Friday, September 28, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Grilled Corn

Here's a simple and tasty recipe for giving grilled corn a little zing.  Sweet & Spicy Grilled Corn combines sugar, red pepper, and smoked paprika with melted butter to make a brush-on coating that turns ordinary corn on the cob into something special.  Best of all, it's super easy!

Remove the husks and corn silk, but leave the end of the stalk attached to make it easier to hold the corn.

Soak the husked corn in a pot of cold water for 15 minutes.  Weight down the corn if necessary to keep it completely submerged.  Soaking keeps the corn moist during grilling.

While the corn is soaking, heat the grill to medium heat and prepare the sweet and spicy butter mixture.

For 3 ears of corn:  Melt 1-1/2 T butter in a small vessel.  Add 1/2 t brown sugar, 1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 t smoked paprika, and 1/4 t salt.  Stir to combine.

After the corn has soaked for 15 minutes, remove from the water.  Pat dry.  Brush with the melted butter mixture, coating the corn on all sides.  Wrap the corn in foil and grill for 15-20 minutes, turning several times to make sure the corn cooks evenly.  Remove from the heat.  Unwrap carefully.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before biting into the juicy, sweet, and spicy goodness of this fresh-grilled corn.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Carrots, green leaf lettuce, and Persian cucumbers;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Corn, tomatoes, spinach, dill, and cabbage;

From K and K Ranch:  Asian pears, Bartlett pears, and September King plums;

From Mua Farm:  Asian long beans, ong choy, and bok choy.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Autumn Apple and Pomegranate Salad

I've been loving those super tasty apples we've been getting from K and K Ranch for the past few weeks.  They're crunchy and have just the right balance of sweet and tart.  Mostly, I've been eating them whole.  But today, I decided to make a salad using another of my favorite fall fruits - pomegranate.

This salad is fast and easy to make; and it's a delicious side salad to almost any meal.  Add some goat cheese or blue cheese if you wish to make it more substantial.

For two generous side salad portions:

3 C washed lettuce torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large apple, cored and cut into large dice
seeds from 1/2 medium pomegranate
1 T very thinly sliced red onion
2-3 T candied walnuts or pecans*
1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
1-2 T cider vinegar or other fruit vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, apple, pomegranate seeds, onion, and nuts.

2.  Drizzle the oil and vinegar over the salad.  Toss.

3.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.

*Plain toasted nuts may be substituted for candied nuts, or the nuts may be left out altogether.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Cauliflower, leeks, green leaf lettuce, cabbage, and celery;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Broccoli, carrots, chard, tomatoes, and strawberries;

From K and K Ranch:  Grapes, apples, and nectarines; and

From Silver Lake Farms:  Mint and thyme.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Summer Rolls

It's too hot to cook.  It was 104 degrees in Silver Lake this afternoon, and it's still 101 as I write this post!  When the weather is blazing hot, I like to make simple and delicious recipes that require no cooking.  Summer rolls are just that kind of dish.

Summer rolls are essentially salad in a wrapper.  And there are so many things to love about them beyond their fresh simplicity.  You make them individually, so make a little or a lot.  They're great finger food -  no utensils needed.  You can make them for vegans, vegetarians, or omnivores.  In fact, you can get quite creative with the ingredients.  You can serve them with a variety of different dipping sauces.  And you can make them in advance, as they keep well in the fridge for hours.

Below is my basic recipe for Summer Rolls.  Do add one or more of the suggested additions that follow the basic recipe.

For each roll:

1 dried rice paper wrapper
1 lettuce leaf, torn into largish pieces
2-3 strips carrot, washed, peeled, and sliced lengthwise
2-3 strips cucumber, washed, peeled, seeded, and sliced lengthwise
3-4 slices avocado
1-2 strips red bell pepper, or 3-4 pieces yum yum pepper
1 green onion, finely chopped
1-2 sprigs cilantro, or to taste
3-4 mint leaves, or to taste

1.  For each summer roll, prepare vegetables as described above.  Set aside.

2.  Fill a 9" or 10" pie plate with warm water.  Working with one rice paper wrapper at a time, dip the wrapper in the warm water until it just begins to soften, just a few seconds.  The wrapper will continue to soften even after you remove it from the water, so take it out while it's still firm.

3.  Lay the softened wrapper on a non-sticky work surface.  Working quickly and starting with the lettuce leaves, arrange the veggies (and other ingredients, see below) in the center of the wrapper.  Fold up the bottom, roll one side of the wrapper over the veggies, then roll it over the other side of the wrapper, leaving the top open.  Alternatively, you can fold up the top, too, if you wish.  Repeat with each wrapper.

