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.

What Makes it an Heirloom?

sliced heirloom tomatoes

Sliced heirloom tomatoes

Ever wonder why certain tomatoes are called heirloom while others aren’t. You can look to the definition of the word heirloom, “A valued possession passed down in a family through succeeding generations.”, for the answer.

heirlooms at the farmers market

Heirloom tomatoes being sold at the Sacramento Farmers’ Market grown by Lawrence Farms in Oroville, CA.

Heirlooms are grown from seeds that have been collected, saved and passed down through generations. Every heirloom tomato variety is genetically unique and inherent in this uniqueness is an adaptation to specific growing conditions and climates.

Black Cherry tomatoes

Black cherry heirloom tomatoes growing in a pot in my backyard. These are larger than the typical cherry tomatoes you might think of and when fully ripe, dark in color like the Cherokee.

Supermarket hybrid tomatoes, on the other hand, have been carefully crossbred to produce characteristics like; resistance to pests and diseases and firm flesh and thick skin so they can be machine harvested. Most hybrids are harvested while green and are ripened to redness with ethylene gas.

Abraham Lincoln heirloom

The other heirloom I’m growing this year is Abraham Lincoln. It’s medium in size and will be bright red when fully ripened. I can hardly wait to try this one.

Heirlooms often produce less fruit per plant and when grown organically they are more susceptible to fungus which can make them crack and split.They also tend to be soft skinned requiring hand harvesting. Heirloom crop yields tend to be one-third or less that of hybrid tomato crops. So, more labor to produce them and less production due to their genetic makeup, in most cases, equals higher prices when we buy them. But, if you grow them yourself you still might have the disease problems inherent in the variety you try but you’ll probably get more than enough delicious tomatoes to make you smile for the summer and you can save some seeds to use next season. I’d call that a win, win.

grilled cheese with tomato and basil

Grilled Gruyere cheese sandwich with sliced heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil leaves on a seeded wheat bread. The perfect lunch for an atypical rainy California summer day.

For me the test for any tomato is taste. If it looks perfect but doesn’t taste like a tomato, what’s the point in eating it? Give me a heirloom that is raised locally and allowed to ripen on the vine. That’s what I call a tomato. Oh, one more thing – Please, please don’t put your tomatoes in the fridge. It just kills their flavor.

It Won’t Be Long Now

I’ll bet you think I’ve lost my mind. Well maybe I have but I was so excited this morning when I checked my Russian Heirloom cherry tomato to see that there are tiny tomatoes on it, that I couldn’t wait to shout it to the world. I have tomatoes! Well, I almost have some. It won’t be long now.

This year, I am trying a new variety called Koralik. I bought the plant in Sebastopol on a day my sis and I spent antiquing and nursery hopping. Definitely a great way to spend a Spring day. Anyway, I usually buy the cherry varieties since I grow them in a container. I did learn one thing after I had purchased and planted it that I wish I had known before. The little plastic tag that has the information on it said “Organic Russian Heirloom red cherry – Determinate plant: bears loads of cherry-sized fruit with great flavor. Wonderful for all locations. Only 60 days!” The thing I learned is what “determinate plant” means. Determinate are varieties that grow to a compact height. Determinates stop growing when fruit sets on the top bud. All the tomatoes from the plant ripen at approximately the same time (usually over period of 1- 2 weeks). They require a limited amount of staking for support and are perfectly suited for container planting.

So the good news is that the tomato won’t require staking and it is perfectly suited for container planting. The not so good news is that it sounds like all the fruit will ripen at about the same time so I’ll be overwhelmed with cherry tomatoes for a couple of weeks then I won’t have any. That wasn’t what I had planned on, but looks like what I’ve got. Such is life. Live and learn.

This is the vegetable container part of my little garden. The Koralik tomato is in the pot at the back, an Ichiban Japanese eggplant (Abundance, July 2010) is on the right and a container zucchini, Astia, planted from seeds from Renee’s Garden is in front. The zucchini is also a new selection I am trying this year.  An upgrade to my garden this year is the addition of the wheeled pot stands. They are fantastic. I can move the pots easily to change their location or just to rotate them so they grow more evenly. They even have little brakes you can set so the wheels can’t move. Definitely a luxury I should have given myself long ago.

Now that I have gotten that off my chest I think I’ll get back out there and check on what the snail population is munching on. And that is a whole other story.

(note: the sprinkler that is sticking up in the front pot is not how I’m watering the pots. They are on an automatic system that works off my in ground sprinkler system. I think I stuck that one in there so I wouldn’t misplace it. Good thing I took this picture cuz now I’ll remember where it is next time I go looking for it.)

