Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grilled Corn with Hot Lips Chili Butter

This is a kick ass recipe for chili butter.  I love it.  I want to make it every time we grill corn on the cob.  Of course, the fact that it's BUTTER means it's going to be awesome, but then you throw in that sweet/spicy mix of sugar, chili powder, and cayenne, and it just makes your lips tingle, it's that good.

I'd never grilled corn this way until I read this recipe.  You have to unwrap the corn, but leave the husks attached.  Then you pull off the silk, enclose the cob back in the husks, and run water through it.  I think you do that to keep the corn from burning as well as steam it while it grills.    

The recipe is from a little cookbook called Dressed to Grill.  I picked up this cookbook several years ago.  I haven't made too many recipes out of it, but I've liked all of them so far.  It's sort of a "girl power" grilling cookbook.  The titles of some of the recipes crack me up.  Here is a sampling of my favorites:

"Think Big and Long: Grilled Asparagus"
"Firm Thighs" (chicken thighs)
"Chauvinist Pig" (pork tenderloin)
"Who's Sari Now?" (Indian spiced kebabs)

Grilled Corn with Hot Lips Chili Butter
adapted from Dressed to Grill
Serves 6

Note: Feel free to be generous with the spice measurements.

6 ears fresh corn

Chili Butter:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Vegetable oil for grilling

Preheat a hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas or electric grill on high heat.

Carefully pull back the husk of each ear of corn one segment at a time without actually removing it (the very outer ones might come off, that's ok).  Remove the stringy silk as best as you can, then re-wrap the corn in the husks so it looks more or less like what you started with.  Run water into the ears of the corn, letting it run out the other end.  Drain the excess water.  Next the recipe says to "twist the husks at the top to close".  I've never had extra husk at the top to do that with, so I ignore that step.

To prepare the chili butter, combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.  Taste, adjust seasoning as needed, and set aside.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill grate with the vegetable oil.  Place the corn right over the hot fire.  Grill for about 20 minutes, turning occasionally to grill evenly on all sides.  Remove from grill, let cool a minute or two, then pull back the husks.  You can either rip the husks off completely, or tie them in a knot (this is supposed to make them look rustic.  Just for the record, I have no idea what that is supposed to look like, but I did attempt to tie mine in a knot).  Generously brush the corn with the chili butter.  Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

This is a great salsa recipe.  We usually make it as a topping for fish tacos.  Enjoy!

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa 
Adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
Makes about 2 cups

Note: You all might already be experts on picking out chile peppers, but I used to have a lot of trouble telling them apart.  Poblanos are dark green and fairly large (like a smallish bell pepper in size), while Anaheims are light green and slender, much larger than jalapeƱos.

2 medium Poblano or other mild fresh green chiles (like Anaheim)
2 cups chopped tomatillos (remove the husks and rinse them first)
3 scallions, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

You can either roast (and then peel) the peppers, or just use them raw.  Either way, remove the stems and seeds, then mince them (or you could pulse them a few times in a food processor, but I bet you're a pro at chopping after prepping all those other ingredients, so why bother dirtying a kitchen appliance?).

Toss the chiles and all the other ingredients into a medium bowl and stir to combine.  Taste, adjust the seasoning as needed, and serve.  You can also make this ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.  Bring back to room temperature and adjust the seasonings again before serving.

There are variations of this recipe that sound really good but I've never tried them.  One is to replace half of the tomatillos with toasted pumpkin seeds.  Another is to substitute 2 cups of corn (fresh, grilled, or roasted) for the tomatillos.  You can also substitute green tomatoes for the tomatillos.  

Monday, September 20, 2010

Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad, Penne with Zucchini and Mint

I always love it with my sister comes down to visit for the weekend.  During this particular late summer visit, we took in a local hike, picked blueberries, and topped it off with a little thrift store shopping.  For dinner, we made a roasted beet and fennel salad with a mix of gold and purple beets using a recipe from our CSA newsletter.  We also made Ellie Krieger's recipe for penne with zucchini and mint.  Both dishes turned out really good, in our opinion.  I love roasted beets and fennel, but this was the first time I'd ever cooked them together.  I loved the pasta dish because it used whole wheat penne and lots of mint from my garden.

Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad
adapted from Gathering Together Farm's CSA newsletter (after a quick internet search, this is where they got the recipe)
Serves 3-4  (I give that range because I feel like it should serve 4, however, there were only three of us, and we managed to eat it all!)

4 small beets (or 2 large beets), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large fennel bulb with fronds, bulb cut into 1/2-inch wedges, 1 tablespoon chopped fronds (I didn't use the fronds because I didn't have any)
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar (I didn't think that was enough to do anything, so I doubled that amount)

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  In a 9 x 13 baking dish, toss the beets with the thyme (don't take the leaves off the sprigs, just throw the whole thing in there!), the water, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the beets are tender.  Discard the thyme sprigs and loosely re-cover the dish with foil.

Put the fennel wedges into a small baking dish.  Toss with the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes, until the fennel is tender and lightly browned.

Pour or spoon out any accumulated beet juices into serving dish and whisk in the vinegar.  Add the beets and fennel wedges and toss to combine.  Sprinkle with the fronds and season with salt and pepper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Penne with Zucchini and Mint
adapted from Ellie Krieger - So Easy
Serves 4 (5-6 if you are serving other sides with it)

12 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each), sliced into 1/4-inch thick half moons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil.  Add the penne, cook according to the package directions.  

Meanwhile, heat a large deep skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil and garlic.  Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring often, until the garlic is lightly golden.  Don't let it burn, it will make it taste bitter.  Add the zucchini next.  Cover and cook for about 6-8 more minutes until the zucchini is tender.  Remove the skillet from heat.  Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  

When the pasta is done, drain it, then return it to the pasta pot.  Add the zucchini mixture, the Parmesan cheese, and mint.  Toss to combine, and serve.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Adventures in Canning

I recently finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and became very interested in learning how to preserve food.  My friend Amy had some experience canning jams and beans, so we decided to try tomato sauce, a first for both of us.  We chose to make the "Family Secret Tomato Sauce" recipe from the book, also posted on the book's website

We bought "second" tomatoes from a local organic farm for $1 a pound.  Second tomatoes are just regular tomatoes that are too ugly to sell for full price; they might be shaped funny or have weird marks on them, but they still taste great, which is perfect when you need to buy a lot and are just going to mash them up anyway.  We just had to call a couple days in advance and place the order.  We bought all the spices in bulk at the Co-op, and the onions from the Organic Growers Club at OSU (they just happened to be selling them the Friday before).  

The recipe starts by calling for tomato puree from 30 pounds of tomatoes.  So, since Amy has an awesome blender ("will it blend?") we just started dropping those babies in and pureeing the crap out of them.  Pretty soon we had filled a 5 gallon pot with hot pink tomato liquid.  Very watery liquid.

Hmm.  The recipe said we'd be using a 3 gallon pot.  Did we miss something here?  Slightly concerned, we added all the spices, stirred it up, and left it to simmer while we went shopping for canning jars.    

After about 4 hours, it was supposed to have reduced to a more typical sauce-like consistency.  This is what ours looked like.  Pretty much the same, not thickened at all.        

It was 6pm on a Sunday night.  We had planned on doubling the recipe, so we still had a whole second batch left to make!  It was nowhere near thick enough to be sauce, so we were sure we had done something wrong.  

After browsing various websites, it looked like maybe we should have blanched the tomatoes, peeled, seeded and squeezed out excess juice, then pureed.  Even though that was probably the best way to do it, there was no way in hell I could be convinced to put in that kind of effort this late in the day for the second batch.  We really did want to make something worth canning though, so in the end, rather than peeling the tomatoes, we cored and quartered them, ran them through the food processor to dice them, then strained out the excess liquid.  The result was a much better tomato product.

In order to salvage the long-cooked flavor of the spices and onions that had been stewing all day, we ladled off about 2/3 of the thin tomato sauce and replaced it with the chunkier tomatoes until we had the consistency we wanted.  

Around 9:30 pm, we finally had our sauce, albeit about half the amount we were hoping for.  It tasted really good!  

The thin tomato sauce that we ladled off did not go to waste either.  It was the perfect base for minestrone.  We also used some to make chili mac!  We followed the recipe from our beloved America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, replacing any tomato products with an equivalent amount of our "special tomato base".    

In the end, even though we had some mishaps, I'm way less intimidated by canning than I was in the past.  I'm even considering attempting to make apple butter this fall, my dad's favorite!  
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