Roasted Corn and Summer Peach Salad

Grilled Peach and Corn Salad
PEACHES! They are in season and quickly going out of season. They are at their ultimate awesome peak right now. Even peaches at the grocery store have amazing flavor. And they are about a dollar a pound, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t go out and buy a few pounds and make some jam (recipe to come!) or peach pie filling, or start throwing them in everything you can from grilled chicken tacos (we did that) or this amazing peach and roasted corn salad.

A robot wrote this recipe. Seriously. You know that computer named Watson that beat Ken Jennings in Jeopardy! a few years ago? Well, he is apparently pretty handy in the kitchen and “thought” up this salad recipe. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that because I think recipes should come from the soul and well, a computer is a bit lacking in that area. But for whatever it’s worth, this salad and the dressing in particular were pretty amazing. We only altered it a bit and I added a step of roasting the peaches. This salad would go so well as a side for lots of recipes like my coriander chicken or any BBQ dish and would be awesome to bring to a picnic or potluck.
roasted corn and peach salad

Roasted Corn and Summer Peach Salad*

4 ears of corn
1 tablespoon plus ¼ cup olive oil
Kosher salt
¾ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
2 peaches, sliced into ½”-thick wedges
1 TBS butter
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
4 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup)

Prepare grill or skillet for medium-high heat. Brush corn with a total of 1 Tbsp. oil; season with salt and sprinkle with chili powder. Grill or roast in skillet, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred in spots, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool, then cut kernels from cobs. Wipe the skillet clean and add a tablespoon of butter to the pan, keeping it at medium high (or if you’re using a grill, prepare this on a piece of tin foil.) Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add in the peach slices and let them sear for a couple of minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, toast coriander and cumin seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool, then chop with a knife or coarsely grind in a spice mill. Whisk with lemon juice, rosemary, and remaining ¼ cup oil in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add corn kernels, peaches, shallot, basil and cheese and toss to combine.


*adapted from Bon Appetit

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Carrots and Celery: A Colorful Spin on Steak House Sides

Steak, Roasted Carrots and Celery Salad
Summer hasn’t felt very summery until these past two weeks. The rains finally stopped and the heat finally reached into the upper 90’s and it’s starting to feel like Lubbock, again. We weren’t sure what to do with all that rain and all that…not watering our lawns, so we sorta forgot how. I was so used to my garden looking like Swamp Thing that I honestly forgot to keep watering about a week after it quit raining so heavily. Then when things started to wilt, I realized that everything might be thirsty. So I’m back in the swing of watering every other day and I’m enjoying seeing things grow. However, if we had to survive off of what I have growing in my garden, we’d have all died a few weeks ago. I want to be better and grow enough to sustain us year round, but I’m not there, yet. I grew up in a family of farmers but I am not one of them.

We benefit from families of farmers in this town, however, and one of those families is Holy Cow Beef, a family that produces amazing beef products right here in Lubbock, TX. They run an honest, humane, grass-fed beef corporation and their products are extremely high-quality. We bought a New York strip from them, among other cuts, when they were at the Lubbock Downtown Farmer’s Market last weekend and happily made this weeknight meal for our family last week. Matt seared the steak in butter on the stove and finished it in the oven – a favorite and classic way we like to cook a steak. The three of us ate dinner from just one portion!  I roasted orange and purple carrots along with parsnips and served that and the beef along with a blue cheese celery salad. Yes, this plate was served to our three-year-old (no short-order cooking around here) and here’s how it went:

“I only like the orange carrots.”
“I will only eat one celery.”
“More meat, please.”

So I’d highly recommend if you’re in this area, to stop by the farmer’s market on Saturdays and check out what Holy Cow Beef has to offer! We’ve been eating less meat in general, and so buying high quality products from local producers helps us value the days we do have meat a little more. Quality over quantity is a good idea, especially if you, like me, are a carnivore.

 

Blue Cheese Celery Salad
I wanted to share the recipe for the blue cheese and celery salad with you, today. It was so refreshing and different as a side for the steak. I think it would make an amazing topping for a burger, a different dish during football season, or as a side for BBQ!

