Fiesta Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing

July 12, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’ve been on a recent kick of eating raw corn. That’s right – uncooked corn. Sounds kind of strange, doesn’t it. I’m an avid corn lover. Anything with corn and I’m game. Mmmmm…I’d like some creamy corn chowder right about now – yummy! Might have to find a vegan version. (Update: check out the vegan corn chowder recipe I came up with.)

So with my love for corn it’s amazing that I’ve never even thought to try it raw. But it’s so easy to cut off the cob and is surprisingly sweet and of course crisp. Now, while I love my corn, I don’t love black beans. But I’m trying to like them more with this vegan challenge. I’ve added them to my veggie bowl at Chipotle and have learned one scoop is good – two scoops, too black beany. I can enjoy a sprinkling of beans throughout my food but not a whole bundle.

I put together this salad recently for lunch and enjoyed it with some whole grain tortilla chips. Smokey cumin, sweet corn, crisp cucumbers, spicy jalapeno – everything in here works so nicely together. You could serve it as a salad or a salsa. If serving with tortilla chips just watch how much salt you add as the chip will add a lot of salt. I’ve also been adding crunched up pita chips in my salads recently which is really good and would be great here.

To make just chop up whatever veggies you’d like to include. I added red bell pepper, cucumber, scallions, and jalapeno. Red onion would work nicely in place of scallions. I didn’t have tomatoes on hand but they’d also be great here. For the vinaigrette mix olive oil, lime juice, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and enjoy! As with many salads like this – it’s even better the next day.

Fiesta Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing

Ingredients

  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • tortilla chips or pita chips to serve if desired

Directions

  1. Rinse beans and set aside. Clean and cut corn from cob. Dice veggies.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper. Toss in a bowl with beans, corn, and remaining veggies.

 

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Welcoming Summer – Luscious Lemon Meringue Pie

June 2, 2011 § 4 Comments

This weekend was a hot one in Orlando – the temperatures have been steadily creeping up into the 90’s for several weeks now and I’ve been in denial trying to keep our doors open for fresh air with no luck. With the heat intensifying, I’d thought for two weeks of what to do for the approaching Memorial Day weekend and to properly welcome the start of summer. We could have taken a mini-vaca but hubby had no vacation days. Could have enjoyed a pool at a local hotel but prices were insane. Last idea was to drive to the beach but in the end with the threat of traffic and our sweet dog’s puppy eyes, we decided against it. So, it was a weekend at home, which in the end turned out to be very sweet (pun intended).

My husband recently bought me a nook for my birthday. Each night he’d look at it hopeful that I’ve purchased something to verify I liked the gift. I had yet to purchase anything in a month, so with the three-day weekend as I lay on the couch I figured I might as well indulge my brain in a book rather than endless hours of television. I’ve wanted to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver ever since it came out. So, I did just that – I downloaded the “nook book” and have had my nose stuck in it every night this week. The book is just plain awesome – enlightening and inspiring with every page turn. I’m only about one third of the way through it but she already has me hooked with her tales of blossoming veggies and tender fruits. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the tastes she describes and weaves through her stories. It makes me utterly depressed at the thought of having to frequent my local supermarket and roam through its lifeless aisles. She almost makes me want to uproot my life and take up a farm – almost.

But back to reality, it was Memorial Day weekend and armed with the desire to eat local, fresh, ingredients, I found myself with an overflowing basket at the local market I visit. Now, to be sincere, I didn’t end up buying everything local. I was surprised and a little disturbed to learn that my favorite local store isn’t so local. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got some great finds but doesn’t carry quite as much local produce as I’d deluded myself to believe. But, I bought some good stock to make great meals for the weekend – and let me say it’s pretty much been one good thing after another – lentil salad, hummus and veggie sandwiches, sweet grilled corn, scrambled eggs with roasted asparagus and peppers, fresh garlicky mayonnaise, and finally last night a summer squash stir fry with jasmine rice. At the last grab in the store I threw in some fresh limes and lemons to have on hand.

