In The Fridge: Cooking Corn at Midnight

If ever there was a day to write an “in the fridge” post, it was last week. We came home a day early from New Orleans in the wake of  “Hurricane/Tropical Storm/Turned-out-to be-Barely-Cloudy-in-New Orleans Karen (it was petering out to sea as we were boarding the plane, only we were delayed because of ‘high winds’ at Newark international. Do I need to point out the irony? Oy).

 

CornCastIronSkillet

 

I’m always fearful when I open the door to our house after a trip. Something a little scary always happens when we’re gone, only this time I was hardly worried since my parents were house sitting for all but the last day. I walked in and there was this vague scent of musty vegetables. I put a deliriously tired Francesca to bed and then went to investigate. It took me a good long while to realize the freezer wasn’t completely closed from ice build-up, which happens from time to time. Everything was still vaguely cool, but definitely not frozen.  Most things had to be thrown away, but there was a lot of corn that was still cold. Fortunately, I remembered a recipe I taught once for a farmers market class – Lime Ancho Corn Soup  – which I once modified during a class for a student who didn’t eat any dairy.

 

limezestancho2

 

I took out my cast iron skillet, turned up the flame, and voila re-created this great, fast, and easy side dish that combines blackened corn with lime and ancho chile powder. This dish can also be converted into a salad by chilling the corn and adding red onions, tomatoes and avocadoes as well.

 

 

corncastiron

 

 

I was feeling very jet lagged and very bummed to be cooking at midnight, but of course very happy the next day to have the corn with roasted capon. Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a refrigerator mishap to make this dish. Enjoy!

 

 

cornsaladplate2

 

 

Question of the Day: Have you ever turned around a refrigerator disaster like this? What did you do? We want to know!

 

 

Burnt Corn with Lime and Ancho Chile Spice

From: Heide Lang

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 pounds (about 4 ½ cups,) frozen or fresh organic corn*
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 limes
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ancho or chipotle chili powder divided
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium red onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 avocados diced (optional)
  • 2 tomatoes coarsely chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat canola oil in a non-stick pan, preferably cast iron.
  2. Add corn. Mix well to assure all the kernels are coated with oil.
  3. Add the salt, stir and cook on medium high for 10 minutes, or until the kernels start to brown and even burn in some places. (It will smell vaguely of popcorn and may even pop a kernel or two, so be careful!)
  4. Zest both limes (you should have 2 teaspoons of zest)
  5. Add the zest and the juice of one lime to the skillet. Mix well and then add the ancho powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir well and serve. You may also serve the corn as a light and healthy salad by letting the corn cool for at least an hour in the refrigerator and adding red onions, avocado and tomatoes. Sprinkle the juice of the second lime over the salad, mix well and serve.

Pie Squared

Ever since the macarons, which sort of represent an excess of streamline and precision, I’ve felt a need to kind of make up for it with something you might actually want to make. I mean, let’s be honest: it’s summer time, the living is easy, why should our sweets be so hard? Besides, last week, my sisters and I ate a half gallon of blueberries that were so good that Francesca has sworn off sweets for the rest of the summer. And they weren’t even from the farmers market.

In wax paper, served with Yumberry Punch in an old milk jar. Seriously, why even bother otherwise? (Just kidding).

 

When even Costco’s blueberries take on a sort of magical flavor, you know the time has come to leave delicate pastries and (dare I say) even chocolate behind us, and let summer’s bounty speak (mostly) for itself. And so, when I was flipping through this month’s Bon Appétit and saw a recipe for portable, hand-held “pies,” I was inspired. The only thing in the whole world I like better than pie, is food I can eat with my hands. For as long as I can remember, my vacations have been filled with forkless indulgences – pizza from Pepe’s, burgers with crispy cheese from the Shady Glen Diner, and black cherry vanilla ice cream cones from Pralines. Summer is a time to relax and have fun, not a time to wrestle with those super pesky knives and forks (I mean seriously, you have to wash them and everything…). So not only is a hand pie the ultimate food, it’s about as seasonal as you can possibly get.

 

 

 

These days, pie is my favorite dessert, but for a long time there was only one pie in the world I would eat, and that was my mother’s blueberry-lime pie, known affectionately in our house as The Best Blueberry Pie Ever. She found the recipe years ago in an old newspaper clipping, which itself cited another newspaper clipping. It’s simplicity perfected – graham cracker crust, mounds of homemade whipped cream, and blueberry-lime filling on top. She’d make it after our  trips to Lyman Orchards, and back in the days when I shunned apple, peach, pecan, key lime and strawberry rhubarb, there was always a place in my heart (and my stomach) for an extra piece of this pie.  I still do shun all other blueberry pies, because nothing compares to this.

 


 

 

And so I took the hand pie, and filled it with my best childhood memories. These are ridiculously simple to make. You simply prepare the filling, and roll out store-bought puff pastry while it cools. Cut the puff pastry into nine pieces, place filling on each, and fold them over. Cut designs on each of them (extra points for creativity)…

 

 

 

Sprinkle them with raw sugar…

 

Yes I swiped this from starbucks. I fully expect you to do the same ;)

 

Chill, and bake. That’s it! And unlike some recipes we know, these need no explanation other than the recipe below. Also, with all these Independence Day picnics coming up, I hope you do realize that these are blue on the inside, and that they are positively heavenly with whipped cream and strawberries. Just saying.

 

Happy 4th of July! And as always, Happy Baking.

