Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

I need a vacation.  The past three weeks have been pure craziness at work.  I’m dreaming of Excel and PowerPoint.  You know that is a sure sign that you are OD-ing.  I hate dreaming about PowerPoint.  Nothing angers me more than waking, feeling the stressful tension in my shoulders and realizing the night has provided me with no restful escape from the day.  It’s a sure way to make me grumpy and just sours my mood for the day.  It is also a sure way to keep me out of the kitchen.

At 5 o’clock, or whenever I manage to wrap things up for the day, I pack my laptop into my backpack, collect my things and head for home.  After a few minutes of bustling around the house and petting my pup, the laptop comes out and work begins anew.  At some point, I’ll retreat to the kitchen and find a few minutes for myself when I can focus on the things I want to focus on, my mind calmed by the rhythmic sounds of the knife hitting the cutting board.  One particular night, the fruit fly collection I’ve been working on had grown to the point where action was needed – immediately!  The beautiful heirloom tomatoes I’d picked up at the market were intoxicating the winged creatures and with a wave of my hand over the tomatoes, they dashed off in a wave.

Knowing my time was limited on this particular evening, I took a little help from Trader Joe’s and grabbed some pre-made pizza dough and some fresh mozzarella on my drive home from the office.  I snipped what are likely some of the last leaves from my basil plant as it gasps in the dry, insane heat.  No amount of water can save this year’s poor attempt at a garden…  With just a few simple steps, one of the prettiest pizzas I have ever created sat ready for the oven.  Now to find a bottle of wine…

Work still calls my name, but I’m taking the night off.  I’m trying to enjoy the last bit of summer and I might have to make this a few more times to ensure I’ve satiated my taste for ripe, fresh tomatoes.  Ha – if that ever happens, I’ll let you know!

 

Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

1/4 c. olive oil

3-4 heirloom tomatoes

Fresh mozzarella, in whatever form you prefer, drained

1 prepared pizza dough

Salt and pepper

about 1/4 c. basil leaves, finely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place garlic cloves and olive oil in a small oven-proof dish with a lid.  Roast for 40-45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  When ready to proceed, blend garlic and olive oil in a food processor until no large pieces of garlic remain.  Slice tomatoes in half and gently squeeze to remove seeds.  Slice into 1/4″ slices.

Increase oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a work surface and roll dough out to desired shape.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove dough from oven and spread roasted garlic oil/paste over the dough.  Place tomato slices across the dough.  Season with salt and pepper and scatter mozzarella over the top.  Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Mozzarella should be melted and the crust should be golden brown.

Scatter finely chopped basil over the top, cut into slices, and enjoy.

 

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

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Caprese Flapjacks

Late into the evening, before dusk settles, might be my favorite time of the summer day.  The sun is low in the sky, bathing the trees in a golden light as the locusts buzz noisily in the warm glow.  If it weren’t so hellishly hot outside, I’d probably spend every evening on the deck enjoying the day’s lazy transition into a starry night.  But it is hellishly hot and no amount of rosé would be refreshing enough to coax me from the glorious air conditioning.  Given the heat, the oven has officially been put into hiatus until the mercury drops a bit.  Grilling had been our standby, but even that has been questionable lately.  It is so dry here that our county has put a ban on grilling.  How they think they are going to enforce that is beyond me…

We’ve been so busy lately between work and fun.  The stress level has been rising with the temperatures and a dip in the pool hasn’t been enough to wash away the worries of the day.  To top it off, insurance denied my follow up scan scheduled for last week, so we’ve been in limbo on that front as well as we wait for word on what comes next.  We needed a night off – a fun activity to change our focus for a few hours at the very least.  Luckily, we had tickets to a James Taylor concert in a great outdoor theater.  A perfect start to a relaxed evening.

