Thursday, February 28, 2013

no-knead pizza dough.




























I am always amazed at how shocked people are when I tell them I make my own bread and pasta and pizza dough.  For me it’s become second nature.  If I want those things I will make the homemade version.  It provides me a sense of accomplishment but it also makes me feel like I am doing something good for myself.  When you make your own food you know exactly what’s going into it.  There are no chemicals or impossible to pronounce ingredients.  It’s food in it’s purest form and that should be everyone’s motivation for making food from scratch.  But maybe, the idea of bread making scares you.  (I can see why because it intimidated me at first) and if that is the case then this is the recipe for you! Do you own a wooden spoon (or even a regular spoon but you should own a wooden spoon) and a bowl?  Are you capable of stirring dough for all 2 minutes?  If so, you are capable of making your own pizza dough!  This involves no mixer, no fancy tools, nothing remotely difficult (which is why I made it twice in one week).   It’s conducive to any number of toppings (pictured is a white pizza with arugula and olive oil but I also made a corn pizza with tomato sauce), it’s quick and easy, and it is very, very good which is really the number one reason to cook in my book.    

No Knead Pizza Dough
Recipe from Joy the Baker

This recipe is just really good.  If you don’t have whole wheat flour you can use all bread flour.  I am also a fan of making the dough the night before and after the 2 hour rise placing it in the fridge overnight.  I think making it the night before is great for two reasons.  One is that it helps the flavor to develop and two because it makes dinner the following night super easy!  Just bring the dough to room temperature before stretching it. 

Makes 2 pizzas

2 ¾ cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
1 ½ cups warm water

In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and sugar.  Add warm water all at once.  Using a wooden spoon work the mixture until fully incorporated.  If necessary ditch the spoon and work the mixture with your hands.  The dough will be slightly shaggy. 

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Let rise at room temperature for 2 hours. 

After resting, dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide in half.  If you are only making one pizza then you can wrap the second piece of dough in plastic wrap and place in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  Defrost dough in the fridge overnight and allow to come to room temperature before pressing the pizza crust. 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. 

Working with one dough at a time, oil a 13x18 baking sheet with olive oil.  Place the rounded dough on the pan and stretch and press the dough out into a flat rectangle.  If the dough springs back as you are pressing it out, simply wait 5 minutes to allow the dough to rest and then try again.  The dough should be very thin.  If the dough tears, don’t worry, just press it back together.  Top the dough with the toppings of your choice.  Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes or until the edges are charred and bubbling. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

chinatown colors.

Spent the evening in Chinatown eating duck and buying pork buns (and dancing Gangnam Style).  It reminded me how much I love the color red and lots of light.  

(Here the light comes in the form of super high-gloss floors which I think are over the top in the best possible way.  I also think over the top is always the best.)





















Image via Pinterest.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

a california road trip.

The beauty of working for corporate America is that I am forced to take a mandatory two week vacation every year (it is the single best thing about working in corporate America).  The boy and I have used this time to visit many amazing far flung locations - Barcelona, Cape Town, London, and Buenos Aries, but this year we decided to stay a little closer to home and take a road trip down the coast of California.  I've had California on my mind for a while now.  I don't know what keeps drawing me to the other side of the US but I continually feel this pull.  I imagine a lot of this desire stems from the number of restaurants I've been dying to try - places I've heard about, read about, watched TV shows about but have yet to visit (until now!).  (I am literally salivating every time I think about all that I will get to eat.)  I am also super excited to finally experience life on the west coast.  Something quieter and more relaxed.  The pace of New York suits me (I can't imagine not living here as I thrive in a fast-paced environment)  but I am looking forward to experiencing a different kind of lifestyle.  One where you spend your mornings hiking in national parks and spending you afternoons drinking beer on the beach.  So the question is what are your can't miss spots.  Where should I search for antiques and vintage clothes? Where is the can't miss farmers markets?  Where can I find the best Mexican food?  What restaurant is your favorite?  Should I be worried I will never want to return to New York?  

Image via Pinterest.

Monday, February 25, 2013

red velvet cake.



























Before this whole red velvet cake investigation/baking extravaganza, I have to admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of red velvet cake.  I just never understood the appeal.  (As someone who loves cake as much as I do you can imagine how crazy a statement this is for me to make.)  But I may have to admit, that after embarking on the search for the perfect version, I have been converted.  How you may ask? It's because this cake is ridiculously good (really ridiculously good) .  It’s oh so moist the way every cake should always be.  The tang of the buttermilk comes through subtly but it still makes itself known and the cocoa powder is present but not overpowering.  The frosting is creamy and dreamy and not cloyingly sweet the way some cream cheese frostings can be.  I am going to make the bold statement that this is the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had and probably the only one I will ever eat going forward.  


