Tag Archives: corn

Tomato, Corn and Two Cheese Tart

tarts 625 sqWhen the farmers market stands begin to overflow with corn and tomatoes, I add them to everything I make. Lightly dressed arugula gets topped with sautéed corn and tomatoes and garnished with some buttery diced avocado. Peaches and Cream Corn and Blondkopfchen mini tomatoes weave their way into fritattas and onto tortilla chips gussied up as a salsa. Tiny tomatoes bursting with sweet acidity mingle with basil and plump sweet corn kernels. Tossed with some hot penne pasta and chunks of creamy buffalo mozzarella, it makes for a very happy summertime dinner.

I know that for many folks, biting into a freshly boiled, buttered and salted ear is a summer ritual eagerly anticipated all winter long. When all those sweet little kernels explode in your mouth, it’s bliss for them. But I am among the, mostly silent, minority who do not like to eat corn straight off the cob. It gets stuck in my teeth and I just want to run for the floss. Yes, very un-Canadian/American of me, I know. But I am ok with that. I am perfectly comfortable being mocked when I cut my corn off the cob.market freshWith my abundance of corn, tomatoes and scallions, I decided to make a tart.  Chef Christine Cushing’s buttermilk pastry, studded with fresh thyme makes a perfect base.pastry mise en placeRolling out the dough between 2 large sheets of parchment paper is a foolproof way of handling pastry.rolling between parchment paperLine the pastry with some parchment paper and fill with pie weights to blind bake the tarts. I buy dried chick peas that I reuse for this purpose only. This will give your pastry a head start so that your finished tarts do not have soggy bottoms.pie weights 2Delicious hot or at room temperature (they were even great reheated the next day) these little tarts are a very special way to celebrate the bounty of summer. Once everyone has a bite of these, you will be forgiven for cutting the corn off the cob.

Click here to print recipe for Tomato, Corn and Two Cheese Tart.

close up tart

 

Hanger Steak with Corn Relish

with corn relish 3About 10 years ago I noticed a new, well new for me, cut of steak appearing on restaurant menus. Suddenly it seemed that “hanger” steak was on every trendy bistro restaurant menu. Curious,  I ordered it and discovered for myself how delicious it was. It had a full beefy flavour and richness that reminded me of skirt steak, but it was a bit more tender.

I began to do a little research and I discovered that until recently, butchers were hogging this cut all for themselves, hence the steak’s nickname, “Butcher’s Steak.” Now I have nothing against butchers, as a matter of fact, some of my favourite people happen to be butchers, but that seems kind of selfish to me, not sharing this amazing cut with the rest of us!

Upon further investigation, I discovered the geographical location of this cut on the cow. I found this great diagram on the the meat loving website chomposaurus. For all you carnivores out there, you must check it out!location of hanger steak It comes from the plate section of the steer and it “hangs” off of the cow’s diaphragm, hence the name “Hanger” steak. It is a vaguely V-shaped pair of muscles with a long, inedible membrane down the middle. If you have a good butcher (and luckily I do!) who knows how to break this down properly, he or she will remove the connective tissue and silverskin surrounding it and break this down into two separate, well-trimmed steaks. Each one will be about 12 inches long and weigh in at about 8-12 ounces. That’s only 1 – 1 1/2  pounds of hanger steak from each cow! No wonder the butchers were hoarding it. There was hardly enough to share with the whole class.

whole hanger steak 2trimmed hanger steaks 2

It is a tough piece of meat that needs to be marinated and must be cut across the grain. This shortens the long grainy muscled fibers and preventing chewiness. It should be cooked to medium or medium rare (125-130°F). Using an instant read thermometer, guarantees you get it right every time! Anything above medium will result in a rubbery steak and anything less than medium rare, you will be eating a very mushy steak.slicingI marinated mine in a mixture of red wine, olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and thyme. At least 6 hours or up to an overnight soak in the marinade is ideal. Cook it on a medium-high heat. Let rest for about 5 minutes before carving.red wine

seasoningsI served it with a yummy grilled corn salad. I was very excited when I saw the first local corn of the season at the market. However, last night, reading the newspaper, I discovered that agency responsible for governing food labelling in Canada, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has greatly expanded its definition of local food. The old definition defined local as food that is produced within 50 kilometres of where it’s sold.local cornHowever, under a new interim policy, they are expanding the definition to mean food produced in the same province in which it’s sold. What that means is that in Ottawa, I could be eating corn that has travelled over 700 kilometers (435 miles) from Lambton Ontario, and it could still be labelled local in Ottawa. Certainly gives new definition to the term local. grillingThe contrast between the rich tender steak and the crunchy, slightly spicy corn relish makes for a perfect bite! I made Mark Bittman’s spicy-sweet green beans to go along with the steak and corn.