The concert was starting early, well, early for us compared to our usual dinner time, so I needed something I could make quickly in the heat of the late afternoon.  Ben had been on the road for the latter half of the week, so I decided on one of his favorite summer dishes to welcome him home.  I’m not going to lie, this is one of my summer favorites too.  I usually wait to make this until my heirlooms are going crazy but without a proper garden again, I needed to rely on the friendly farmers at my neighborhood market for their lovely tomatoes.  My poor basil is being properly beaten by the heat of the summer sun, so this was a good way of using a bunch quickly and putting  it out of its misery.

The recipe comes together in a hurry with very few ingredients so it is perfect for a quick summer dinner.  It also makes an elegant appetizer for summer entertaining – and did I mention it goes perfectly with a chilled glass of crisp rosé?  Sets my heart a-flutter just writing those words!  Fresh, quality ingredients are really the key here and are what makes this dish sing.  Texture is also an important component – the couscous in the flapjacks retains a bit of its crunch after cooking which contrasts nicely with the softness of the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.  Don’t skimp on the freshly cracked black pepper or the Fleur de Sel.  It truly is the crowing glory on this jeweled napoleon of summer deliciousness.  Alternating with different colored tomatoes only enhances the beauty of this serenade to summer in a dish.

Caprese Flapjacks

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

3 Tbsp. salt

½ c. hot water

2 c. lukewarm water

16 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into ¼” rounds

1 c. couscous

4 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ c. buttermilk

1 c. basil leaves, tightly packed

2 egg whites, slightly beaten

2 Tbsp. canola oil

Cooking spray

2 heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, preferably different colors, sliced into ¼” rounds

Freshly ground black pepper

Fleur de Sel

 

Combine salt with ½ c. hot water in a medium bowl.  Stir until all salt has dissolved.  Add remaining 2 c. water and add mozzarella slices.  Drain after about 10 minutes.

Combine couscous, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Using a mini food processor or blender, combine basil with ½ c. buttermilk and blend until basil is finely chopped.  In a small bowl, combine basil-buttermilk, remaining buttermilk, egg whites and canola oil.  Whisk wet ingredients into couscous mixture.    Heat a griddle over medium-high heat.  Lightly coat with cooking spray.  Using about ¼ c. batter per flapjack, pour four flapjacks onto griddle.  Cook 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining batter.

To serve, place one flapjack on a plate.  Add one slice of tomato, sprinkle with about 1/8 tsp. Fleur de Sel, and about 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Add a slice of mozzarella.  Repeat with alternate color tomato, Fleur de Sel, pepper and mozzarella.

 

Cheers!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house

BLT Chicken Pasta

Holy cow, summer is going by so quickly!  I can’t believe it is mid-July.  Back to school specials abound and I can’t help but feeling a little sad that summer is almost over.  But then I remember that here in the “northern South,” summer continues well into September (I just love that Southern Living magazine calls KC part of the South – it gives me lots of excuses to make the Southern food I adore!).  Tomato season started early and I have lots of plans for the jeweled orbs.  The farmers markets are overflowing and I’d better get while the getting is good before the impact of this draught starts to catch up with the grocery stores and markets.

I must admit to a bit of laziness and a severe lack of creativity when it comes to cooking this summer.  Maybe that is due to the roller coaster ride I’ve been on this past year.  I think the other part of it is that I don’t have a garden for the second year in a row.  I have nothing going crazy in my backyard, demanding I dream up new and exciting ways to prepare it.  A friend brought over some fresh jalapenos from her garden and I smiled, recalling the numerous recipes I searched and dreamed up to use our plethora of peppers.  A girl can only eat so many jalapeno poppers…

The other aspect of my noticeable absence has been that we have just been so busy!  Last summer flew by in an instant between Ben starting his job, selling our house, making the official move to KC, and then, the nasty C-word.  This summer, we’ve welcomed many friends into our home, traveled to see friends and family, and bummed about town with lazy days at the pool, baseball games, happy hours and more.  One such evening took us to Shakespeare at the Park where we packed a few bottles of wine and a picnic and laughed at the whimsy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Midsummer…