Red Velvet Cake
Recipe adapted from NYTimes

Ok! As I mentioned in my previous post I looked at many red velvet recipes.  The amount of cocoa powder in these recipes ranged from 2 tablespoons all the way to ½ cup, which is absurd that there is such a range.  I knew from my own previous red velvet experience that I prefer a cake with a higher cocoa content so I did a test round using the ½ cup of cocoa powder.   While I loved it, the consensus among my guinea pigs was that it was too chocolaty to be considered a true red velvet cake.  I found that dialing the cocoa powder back to ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons was the perfect amount.  You still got a hint of chocolate but it wasn’t a chocolate punch.  I also dialed down the amount of food coloring.  The cake in my mind doesn’t need to be blindingly red (especially from the additional of chemicals!).  Even dialed back to 2 tablespoons it was plenty red!

Makes 3 9-inch cake layers

3 ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cake flour
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 ½ teaspoons white vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut circles out of parchment paper the same size as your cake pans.  Place the parchment rounds in the bottom of the pans and then grease your pans with butter.   

Whisk cake flour, cocoa, and salt in a bowl. 

Place oil and sugar in a bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time.  With machine on very low, very slowly add the red food coloring (take care it may splash!).  Add vanilla.  Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches.  Scrape down the bowl and beat just long enough to combine. 

Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add the to batter with machine running.  Beat for 10 seconds. 

Divide the batter among the pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 30 – 35 minutes. Let cool in pan 15 minutes.  Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment.  Cool completely before frosting. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe via Smitten Kitchen

In the notes on the Smitten Kitchen site, she mentions that this makes enough frosting for a lightly frosted cake.  I prefer a decent amount of frosting on my cake so I did 1 ½ times which made the perfect amount of frosting for the cake (in my humble opinion). 

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter, at room temperature
4 ½ cups confectioners sugar
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer (or you can use a handheld mixer).  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add sugar and vanilla.  Beat, on low speed to combine.  If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using. 

Icing/Decorating Notes

-I struggle a lot with icing cakes.  I find I can never make it that neat and then it looks like a 5 ½ year old got a hold of the cake before it made it the party (never a good look).  At the suggestion of Smitten Kitchen, I tried icing the cake in two batches, first a “crumb layer” and then a more decorative one.  To make the crumb layer you use a very thin layer of frosting to coat the cake (you should be able to see the cake through the frosting). When you have coated the cake, place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to let the icing firm up.  Once it firms up, remove from the fridge and then do a second icing layer so you no longer see the cake! 
-The gold sprinkles on my cake is gold sanding sugar.  It gives an amazing look to all baked goods.  The gold in particular is very classy!  You can find it at Willams Sonoma. 
-The hearts I made out of paper and just attached them to wooden dowels.  Simple and cute. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

tacos with potatoes and chorizo.



























Yesterday was National Margarita Day, and while I don't usually need a reason to have a drink (a typical work day is usually enough of a reason), I felt it was only fitting to start my evening with a liquid libation in the form of tequila and lime.  While in theory, spending my evening drinking tequila seems like a good idea (everyone knows that only smart logical decisions are only made when consuming tequila), I figured a little hand-held snack to accompany my hand-held drink would help abate a pounding headache the next morning.  Since tacos and margaritas go together like peanut butter and jelly therein lie the answer of what to make for dinner.  I have had for several weeks now been thinking about a recipe for chorizo and potato tacos.  The idea of chorizo and potato tacos seemed like a more flavorful corned beef hash which in my book is always a good thing, especially if you can pile the hash up into warm corn tortillas with wedges of avocado and a drizzle of sour cream which is exactly what we did for dinner.  It was warm and comforting and the epitome of the perfect accompaniment to a blood orange and lime margarita which was inspired by the always on point Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen (I've said it before and will say it again, she always knows what I want before I even know).  

Tacos de Papas con Chorizo (Tacos with Potatoes and Chroizo)
Recipe adapted (barely) from Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales by Roberto Santibanez

These are ridiculously good.  There isn't much to say beyond that.  I imagine they would also be fabulous combined with scrambled eggs in a breakfast burrito (for those Saturday mornings when you need something to help combat a wicked hang-over.) 