My mom invited us over for a Memorial Day BBQ and I made the – at the time what I thought to be a good idea – offer to bring Lemon Meringue Pie as I’d just purchased several huge lemons. I have a tendency to do this in all aspects of my life and especially in the kitchen – signing up for things that I don’t fully understand their scale and potential. This venture was one of those. But once I’d mentioned Lemon Meringue to my mom, there was no turning back. I had to show up to the BBQ with that pie in my hands. I’ve never made a lemon custard or curd. I’ve never made meringue. I don’t like pie shells so I had already decided I’d use the graham cracker crust in Ina Garten’s Frozen Key Lime Pie recipe I recently made. With one out of three down, how hard could it be?

Well, not hard, but interesting. It was hours before the party and we were standing in line at Hollywood Studios to see American Idol Scotty (I know, corny, and yes I’m a bit of a dork). There I was thinking of the pie I had to serve in mere hours and I hadn’t even picked out a recipe. As I stood in line I scanned different recipes to see which one to go with.  I settled on a recipe from Gourmet as I was pretty sure I had all the ingredients it called for. Once back at home and needing to leave in, yes…1 hour!, I sprang into action.

You start with the crust. I loved the graham cracker crust with this but you could easily do a pie shell, pastry crust, or even no crust and serve in bowls with a side of cookies as I saw here which is a great idea. While the crust cooks you melt the sugar, salt, water, milk, and cornstarch in a saucepan. This at first appears to do nothing and I was thinking, surely I’ve left out a major ingredient. But all of a sudden it will start to solidify and get gooey. At that point, you mix in a small amount of this mixture into the eggs yolks, and then the egg mixture back into this saucepan. As you continue to stir it, the mixture solidifies into a sturdy custard-like consistency.

Then you add in the lemon and lemon zest. This recipe calls for half a cup of lemon juice but my four huge lemons actually only yielded a fourth a cup. I was worried it might not be tart enough so I compensated with a little extra zest and the resulting flavor was spot-on. Finally you fold in a few tablespoons of butter into the filling. The resulting lemon filling is glossy and looks like its bursting with sunshine. Pour this mixture into the pie shell and set aside.

Next comes the meringue. As I said, I’ve never made meringue and it’s really not so easy. You diligently whip the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until they get firm and then slowly add in the sugar. Again, silly me, I was short on ingredients and only had one third of the sugar it called for. So I did the rest with powdered sugar. The meringue didn’t get as sturdy as I would have liked and it didn’t taste particularly great at first– but it’s all I had. So, I plopped it on top of the pie (the most fun part by the way as it oozes out of the bowl and builds layer upon layer on your pie) and into the oven it went to brown.

By this point we were to be at my parents’ house in 15 minutes so the pie came straight out of the oven and into a lasagna pan for transport – held in place by two oven mitts. I sat in the car looking at my beautiful pie, full of hope, but the meringue wobbled from side to side as the car turned. I snapped a few pics to ensure I had evidence should this by chance turn out to be a success – although at that moment it seemed highly unlikely – or in case I just wanted to prove to myself I’d made it. Once at the house, the pie got to chill out in the fridge for a few hours before we indulged. And indulge we did – it was delicious. The lemon filling had just enough tang and bite accompanied by the sweet graham cracker crust and light fluffy meringue. In fact, the meringue tasted quite perfect despite the rocky start. This pie was a winner all around and everyone agreed – a nice cool accompaniment to the hot summer days to come. I can’t wait to make it again…the only danger is now that I know how easy it really is, I may make it too often!

Lemon Meringue Pie
Adapted from Gourmet

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I used ¼ cup and more zest)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

For the meringue

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature 30 minutes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 superfine granulated sugar

Directions:

For the crust, pre-heat the oven to 350. Melt the butter. Mix with crushed graham crackers and sugar and press into pie shell. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden. Remove pie shell and increase heat to 375 to bake the finished pie.

For the filling, whisk together egg yolks and set aside. In a saucepan whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually add water and milk, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking frequently as mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and gradually whisk about 1 cup milk mixture into yolks, then whisk yolk mixture into remaining milk mixture. Add lemon zest and juice and simmer, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter until incorporated. Pour into pie shell.

For the meringue beat the reserved egg whites with cream of tartar and salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to high and add superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until meringue just holds stiff, glossy peaks. Pour the meringue over the top of the pie and put back in the oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool several hours before serving.