One of the dishes I prepared for our picnic left me with lots of delicious spinach dip left over.  Given its consistency, I felt that it would be better served in another dish versus on its own, scooped with chips or crackers.  Laziness prevailed yet again, so I opted for ease, convenience and rotisserie chicken, a girl’s best friend.  The creamy sauce and spinach got me thinking of an alternate BLT and then I couldn’t help but tinker.  I liked this dish served warm, but it’s likely pretty tasty chilled too and perfect for a picnic or Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BLT Chicken Pasta

recipe:  jb’s pour house with assistance from Food & Wine

 

1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded

5 slices bacon

1/3 c. sliced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 box pasta (any shape), cooked according to package directions

1 c. heavy cream

1 8 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of excess moisture

1 pkg. Philadelphia cooking creme, plain

1 lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

2 large tomatoes, diced

 

Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Saute until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add onion to pan and saute until translucent and starting to brown, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds and remove from heat.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, boil the cream until reduced by half.  Keep a close eye on this as you don’t want to allow the cream to boil over.  Add the dry spinach and stir to incorporate.  Add the cooking creme and stir until melted.  Add the juice of half of a lemon.  Add half of the chicken, reserving the remainder for another use.  Add pasta, bacon, onion mixture and tomatoes.  Mix well to incorporate.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Can easily be doubled.

 

Enjoy!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house

lowcountry boil

I guess I got what I wanted.  I said I wanted to move to a place that was warmer.  Turns out, we moved to Devil’s Lair, USA.  Ok, it is hot out there kids.  And guess what?  Living in a second floor apartment above a bay of garages where the sun beats through the windows throughout the afternoon and evening doesn’t really do much to ease that heat.  If our fans die this fall, I won’t blame them.  I’ve worked them to the bone (or blade, as it were).  I’m literally counting the days until we move into our new house and abandon this inferno (five days!!).  It turns out having a tiny kitchen in the world’s hottest apartment doesn’t really inspire one to do much cooking.  I lovingly fold down the pages of my favorite cooking magazines, earmarking the pages for a summer day in the future.  But in the interim, there’s no way in Hell I’m turning on that oven.

We’ve also been a bit busy, as you’ve noticed from our lack of updates here and from previous posts’ commentary.  Quick meals have become the standard routine around here, mostly so I can hustle my buns back to the spot where both the fan and AC vents blow cool breezes across the room.  Either that, or I’ve spent too much time lounging at the pool, desperate for a cool dip while simultaneously ignoring the crazy neighbors’ tales of snapping photos of homeless people in the dark or their next tattoo artwork featuring images of Samuel L. Jackson next to Scripture.  I’m really not kidding.  Five days…

There are a few tastes of summer I cannot manage to live without, and this one happens to fall into the categories of No Oven, Quick, and One Pot Wonder.  It is a combination of seafood, vegetables, meat, spices and deliciousness rolled into one meal.  And the best part?  It is messy and goes wonderfully with an ice cold beer.

A Lowcountry Boil goes by many names – shrimp boil, Frogmore Stew – but the gist is the same no matter what you call it.  A handful of aromatic spices, seasonings and citrus get dumped into a big pot.  Fill with water, bring to a rolling boil, and start adding things in.  In this instance, the late, great Gourmet magazine forgoes the traditional Old Bay seasoning and jazzes things up with Cajun seasonings and cayenne pepper.  A bit of lemon, bay, and garlic later, and even I am tempted to jump in for a zesty little splash.

Add to that mix some fresh new potatoes, delicious sweet corn, smoked sausage, and shrimp, and you’re set.  I mentioned easy, right?  Wash the potatoes, clean up the corn and halve it, thaw and rinse some shrimp (no peeling!!) and you are done.  While all of that yumminess is rolling around in the pot, you can whip up an equally easy Spicy Horseradish sauce.  A few squirts from a handful of condiments (or splatters, in the case of my ketchup bottle) and your sauce is complete.  Can’t get any easier right?