Serves 4 (makes enough for 12 small tortillas)

1 pound red-skinned or Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (or more depending on how salty your chorizo is)
3/4 pound Mexican chorizo, casings removed if there are any
1 cup finely chopped white onion
1 -2  jalapeno chiles, minced 
Accompaniments: Sliced avocado, diced cilantro, sour cream, tequila

Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat.  While you bring the water to boil, peel the potatoes and dice them into 1/4 inch cubes.  When the water comes to boil, add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and then add the potatoes.  Cook the potatoes until they are tender about 5 - 8 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  

While the potatoes are cooking, place the chorizo in a cold, large, cast-iron skillet or other large heavy bottomed pan and set it over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, and breaking up the chorizo slightly, until it's completely cooked and lightly browned about 8-10 minutes.  Add the onions and chile and cook, stirring and scraping, until the onions are translucent and soft about 5 - 6 minutes.  

Add the potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until the potatoes are hot all the way through and have absorbed some of the chorizo flavor, about 5 - 6 minutes.  As you cook, mash some of the potatoes.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

marble counters.

I don't like to consider myself a super girly girl, but these feminine  bright, and utterly gorgeous marble countertops and gold fixtures make me literally weak in the knees.  

I wont deny that I also have a very strong affinity for all those pink glasses and bowls.  (Ok, so maybe I am a girly girl.)

























Image via here!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the makings of an engagement cake.

Currently testing out one of three recipes for red velvet cake, as I prepare the engagement cake for one of closest friends.  As someone who cooks a lot and loves to cook for others it makes me feel really special to have something I make be a (small) part of someone's (especially someone I love oh so much) big day (or second biggest day as this is the engagement cake and not the wedding cake!).  

I realized in researching red velvet cakes that there are A LOT of versions out there.  I have tried many red velvet cakes in my day and most were bad but one from Betty Bakery in Brooklyn was absolutely killer. It wasn't cloyingly sweet and it had a wonderful undercurrent of cocoa powder which made me realize that all other red velvet cakes I have ever encountered were all wrong!  The cocoa powder gives it dimension.  I've spent hours trying to find a recipe that came close to mirroring this and as I mentioned above I found three that seem to come close.  Will report back this weekend/next week with the results!









Image via Pinterest.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

neapolitan meatballs.



























I got to thinking about meatballs this week and the fact that there are far too many gutsied up, fancy pants versions of meatballs.  I usually (ahem, always) fall hard for the fancy, over-the-top versions of things.  I mean why shouldn’t I try and add chipotles, Mexican oregano, and lime juice to my meatballs to make a Tex-Mex version?  Why shouldn’t I try serving a Thai meatball in a coconut broth with noodles instead of the traditional tomato sauce ?  I realized as all these thoughts swam through my head that there is a reason why one should stick with the traditional meatball recipe and that is that it’s pure comfort food (except we all know I will never stick with the traditional versions of things but on occasion traditional is best).  I know a real Italian would be horrified to see us serving meatballs atop of spaghetti but I, like millions of other American’s enjoy this Italian-American classic especially when you serve these Neapolitan meatballs atop your pasta.  These are the lightest and tenderest meatballs I have ever encountered.  They melt in your mouth in a way you didn’t think was possible.  I think, they are the single most perfect thing one can eat on a cold Sunday evening in February. 

Neapolitan Meatballs (Polpette alla Napoletana)
Recipe adapted (barely) from Molto Italiano by Mario Batali

Serves 6 making 18-24 meatballs (depending on size)

3 cups day old bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ¼ pounds ground beef
3 eggs, beaten
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¾ cup pecorino romano, grated
1 (small) bunch of Italian parsley, finely chopped to yield ¼ cup
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted for about 2 minutes in a 400 degree oven
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
To serve: tomato sauce (recipe below) and pasta of your choice (I love bucatini)

In a shallow bowl soak the bread cubes in enough milk or water to cover (milk gives more flavor). Soak for about 10 minutes.  Remove the bread cubes and squeeze by hand to wring excess moisture. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  (You can also form the meatballs into the balls and store them in the fridge to bake-off later in the day.)  

In a large bowl, combine the bread, beef, eggs, garlic, pecorino, parsley, pine nuts, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper and mix by hand to incorporate bread into meat.  With wet hands, form the mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball (you can always make them bigger if you prefer, but baking time will be longer then).  Place the meatballs on a foil lined baking sheet that has been greased with a little bit of olive oil. 

Bake the meatballs in the oven for about 20 minutes until cooked all the way through.  When done cooking, gently remove the meatballs from the foil and place them in the tomato sauce, turning them so all sides get coated with sauce.  Serve on a bed of pasta with additional cheese for serving. 

Tomato Sauce

About 4 cups of sauce

I can barely consider this a recipe but for the sake of this blog I will record it here.  This could not be any easier and it’s about 1000 times better then any jarred pasta sauce out there.  I tend to make a lot of this at one time and then freeze it individual containers so I always have tomato sauce ready for pizza night or pasta.  Frozen, the sauce will keep for a couple of months. 

