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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Corn Chowder

I picked up some fresh sweet corn at the farmers market yesterday, along with some other goodies that you will see appear over the next few posts. I am a sucker for sweet corn; if I walk past it, I must buy it. However, I feel like I've cooked it every which way already this summer. UNTIL....I found this great recipe for corn chowder on simplyrecipes.com, which turned out to be delicious. You can really taste the great fresh flavor of the corn within the soup.




Ingredients:
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 strip of bacon
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1/2 large carrot, chopped
1/2 celery stalk, chopped
3 ears of sweet corn, kernels removed from the cobs, cobs reserved
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups milk
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped (I used green because my tummy hates the red ones)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (I used a little tiny bit of dried)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strip and fry until the bacon renders its fat, but doesn't begin to brown, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 4 or 5 more minutes.

Break the corn cobs in half and add them to the saucepan. Add the milk and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a bare simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Make sure the heat is as low as can be and still maintain a gentle simmer to prevent scalding the milk on the bottom of the pan.

Discard the cobs, the bacon strip, and the bay leaf. Raise the heat, add the potatoes, red pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, fresh ground pepper to taste, bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are almost fork tender.

Raise the heat, add the corn kernels and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.



Saturday, August 21, 2010

Just Beet It

Beets. Oh how I love you. I love you in salads, roasted all by yourself, and even just your greens. Even though beets have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, suprisingly they are very low in calories. Let's also not forget all the powerful nutrients they have to protect against heart disease and cancer.

My mom doesn't like beets, so I never grew up eating them, much less cooking them. Luckily, they are super easy. And don't even think about throwing the greens away - I recently started cooking them and am obsessed. You can cook just like any other greens, and they are delicious. The best part is that one vegetable makes 2 sides. I served with some chicken/feta/spinach sausage for a nice light meal.

For the beets:
Clean off any dirt with a paper towel, but do not wash. Trim the roots and stems to 1/2." Place the beets in an oven-proof baking dish and cover (foil works fine). Bake at 400 degrees for one hour, or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Then simply slip the skins and root off with your fingers.

For the greens: (from simplyrecipes.com)
1 pound beet greens
1 strip of thick cut bacon, chopped (I have made it without bacon and it is still good)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup of water
1 T, sugar
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/6 cup of cider vinegar

Wash the greens in a sink filled with cold water. Drain greens and wash a second time. Drain greens and cut away any heavy stems. Cut leaves into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In a large skillet or 3-qt saucepan, cook bacon until lightly browned on medium heat. Add onions, cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occassionally, until onions soften and start to brown. Stir in garlic. Add water to the hot pan, stirring to loosen any particles from bottom of pan. Stir in sugar and red pepper. Bring mixture to a boil.

Add the beet greens, gently toss in the onion mixture so the greens are well coated. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 5-15 minutes until the greens are tender. Stir in vinegar.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Katy's Catfish Gumbo

My friend Katy Simmons knows a thing or two about catfish. Her dad is one of the biggest catfish farmers in the Delta, so she knows more ways to cook with catfish than you can imagine. I grew up eating Simmons Catfish and thanks to Katy's sweet birthday present for me, I have a bag in my freezer! I made her catfish gumbo and took a big helping to the office for lunch - everyone kept coming in to see what the delicious smell was. I ended up sharing it with two co-workers, and they were wowed!. Katy and I both prefer to make a roux for more flavor, but that is the hardest part, which isn't hard at all, just a little time-consuming. So grab some catfish and get to stirrin...you won't regret it.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups beef broth
1 can (16 oz.) tomatoes
1 package (10 oz.) frozen sliced okra
1/2 t. thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. oregano
1 t. salt
2 1/2 lbs. Simmons catfish, cut into 1" cubes
Cooked rice


If making a roux: In a skillet over medium heat, mix 3 tablespoons oil with 3 T. flour and cook, stirring constantly, until roux turns dark brown, about 30 minutes.


If not making a roux, which is stupid and I don't recommend: heat oil in large stockpot.

Next step is to add celery, green pepper, onion and garlic and saute until tender. Add beef broth, tomatoes, okra, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, oregano and salt. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add catfish and continue simmering 15 minutes or until catfish flakes easily. Remove bay leaf. Serve over cooked rice.





Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Perfect Saturday

I have absolutely enjoyed this beautiful Saturday 110%. The weather was perfect, and everything and everyone I encountered was cheerful. You have no idea how rare this is, so I took it all in and wore a smile the entire day.

The majority of my time was spent at the Red Hook Community Farm out in Brooklyn. My volunteer task today was weeding the green beans. My quads are going to hate me tomorrow, but it felt good to put my hands in the dirt and get a little sweaty. Everything was green and beautiful - hard to believe the picture below is in Brooklyn, right?
The best part of the farm is that I never go home empty-handed from a hard day's work. They have a great little farmers market where I can load up on goodies growing right where I've been standing all day. I can't even begin to put into words how delicious these tomatoes are....they are seriously like candy! I started eating them straight and finished half of the box immediately. Sure, tomatoes are in season, I know, but these seeds must be laced with crack or something - never tasted anything quite like it. Lesson of the day: Support your local farmers!!!
Since I was on a tomato-high, I bought some big boys too in order to make the best sandwich you will ever eat in your life. You don't believe me? Well, you are an idiot obviously. Make this NOW, while the tomatoes out there are so delicious.
Ingredients:
Mayo, no diet crap
2 slices bread (white bread is the best, but I didn't have any)
1/2 medium ripe tomato, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 BIG handful plain potato chips (i use kettle cooked because they are the bomb.com)
Spread mayo on both sides of bread....if you are on a diet, go with one, but whatever you do, do not leave off the mayo. Top with tomato sliced. Then season with pepper....keep going, keep going, yep that's perfect. Place a big handful of chips on the sammy and squash the whole thing together with your hand. Cut in half and enjoy the most delicious summer sandwich ever. Like I said, the perfect Saturday......