One of the best parts of this meal to me is that it begs for company and it begs to be eaten outside.  Cover a table with a pile of newspapers or a throw-away table cloth and dump the contents of the pot across the table.  Roll up your sleeves, grab a cold beer from the cooler, and jump in.  Eating with your fingers is highly encouraged, as the intent is for you to grab handfuls of sweet corn, a few bite sized potatoes, and shrimp that you peel before dunking into the sauce and devouring.  You can use a fork if you must.  But it won’t be nearly as fun.

lowcountry boil

adapted from:  Gourmet magazine

5 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning

2 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 lemon

2 bay leaves

8 cloves garlic, smashed and skins peeled away

12-15 small red potatoes

3-4 ears sweet corn, cleaned and halved

1 package smoked sausage

1 lb. shrimp (I prefer 26-30 count)

1/3 c. mayonnaise

3 Tbsp. ketchup

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish sauce

Salt and pepper, to taste

Find the largest stock pot you have.  Place Cajun seasoning and cayenne pepper in the pot.  Halve the lemon and slice each half into quarters.  Squeeze the lemons into the pot and place the remaining lemon pieces into the pot.  Add smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves.  Fill about 2/3 full of water.  Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add potatoes and sweet corn.  Boil for about seven minutes.  As potatoes and corn are boiling, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, Dijon mustard, and horseradish in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Add smoked sausage to the corn and potatoes.  After about five minutes, add shrimp.  After two minutes, remove from heat and pour mixture into a waiting colander.  Once drained, return to pot, dump across a prepared table, or transfer to a large serving dish.  Serve immediately with Spicy Horseradish dipping sauce, plenty of napkins, and ice cold beer.

To the inventor of the Air Conditioner,

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

They say girls like receiving flowers.  Turns out I like eating them.  Don’t worry, your flowers are safe.  I don’t go around and willy-nilly pick off a peony or snap a rose off of a shrub and munch away.  But if I see squash blossoms, zucchini flowers or whatever you choose to call them, guaranteed my heart will start to beat a little faster. 

My interest in floral consumption started several years ago when we were new homeowners.  You see, our former hometown had a huge, amazing farmer’s market each Saturday morning to which we would routinely ride our bikes.  I quickly learned that the trendy items that were quick to sell out early each weekend included bright orange squash blossoms.  A little internet browsing later, I found multiple delicious sounding recipes and soon enough, bunches of blossoms in hand, I was cooking.

Now this summer has been a bit crazy.  My dates with the weekend farmer’s market have been far less than regular.  Instead, trips along the long stretch of highway between Kansas City and Des Moines filled our weekends as a “Sold” sign appeared in our yard and boxes and packing tape began to fill the empty floor spaces inside our house.  Instead of hot dogs, apple pie and fireworks for the 4th, we hauled boxes and furniture under the relentless Midwestern sun.  It seems I’m also death to air conditioners this summer, with no fewer than six repairs and one new air conditioner under my belt between the two residences.  And you wonder why it has been a bit quiet here?

And so we closed the chapter on Des Moines and in this brief respite from moving (albeit not from the heat – thank goodness for a working AC!), I’ve found myself strolling in the morning sun, gazing across tables filled with tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, berries, and wait – squash blossoms!  I beelined through the crowd, leaving B to apologize to the people I cut off or cut in front of as I made my way to the table and grasped my treasures.  In our new barbeque-centric hometown, it seemed only appropriate that we make this recipe first.

ricotta and pulled pork stuffed squash blossoms

recipe:  adapted from Bobby Flay

2 bunches of fresh squash blossoms (keep in water like regular flowers and refrigerate for up to 1 day – they are delicate)

1 1/2 c. ricotta

1/2 lb. best quality pulled pork (you can certainly smoke your own, but we usually buy from our favorite BBQ joint)