Blue Cheese Celery Salad*
serves 4

¼ cup mayonnaise
4 cups celery, cut into ⅛-inch-thick half moons (about 8 stalks)
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons chile oil
¼ cup celery leaves
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
½ cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

Spread the mayonnaise among 4 plates. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the celery with the orange juice and season generously with salt. Drizzle with the chile oil (you could also use olive oil and crushed red pepper), then toss in the celery leaves. Scatter the dressed celery on top of the mayonnaise, then top with the chives and lots of blue cheese, and serve.

*adapted from Tasting Table

 

Roasted Carrots
And instead of the classic fries or a baked potato that you typically see alongside a steak, I did a colorful trio of roasted carrots. I simply peeled and sliced three of each orange and purple carrots and parsnips and coated them in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and then roasted them at 400 until soft when pierced with a knife. Then I browned one tablespoon of butter and tossed them right before serving.

 

Blue Cheese Celery Salad with Seared Steak

Cooking Basics: Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto Ingredients
This is an important recipe to have memorized.  If you know the basic formula, you can make a pesto with just about any green/oil/nut/hard cheese.  It’s a great way to dress up a simple pasta salad, a plain filet of fish, or even boiled potatoes for a spin on potato salad.  When it’s a pasta-only kinda day around here, pesto somehow makes me feel better about not trying harder to dish out variety.  I think, “At least Olive is eating something green and different on top of her pasta.”  While that may be the dinner equivalent to justifying nutella as a “healthy” snack, I’m sticking with calling pesto healthy.  In moderation.  The stuff is mostly olive oil.  But I think if it’s used as a garnish, it’s just fine  and a little goes a long way, anyway!
Pesto

So here is your Cooking Basic for the week –

Basil Pesto
makes about a cup and a half

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put everything except the oil in a food processor and turn it on.  While it’s whirring around, gradually drizzle in the olive oil through the open chute of the processor lid.  Let it process for about 30 seconds and then open and taste for salt and pepper.  I end up putting about a teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper to mine.  Pesto will keep on the counter for about a week or in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.  The top of the pesto will turn brown, but it can simply be scraped off before use.  Pressing a sheet of plastic wrap on its surface helps with the oxidization, too.

Basil Pesto Tortellini

Superbowl Food – Korean Fried Chicken Wings with a Celery and Blue Cheese Slaw

celery blue cheese slaw and korean fried chicken

This is the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.  We only  make fried chicken about twice a year and when we do, it has to be this recipe.  Crispy, light batter doesn’t overwhelm the chicken and it’s SO crunchy, you’d think it was double coated.  Koreans know what they’re doing with fried chicken, and I think if you did this preparation to some chicken wings on Game Day, you would definitely be the hero of the hour.  The blue cheese celery salad is an amazing side for the chicken.  Crunchy and tangy and creamy – the perfect slaw/salad for fried chicken!

korean fried chicken

Korean Fried Chicken*

Kosher salt
3/4 cups corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 pounds chicken wings (about 12 whole wings)
2 quarts peanut oil or vegetable shortening
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vodka

Combine 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Add chicken wings and toss until every surface is coated. Transfer wings to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, shaking vigorously as you go to get rid if excess coating. Transfer to refrigerator and let rest, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

When ready to fry, preheat oil to 350°F in a large wok, Dutch oven, or deep fryer.  We used a wok on the stove.

Combine remaining 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, flour, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk until homogenous. Add water and vodka and whisk until a smooth batter is formed, adding up to 2 tablespoons additional water if batter is too thick. It should have the consistency of thin paint and fall off of the whisk in thin ribbons that instantly disappear as they hit the surface of the batter in the bowl.

Add half of the wings to the batter. Working one at a time, lift one wing and allow excess batter to drip off, using your finger to get rid of any large pockets or slicks of batter. Carefully lower wing into hot oil. Repeat with remaining wings in first batch. Fry, using a metal spider or slotted spatula to rotate and agitate wings as they cook until evenly golden brown and crisp all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season immediately with salt. Keep warm while you fry the remaining wings.

