Friday, August 31, 2012

Sauteed Corn with Cilantro and Avocado

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you are trapped in Tahoe. In a condo, overlooking the lake. With the sound of water lapping away below you.

Clearly, the circumstances are dire.

(You pause, to contemplate the pink tinge of sunset washing over the dire circumstances.)

To make matters worse, there is nothing in the fridge. Well, there's corn, technically. And there is a bag of rice on the counter. And there's a bit of cilantro. But there are no beans. And nothing else. A clove or two of garlic, yes, but nothing you could make a meal out of. And you are—did I mention?—totally trapped. The only way to acquire proper dinner ingredients would be to find your sandals, track down the front door, open it, walk out, get in your car, and...well, you can see the problem. Even the first part would be too much for a sunset-addled brain.

Fear not, good readers. Dinner is hidden everywhere. Even when all you've got is rice and corn and a sunset to steer them by.

Serve this over Bhutanese Red Rice or one of the nuttier varieties of brown rice. And don't be fooled by its simplicity. It is totally amazing, and worth making even if you have to go to the store. Or, you know, send someone to the store while you make sure the lake keeps lapping.

Olive oil
1 medium clove garlic, smashed
3 ears sweet corn, shucked, de-silked, and kernels sliced from the cob
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Large handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 - 2/3 cups grated pepper jack cheese (Petaluma Creamery is still by far our favorite)
1 avocado, quartered and sliced just before serving
1 small ripe tomato, chopped and tossed with a bit of the cilantro

Heat a pan over medium heat. When hot, add a glug of olive oil (just enough to lightly coat the bottom), wait ten seconds, then add the garlic. Saute for about a minute until it softens slightly, then add the corn and a pinch or two of salt and stir. Saute 2-3 minutes until the kernels are al dente (they should still retain a hint of crunch while also bursting with juicy sweetness...just taste them every minute or so until they taste amazing, then stop cooking).

Turn off the heat. Toss in about two-thirds of the cilantro, sprinkle with pepper, then taste and adjust salt and cilantro as needed.

Serve in layers: Rice first, then a thin layer of cheese, then the corn. Top with avocado, and add a dollop of the tomato salsa to finish it off.

Serves 2-3.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Butter Beans with Sweet Peppers and Tomato

 Found in the garden: Sweet Italian heirloom peppers, tomatoes, flat-leaf parsley
Found in the cupboard: Red Bhutanese rice, butter beans
Found in self: A lazy summer reluctance to go anywhere near the store

Solution: Quick, easy, and delicious—variation #1,304 on rice and beans

Serve this over rice, orzo, or even polenta. Perfect for a night when you want something that tastes gourmet but can throw itself together in twenty minutes.

Olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
1/3 cup chopped sweet pepper (bell or heirloom)
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 oz fresh mild greens, chopped (e.g., chard, amaranth, and/or spinach)
1 can butter beans, mostly drained
1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped*
1 tomato, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Heat a glug of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Saute shallot until it softens, then add the pepper and saute a minute more. Stir in the garlic and a pinch of salt (unless your beans are already highly salted) and continue to cook for another minute or two, then fold in the greens and saute until wilted.

Add the beans, stir, and simmer 2-3 minutes, covering the pan if it starts to get dry. Toss in the parsley, tomato, and another pinch of salt, cook for another minute to heat through, and turn off the heat. Serve layered over rice or pasta, and top with pepper and a little grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2.

*Like any fresh herb that isn't from a supermarket, the amount you want will depend on the particular bunch. Bite into a leaf. If it's potent (young and recently-picked), use a small handful. If it's very mild (older and picked awhile ago), use a larger handful. Or just start with a small handful and adjust to taste as you cook.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Braised Carrots with Parsley and Sorrel

Parsley and lemony sorrel give these carrots a little pick-me-up for summertime.

Olive oil
1 bunch carrots, brushed clean and sliced at an angle
Splash chicken or veggie broth
2 oz fresh sorrel leaves, chopped
Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Heat a wide pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle in a thin layer of olive oil, then add the carrots and stir to coat lightly. Cook, stirring every couple minutes or so, until the carrots are golden brown on at least one side. (If they're not browning, stir less frequently. If they're browning too quickly and sticking to the pan, turn the heat down to medium and add a pinch of salt to bring out a little extra liquid.)

Add a splash of broth and cover the pan to let steam for another 2-3 minutes or until the carrots are desired tenderness. Turn off the heat and fold in the sorrel, parsley, and a pinch or two of salt. Let sit for about a minute, then sprinkle with white pepper and serve.

Serves 2-4.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Spotted: Padrón Peppers

It's not every day you can find Padrón peppers, so if you happen to run across them, snatch them up before the unsuspecting shopper standing next to you can. (Then narrow your eyes at them and declare "HA!" Yes, they may decide you're crazy, but that's more peppers for you, now, isn't it?)

We recently spotted some at our Co-op in Sacramento, and they have been known to appear during the summer at both Monterey Market and the Spanish Table in Berkeley.

After snagging them, your mission is simple: Heat a wide nonstick pan over medium high heat and coat lightly in olive oil. Toss in the peppers (in a single layer, without overcrowding), and cook for about a minute until white blisters appear on the bottom, then turn and continue cooking until blistered on all sides.

Sprinkle with kosher salt or sea salt, and serve hot. Using the stem as a handle, pop into your mouth (you can eat the seeds, but not the stem), and note that while most won't be hot, every now and then, you'll get a spicy one. Makes a deliciously addictive appetizer or tapas addition in just a few minutes. And yes, you told your dinner guests to expect Spanish food, but surely they realized that if they wanted Padrón peppers too, they should have thought to bring their own.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fresh Flageolets a La Creme

Fresh flageolet beans are apparently hard to come by, but if you live in California, you just might come across some in a farmer's market this summer. We found them in our CSA box this week, with a warning to cook them immediately (they apparently spoil quickly). Since they're French, we figured they deserved French treatment. This recipe (loosely adapted from here) has just a hint of butter and cream, but all the rich flavor of French cooking.

2 cups fresh flageolet beans
Olive oil
1 tbsp or so pasture butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 small to medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Splash chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2-3 tbsp half & half or heavy cream

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot. Add the beans and a couple pinches of salt, turn down the heat, and simmer for 4-5 minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and a small pat of butter, then stir in the shallot and carrot with a pinch of salt. Saute for about 3 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally and turning the heat down slightly halfway through.

Add the garlic, saute for another minute or two, then add the thyme and parsley and saute a minute more. Next, add the beans and stir to coat. Cook for another minute, then add a splash of broth and stir. Simmer gently until the liquid has mostly steamed off. Turn off the heat, add another small pat of butter and let it melt, and stir in the cream. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper to taste, and serve hot. (If the flavors don't pop out at you when you take your first bite, it means it's undersalted—add another pinch of salt until it brings out the butter and garlic and thyme.)

Serves 2 for a hearty lunch with some crusty bread, or 4 alongside bread, cheese, and a salad.