Update: Serve with Heirloom Tomato Pasta for a great summer lunch or supper. 

Pucker Up – Frozen Key Lime Pie

May 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m not a pie girl. The fact that pies are “making a comeback” as many have put it, even appearing in weddings in replacement of a traditional wedding cake, really bothers me. I just don’t think a pastry crust with fruit filling and a little cream can even remotely compare to a decadent chocolate cake with sweet buttercream frosting. However, there are some pies I’ve grown fond of over the years. French silk and lemon meringue were my favorite pies as a kid – assuming the chocolate cake wasn’t an option of course. I recall eating them after our dinners in a Marie Calendar’s style restaurant as a little girl.  I’m not a fan of the pastry so id carefully scoop the filling, scraping the bottom ever so slightly to just “peel” off the custard, leaving behind just the crust. The resulting naked crust, stripped of its creaminess, made my family laugh every time.

The one pie I can say I wholeheartedly enjoy – crust and all – is the one and only key lime pie. I can’t recall the first time I tried the key lime pie but I believe I may have been around 12. We had moved to Florida and since my dad worked for a cruise line, we got to cruise all the time. I am pretty sure it was on one of these cruises – probably at a midnight buffet! – that I first tried what would battle the classic chocolate cake as my favorite dessert. One bite today of that creamy, tart goodness and I’m transported to that cruise ship, thousands of miles away, with the ocean breeze close by.

I’ve made Ina Garten’s Frozen Key Lime Pie several times now. I love the fact that it is a no-bake pie and uses fresh limes instead of tiny, impossible to juice, key limes. Believe me, just juicing the limes for this pie is plenty of work. I honestly can’t even imagine using real key limes. The resulting pie, even without the key limes, is full of flavor, creamy, and tart enough to make your lips pucker!

The recipe calls for 4-5 limes but I’d buy extras when you are shopping for this. The limes I used this last time weren’t ripe enough so I ended up using close to 9 just to get enough juice. I’m glad I had bought extra for my husband’s cocktails – too bad for him there weren’t any leftover. Honestly juicing the limes is the only hassle in this recipe. Other than that it’s really quite easy.

First you make the crust by breaking up the graham crackers. The easiest thing to do is to put them in a plastic bag and hit them with a rolling pin or back of a large spoon. Mix the crumbs with sugar and melted butter and press into the pie plate and bake. I recall the last time I made this pie I had the same problem that the crust didn’t quite stick together. This isn’t really a problem but if you’re looking for a more sturdy crust, add some additional butter to help bind the crackers together.

While the crust is baking make the filling by mixing the lime juice, zest, egg yolks, sugar, and condensed milk. As I said, the resulting pie is very tart. If you’re not such a fan, you can omit the zest to cut back on the tartness.

Allow the crust to cool before pouring the filling in. Freeze for a few hours until set and then top with whipped cream. Please whatever you do, DO NOT, used canned whipped cream. This is a sin in my book. If you have never made your own whipped cream, give it a try and you’ll understand why I’m adamant about this. Homemade whipped cream is deliciously rich and tastes like grandma’s house. To make the whipped cream just whip together the cream, sugar, and vanilla. Decorate the pie either by piping the cream with a plastic bag or just spoon over the top, cover, and put back in the freezer. The recipe says the pie only needs to sit several hours but I’ve found it needs at the least 8 hours, especially if you are transporting it to a party. You want the pie to really freeze all the way. The whipped cream ends up very sturdy this way – if you prefer to top the pie with the cream just before serving, that would be delicious too. This pie is the perfect start to summer!

Ina Garten’s Frozen Key Lime Pie

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest – omit if you don’t want the pie as tart
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (recipe calls for 4 to 5 limes but may be closer to 8-9)

For the decoration:

  • 1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Thin lime wedges

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press mixture into a 9-inch pie pan, ensuring equal thickness. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside to cool completely.
  3. Beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick.
  4. Reduce to medium speed and add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice.
  5. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze for a  few hours.
  6. For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Freeze for several hours or preferably, overnight.

For the original recipe, click here.

Update: Serve with Fiesta Corn Salad with Cumin Lime Dressing and Honey-Sauced Chicken Wings for a fun game-day meal. 

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