1/4 c. barbeque sauce

2 c. rice flour

2 c. ice water

Canola oil

1/3 c. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Snip squash blossoms from stems and place in a large bowl filled with cold water.  Gently swish around and let any dirt or debris fall to the bottom of the bowl.  Remove flowers and tip upside down to remove any excess water.  Peel off the sepals (long green leaves at the base of the flower) and gently open the flower petals.  Note: you may find a few little bugs, this is common as the flowers are typically open when picked and the bugs get trapped inside.  It is worth noting that I found a bee once, so do be careful (this was 1 out of hundreds of squash blossoms, so odds are you won’t find a bee).  Gently pull out the stamen and set the blossom on a towel to dry.  Don’t worry if you tear the flower slightly.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

As blossoms dry, combine ricotta, pulled pork and barbeque sauce in a medium bowl.  Season to taste and set aside.  Combine rice vinegar, Dijon, and honey in a small bowl.  Whisk thoroughly and begin slowly drizzling in olive oil.  Continue adding oil until mixture is emulsified.  Season lightly with salt but liberally with black pepper.  Taste and adjust to your preference.  Set aside.

To fill blossoms, gently push about 1 tsp. filling down to the base of the flower.  Continue to fill until you are nearly to the top of the flower where the petals start to flare out.  If you have torn the flower a bit, wrap the edges together to form a seal and lightly twist the tops of the petals together.  Repeat with remaining blossoms.

Fill a large frying pan about halfway with canola oil and heat over medium high heat.  As oil is warming up, combine rice flour and cold water.  Stir well to combine.  Dip a blossom into the rice flour batter and place in hot oil.  Repeat with four or five other blossoms, depending on the size of your pan.  Fry for about 2 minutes per side and carefully remove from oil.  Stir rice flour batter again and repeat with four or five additional blossoms.  Repeat until all blossoms have been fried.

Serve immediately while hot with black pepper vinaigrette.

Stay cool friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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tipsy golfer

Man, it is hot.  Our little apartment has the benefit of being on the second floor, above a bay of garages, with the blazing western sun beating into the few windows during the late afternoon hours.  After multiple maintenance requests, we were finally told that the second floor apartments struggle to maintain anything cooler than 70 degrees during the summer.  Ha!  We’re lucky if our thermostat dips below 80.  Thank goodness there is a pool in our complex…

So it was with much anticipation for air conditioner awesomeness that B and I climbed into the car and headed back to our former hometown to check on our little house with its forlorn “for sale” sign and to visit with friends and family.  Wouldn’t you know our luck?  Midway through night one (the coolest of the weekend), the condensor motor decides to go to Appliance Heaven and we’re stuck in a house with no screens.  Morning dawned hot and sticky and the neighborhood children covered their ears as I fought with the screens on our ancient double hung windows amidst a steady stream of profanity.  The effort and frustration proved to be more than my sweat glands could bear, and I retreated to the cool basement leaving B to fight with the last of the devil-spawn screens in our bedroom.

In weather like this, I can’t seem to get enough liquids.  Mind you, there is plenty of ice water to be had, but sometimes I want to spruce it up a bit.  *Blasphemous statements ahead*  When the sun is beating overhead and the apartment is a balmy 85 degrees without hope of a breeze, I can’t seem to find joy in my glass of supposed-to-be-cool room temperature red wine.  And while a nice cold beer does the trick on round 1, any future attempts at quenching my thirst with another leaves me with a full stomach and a still unslaked thirst.  It appears I am beered out.  I told you, blasphemy indeed!

There is one beverage that I adore once the summer sun dances in the blue sky – lemonade.  When I am searching for an adult version, I do enjoy a vodka lemonade, but I had my fair share on the floor of the dance clubs during my college days.  My poor liver…  Instead, today as I wandered through the aisles of the grocery store, filling my cart with fixins for many “no-cook” and grill-ready meals this week (read: no way am I turning on that blasted oven), I passed an end cap filled with Arizona teas – among them, the Arnold Palmer.