 

 

Blueberry Lime Hand Pies

From: Adapted from Bon Appétit, July, 2011 and an old, long lost newspaper clipping

Ingredients:

    Filling

    • 1/4 cup and 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • grated peel of one lime
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
    • 1/4-1/2 cup water
    • 2 pints (1 quart) fresh blueberries, rinsed

    Pies

    • 1 14-17 oz package of puff pastry (preferably Pepperidge Farms), thawed in refrigerator
    • 1 egg white
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • 1.5 teaspoons (or about 2-3 packets) raw sugar

    Directions:

    1. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, lime peel, lime juice, and 1/4 cup water.
    2. Add 2 cups of blueberries and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, and blueberries are softened, about four minutes. If mixture is thick before it turns dark purple, add the other 1/4 cup of water. Your kitchen should be smelling like my childhood right about now.
    3. Remove from heat and stir in remaining blueberries. Let chill for 15 minutes.
    4. Flour a baking surface, and roll out puff pastry into a 15 x 18 in rectangle. Pepperidge Farm comes in two sheets, so be sure to lay them down next to each other and roll them into one sheet. You’ll create a small seem, but that doesn’t matter because you’re going to fold it over there anyway.
    5. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut rectangle into 3 columns and 3 rows, creating 9 5×6 in rectangles.
    6. Combine egg white with 1 tablespoon water together, and, working with one at a time, brush the edges (approx. .75-1 inch wide) of  a rectangle with the egg wash. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of blueberry filling on one end, and fold over the other side, so edges meet. Seal edges by crimping with a fork, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat for the rest of the rectangles. If you have leftover blueberries after this, just eat them with whipped cream or ice cream, or waffles, or whatever you want.
    7. Make a few cuts on the top of the pies, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375°F (or 350°F on convection).
    8. Brush with remaining egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar.
    9. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown.
    10. Cool on sheet for 10 minutes, and then on baking rack.
    11. Serve with whipped cream, strawberries, or nothing at all. Enjoy!

    Strawberry Flats Forever

    One of the challenging things about cooking for large crowds is learning to order the right amount of food to feed, say, 300 people, a talent you’d certainly learn quickly in any restaurant kitchen or you’d go out of business.

     

    There used to be a lot more where these came from... but my daughters ate them all.

     

    But since my joy in life comes from teaching others to cook and I don’t own a restaurant (although I think about opening one all the time), I haven’t quite gotten that skill down. Even if I had it down, it’s really unlikely I would manage to order just the right amount. It’s in my genes to make too much food. It’s the Mediterranean in me – watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding and you’ll understand my views on feeding a crowd. The Romanians on my father’s side were just the same: there was never such thing as too much. If anyone left a family gathering growing up without being totally stuffed, that meant the mothers, aunts and grandmothers in the kitchen didn’t do their job. I’m the same way.

     

    Try this at home.

     

    So as per usual when I was planning for a cooking demonstration at New Haven’s Wooster Square Market last week, our hands-down favorite open air farmer’s market in our area, I ordered way too many organic strawberries to accompany the amazing vanilla-almond custard Gabrielle adeptly made before the crowd.

     

    Strawberries in water - our accidental art piece. People tried very hard to steal these.

     

    When the day was over, we had a flat and a half of extra just-picked, perfectly ripe, sweet, bright-red, wonderfully imperfect organic strawberries. Mark brought the girls down to the market to make an emergency extension cord run (long story) and stayed until we were done with our demo. And when I wondered out loud what we should with so many strawberries that wouldn’t last for days the way supermarket strawberries do, my husband just said two wonderful words: Strawberry Margaritas.

     

    Perfect.  Mark never uses many words, but what he says always matters. And that was certainly true on Saturday.

     

    I always tell the girls – and they’ve heard it so many times growing up it’s practically in their DNA – that most things in life worth experiencing – having children, a great career, friendships – require hard work and dedication. But on rare occasion that isn’t really true. Sometimes miniscule effort can bring pure joy in a ridiculously short period of time. Strawberry margaritas are like that. And the amazing thing is that you don’t have to buy Tezon Añejo to get that joy, unless of course you want to be beyond overjoyed in which case, go ahead, buy the top shelf stuff. But for us it was a warm lazy Saturday afternoon and I didn’t feel like buying great tequila, so I used what we had in the house, which was entry-level.

     

    Jose Cuervo... cheap, but seriously sufficient.

     

    I’ll give you the specific recipe, but it is really better to remember the simple ratio for margaritas. You’ll want to be able to do this at the drop of a hat. Think thirds: one third a cup each of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice* in the blender. It’s that simple.

     

     

    This is almost everything that goes into them.

     

    Add a tablespoon or two of sugar if you have a really sweet tooth (otherwise leave it out) and ½ cup of ice if you want them to be slightly less strong… so you don’t get too too lazy afterwards.

     

    Just seconds away...

     

    Blend well and add a cup or so of ice, and voila! the perfect, simple margarita.

     

    So pretty... and it tastes so much better.

     

    So sit back and relax. Enjoy the fruits of your minor labor the way Mark did on Father’s day as he sipped perfection in a glass. Cheers!

     

    Colander of Strawberries

     

    Strawberry Margaritas

    From: Heide Lang

    Ingredients:

    • 1/3 cup triple sec
    • 1/3 cup tequila
    • 1/3 cup lime juice
    • 1 ½ cups fresh, preferably fresh picked organic strawberries
    • ½ cup ice (optional)

    Directions:

    1. Place all ingredients in a blender and mix on high for 30 seconds, or until thoroughly blended. 
    2. Serve straight or on the rocks, depending on whether you added ice to the blender.  Feel free to double or triple the recipe depending on your thirst and size of the crowd!