Fresh Corn Salad

This summer I wanted to break away from the typical summer side dishes – macaroni salad and potato salad – and make something different, something delicious, something my eaters will remember for summers to come.

Enter this Fresh Corn Salad from Ina Garten. This salad met my try-a-new-recipe criteria:

  • It was delicious.
  • It was easy and didn’t take long to make.
  • It was pretty.

Ingredients:

  • 5 ears of corn, shucked
  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves

CornInIceBathIn a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.

Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.ChoppingCorn

The sweetness of the corn was a perfect match for the tartness of the vinegar. And it was such a delightful change from the typical summer salads. Try it. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.

Full recipe disclosure: I didn’t add the fresh basil even though I have a flourishing pot of it growing on my windowsill. I couldn’t quite imagine basil in this time. Next time.

FinishedCornSalad

Fabulous French Onion Dip

On the list of delicious snacks, potato chips and French onion dip are at or definitely near the top. If you’re like most people, when you have a hankerin’ for chips and dip, you head to the store to get both. However, I found a recipe for French onion dip that is so delicious and easy that you won’t buy a tub of dip at the store ever again. All you need is a little time.

This recipe comes from Guy Fieri from the Food Network.

Ingredients:   

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 Vidalia onions, sliced into 1/4-inch rings (about 4 cups)
  • 2 large shallots, sliced into 1/8-inch rings (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

RawOnionsIn a large sauté pan over low heat, add oil and butter. When butter is melted, add onions and sauté stirring occasionally until golden brown and caramelized, about 35 minutes.

Add shallots and sauté for 15 minutes more until onions and shallots are dark brown. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 to 6 minutes, then chop into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside to cool to room temperature.CookedOnion

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, celery salt, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Fold in onion mixture. Chill at least 1 hour or overnight, prior to serving.

DipAndChip

 

Trust me on this. You’re going to want to try this out and share with others. The sweetness of the caramelized onions blend so perfectly with the creaminess of the sour cream and the bite of the Worcestershire sauce. Just be careful you don’t eat too much because that will be easy to do.

 

Pizza with grilled Italian sausage, peppers and onions

Pizza? Who doesn’t love pizza? One of the wondrous things about pizza is how versatile it is. You can have it with tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni. Olive oil, fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. Spicy shrimp, pepper jack and cheddar cheeses with sauteed onions and peppers. Pesto, mozzarella, hot peppers and sausage.

Well, I tried a new combination the other day that was out of this world. It was so beloved that He Who Must Be Fed and two of his offspring ate it all up. (They let me have a couple of pieces.) I mean all of it. No leftovers. The recipe  is from Crisco.

Ingredients:

  • Two ready-made pizza crusts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Heat your oven to 375°. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and rosemary. Pour half of the marinade in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate. Spray your grill grate with no-stick cooking spray and heat your grill. Brush your sausage, red pepper and onion with remaining marinade; sprinkle with salt and pepper.BrushingSausage

Grill until sausage is cooked through and peppers and onion are slightly charred and crisp-tender, turning and basting occasionally with marinade to within 5 minutes of being done, about 12 minutes for sausages and 8 minutes for vegetables. Discard any remaining marinade.

Transfer to cutting board and cut sausages into 1/2-inch pieces and peppers into thin strips.

Sprinkle each pizza crust with 1/2 of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Top each with 1/2 of sausage, peppers and onion, then with 1/2 of the goat cheese, tomatoes and green onions. Remove bowl of marinade from refrigerator; drizzle over the pizzas.PizzaBeforeOven

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until cheeses are melted and crusts are golden brown.

PizzaAfterOvenWhat made this so incredibly delicious was the mix of different flavors that came together so perfectly: the sweetness of the red peppers and onions, the spice of the sausage, the creaminess of the mozzarella, and the tang of the balsamic vinegar.

If you try it, let me know if you loved it, too. I’m betting on it.

Full-recipe disclosure: My man isn’t a fan of goat cheese, so I skipped it and doubled up on the mozzarella.

The Best Barbecue Sauce

Summer is here. Whoo hoo. For those of us in the Northeast, who were battered and bruised after last winter (some mornings were -18°) it’s time to celebrate with some delicious summer food. And that means grilling. And that means barbecue sauce.

Yes, you can buy it at the store. When I’m short on time, I do that too, and no one complains. (Or, they don’t complain in my presence.) However, why buy it when you can make it? Especially when it tastes soooo much better.

This recipe came from chef Wolfgang Puck and is lip-smackin’ delicious on everything, including baby back ribs. That recipe will be coming your way soon.

 Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ medium onion, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

BeginningofSauceIn a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the vegetable oil. Sauté the onions, garlic and oregano until translucent, about four to five minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Be careful when you stir because this sauce is like bubbling, volcanic lava. It’s hot and sticky. If it gets on your skin, it’s going to burn. To prevent sauce injury, I use a long-handled spoon – the longer the better – to stir with then put a lid on it so it doesn’t bubble up and get me. SauceDone

But, even if I get a little burn, it’s worth it. Trust me. Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.

