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Friday, August 14, 2009

Now & Later Meals: Grilled Corn Has a Second Act as a Salad

Besides outdoor grilling, days at the beach, fried chicken, ripe tomatoes, and ice cold watermelon, corn on the cob is one of the great markers of summer.

When I was growing up, my mom loved to search out road side stands that sold fresh corn. She'd buy a grocery bag full and we'd feast on boiled corn with slabs of melting butter, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.

I still enjoy corn that way, but now more often than not our corn on the cob comes to the table grilled not boiled.

Shucked and drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, then turned on a grill until lightly browned, the naturally sweet kernels are sweetened even more by caramelization. Yumm.

For a snack, nothing is better than an ear of corn pulled from the refrigerator. But there's more that can be done with those grilled ears of corn. Cutting the kernels off, they can go into a chopped salad and move from side dish to entree.

And on hot days, that's another marker of summer--putting meals on the table with as little effort as possible.

Now: Farmers' Market Fresh Grilled Corn on the Cob
Later: Grilled Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad

NOW: Grilled Corn on the Cob

The most important part of this recipe is the corn itself. The fresher the corn, the better the taste. When you're picking out corn, select ears that have green husks and golden silks.

Yield 4 servings plus left-overs (which you will need for the LATER recipe)

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

8 ears of corn, shucked, silks removed, washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the grill.

Break the ears in half or cut into 3" lengths. The ears you're saving to make the salad can be left whole. Pour the olive oil onto a large plate. Season with sea salt and pepper. Roll each piece of corn in the oil.

Using tongs, grill the corn on all sides until lightly browned. Remove from the grill and serve hot.

LATER: Parsley-Corn Chopped Salad

The salad can be prepared ahead and refrigerated but it tastes better if served at room temperature.

Yield 4 servings

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 ears of grilled corn
1 large bunch Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, skin on
1 tablespoon yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Directions

Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and reduce by half over a low flame. Set aside to cool.

Using a sharp knife, cut off the kernels and put into a mixing bowl. Place the garlic clove on a skewer or the point of a sharp knife. Char in a flame so the skin burns off. Brush off any bits of burnt skin and roughly chop the garlic.

Add the charred garlic, parsley, and onions to the mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Transfer to a serving dish.

Variations

Instead of using a raw carrot, grill a carrot cut into slabs 1/4" thick; dredged the slabs in seasoned olive oil and grill until lightly browned; let cool and chop into pieces the same size as the corn kernels; add to the salad

Grill asparagus dredged in seasoned olive oil, then chop into pieces and add to the salad

Quarter cherry tomatoes and add to the salad

Add 1 cup cooked couscous

Add 1 medium sized avocado, peeled, roughly chopped

Add 6 medium sized shrimp, washed, peeled, deveined, and grilled, roughly shopped

Crumble 3 pieces of crisp bacon on the salad and toss

Shred 1/2 cup turkey or chicken breast and add to the salad

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cherry Tomatoes and Pasta Go Hand in Hand

I only grow cherry tomatoes. Which doesn't mean I don't enjoy eating heirlooms like Brandywines, Cherokee Purples, or Green Zebras. Because we have large, beautiful trees in the backyard, we only get partial sun in the garden. Our house stays cool even during the hottest days and that's good news, but larger tomatoes don't grow well without full sun. I'm not complaining though.

The cherry tomatoes are sweet like candy.

At this time of year, cherry tomatoes are plentiful. Not just in our garden, which has gone kind of cherry-tomato-crazy, but in the farmers' markets as well. Big baskets of perfectly ripe tomatoes are selling for $1.00/basket. They're perfect for salads and skewering. With a plentiful supply, they also make a delicious pasta sauce.

Pasta alla Checca

Yield 4 servings

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound pasta, penne, gnocchi style, fussili, or spaghetti
1 basket farmers' market fresh cherry tomatoes, stems removed, washed, quartered
1 bunch basil, washed, stems removed
1 garlic clove, skin removed, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method

Put the quartered tomatoes into a large bowl, season with sea salt and pepper, add the olive oil,minced garlic, and toss. Do this a few minutes before you cook the pasta.

Add the kosher salt to a large pot with a gallon of water, heat to boiling, add the pasta, and stir well. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking together. After 10 minutes sample a piece of pasta. When it's cooked to your taste, strain, and put the pasta into the bowl with the seasoned tomatoes.

Toss well. Chop or tear by hand the basil leaves and add to the pasta. Top with grated cheese and serve immediately.

Variations

Over an open flame, char the garlic clove with the skin still on. Remove the blackened skin, mince the garlic

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted olives, cracked green or black

Add 2 anchovies, minced

Add 1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped or cut into thin rings

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce

Cooked into a sauce, cherry tomatoes have a flavor that is different from their large-bodied cousins. One basket makes enough sauce to serve 4 people, so the price-break is good.

If you want, the sauce can be made ahead, frozen, and used weeks later with little loss of flavor.

Yield 4 servings

Time 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 baskets farmers' market fresh cherry tomatoes, stems removed, washed
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, minced
1 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
4 shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, finely chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, skin removed, washed, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet butter
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Toss the cherry tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, half of the minced garlic, season with sea salt and pepper, place on a baking tray that has been lined with a Silpat or parchment sheet. Bake 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Reserve the seasoned olive oil in the bowl and use to saute the remaining garlic, parsley, onion, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Set aside.

Put the roasted tomatoes, including all the liquid on the baking tray, through a food mill. Add the tomato sauce and pulp to the saute pan.

Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in the sweet butter, taste, and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Toss with pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Use the tomato sauce without the vegetable saute

With the vegetables, saute 1 cup smoked sausage or Italian sausage, finely chopped, until lightly browned

Use fresh basil instead of the Italian parsley

Add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne to the saute