Now I don’t know much about Mr. Palmer’s personal beverage preferences beyond the half iced tea-half lemonade concoction bearing his name, but I would like to think that he’d appreciate a grown up version once he was finished with the back nine (or maybe before he started the back nine?).  Lucky for me, there is a liquor store right next to the grocery store stocked with multiple sweet tea vodkas, and I was off to the races.  When I returned to the apartment to see the dog passed out on the linoleum floor, desperate for a cool respite, and B closing the shades to the punishment of the afternoon sun, I knew it was time for a Tipsy Golfer.  Or two.

tipsy golfer

recipe:  jb’s pour house

2 oz. sweet tea vodka of your choice (but how can you pass up one with Carolina in the name?!)

2 oz. lemon vodka

1/2 c. lemonade

Fill a highball glass with ice.  Add 2 oz. sweet tea vodka, 2 oz. lemon vodka, and fill the glass the rest of the way with lemonade (about 1/2 cup).  Stir, garnish with lemon slice if desired, then enjoy as beads of condensation run down your glass.

Cheers, friends, stay cool!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2011 jb’s pour house

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veranda cooler

Don’t you just love long weekends?  Memorial Day weekend has to be one of the best given it signals the unofficial start of summer.  The pool opened, I got the obligatory sunburn, the grills throughout the neighborhood wafted their seductive smoke, the ping of metal baseball bats echoed off of the buildings from the neighboring ball fields, and best of all, neither B nor I made the drive down that boring stretch of interstate.  Yes, it is our official first drive-free weekend.  You’ll have to forgive me for being a bit quiet here, but you see, I’ve been out exploring my new town with my now permanent-resident husband.  We’ve eaten out a lot and there really hasn’t been much to share with you.  I promise, that will change.  I think my checking account demands so…

Thankfully, I am not yet sporting my first mosquito bite of the season, but I have been bitten by the summer bug.  Maybe it was the smell of the coconot tanning oil at the pool (not mine, I’m waaay too much of a white kid to even attempt that) or the scent of sweet corn roasting over a flame at the farmer’s market in town, but I’m off to the races when it comes to summer cooking.  The oven has been given permission to slump into hibernation with the purchase of a new charcoal grill (with handy wheels for future tailgating for our hometown teams) and the fridge is filled with white and rosé wines, chilling and waiting to drip beads of water across our countertops.

My thoughts kept turning to the cantelope chilling in the refrigerator.  I’ve decided this is the summer of cocktails and I’m prepared to explore as many as are necessary to find the perfect summer beverage.  Maybe it was all of the exotic scents from the oils and lotions at the pool, but I kept returning to the thought of a cucumber-melon combination.  And it couldn’t have just a name, it had to have the name that evoked thoughts of summer.  I’ve been looking at a lot of real estate lately and the large wrap-around porches of a certain neighborhood nearby have been calling out to me.  Call it inspiration, call it summer in a glass, I call it a Veranda Cooler.

veranda cooler

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1/2 c. cubed cantelope and any juices

1 tsp. powdered sugar

2 oz. chilled vodka

2 oz. chilled cucumber liqueur, such as Thatcher’s Cucumber liqueur

Puree cantelope and powdered sugar.  Pour cantelope puree, vodka, and cucumber liqueur into a cocktail shaker filled with ice (or a tupperware container in the absence of a proper shaker, a la me).  Shake well and pour all contents into a highball glass.  Drink, preferably on a patio.

Welcome to summer, friends!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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corn relish

Bonus recipe!

 

As we made our way through our Ode to Sweet Corn, I received a text message from my sister.

“You should make corn relish!”

Corn relish is a special treat for my family, reserved for a patio overlooking the ocean or the harbor on Hilton Head Island.  Every time we visit, there’s sure to be a jar of corn relish packed away, waiting for the violet hour when cocktails are poured.  It is something the whole family loves, yet, we’ve never made it at home.  Somehow, with all of the pickles, tomato sauce, and other summer treats that get packed away until the cooler months, we never attempted corn relish.  I agreed with my sister, it was time to change that.

Just a few ingredients and a remarkably short cooking time later, and two large jars of corn relish sat cooling in my refrigerator.  Soon enough, the vibrant yellow corn will be happily perched on a cracker as beads of water drip down my glass.  It’s cocktail time!