Spicy nuts

If you’ve come here looking for something else, move along, my friend. We’re talking snacks here. Not THAT. Anyway, I may not have mentioned this, but I’ve stopped eating sweets. Yes, sad but true. So when I want to snack on something, I want something savory, not sweet.

Recently I found a page that had been torn out of the Food Network Magazine that offered a basic recipe for what appears to be a snack mix. I’m vague on that because I tore off the name of the recipe. (I was probably in a hurry.) However, after looking at it further, I realized it offered multiple ingredient choices to personalize your mix.

I used it to make chipotle-spiced nuts. Delicious and addicting. So much so that I gave the rest to the Spawn of He Who Must Be Fed, which is why I have no pictures of my own to share with you. Sorry about that. You can use your imagination, though.

Ingredients:

  • Raw-Almonds2 cups raw, unsalted almonds
  • 2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
  • 1 ½ cups mini pretzels (I used small pretzel sticks)pretzel sticks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons chipotle chile power
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 large egg white

Preheat your oven to 350° and brush a rimmed baking sheet lighting with vegetable oil. Whisk your egg white in a large bowl until frothy. It doesn’t take very long. Add the nuts and pretzels. Sprinkle with the spices and toss the coat. Spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. It’ll take 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet then store in an airtight container.

Ingredient substitutions

Follow the basic recipe but try these variations to personalize your snack.

Nuts

You any nuts you like:

  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts
  • macadamia nuts

Mix-ins

And you don’t have to use pretzels. Try:

  • corn nuts
  • potato chips
  • rice or corn cereal squares
  • oyster crackers
  • little cheese crackers

Seasonings

If you don’t want something spicy, one of these might suit your taste buds better:

Asian Sesame

  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

Garlic and herb

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon sage
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Cinnamon sugar

  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg

More add-ins

For even more variety, add a cup of:

  • Raisins
  • Cooked bacon
  • Dried cranberries
  • Toasted coconut
  • Banana chips
  • Popcorn
  • Chopped dried pineapple

Feel free to add more than one of these ingredients if you’d like.

If you try a different variation — or create a totally new one — let me know. I’m always on the hunt for yummy snacks.

Barbecue chicken sliders

Everyone seems to prefer breasts, but give me a good thigh …

No, you have not stumbled onto a porn blog. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.

I have come to greatly appreciate the lowly chicken thigh for two reasons:

  1. They’re incredibly flavorful and juicy, much more so than chicken breasts, which can get rubbery if you’re not careful.
  2. They’re so versatile.

I’ve already shared a couple of recipes with you that featured the lowly thigh, including braised chicken thighs with carrots, potatoes and thyme  and roast chicken with spring vegetables. Here’s another winner: barbecue chicken sliders, which I made after altering this recipe for Buffalo chicken sliders from Jeff Mauro.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
  • Small rolls. I thawed and baked eight Rhodes frozen dinner rolls

Preheat your oven to 400°. Heat an ovenproof skillet – I used a cast iron skillet — over medium-high heat. Add in the oil. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, brown sugar and smoked paprika.SeasonedChickenSear both sides of the chicken until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

CookingChicken

Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet.

BBQChicken

Bring to a simmer and then place in the oven for 45 minutes.

ChickenInOven

Remove from the oven and shred with two forks. You’re going to want to be super careful. The chicken will be hot, and the barbecue sauce will be like molten lava. Yes, I write from experience.ShreddedChicken

Top a roll with a good portion of the shredded chicken and enjoy.FinishedSliders

 

Easy Calzones

I may have already mentioned this, but He Who Must Be Fed is an all-Italian boy. So, in order to keep him happy, there are times when I have to put on some Dean Martin or Louie Prima and cook something that will touch his Italian heart.

He loves calzones, but, I don’t make them often because I tend to think they’re a big pain. Plus, I was never sure what the difference was between calzones and Stromboli. I happened to be watching TV – it sounds like I’m a total couch potato, but I’m really not – and saw Ree Drummond making calzones  for her cowboys and girls. They looked pretty easy. And they were.

Ingredients:

  • frozen unrisen dinner rolls (I used Rhodes) or frozen bread loaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 whole medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound breakfast or Italian sausage
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 whole eggs plus 1 whole egg, beaten
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting

DoughBallsPlace the frozen rolls (or frozen bread loaves) on a baking sheet to thaw. Cover with a tea towel and let thaw and rise for 2 to 3 hours. Preheat the oven to 400°.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the sausage and cook until brown, crumbling the sausage as you stir. CookingSausageAdd the Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Remove from the skillet and allow to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, some pepper, parsley and 2 eggs.

MixingCalzoneFillingWhen the sausage is cool, stir it into the cheese mixture and set aside.

When the rolls are thawed and risen, roll them out on a lightly floured surface until paper thin. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the filling onto half of the dough circle. Fold half of the dough over itself, and then press the edges to seal.RawShapedCalzone

Brush the surface of each calzone with the beaten egg, and then bake until nice and golden brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Serve with warm pasta sauce. Fortunately for me, we had some already made.

BrushingwithEgg
These were easy and delicious. Since I was cooking only for the two of us, I had enough filling left over to make them again a couple days later.

finishedCalzone

If you want bigger calzones, use the frozen bread dough.