Click here to print recipe for Hanger Steak with Corn Relish.with corn relish 2

The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts and Charred Corn Slaw

A few weeks ago we hosted our Triennial (my new word for the day – that’s once every three years) family reunion at our cottage, We started doing this in 2000. This summer we totalled 38 various aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and several other various hangers oners. I wrote about the genesis of these reunions a few years ago, here. My youngest sister (I have 4 sisters and one lucky brother!) likes to plan activities for these reunions. She is a kindergarten teacher. My other sisters, brother, and I tolerate it to humour her, plus, she is so bossy, we all end up doing what she says anyways, just to keep the peace.

On the second morning of the reunion we all played “The Amazing Race-Wedding Edition“, in honour of our brother’s upcoming nuptials in two weeks. Under the guise of helping the betrothed couple prepare for the wedding we were  divided into teams and went off on a car rally-treasure hunt to the lovely town of Perth, Ontario.

We did a similar type of activity at the last reunion, in 2009, and my oldest son asked me if participation in this year’s hunt was optional. I patiently explained to him that no, participation was not optional and that the reason for this was so that when his parents, and/or aunts and uncles are dead and he and all his cousins are sitting around at the Shiva house, they will have shared memories to reminisce and laugh about. Making memories for your kids is one of the most important tasks for a parent.

The “Race” was fast and furious. Several members of our family are quite competitive and play hard to win. In fact, I would suggest that if you ever visit Perth, and stop in at the delicious Sunflower Bake Shop (where we had to visit to obtain a list of cupcake flavours that they make and then recommend the one that should be served at the wedding), you might not want to mention our family’s name. Apparently we are now blacklisted from that establishment. But don’t let that stop you. Their lemon pound cake is killer!

On our journey we were instructed to stop in at Jersey Joe’s Pizza and Sub. Our task was to create a perfect pizza for the happy couple to eat at 2:00 am after their wedding. We were to get a price for the pie and take a picture with Jersey Joe. Bonus points were promised if we brought a box back to the cottage. Jersey Joe was a real sweetheart and he makes a mean pizza pie!

The last task of the race ended proved to be the most controversial. We wound up at the Perth Dairy Queen where we had to create a custom Blizzard that the happy couple would taste and judge.

Most of the teams assumed that the custom blizzard had to contain ingredients that were available at the DQ. However, one team, who declared themselves to be “outside the box thinkers” interpreted this task much more loosely. Knowing my brother’s penchant for bacon, Butterfingers candy bars and Hostess Twinkies, they procured these items before arriving at the DQ and mixed them into their custom blizzard.

Fortunately for all the other teams, the “outside the box thinker’s” blizzard was the sixth of seven blizzards that the happy (but by now, quite nauseous) couple had to taste. My brother turned a pale shade of green as his sweetheart shoved a mouthful of blizzard coated bacon bits into his mouth. One sister was heard to quip, “Cheaters never prosper.”

That afternoon, more than a few family members signed up for naptime!

Not all the weekend’s activities were compulsory. On Friday morning we held a swim marathon. Attendance at this event was totally optional and there were only 6 of us who participated in the 2 kilometer swim to an island in the middle of our lake.  My youngest sister, brother and I first did the swim about 6 years ago and it has become a time-honoured tradition ever since. We discovered that the owner of the cottage on the island we swim to is a heart surgeon. That always gives us comfort as we gasp our way across the lake.My brother-in-law Brandon had a big bowl of Double Coconut Granola for breakfast and claimed it was the perfect fuel to jet him across the lake. My cousin Lewis tried some when we got back and now is a member of our Breakfast Club!

The Jell-O eating contest drew a huge crowd, as we cheered on my brother, the undefeated champion. He took gold in 2003 (Watermelon), 2006 (Chocolate Pudding) and 2009 (Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce). In our food races, we prize speed over quantity. Whoever finishes their plate first wins. We organize it in heats of 3 and then the winners of each heat go against each other until a final winner emerges.

In the finals it was the uncontested champ (my brother) against his beloved (my future sister-in-law). She slurped faster than he did and is now our family’s new hero. Secretly, just between you and me, I think he threw the race to let her win, because that’s just the kind of sweet guy my brother is!

Shockingly, there was close to perfect attendance for Friday night’s blind Prosecco tasting. We kept score on the chalkboard covered fridge and Villa Sandi eked out a close one against second place Mionetto and third place Blu Giovello. Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene got one lonely vote (Mine!)

For our Friday night dinner, we set up tables on the lawn and covered them with white cloths, and candles. It looked so beautiful, we could have held the wedding right then and there!

As the sun was setting a feeling of peace and dare I say, serenity, came over me. As I looked around at this incredible gathering the phrase ”the whole is greater than the sum of its parts“came to mind. So true when applied to family! I hope that my children and their cousins will continue this wonderful tradition we have started.

Last week, as I was making this slaw for the fourth time in less than 3 weeks, it occurred to me that this phrase, (The whole is greater than the sum of its parts) is equally applicable to coleslaw! Somehow when combined, lowly cabbage, pedestrian carrots, celery and green onion and ordinary farm stand corn come together in a kind of wondrous culinary synergy to create a really kick ass slaw.

Rather than grilling the corn, which I find makes the kernels tough and a bit leathery to chew, I prefer to gently saute them in a pan. As they brown and begin to snap, crackle and pop out of the pan, they become even sweeter due to caramelization.

For the dressing I wanted to blend a perfect balance of sweet (honey), salty (kosher salt), hot (chipotle in adobo) and sour (lime juice). I smoothed the whole thing out with a dollop of light mayo. For the final touch I coarsely chopped a huge handful of cilantro, but if you are a member of the cilantro haters club, feel free to leave it out!

Click here to print the recipe for Charred Corn Slaw.

Aperitivo for One

I learned about the concept of “Aperitivo” when I was in Italy last fall. Aperitivo are pre-dinner drinks accompanied by appetizers. Derived from the Latin aperitivus, to open, aperitivo is meant to stimulate the appetite and tease the taste buds, previewing the delights of dinner. In my mind, I picture stylish Italian men in their Armani or DSquared2 clothing, and Italian women in their classic navy or black sheath dresses with a scarf knotted effortlessly around their necks, stopping whatever they are doing at precisely 5:00 pm, donning their helmets, hopping onto their Vespas and heading out to the nearest bar for Aperitivo.

In Italy there is an “Aperitivo Culture”. It is a very social custom where people meet in bars to catch up on the happenings of the day, to drink and to eat. Typical aperitivo snacks can be as simple as olives and chips, or more elaborate fare, like frito misto, arancini, potato croquettes and assorted crostini.

This is such a civilized custom. Sadly, during, most of the year I am just too busy to stop whatever I am doing at 5 pm for Aperitivo, but come the summer, when I am up at my cottage, I indulge. Almost every day at 5:30 pm I pour myself a glass of Prosecco or white wine and have a little snack. Some days it’s just carrot sticks and humus but some days, I will treat myself to something more elaborate. Now, full disclosure here, most weekdays it is Aperitivo for one. Which sort of goes against the whole social aspect of the custom, but don’t feel too sorry for me. I thoroughly enjoy my own company and find myself quite amusing! I have been voted the 5th funniest of our family (we are a family of 5, but they just don’t appreciate my sense of humour!)

My new favourite white wine this summer is Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc. From the Marlborough region of new Zealand, it is a fantastic white wine for summer quaffing. It is refreshingly acidic with an intense concentration of citrus flavours, notably grapefruit. It has a crisp lingering finish and is the perfect choice for summer aperitivo.

This week I found that I had a surplus of tomatoes on the counter. My local supermarket has been carrying some beautiful heirloom tomatoes as well as Kumato tomatoes, which are sweeter than regular tomatoes and are a godsend in the winter months. I also discovered the first early corn of the season, being sold roadside near my cottage, so I picked up a few ears and decided to make a corn-tomato salsa.

The July-August issue of Cook’s Illustrated featured a corn salsa recipe that I decided to try. Most corn salsa recipes call for grilling the corn, but sometimes you just can’t be bothered to fire up the grill if all you are making is some corn for salsa. Using the corn raw was considered, but raw corn kernels always seem too starchy. Boiling the kernels destroyed the “freshness” you want from a corn salsa.  Keith Dresser  of Cook’s Illustrated solved this problem by coming up with quite a genius solution. He explains,

“Softening the hull without overcooking the center seemed impossible until I considered salsa’s natural partner: the tortilla chip. Corn tortillas are formed out of masa, a dough made with ground hominy, which is dried corn that has been soaked in alkaline limewater. This ancient process, called nixtamalization, was first used by Mesoamerican cultures thousands of years ago to soften corn and loosen the hulls.

Could I get a similar effect by introducing alkali to the cooking water for my corn? A quarter teaspoon of baking soda added to the boiling water worked like magic: As the corn steeped, its hulls softened just enough that they weren’t leathery, but the kernels still burst with crisp sweetness.”

I have much love and admiration for the food science geeks at Cook’s Illustrated.

Here’s my tip for getting the corn off the cob without having the kernels flying all over the kitchen: invert a small bowl into a bigger bowl. Stand the corn cob on the smaller bowl and use a sharp knife to cut off the corn. The kernels will land in the bigger bowl, not the floor. You will thank me later!

Tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro, shallots, lime juice, salt and a drop of honey finish off the salsa.

If you have corn or flour tortillas in the freezer, take the time to make your own tortilla chips. I used whole wheat flour tortillas, brushed them with vegetable oil and sprinkled them with a little kosher salt. Then I cut them into strips, instead of triangles. Bake them at 350 °F  for about 10 minutes, until crispy. They look so pretty when you stand them in a mug or vase. Sometimes I buy the flax or spinach tortillas and delude myself into thinking that these are really healthy!

Click here to print recipe for Tomato Corn Salsa .

Pour a glass of something cold, gather all the amusing people you can find and enjoy Aperitivo. And if you drink alone, I won’t judge.

Rye Galette

When I started this blog over two years ago, I never imagined that it would be read by college and university students. Yet, somehow, I seem to have garnered a following among the 20 something crowd. It started with the daughters of my friends. One young woman, my god-daughter, has set my blog as her home page and was worried about me when I went 10 days without blogging.  She actually called her mom to ask if everything was ok with me . How sweet is that?

Then it grew to include my daughter’s friends. She was quite proud of her mom and told her friends about my blog. I am sure they checked it out, just to be polite, because they are such nice young women!

However, I think they kept returning to the blog because they loved to read stories about my daughter and then tease and embarrass her. This was when they were in high school. Over the past 2 years they have moved onto university and have just recently moved out of residence and into their own apartments. Now they are interested in cooking, so they read the blog for recipes. And they have told their friends about it. So a big shout out to all my girls at McGill, Queens, Emerson and Ryerson!

My daughter’s best friend, spent many hours at our home when they were in high school. She loved eating at our house, especially when I made peanut butter bark, as her brother has a peanut allergy, so she couldn’t have it at home. Once she moved into her own apartment, she began asking me for recipes. She has turned out to be a wonderful cook (one minor mishap with vegetarian chili – but we won’t talk about that). She became obsessed with my galettes (free form tarts) and in May she made a Roasted Tomato and Gruyère Galette for her mom for Mother’s day and told me it was one of her proudest moments! It makes me so happy to see the next generation taking an interest in cooking and baking.

My sons, by the way, do not tell anyone their mother is a blogger. The oldest, probably for fear that his friends will read something humiliating about him, and the youngest because he can’t imagine his mother has time for anything but him!

Flushed with success at my recent venture into whole grains baking, I decided to try Kim Boyce’s Rustic Rye Dough and create a galette with that. In her book, “Good to the Grain”, Kim gives a lyrical description of this dough.

“The method for making this dough is similar to that for a rough puff pastry, a method I learned while working with Sherry Yard at Spago. It calls for letting a rough dough, made from chunks of butter and moist clumps of flour, rest in the refrigerator to give the gluten time to relax and the flour time to absorb the water. After an hour, the dough is rolled and folded a few times to create long “laminated” layers of butter throughout the dough, which give it its flakiness.”

Of course I waited to make the galette until my daughter’s galette obsessed friend was coming for a visit to the cottage. I filled the tart with spinach, corn, Asiago and provolone cheese and sliced tomatoes. The nutty flavour of the rye dough was perfect with that filling. Now of course my daughter’s friend wants to know how to make this, so here is a step by step tutorial, with video, to help her on her way.

Click here to print the recipe for Rustic Rye Dough .

Click here to print recipe for Asiago, Spinach, Corn and Tomato Galette