Friday, August 04, 2006


Again, I’ve had this for a while and have no idea where it came from. While I didn’t have the good fortune to eat any seasoned corn like this while in Oaxaca (though I made up for it by eating plenty of mole and guacamole…and I even tried fried grasshoppers), I love to keep this zesty concoction in a spare salt shaker each summer to sprinkle over my buttered corn at home. A loves it, too. To me (and I’d say I have about a medium spiciness tolerance), it’s not too hot—just enough to perk up the corn and contrast with its sweetness—but I’d start with just a light sprinkling on your corn until you’re sure you like it.

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground red pepper (cayenne)
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Mix seasonings together in a small bowl. Prepare and cook corn, spread with butter, sprinkle on all sides with seasoning mixture, and enjoy. The extra seasoning mixture will keep nicely in a salt shaker, covered jar, or other container for at least a few months.

Serves: The recipe says this makes “enough to cover 8-12 ears of corn,” but I’d say I’ve had the same saltshaker full of seasoning for…oh gosh, over a year now (its flavor has probably faded a bit, but I still like it) and it’s still at least 1/3 full. Maybe the creators of this recipe liked to encrust their corn in the seasoning, but we just sprinkle it on as we would do with salt. So I’d say a batch of this will last two moderate seasoning users through a summer of active corn-eating.

Time: 5 minutes


This is what we had with the corn cakes the other night. I’m surprised I haven’t posted it before, since we eat it fairly often as a summer side dish, with chicken or zucchini fritters or such. I’ve had it for so long, I have no idea where it came from.

This salad is really like eating a big bowl full of bruschetta. The original recipe calls for stale bread; I think the texture is supposed to be softer, with the dressing completely soaking into the bread. But I like to enhance the bruschetta resemblance by toasting my bread cubes in a skillet with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) beforehand, which makes it crisper. Do whichever you like. Just be sure to make this salad with perfectly fresh, ripe, meaty summer tomatoes.

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
6 cups cubed stale or lightly toasted bread (I use French baguette)
2-3 large round tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
½ to 1 small red onion, sliced as finely as possible
1 cup (combined) chopped fresh basil, cilantro, and dill

1. In a small bowl or screw-top jar, mix together the vinegar, oil, water, garlic, and salt and pepper.

2. Mix together tomatoes, onion, and herbs in a large bowl, add the dressing and bread cubes, and toss well. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes, then serve.

Serves: 3-4
Time: 20 minutes


  • Jack Bishop: Pasta e Verdura* and Vegetables Every Day*
  • Anthony Bourdain: Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour
  • Laurie Colwin: Home Cooking* and More Home Cooking*
  • David Kamp: The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation
  • Barbara Kingsolver (with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver): Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
  • David Lebovitz: The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments
  • Susan Marks: Finding Betty Crocker
  • Michael Pollen: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
  • Julie Powell: Julie & Julia
  • Ruth Reichl: Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires
  • Adam D. Roberts: The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table-Hop Like a Pro
  • Laura Shapiro: Perfection Salad
  • Nigel Slater: The Kitchen Diaries and Toast
  • Jeffrey Steingarten: The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must Have Been Something I Ate
  • Jane and Michael Stern: Two for the Road and Roadfood
  • Calvin Trillin: The Tummy Trilogy* (American Fried, Alice, Let’s Eat, and Third Helpings), Feeding a Yen, and Travels With Alice
  • Patricia Volk: Stuffed
  • Carole Walter: Great Cookies*
  • Molly Wizenberg: A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table
* = most favorite

