Monday, May 31, 2010

Fresh Corn Salad

Ina Garten... Oh, how I adore her. My fancying of Ina will be quite clear after I will soon blog three posts in a row all dedicated to the East Coast Cutie. There are many, many reasons why I adore her. Good reasons, silly reasons... But I suppose I will spare you on this Memorial Day. The most important reason I love her is because of her food. It without fail, ALWAYS looks unbelievably delicious! And, it always is just that. Unbelievably delicious. The picture below shows a piece of grilled chicken breast. The poultry itself looks a bit scary to me in this shot, but the thing tasted amazing! It's chicken from Trader Joe's and it comes in this little pouch, with lots of liquid... I know it sounds horrific but something about all of those mysterious chicken juices kind of brines everything, in my opinion. I say that because this particular brand always grills beautifully and is very, very tender and moist. It was juicy and flavorful already with lots of salt and pepper, but then we gilded the lilly by butter-flying the breast, and then filling it to the brim with my mother's homemade pesto, mozzarella, and sliced of fresh vine tomatoes. It was devilishly good, and I'm not even a huge fan of the bird.

But, as good as this chicken was. That's not what I'm here to tell you about. What I'm here to tell you about is this gorgeous corn salad. I first had this recipe at my parents house in central Washington. They live way out in the county and have a lovely, sprawling view of the area and a massive covered deck to accompany it. They also have a huge gas grill and lots and lots of comfortable seating. You can see where this is going. I don't remember the occasion but we had a fabulous BBQ and this corn salad was in the mix. My mother had ear-marked the recipe from one of Ina's books and also happened to have a nice crate of fresh corn. So that was that. This recipe couldn't be simpler, well, it can be if you use good canned corn, but then it loses a bit of its glory... still excellent though! Corn, basil, red onion, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. That's it. My husband could eat gallons of this salad. Possibly in one day. It's that good! The last couple times I've made it I've used canned corn, and not to sound like a Trader Joe's Advertisement, but the best corn for crunch that I have found comes from them too. Nothing is as good as making this salad from sweet, fresh ears of corn. But out of season and in a pinch, canned corn is just fine. This recipe is delicious because you have crunch and sweetness from the corn, interesting flavor from the fresh basil, tanginess and brininess from the simple vinaigrette, and then plenty of salt and pepper ensure tons of flavor. It's great alongside grilled meats or just all by itself with a big bowl and spoon! You also might consider doubling the recipe because it will undoubtedly vanish way sooner than you will like it to!

Fresh Corn Salad
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, 1999

5 ears corn, shucked
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup chiffonade fresh basil leaves (directions follow)

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob. (Yes, you can use leftover, cooked and cooled corn.)

Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature. Makes about 4 or 5 servings.
To make chiffonade: Stack basil leaves, then cut across the stack to make small "ribbons."

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ina's Double Chocolate Cookies

These cookies are special. They are special because they are fudgy, buttery, and tender. They are also special because everyone I know and love likes them a lot! These cookies even helped me get a job once. I knew they would seal the deal. I saw Ina make these on her show a several years ago and they just looked so tasty that I had to make them right away. And I've been making them regularly ever since! I believe she turned them into Ice Cream Sandwiches for her guests although I've never used them for that. They don't taste like any other chocolate cookie I've had, a lot of butter and vanilla. Nice saltiness. These cookies really can change depending on how long you cook them. They are supposed to look pretty gooey in the middle when they come out of the oven. Just keep an eye on them! I think it's a must to serve these with a very indulgent sized class of ice cold whole milk. Let me know how you like them!

Barefoot Contessa's Double Chocolate Cookies

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds good white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt and add to the chocolate with the mixer on low speed until just combined. Fold in the chopped white chocolate.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for exactly 15 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

A Great Gazpacho

Well, I'm back! The dark cloud of depression actually lifted months ago, it's just taken me some time to really get back. I've had intentions of blogging for a few months, I suppose I just wasn't quite ready or inspired enough! My dearest girlfriend, Mallory, from A Sofa in the Kitchen, is so talented and with her post of pictures from our cooking groups dinner last night I just couldn't resist any longer! I have missed taking pictures of food, having a great reason to try new recipes, writing about this subject I adore, and basically just sharing myself with you! It's been awhile, so bear with me as we get back into the swing of things around Use the Good China...

I find it a bit surprising that the first food I should blog on after this long, long hiatus is gazpacho. To tell you the truth, I've had it several times and really didn't love it enough to ever crave or desire it, let alone make it for any purpose! However, I recently had a delightful friend over for dinner and decided to grill up some vegetable and cheese paninis. I really wanted to serve them with a nice cup of soup but decided that it just wouldn't be right, it's time to pay some respect to spring and the gorgeous weather and warmth we've been experiencing here in the Northwest. So then, I thought, well, vegetable salad? No, too boring. And with all of the veggies going into the sandwiches? GAZPACHO? Really? It's practically a salad, super fresh, light. So, I went to my favorite food resource of all time: Epicurious. I found a recipe that looked easy and flavorful and got down with my bad self and my Cuisinart. I have to say, I just Love this stuff. If too many hours pass, I start craving it. It's salty, savory, spicy punch. I also like the little bits of vegetables that don't get completely pureed. And, as you can see in the photo above, there are little oil bubbles hovering over the soup. To me, a good soup always has that layer. Fat makes for a silky mouth feel, and in my opinion, even light soups need it! I've always liked V8 and this isn't a far stretch, the thing is, I don't like it cold. I've never been one for cold soups. It just doesn't seem right. No matter how open I try to be, I just can't do it. Don't get me wrong, I like cold things. Water... I prefer it ice arctic cold. Fruit... colder the better. It's just that I've got it in my head that soups should be piping hot. So, I really prefer this gazpacho at a slightly cool room temperature. When its icy cold you can't really taste the depth of flavors that lie within anyway. I also highly recommend giving this soup several additional hefty lashings of tabasco when you serve it individually!

I love that this recipe is so easy to prepare. No cooking. All you have to do is roughly dice up some herbs and veggies, measure a few flavorings, and blend. It gets better with time and will last up to a week chilled in the refrigerator. I think it will become a summer staple, if you know what I mean. Thanks for having me back, I won't leave again for a long, long time! Stop in often, I'd love to have you!!!

Really, really Good Gazpacho
adapted from


6 c tomato juice

2 large tomatoes

1/3 Lg English Cucumber

2 lg bell peppers, I used Red and Green

1 T honey

2 clove crushed garlic

4 scallions (chop to light green part)

juice from 1/2 lemon & 1/2 lime

1.5 Tbs red wine vinegar

3 T fresh chopped basil

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/3 cup chopped parsley

dash tobasco

4 T. olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (up to 1/4 tsp if you like the extra bite)


1. Chop veggies and fresh herbs into chunks.

2. Put in Cuisinart and Chop until chunky (about 10 - 15 seconds)

3. Add 3 c. of the tomato juice and chop some more until thick but still have small pieces of veggies. Don't puree completely.

4. Pour into Container, taste and season as necessary.

Add more tomato juice and stir well, continuing to add until desired consistency. I used all 6 cups.

5. Regrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve topped with creme fresh or Sour Cream, and chopped scallion.