 

corn relish

adapted from:  Saveur

 

2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped

1 c. finely chopped onion

1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

1 c. sugar

1 c. white vinegar

1 c. water

1 Tbsp. salt

1 tsp. celery seed

2 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. turmeric

1/4 c. cold water

1 doz. ears of corn, kernels removed

Place celery, onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno, sugar, vinegar, water, salt and celery seed in a large stockpot.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often, and let boil for about five minutes.

Combine flour, dry mustard, turmeric and water in a small bowl.  Add to celery mixture with corn and boil for an additional five minutes, stirring frequently.  Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, use as is or strain 2 c. corn relish in a fine mesh strainer to remove excess liquid.  Mix strained corn relish with about 1 c. sour cream and serve with crackers.

Good idea, S, and here’s another recipe for your collection!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

“Ode to Sweet Corn,” Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take something expected or ordinary and to turn it on its side.  I like funky.  I like unique.  I like different.  I love to reimagine and refresh dishes that are tried and true.  But I like to do so in a way that is still approachable for many people.  I am interested in the foams, molecular gastronomy and avant garde presentations of such people like Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz, but I know that style of cooking doesn’t have universal appeal across this great land.  And I know that for most people, the more comfortable you are with the general idea or ingredients, the more likely you are to approach a dish with an open mind and a willing fork.

So when I stumbled across a recipe for a fresh corn pesto, I was intrigued.  This was right up my alley.  Basil pesto has worked its way into our culinary vernacular and isn’t something that is too foreign/out there for most people.  A fresh, summery combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmiggiano Reggiano and olive oil, pesto has become a go-to condiment for dressing pasta, basting chicken, or adding zip to dressings and marinades.  And it is easy.  Throw everything in a blender or food processor and viola!  Instant sauce. 

Now I’m no stranger to turning pesto on its side.  In summers past, I’ve been known to whip up a variety of not-so-standard pestos including chive, lemon-parsley, cilantro, walnut-watercress – the list could go on and on.  But I’d never attempted to make a pesto with something that could stand alone, like sweet corn.  I was up for the experiment.  I happily swung through my Italian grocer on the way home from work and picked up some tagliatelle and headed toward my nearby sweet corn stand.

Think of this as summer carbonara, minus the eggs.  You start by frying up some bacon (bonus!) and sautéing the corn kernels in the reserved drippings (double bonus!).  Never a bad way to go, my friends…  Once the sweet kernels are lightly sautéed, into the food processor they go with the requisite pine nuts, Parmiggiano Reggiano, and olive oil.  To me, most commercial pestos are too oily.  I don’t like opening a container and seeing the Gulf of Mexico, oops, an oil slick, on top of my pesto.  My rule of thumb with oils is always this – disregard the volume specified by the recipe.  Add as much as you like for your own personal preference.  In this case, I added just enough to move the pesto along in my food processor while still leaving a little texture.  The resulting sauce was thick and creamy. 

Back to the pan it went, where I added reserved corn kernels for extra texture.  It is important to reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water.  This normal throw-away provides a nice starchy way to thin out the sauce.  The recipe states 1 ½ cups, but I found I was happy with the results with only 1 cup.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of your pan too – nothin’ says lovin’ like bacon drippings on the bottom of a pan.  Into the sauce went the cooked tagliatelle, the reserved bacon, and the fresh basil.  Think of this as summer comfort on a plate. 

tagliatelle with fresh corn pesto

recipe:  adapted from Bon Appetit

 

4 bacon slices, cut into ½” pieces

6 ears of corn, kernels removed

2 large garlic cloves, finely minced

1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt

¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

½ c. finely grated Parmiggiano Reggiano

1/3 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted

Extra virgin olive oil

8 oz. tagliatelle

½ c. basil, finely chopped

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and set aside.  If necessary/desired, pour off all but 1 Tbsp. bacon drippings.  Add corn and sauté until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic, salt and pepper.  Toss for about 30 seconds.  Transfer about 1 ½ c. corn kernels to a bowl, set aside.  Place remaining corn in a food processor.  Add pine nuts and Parmiggiano Reggiano.  With motor running, slowly stream in olive oil until desired consistency has been reached.