We dipped ours into traditional buffalo sauce, which we love.  The chicken is so gloriously crispy that we didn’t want to totally coat it in sauce.  Do as you please.  The original recipe calls for a mighty fine sweet soy sauce that I highly recommend.

*absolutely did not mess with this perfect recipe from Serious Eats

slaw

Celery and Blue Cheese Slaw*

Celery Ribs (thinly sliced at an angle)
1/2 Red Onion (very thinly sliced; 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup fresh Flat-Leaf Parsley leaves (chopped)
1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Lemon Zest
1/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 cup crumbled Blue Cheese

In a large skillet, add one tablespoon of butter and saute the celery and onion until just beginning to soften, but still crunchy, about 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, toss the parsley, vinegar, olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine.  Fold in the celery, onion and blue cheese and serve!

*adapted from Carla Hall’s recipe

Sweet Pea Salad with Leek and Bacon

Pea and Leek Salad
This is just a fantastic side dish for any meal, any night of the week!  It’s fast, it’s adaptable to what you have on hand, and it’s tasty warm or cold!  So it’s perfect as a lunch box addition, or great warmed as a side for a hearty meal like pot roast, which is what I served this with yesterday at lunch (yay, leftovers!)

With just a touch of mayo to add richness, this isn’t a heavy dish at all.  I added leek because I think leeks improve just about any dish.  Brightness from rice wine vinegar cut what could have been a bland dish.  I’m happy with how it turned out, the girl seemed to enjoy it (as peas are a wonderfully natural finger-food for little hands) and it made a great side multiple days in a row.  Can’t ask more out of frozen peas than that!
Leek and Pea Salad

Sweet Pea Salad with Leek and Bacon

3 cups frozen green peas
1 leek, split in two and chopped fine and washed well (they’re dirty suckers)
4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2″ strips
2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and boil the peas until tender but still firm, about 10 minutes.  Rinse them under cold water in a colander and set aside.

Crisp the bacon in a pan and remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain.  Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease from the pan and saute the leeks until tender.

Put the peas, bacon and leeks in a large mixing bowl and add the mayo and vinegar and toss well to evenly coat everything.  Taste and season with salt and pepper, and maybe even more vinegar if you feel it still needs some brightness and serve at room temp or cold!  Or warm!  It’s all good 🙂

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Santa's Little Helper2

This is the Super Bowl of a cook’s world.  I love this holiday and I certainly don’t want to skip over it in a rush to get to Christmas!  Since Matt and I began developing our love of cooking almost 10 years ago, we have looked forward to Thanksgiving a little more each year.  I think, in a way, we are trying to create our own family traditions this year, with a little family of our own.  We realized with a hint of despair the other day that we may not get to host our own family Thanksgiving until our children are in college!  So we decided that along with trying out new recipes each year and saving some old favorites, we’d have our own Thanksgiving at our home, before heading out of town to spend time with our extended families.

This was our Pre-Thanksgiving!  I printed off each recipe and kept the stack on our counter to refer to as I did my prep.  I couldn’t sleep Monday morning, so I got up around 5 and started chopping leeks, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.  We had a few friends over who each brought an amazing pie and some blue ribbon biscuits from our friend, Rod, who still won’t share that recipe, almost 20 years later.  🙂 I didn’t get pictures of everything, nor was I trying to do a post on any one particular recipe.  I just took some pics that I could and let the rest go – this was about having a great time with friends and not about styling a plate of food. However, I did get links to the recipes for everything we did.  Everything turned out really fantastic – loved the Brussels Sprouts and the Cheesy Squash Cassrole and that cocktail made everything just a little more sparkly. 😉

brussels sprouts with blue cheese and bacon
Brussels Sprouts with Blue Cheese and Bacon

cranberry orange relish
Cranberry Orange Relish
pimento cheese twice baked potatoes
Twice Baked Pimento Cheese Potatoes

Santa's Little Helper
The cocktail of the evening that made EVERYONE happy – Santa’s Little Helper.  This will be making a repeat appearance. turkey porcetta
Turkey Porcetta

Dishes I made but failed to get a photo of:
Mushroom and Bacon Stuffing
Cheesy Squash Casserole

Again, everything was wonderful and we had a great time with our friends!  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone – have safe travels and we’ll see you back here next week with a report on all the goodies we make at my parents’ house in New Mexico.  There’s a S’mores pie I’ve been wanting to create…

 

Caesar Salad and Chilling Out

food-9

We’ve been trying to eat outside on our patio table more often as the weather warms up and the days get longer.  I want to enjoy myself in this zen-like way where I don’t care about a little extra mess, where Olive eats everything we serve and she isn’t wildly distracted by the dogs and the wind and the trees and the air and where I lean back in my chair, leisurely taking bites of my food and just enjoy the moment and the concept of taking a little longer than usual to eat dinner.  But instead, what has happened the few times we’ve done this, is I get all worked up and stressed trying to feed Olive and trying not to make a complete mess without her in the playful looking restraints of a high chair, and I end up trying to scarf down my food so that I can tend to whatever mess is going on, or try to block Olive from feeding all her food to Cash.

I do this to myself.  (For the record, this stress is only with food and dining – I am okay with a muddy kid or a messy house or whatever – but please, don’t put food in your hair and whatever you do, do NOT drop food from your tray!) I don’t enjoy the experience of something different and out of control, I let that ruin the experience for me.  Now, my sweet husband might just say, “Let’s not eat outside anymore if it bothers you so much!” (always trying to keep me from feeling anything but joy) but I think what I need, instead, is MORE dining experiences where not everything is micro-managed by my desires for things to look and go perfectly.

It happened again this Sunday – we had a picnic in the park with some people from our church group and we brought a tish bit of an ambitious lunch.  Matt had made all the components for this really great Vietnamese pork and noodle salad and everything was so delicious, but I instantly got down about: 1. the wind blowing lettuce and dirt in my face 2. my baby walking around the blanket and the park NOT eating and spitting things out that we tried to make her eat (God bless one of our friends who had the brains to bring a banana 3. just the overall lack of control I had over the components of my meal – it was messy and I needed a bowl and lots of napkins and NO wind, but I didn’t have those things and I became really negative and I am 100% sure I ruined the experience for Matt, who was trying his best to stay positive while eating beside a big rain cloud (me).

Whenever I struggle with sinful things in my life like jealousy or greed or pride or even the need for control (a sin, I believe), I try to do a bit of immersion therapy on myself and directly expose myself to the thing I can’t seem to handle as often as possible until I am over it.  It has worked in the past and I think I will try to apply it here.  I resolve to eat outside MORE often.  To let messiness happen MORE in situations where I’d like to appear perfect, and I resolve to look at my situations like Olive would – like an opportunity she’s never had before and quite possibly might never have again!

An opportunity you might never have, again, is enjoying a properly made Caesar dressing, because absolutely no restaurants make this dressing right, or from scratch.  This recipe is so flavorful and has just the right balance of tanginess from the lemon and anchovies and creaminess from the oil that it’s nearly like a beautiful, homemade mayonnaise  with a kick!  I see this salad happening a LOT during this hot summer ahead!

food-10

Just a little behind the scenes shot of how I usually take my food photos 🙂

food-11

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons*
makes about a cup of dressing

4 tbs lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1 large egg yolk
4 anchovies, plus more for garnish, if you like
1/2 cup canola oil
3 tbs bacon grease from 4 strips of cooked bacon, or melted butter that has been cooled
Torn up romaine lettuce
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Combine all the ingredients except the canola oil in a tall, wide cup and blend with an immersion blender and then slowly drizzle in the oil.  Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper and extra lemon juice.

Toss leftover cubed up bread on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and toast until golden brown.

Toss a couple tablespoons with the lettuce until nicely coated.  Top with croutons, cut up pieces of the bacon and extra Parmesan cheese.  And lots of cracked pepper!

*recipe adapted a lot from Ruhlman’s amazing sounding Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar.