Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sweet Corn Succotash

The truth is, I don't really cook that much in the summer. Okay, that's relative... I mean, I'm always cooking, but the way I do it changes big time in the warmer months. In the winter I make more composed, planned dishes, but summer is more freewheeling. If you let the produce lead you in the summer, you'll not only have delicious meals, but spare time to slip n'slide and chase the ice cream man.

This week's corn was too gorgeous to pass up, so I found it some friends for the world's freshest summer succotash.

Summer corn, tomatoes and green beans were basically born to be best summer friends. They even made friendship bracelets at camp. Shallots, basil and chives are part of the group too, but let's get real, corn, tomatoes and green beans are really the most popular ones. 

Pardon my imaginary foray into pre-teen vegetable social dynamics. The bottom line is that corn, tomatoes and green beans taste amazing in July and you should eat them all together. And you don't need to do much to have a delicious dinner. That's the beauty of summer cooking.

Sweet Corn Succotash
2 ears sweet corn
2 cups green beans, ends snapped off
2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon champagne or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Prepare corn according to your preference -- either boiled or grilled (my preference). Once cooked, cut the kernels off the cob and place in a large bowl.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add green beans. Cook for 1-2 minutes until they turn bright green. Remove from boiling water and immediately put in an ice bath. Once completely cooled, drain and add to large bowl with corn.

Toss corn and green bean mixture with tomatoes, basil, chives, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cocktail Hour: Bourbon Slush

It's summer and the living is easy. We spent the weekend front-porching and relaxing by a river at a ranch with old friends. And after a full day sweating it out in the sun, having a refreshing slush waiting in the freezer was pretty amazing. What bourbon too? I could feel the unwinding down to my sunburnt toes.

This make ahead wonder is fabulous for a summer crowd. It's ice-y texture and sweet, tart flavor hits the spot.

Bourbon Slush
6oz frozen lemonade, thawed
12oz frozen OJ, thawed
2 cups good-quality bourbon
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups brewed tea, cooled
5 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Cover and freeze for at least 6 hours. Remove from freezer about 10 minutes before serving and stir to "slush it up." Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to Hang a Gallery Wall

The devil is in the details. While all the big things are done in our new house, it feels like there are thousand small things -- namely about a thousand pieces of art that need to be hung. Give an art history nerd a nice camera and you get a lot of hanging to do. 

In my past few places I've had a nice gallery wall of special stuff, including our engagement photos, vintage photos of people we love, some photobooth shots and even some cute little notes from the Husband from when we were dating. I love every piece of it, but hanging it was, frankly, a bitch. 

The first time, nothing was aligned (and not in a cute way), there were holes everywhere and it was in no way was what I had in envisioned. Turns out you don't have to jack up your walls and drive yourself into a decorating fugue state. There is a better way. 

The DIY geniuses over at Young House Love have a templating technique that is just too good not to share. Here's how it works...

Pick your spot and the art you want to put up. It's good to have a mix of sizes and shapes, so that you get that collage effect, but every space is different. The good news is, you'll have a chance to feel it out before you ever start hammering, so you can be flexible. 

Use some old newspaper to trace and cut a template for each frame. Great way to recycle your old copy of a local food paper (thanks Sauce!). 

Here's where it gets brilliant, use a pencil to polk through the newspaper where the frame hangers are on each. No measuring needed and no worries if your cheap-frames have inconsistent hardware. The template is doing the work here, not you.

Once all of your templates are cut and marked, start arranging with tape on the wall. Give a few arrangements a try and add/remove items until it's just right.

Once you find the arrangement that speaks to you (I sound like Oprah and that's fine by me), simply hammer in nails where you marked for the hardware on the template. See? No measuring... I promised. 

You hammer right through the newspaper and then just tear it away. Hang your art on the perfectly placed nails and make sure nothing is tilted. Voila... gallery wall complete!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad

Vacation is coming! It's true. I'm headed to the mountains with my two life-long besties, husbands in tow. For three gals that couldn't be much more different in adult life, there is an intangible something that makes it feel like we haven't been apart a day, even when it's been a few years. Isn't that wonderful how that works in life? Those relationships are rare, so I count mine as pretty special.

And to make it all the better, we all three love to cook and eat, so you can better there is some bites (and sips) in store. The menu is filled with all kinds of grilling and cocktail goodness, but we have to have some standby sides on tap too.

One of the girls is vegetarian and loves fruit, so I was trying to come up with a few hearty salads to have on hand. I recently tried out this rice salad from Plenty and man it is good! This cookbook has gotten me so inspired to try new veggie recipes. This one from the grains chapter will be perfect as a dinnertime side and the leftovers will make for great snacking fare on the mountain.