Prepare pasta according to package directions, reserving cooking water.  Return pesto to skillet.  Add reserved cooking water until sauce reaches desired consistency (again, I used about 1 c.), scraping the bottom of pan to remove any drippings.  Add pasta, reserved bacon, reserved corn, and ¾ basil to the pan.  Toss thoroughly to coat and season to taste.  Place about 1 ½ c. pasta in each serving bowl.  Top with remaining basil and serve warm.

Serves 4.

Here’s to summer comfort (and bacon!)

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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summer corn soup with crisp prosciutto and basil

“Ode to Sweet Corn” – Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

 

I wholeheartedly subscribe to the summer food versus winter food kind of cooking.  I just can’t bring myself to make a big pot of chili in August, nor will I ever whip up a BLT in January.  It just feels wrong.  In winter, I want my food to be hearty and warming, a barricade against the cold and snow just outside my door.  And in summer, I want a light, refreshing meal, fitting for the temperatures and the summer activities that keep me out of the kitchen until the sun starts setting and I realize I’d better get moving on dinner.  And on those late nights (which admittedly, is every night in the summer), I want something that comes together quickly. 

B’s grandpa is crazy about soup.  Something about it just trips his trigger and every visit to my mother-in-law results in stacks and stacks of frozen containers of soup, each icy cube containing any and every variety known to man.  He just loves to make soup.  And while I understand the appeal of quickly thawing a cube and sitting down to supper, it is hard for me to accept such a tummy warming dish during the dog days of summer.  I’m weird like that.

My tendencies usually lead me down the path of gazpacho, vichyssoise, or other chilled concoction, ready and willing to showcase summer produce.  Soups that come together in no time and are the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich or grilled chicken or fish.  So when I saw this recipe for a warm summer soup, I was a bit doubtful.  Fast and easy with the promise of basil and prosciutto, this summer soup recipe lured the ears of corn into my market bag and soon enough, soup was on the menu.

With garden fresh sweet corn, potatoes, onion and basil in hand, I set off to quickly pull together a midweek meal.  The kernels of corn burst against the blade of the knife, sending juices and corn splattering across the counter.  With a few quick chops, the veggies were ready and waiting.  In went the naked cobs, adding extra corn flavor and sweetness to the simmering broth.  In no time, the potatoes were tender and the steaming soup went into the blender.  Pureeing the corn and potatoes created a creamy, chowder like consistency without the weight of heavy cream.  Reserved corn kernels added a bit of crunch and extra sweetness as the kernels burst against your teeth.  Paired with a light sandwich, this was the perfect late summer meal.  And should you be so lucky to have a bumper crop of sweet corn, this would freeze wonderfully for a quick meal when the weather outside is frightful.

summer corn soup with crisp prosciutto and basil

recipe:  adapted from Fine Cooking

 

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 medium onion, diced into ½” pieces

4 c. water

2 c. chicken stock

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

4 ears of corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved

¼ c. finely chopped fresh basil

4 paper thin slices prosciutto

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a medium stockpot over medium high heat.  Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add water, chicken stock, potatoes, half of the corn kernels, and reserved cobs.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

As soup simmers, place prosciutto on a baking sheet and place under a broiler for 1-2 minutes or until edges start to curl.  Turn prosciutto over and broil for another minute or so.  Crumble or coarsely chop.  Set aside.

Remove and discard cobs.  Working in small batches, carefully puree soup using a blender (remember – hot liquids expand, so use care).  Return the pureed soup to the pot.  Add the reserved corn kernels and bring back to a gentle simmer over medium heat until corn is tender, about 3-5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh basil and crisp prosciutto.

Serves 4.

Soup’s on!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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