lightly cooked or used raw. They are not only beautiful to look at they are heavenly to eat having and earthy sweet taste and crisp texture.

When I researched them I found several interesting facts:

1. Purple carrot varieties are actually one of the first originally cultivated varieties among all carrot colors. They can trace their origins back to the 10th century in what is modern day Afghanistan.

2.  Carrots are the second most popular vegetable in the world, second only to the potato. In my book they are above the potato.

3.  The hybrid variety, Purple Haze, was named after the 1967 song of the same name by Jimi Hendrix.

Now as far as facts go the last fact was definitely the most interesting fact that I dug up. If you, like me, are curious about what the connection might be you can read more about the song and its inspiration here. I’m still not sure I get the “why” of it but I definitely think it interesting.

I did several things with this bunch of carrots; I shredded some and mixed them with equal amounts of shredded Fuji apple, roasted walnuts and just a hint of mayonnaise for a salad and the balance of them I used in a recipe for a coconut carrot muffin another nice way to eat your veggies!

Coconut Carrot Muffin and a cup of hot ginger tea

Coconut Carrot Muffins with Mascarpone and Toasted Walnuts

1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (½ cup for muffins, ½ cup for topping)

1 cup oat flour (you can use whole wheat if you prefer)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup canola oil

¼ cup buttermilk

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

¾ cup sugar

½ lb carrots, washed and shredded

½ cup shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 325°. Oil muffin pan (I used a Texas sized pan that makes 6).

Roast walnuts on baking sheet until just browned. Set aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla until mixed. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until pale, 5 minutes. Beat in the liquid ingredients. Mix in the dry ingredients until just mixed. Stir in the carrots, walnuts and coconut. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until springy and golden. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from pan.

After the muffins were cooled I just barely warmed some Mascarpone cheese, then liberally topped each muffin and sprinkled them with chopped toasted walnuts. It’s best to serve these immediately after adding the topping. The muffins, without topping, will store for several days if kept in an airtight container.

As I sit here typing I keep thinking about getting outside. There seems to be a storm inside as well as outside, one minute I’m ready to put on some rain garb and join mother nature and her blustery wet weather. I could fill the bird feeders and check on the section of fence that blew down last night, make sure there’s not more.  The next minute I decide to stay inside for a little longer, hoping for a break in the action, I enjoy my hot ginger tea and muffin.