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I’ve been obsessed with fresh corn this summer. Now that I’ve finally located the one vendor at my farmers’ market that sells the perfect, sweet white-and-yellow corn prevalent in Minnesota, rather than the plain white corn that is inexplicably dominant in California, I want to eat corn on the cob at least once a week, covered in butter and salt, or butter and salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, or butter and this awesome spicy seasoning mixture I have a recipe for (remind me to post that, huh?), preferably accompanied by BLTs. I’ve also been gung-ho to try some new corn recipes. This one is from old reliable Jack Bishop, published in Vegetables Every Day. Except for grating the corn, which is a teeny bit of a pain (though it seemed much easier the second time I tried it than the first), it’s incredibly easy and comes together quickly. And the corn cakes taste delicious, a little bit savory, a little bit sweet, crisp outside and tender inside. They’re more like actual pancakes than my beloved zucchini fritters; I like them nearly as much and often contemplate making an entire fritter-based dinner that would feature both of them, but I think all that grating and frying might drive me bonkers. Jack says the corn cakes are “delicious with grilled fish or roast chicken. A tomato salad would round out the meal.” So far, we’ve been eating them as a main dish instead of a side dish, devouring two or three apiece with tomatoes on the side—either Stuffed Tomatoes Caprese or Italian Bread-and-Tomato Salad (which, holy cow, I haven’t posted that here? Well, recipe is forthcoming) works well. I’m thinking you could actually top the corn cakes with a fresh tomato salsa (tomato, olive oil, basil, maybe some onion or garlic), but then why mess with such a good and simple thing?

4 medium ears corn
1 large egg
¼ cup flour
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Grate the corn on the large holes of a box grater set over a large bowl until the cobs are clean, then discard the cobs. To the bowl of corn, add egg, flour, cheese, chives, salt, and pepper, and stir until the batter is smooth.

2. Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet. Fill a ¼-cup measuring cup with batter. Pour into the pan to form a round cake. Repeat using all the batter. (You should get about six cakes. You may have to cook them in two batches if your skillet isn’t big enough; if so, add a little more butter before cooking the second batch.). Cook over medium heat, turning once, until the cakes are a rich golden brown color on both sides, about 9 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves: 2–6
Time: 20–30 minutes


Neither my busy schedule nor the unusually brutal Southern California temperatures (it reached 107 degrees in Pasadena the weekend before last) have diminished my gusto for cooking and eating…just my gusto for writing and posting about it, apparently. But the heat wave’s broken, I have some free time (well, freer, anyway, with my hostessing and bridesmaid’s duties behind me), and I’m turning over a new leaf. Here’s one of the fresh, summery, mercifully simple recipes the weather compelled me to try last week. It’s from a little paperback book called Favourite Recipes From Books for Cooks 1, 2, and 3, which A’s mom gave me (signed by one of the authors) for Christmas. She bought it on a trip to England (Books for Cooks is a store in London). I think its non-glossiness and lack of photos put me off for a while, because this is the first thing I’ve attempted from it. (Luckily, I did not need to rely on my shoddy understanding of the metric system, as the measurements were thoughtfully given in both sets of units. I’ve reprinted them American-style.)

As usual for me when I embark upon a new recipe, by the time I started cooking I’d forgotten how delicious the food initially sounded to me and had turned suspicious. I don’t completely like beans, after all, and beans plus pasta sounded like a lot of starch, and 4 cups of broth per 1 can beans (yes, I used the canned; boiling beans for 1½ hours would have been unbearable in triple-digit heat) sounded like it would make a really runny soup. But it turned out great—a bit thinner than what I think of when I think of bean soup, but who wants a thick, hearty soup after you’ve broken a sweat just chopping tomatoes? My microwave got so warm it temporarily burned out while I was defrosting my homemade frozen chicken broth, but aside from that everything came together quickly and easily, and it tasted delicious—savory, a little spicy, refreshing (I served it warm, but not hot): perfect for a hot evening. The tomatoes really make this dish, so use good ones; I favor a mix of heirlooms.

4 ripe tomatoes, diced
¼ red onion, finely chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
A handful of basil leaves, cut into strips
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
4 ounces (2/3 cup) dry cannellini beans (or other white beans), soaked overnight and simmered until tender (1 to 1½ hours), or 1 can (14 to 15 ounces) cannellini (or other white) beans, drained
3 ounces (1/2 cup) dried mezzi tubetti, ditalini, or other small pasta
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. For the salsa, mix the tomato, red onion, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 tablespoon basil together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

2. To make the soup, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and the rest of the basil and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Pour in the stock, add the beans, bring to a boil, and simmer steadily for 15 minutes. Ladle out a cupful (or more) of the beans and their liquid, put into a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth. Stir back into the soup.

3. Add the pasta to the soup and simmer steadily until al dente. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve the soup hot or warm, topping each serving with a generous spoonful of the salsa. Finish with a swirl of olive oil and grated Parmesan, if you like.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes