Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Corn and Jalapeno Hash

I was at a loss for what to name this dish, hash? mash? grated corn? All of the above? All I am sure of is that it ain't pretty. At all. Thank goodness for that stunning cobalt bowl, which slightly detracts from the sheer unattractiveness of what I am fairly certain looks like prechewed corn. People, please don't judge a book by it's cover because I assure you that what this corn dish lacks in the looks department, it more than makes up for in taste. All that without butter or cream or much salt. Sounds too good to be true? That's why it has to be ugly, you can't have it all, that just wouldn't be fair.
sweet corn
I actually ripped this recipe off of a friend after having dinner at her house. I can't actually call it a total rip-off because it's so simple that calling the preparation a recipe may not be fair. However, making this does take a little bit of dedication and arm work, but I assure you the benefits outweigh the costs. Consider the corn grating a workout if you wish. If you do so, let me warn you that this is a very unbalanced workout. As my 'guns' prove I make excessive use out of my right arm's strength. Alas, at least it's summer and there is sweet corn to grate, right?
sweet corn
So here's how it works. You chop an onion and mince 1/2 a jalapeno, set the jalapeno aside. In a dutch oven heat up a tablespoon of oil. Cook the onion over medium heat until soft and translucent. Set this aside. Shuck 10 ears of corn. Cut the kernels off of 3 of them.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Heirloom Tomatoes

It's official, I am addicted to summer. Very addicted. It's a problem. When it is a bagillion degrees out and everyone's freaking out because walking down the street barely seems feasible, there I am standing in the sun and wondering what the big deal is. On the flip side it's even more of a problem when I am indoors with air conditioners blowing at minus a bagillion degrees and everyone's final happy, except for me. Me? I am sitting there with full length pants and sweater, shivering and wondering what the hell is wrong with these people. Clearly, I have temperature issues. However, regardless of these minor frustrations along the way, summer just rocks, especially when squash, corn and heirloom tomatoes are beyond plentiful.
heirloom tomatoes slices
Of the summer harvest, heirloom tomatoes are without a doubt my favorites. Heirloom tomatoes fall into that cliche category of vegetables (ok, fruits) that, when bought in season, make you wonder why you ever buy those things that look like tomatoes when they're not in season. Every August, when those first sweet, juicy slices of almost technicolor tomatoes make their way onto my plate, I ask myself that question. Then as I take my first bite, I stop thinking and start enjoying, because needless to say these babies won't be around all year.
heirloom tomatoes basket

In my experience, the only problem with heirloom tomatoes is choosing them. So often they are marred with blemishes and cracks, that make them seem like they aren't 'good' when really that's how they should look. So, to make sure everyone is on the same page, I would like to offer a few heirloom tomato purchasing tips.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Smoky Zucchini Mascarpone Tart

James beard once said that "a gourmet who counts calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." Well, James, I couldn't have said it better myself. I wish I could say that this was the explanation for my tart fixation recently, but really I didn't come across this saying until after both this tart and last week's nectarine, cheesecake, gingersnap tart were long gone. I love tarts, the kind you eat of course, because they are a generally simple way to make a dish a little more exciting and pretty. They look refined, finished and composed, and an onlooker might believe that much time and effort was put into it when really, it was a snap.
zucchini mascarpone tart
Oddly enough, this dish was not created by the abundance of summer squash at every turn, but rather by an old bag of spelt flour I had in my fridge. After organizing my fridge for the umpteenth time the other day (yes, I can be a wee bit obsessive about certain things) I decided that the flour had been neglected for far too long and deserved some time to showcase itself. Well, if I may say, the spelt performed wonderfully, resulting in a crumbly and nutty tasting crust that was the perfect accompaniment to the sweet zucchini and creamy mascarpone. The smokiness comes from applewood smoked salt, an ingredient acquired thanks to a tartier moment, but I'll save that story for a later time.
zucchini mascarpone tart
That smokiness paired with the pungent aroma of the chives is what makes this tart anything other than usual. However, those flavors are not so overwhelming that they detract from the summer squash whose oh-so-sweet and buttery nature is just as good raw as it is enrobed in mascarpone. The latter, of course, is quite obvious. I mean I am pretty sure that if my middle name were 'enrobed in mascarpone' people would probably like me more too. I digress, the point is that this tart, like many tarts (or so I've heard) is very good, satisfying, and will last at least an evening if not longer. If you have a mandoline or a benriner slicer* its also very easy (as most tarts are known to be). Most importantly anyone you serve it to will think that you are a refined, culinary genius, truly anything but a tart; but if only they knew where that smoky salt came from....
spelt pie crust
*$20, buy it now, you won't regret it and no they didn't pay me to say that.
Smoky Zucchini Masparpone Tart
(yields 1, 9-inch tart)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons spelt flour

3 medium sized zucchini, sliced 1/8" thick or any summer squash will do.
1 small onion, shaved in rounds
2 eggs
3/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup chopped chives
2 teaspoons smoked salt
a few turns of a pepper grinder

1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare the crust by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl and pressing into a 9-inch tart pan. Bake for 9 minutes, until golden. Let cool completely and keep the oven on.
2) In a blender combine the eggs, mascarpone, chives, salt and pepper. Blend until combined.
3) Lay the zucchini slices in concentric circles in the prepared tart shell, there should be enough for about two layers. Pour the filling evenly over the zucchini. Top with the onions.
4) Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the onions are soft and the top is golden. The filling should be firm to the touch and slightly puffed up. Let cool.
5) Serve a room temperature. This tart should be good for a few days in the fridge, bring to room temperature before serving.