Mango and Coconut Rice Salad
2/3 cups brown jasmine rice
1 cup black rice
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mint leaves, roughly chopped
2/3 cup basil leaves, roughly choppped
2/3 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
2/3 cup flaked coconut
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 mangos, chopped
1 head green leaf lettuce

Prepare jasmine rice according to package instructions. Spread on a baking sheet to cool. Separately prepare black rice and allow to cool.

Toss cooked jasmine and black rice together with red bell pepper, basil, cilantro, green onions, jalapeno, lemon, peanuts, coconut and peanut oil. Gently fold in mangos, taking care not to overstir (they'll fall apart).

Serve over lettuce and enjoy!

Recipe inspired by Yottam Ottolenghi

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad

First of all, thanks so much for all of the kind wishes on our new home. We're settling in nicely and the Type A in me can't let it rest until every little thing finds a place. We are by no means "done," but it's starting to feel like we actually live here.

On one of our many recent trips to the hardware store (seriously, I feel like we go daily), we had some priority shopping to do. A GRILL! We are now the proud owners of a genuine Weber grill and I know there is tasty stuff to come. You see, I grew up with a Weber-purist for a father, so I've been endlessly lectured on the true benefits of charcoal over gas. And there is no sense in trying to fight him on it, because your mouth is probably full.

I've never had a nice grill before, so this is seriously exciting. In Chicago we had a Craigslist gas grill, that while crappy, served us well. True story... when we bought the thing, it wouldn't fit in our car and the Husband pushed it home a mile. Have I mentioned he's the best?

But anyway, back to the grilling. We now have an awesome grill and I'm planning some awesome grilled stuff. First up? Grilled Romaine Caesar. You've surely all had a pitiful Caesar salad from you local fast-casual restaurant, but let me tell you, the real deal is so much better. And when you grill the romaine too? Yum!

I know... grilling lettuce sounds weird, but it gives this great smoky flavor and brings out the sweetness of your greens. The char gives you an extra bit of crunch too. 

Simply halve romaine hearts and pop on the grill when your chicken is almost done. I love to grill bread, instead of croutons too. Brings it all together.

Drizzle with homemade caesar dressing and enjoy immediately. I'm usually big on leftovers, but this is a recipe that is a night-of kind of thing. 

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad
4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts (or just 2 if they're big)
2 hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 egg yolk
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
4 slices crusty bread

Preheat grill. Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium direct until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (about 4-6 minutes per side). 

While chicken grills prepare dressing by combining garlic, anchovy paste, egg yolk, lemon juice, olive oil and parmesan in a food processor. Buzz until combined and season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Remove chicken from grill and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. 

Brush bread with a bit of dressing on each side and grill for 1-2 minutes per side. Rub romaine hearts with remaining olive oil and grill for 1 minute, cut side down. 

Drizzle dressing over chicken and romaine and serve immediately with grilled bread. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Our First House

Today is a pretty big day. We can now count ourselves as proud homeowners! This 110 year old beauty in St. Louis' Tower Grove South neighborhood is all ours.

You hear a lot about homeownership being a milestone and I think what they say is true. It feels pretty major. This home is only possible because of years of hard work by the Husband and me. All those drudge-worthy career dues paid, years of un-airconditioned apartments sweating it out and shoe shopping trips avoided were all for this. We did it all on our own and I'm so proud of us.

While this beauty was rehabbed a few years back, she needs a serious infusion of taste and non-beige-ness (totally a word), so there's certainly more to come. One cannot live on food porn and recipes alone. Now we're off to celebrate!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sweet Pea Pesto

Pesto always appears so gourmet, but it's the easiest thing this side of your food processor. When was this great rumor about pesto fanciness spread? Do you think it was some council of old timey Italians scheming to fool Popes and Doges? I'm painting a great mental visual on that one that includes elaborate headwear and painterly hand gestures.

Whoa... I just went all college art history on pesto. Let's all calm down and eat some noodles. Here's the deal... pesto is simple and people think it's fancy. No sense in telling them it's super easy, just take the credit.

This version strays from the traditional basil, subbing in springy peas, mint and arugula; all rounded out with asparagus and prosciutto. And seriously, I made this in about 15 minutes on a weeknight. Fancy weeknight win!

Sweet Pea Pesto
1 bunch asparagus, cut in 1-inch chunks
1lb angel hair pasta
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup mint leaves
2 handfuls arugula
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 slices prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces.

Fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook for two minutes. Use a skimmer to remove asparagus to a bowl of ice water. Add pasta to remaining boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

Combine peas, parmesan, mint, arugula, salt and pepper in food processor. Pulse several times and then stream in olive oil while processor runs.

Add prosciutto to a small pan over medium heat and cook until lightly crisped, about 2-3 minutes.

Toss cooked pasta with pesto sauce and asparagus. Top with prosciutto and enjoy.