Here are a list of ingredients that I like to add to my Summer Rolls:  grilled tofu strips; grilled shrimp; thinly sliced, seasoned and grilled beef, pork or chicken; mango slices, papaya slices, slices of crunchy apple; jicama strips, julienned radishes or daikon strips.

As for dipping sauces:  Ponzu sauce, which is a citrus-y soy sauce is nice.  Peanut sauce is traditional, as is sweet-hot chili sauce.  You can add a little hoisin sauce on the inside of the summer roll, if you like.  Sometimes I sprinkle a few drops of lime juice inside.

To make a quick peanut sauce:  Mix 1/2 C chunky style peanut butter with a few tablespoons of soy sauce and rice vinegar, add a few teaspoons sesame oil and a little agave syrup to taste.  You can stir in a little finely minced garlic, if you like.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Lettuce, basil, and cilantro;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Zucchini, garlic, kale, tomatoes, corn, and tomatillos;

From K and K Ranch:  Eggplant, yellow nectarines, apples, and natural Thompson grapes;

From Shear Rock Farms:  Tromboncino squash; and

From Weiser Family Farms:  Purple potatoes, yum yum peppers, and beets.



Friday, September 7, 2012

Jalapeno Escabeche and The Magic of Lacto-Fermentation

If you love the pickled jalapenos that many Mexican restaurants serve as much as I do, you'll be delighted to learn just how easy it is to whip them up through the miracle of lactic acid fermentation, also known as lacto-fermentation.

Fermentation is a natural process in which microorganisms such as bacteria convert sugars or carbohydrates in food into delicious byproducts of fermentation.  Wine is grape juice fermented into alcohol.  In lacto-fermented jalapeno escabeche, carbohydrates are fermented by lactobacilli bacteria into lactic acid which gives the peppers a tart and delicious pickle-like quality.

Lactobacilli are everywhere making lacto-fermentation super easy.  All you have to do is create an environment where lactobacilli will thrive while inhibiting the growth of less desirable bacteria.  And all this takes is a little salt and removing the oxygen.

Lactobacilli prefer a slightly saltier environment than many other bacteria.  However, too much salt is not good, so be sure to use the amount of salt called for in the recipe.  Lactobacilli don't like oxygen either, so keeping your fermenting peppers submerged in the brine prevents exposure to oxygen and promotes the fermentation process.

Fermentation works best in temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F - too warm and the peppers might lose their crunch; too cool and the fermentation process slows or comes to a stop.  I fermented my peppers on my counter for two weeks.  Now they'll keep in the fridge for six month or longer.

To make lacto-fermented jalapeno escabeche:

1.  Make a brine by dissolving 1.6 oz of kosher or pickling salt in 1 qt of filtered or non-chlorinated water.

2.  Prepare enough jalapenos, carrots, and onions to fill a clean 1 qt glass jar with a lid about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Wash the vegetables.  Slice the onions.  Peel and slice the carrots.  And slice, halve, or leave whole the jalapenos, you're choice.

3.  Put the veggies in the jar.  Cover completely with the brine.  Weight down the veggies so they stay completely submerged.  You can do this with a small plastic bag filled with brine or a small glass jar that fits inside your larger jar, also filled with brine.

4.  Close the jar and set it on the counter for 2 weeks.  Then remove the weight and store the escabeche in the fridge.

A few fermentation tips:
Use non-reactive equipment in good condition.  Scratched and damaged equipment may harbor undesirable bacteria that could spoil your fermentation.  Glass, stoneware, and stainless steel are all good choices.  Copper, brass, and iron react with acids or salts and cause off flavors.

Don't use iodized table salt, as iodine is an anti-microbial and will likely inhibit your fermentation.

Use fresh produce.  Older veggies have tougher skins which may resist fermentation; and spoiled produce already contains undesirable bacteria that may ruin your fermentation.

Feel free to add whole spices such as peppercorns, bay leaves, or rosemary sprigs for additional flavor, but avoid ground spices as they may make the brine cloudy or result in strange color changes.

Some lacto-fermentation recipes call for the addition of a teaspoon or two of whey, which you can get by draining off of yogurt.  This is fine, but not necessary.  Your veggies will ferment with or without whey. The juice from a live-culture sauerkraut will work just as well as whey, if you want to kick-start your fermentation.

Today's bounty included:

From Jaime Farms:  Romaine lettuce, basil, and cilantro;

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Patty pan squash, cucumbers, baby swiss chard, tomatillos, fresh garbanzos, mixed peppers, and yellow corn;

From K and K Ranch:  Gala apples and Thompson grapes;

From Shear Rock Farms:  Heirloom tomatoes; and

From Weiser Family Farms:  French fingerling potatoes and shallots.