Pasta L’Estate (Summer Pasta)

Normally I don’t eat a lot of pasta during the summer months. It can be too filling and many days it’s just too hot to cook. But, there is one summer pasta I do fix, Pasta L’Estate, or summer pasta. It’s very much like something I tried at a restaurant once. Ever since then I have been trying to recreate it and have tried on my own and through various recipes. The closest thing I have found is a recipe from The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, although you will see I’ve even modified it a little. It’s a wonderful dish for those hot summer evenings.

A quick trip to my garden brought a harvest of Sweet 100’s and lush basil. It was time to fix summer pasta. The recipe description says “We invented this pasta to preserve our favorite pesto flavors without having to put everything in the processor. A happy result with lots of texture and pizzazz.” I would agree. The only thing to keep in mind is that it takes at least 3 hrs or so to mingle the flavors in the sauce. Allowing less time will greatly compromise the flavor and that’s what sauce is all about, the flavor.

L’Estate

Serves 4

2 cups fresh basil leaves cut into ¼ inch strips

5 oz Parmesan cheese, cut into tiny squares

¾ cup pine nuts (pignoli), lightly toasted*

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup best quality olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1-pound linguine (I prefer spaghetti or buccatini)

Cherry tomato halves or tomato wedges

Combine the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, and garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the olive oil over all. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 3 hours.

Cook the linguine in boiling salted water until tender but still firm. Drain and toss immediately with the sauce. Place on a large serving platter and arrange the tomatoes around the edge. (I toss the tomatoes with the sauce. I have also marinated, cherry or chopped, tomatoes in the sauce and liked the outcome.)

*Toast pine nuts in a skillet over very low heat, shaking the pan frequently, until evenly golden, about 2 minutes.

Pick up some fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and maybe even some pine nuts at your farmers’ market this weekend. Some markets may even have cheese and fresh pasta for sale.

OH, THE CORN!

Sunday morning bounty amongst my reusable produce bags.

The weather forecast for today is 100 so I was up early watering and getting a few chores done before my 7:30 bicycle getaway to the Farmers’ Market. Another beautiful ride and this time I had my trusty little camera with me. The market was packed when I got there; evidently everyone else had the same idea. I made the rounds and found another vendor with fresh corn. The corn I got last week, although touted to be excellent, wasn’t much better than field corn. To say I wasn’t impressed would be putting it mildly. Sweet corn is serious business. This looked to be, not only fresher, but also sweeter. Of course only tasting would answer that. My market bag filled quickly with white nectarines, Donut peaches (more on these later), apricots, several kinds of summer squash, green and yellow wax beans, a couple of tomatoes, two Walla Walla onions and two ears of that beautiful corn.

Tower Bridge and the Sacramento River

Delta King and the I Street Bridge

On the way back I stopped to snap a couple of pics so you could all see the nice views of the river that I have on my ride. The first picture was taken just south of Old Sacramento and the second shows the Old Sacramento riverfront area. Quiet this morning, but this afternoon it will be busy with lots of folks enjoying the river.

Once I was home I laid out my bounty for a couple of quick pics then stored it all away. Since it was now close to 10 and I hadn’t eaten yet, I thought it would be nice to have brunch. Actually I wanted to have the corn I bought so I rationalized that it was late enough for brunch. And, since I was dining alone I could pretty much do what ever I wanted. My version of brunch included some leftover BBQ chicken and grilled veggies from yesterday and the corn. OH, THE CORN! I wish now that I had bought at least six ears. I would have skipped the the chicken and veggies and just had corn, slathered in butter and sprinkled with just a tiny bit of sea salt. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Spaghetti Squash continued – My Sister’s Recommendation

Here’s the spaghetti squash recipe from my sister. Her comments are as follows:

The squash took 15 minutes more than this suggested, so plan on longer cooking times. I would use roma tomatoes next time, just for the firmness of them. I used regular black pepper and would probably opt to put it on before serving the dish for “presentation” purposes.  I also used more than it suggested and maybe just a tad too much, but it still was SUPERDELICIOUS.  I would make this again and again and again. Did I say again??? I did not use any lemon, but will try that next time. Oh and I don’t have a clue if the Parmesan was low fat but I did use fresh (grated myself).

The recipe is from Vegetarian Times, January 2004


Italian-Style Spaghetti Squash

Serves 4

  • 2 lb. spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 zucchini (8 oz.), diced
  • 4 medium-sized tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese for garnish, optional
  • 1 small lemon, sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Place squash halves, cut side down, in baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water, and cover dish with foil. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven, and cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1-tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook for 3 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add zucchini, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until zucchini begins to brown. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, and cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.
  4. Using a fork, scrape squash strands into a bowl. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Mound squash in the centers of four pasta bowls. Spoon vegetable mixture around or over squash strands, dividing vegetables equally among bowls. Drizzle with more oil, if desired, and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Add lemon slices, and serve.

Annie’s comments:

Really looking forward to trying this one later this year when zucchini and tomatoes are in season at their best.