Hot Browns

When my dad comes to visit, I always try to make him something new that I hope will knock his socks off. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do for several reasons:

  • He’s the original foodie.
  • He loves to eat.
  • He eats a lot.
  • He’ll eat almost anything. Really.

I came across this recipe for Hot Browns, which apparently is a southern dish. Being a Northern girl I didn’t know what they were at first either. but when I watched Damaris Phillips make them on the Food Network, I knew immediately that Dad would eat these up. Literally. And he did. What’s not to love? Bacon, cheese sauce, turkey, tomatoes. All ingredients that when mixed together well create culinary magic.

When Damaris made it, she used cute individual dishes. However, since I didn’t have them, I made it in a 9×13 pan.  And, knowing how much my dad was probably going to eat, I doubled the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bone-in turkey breast (between 4 and 5 pounds)
  • 8 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces bacon, cut into pieces
  • 30 or so grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 4 slices stale sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (a heaping 4 cups total)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Rub the turkey breast gently with 4 teaspoons of the oil; sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 160 degrees° F. My turkey, which was just shy of 5 pounds, took about 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest.RoastedTurkey

Fry the bacon until crisp then drain on a paper towel.

Lower the oven temperature to 250°. Coat the tomatoes with the remaining 4 teaspoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Place RoastingTomatoesthe tomatoes cut-sides up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake until they start to dehydrate and wrinkle, about 45 minutes. Doing this really brings out the flavor of the tomatoes.

While the tomatoes are cooking, start the cheese sauce. Add the butter to a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the milk to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and stir continuously so the roux doesn’t scorch, about 2 minutes. When the milk starts to simmer, slowly add it to the roux, stirring continuously so lumps don’t form. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the Cheddar and red peppers and stir until smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

You are now ready to assemble the dish. Heat the broiler. Distribute the bread cubes evenly among the 9×13 pan.BreadCubes Cut the turkey into bite-size pieces, about 1/2 inch each, and layer on top of the bread. Pour the cheese sauce over the bread and turkey then top with the tomatoes and bacon pieces. I added just a bit more shredded cheddar. Place under the broiler on the bottom rack of the oven until golden and bubbly. It’ll take about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.HotBrownDone

If you are the observant type, you may have noticed that there are no red peppers in my sauce. That’s because when I went to get them out of the refrigerator, they had grown hair. But the next time I make this, I’ll add the peppers.

If you try this let me know how it turned out. We had no leftovers. You may not either.

The perfect soup for summer

If you’ve been following along, you may remember that I’ve shared several recipes for soup, including stuffed pepper soup potato soup with shrimp, and sausage and lentil soup.

However,with Memorial Day – and the unofficial start of summer – just around the corner, you may think soup season is over. Well, for most soups it is. But there is one exception: this delicious calm bake soup, which is perfect for summer. It has all of the ingredients of a delicious clam bake, except for the sand in your shorts. This recipe comes from Rachael Ray. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound kielbasa, diced
  • 1 ½ pounds small red or Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 rounded tablespoon seafood seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
  • 3 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 32 littleneck clams
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Heat a large soup pot with extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and brown for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and salt and pepper and let the veggies soften up, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.ClamBakeSoupInPot

Pat shrimp dry and toss with a rounded tablespoon of seafood seasoning.

Add to your pot the corn, tomatoes and stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and clams and cover. Cook until shrimp are pink and firm and the clams have opened up. It usually takes 5 to 6 minutes. Finish off the soup with a few drops – or more, if you like – of hot sauce and  lemon zest and juice.

This soup is almost like  having a clam bake at the beach. If you’re landlocked, like I am, eat it on your porch, close your eyes and imagine you’re in New England.

ClamBakeSoupDone

Apricot and pecan granola bars

I love snacking. Really. I. Love. It. However, the foods I snack on have changed dramatically in the last several years. In the old days, I snacked on bags (yes, bags; don’t judge me) of potato chips and tubs of dip. Or pints of ice cream. Or chocolate-covered anything. But now I’m trying to be healthier because I. Want. To. Live.

The other day I tried making my own granola bars, and they were so delicious I had to share them in case you have realized that snacking on bags of greasy (albeit freakin’ delicious) chips and fattening dips isn’t really the way to go.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ

Preheat your oven to 300°. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the honey, brown sugar and salt and whisk together until smooth. Mix in the rolled oats, pecans, dried apricots and wheat germ. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, MixingGranolaMixand press your granola mix into the lined pan. Bake the bars for 30 minutes. Cool thoroughly then cut into bars.

Obviously, you don’t need to use pecans and apricots, but the combination is really delicious. I even noticed He Who Must Be Fed munching on one – and liking it. It really helped his sweet tooth when all of the chocolate chip cookies I made were all gone.BakedGranolaBars

The next time I make these I’d like to try walnuts with dried apples, but the combinations are almost endless: dried cranberries and pistachios, dried pineapple with a bit of coconut and macadamia nuts, dried strawberries with peanuts.

Use your culinary imagination. If you try a great combination, let me know.