2 28-oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (I love the San Marzano crushed tomatoes but any crushed ones will work – try and pick the ones with the least amount of salt!)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large heavy bottom sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and sauté for about 30 seconds (you want the garlic to be just golden), then add the tomatoes, bringing the sauce to a gentle boil.  Cook the tomatoes, stirring occasionally until the sauce begins to thicken, about 20 – 25 minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

grapefruit olive oil pound cake.




























At the onset of the hurricane, I developed a serious craving for cake.  I imagine it came about because of the delay in my visit to the Sunshine State.  (Sometimes the only way to cure your blues is with a slice of cake.)  I contemplated during the very beginning of the snowstorm, venturing out to Bed Bath and Beyond in my completely impractical shoes and non-water resistant coat to buy a set of 6-inch cake pans (something that’s been on my to-buy list for a while).  However, making a mini triple layer cake for one during a snowstorm just seemed a little overly indulgent (not that I didn’t contemplate doing so for several hours).

That evening I arrived home from work without cake and proceeded to investigate every cookbook I had in an attempt to find the recipe that would satisfy my craving.  Something simple and comforting that wouldn't take 12 bowls and 3 hours to make.  Surprise, surprise the answer was found in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook in the form of a grapefruit olive oil pound cake. (Deb Pearlman how do you always know what I want before I even know what I want.)  This cake is oh so light.  It’s tender and subtle and everything a pound cake (and non-pound cakes!) should be.  The grapefruit and olive oil pair beautiful together (I need to eat more salads like this!) and the glaze makes it feel a little indulgent (it’s tart and sweet).  I found this best enjoyed with a cup of tea, an oversized throw blanket, a pile of the latest spring fashion magazines, and a blizzard outside your window. 

Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake

Makes one 9x5 loaf

For the cake

1 ½ cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 tablespoons freshly grated grapefruit zest (from 1-2 large grapefruits)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup raw or turbinado sugar (or use more granulated sugar)
½ cup olive oil
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1/3 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

For the syrup

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/3 cup grapefruit juice

For the glaze

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
Pinch of salt

Heat the over to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan. 

In a large bowl, combine the two sugars and the grapefruit zest.  Rub the grapefruit zest with your fingertips.  This will help release as much grapefruit essence as possible.  Whish in the oil until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time and whisk until combined.  Scrape down the bowl. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a second bowl.  In a liquid measuring cup combine the 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice with the buttermilk (or yogurt.  Add the flour and buttermilk (yogurt) mixtures, alternating between them, to the oil-and-sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. 

Spread the batter in the pan and bang the pan on the counter a few times to make sure there are no air bubbles. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. 

For the syrup, combine the 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/3 cup grapefruit juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. 

When the cake is finished, let it cool for 10 minutes in its pan before inverting it onto a rack.  Poke holes in the cake with a toothpick or fork.  Spoon or brush the grapefruit syrup over the cake.  Let cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioner’s sugar, grapefruit juice, and pinch of salt in a bowl, whisking until smooth.  Pour the glaze over the top of the cooled cake and allow to drizzle decoratively down the sides. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

pink.

I stopped at Whole Foods on my way home at the request of my other half to pick up an avocado.  I watched in amazement at the number of men bewildered about which bouquet of flowers to buy.  I  watched one to many guys starring at iPhones and printed recipes trying to figure out what to buy in order to make a satisfactory meal that expressed their love (apparently lobster tails is the way to go as they were on sale or $5.99 and men were lined up at the counter).  I also saw one guy walking to the subway with a pizza from Adrienne's and a bouquet of beautiful pink tulips and thought he knew what love is (or at least what my kind of love is).

Here's hoping you are spending your evening in a way that makes you perfectly happy.  



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

homemade granola bars.



























My idea of romance involves chocolate, pink peonies or dahlias, and grilled cheese or pizza or fondue for dinner (can you tell I like cheese?) - best enjoyed while wearing my most worn in sweat pants and an oversized cashmere sweater (and dinner will be followed by the exchanging of homemade cards because homemade involves effort and is far cuter).  I've never been one to obsess over the typical tokens of affection that seem to plague all stores around Valentines Day (except for the je t'aime necklace I spotted on the Barney's website.  That stole my heart).  Sure I want chocolate and flowers (but not Russell Stover chocolates or red roses) but I never want to be taken out for an evening of overly expensive price-fixe dinner.  Take me out any other night, on Valentine's Day I want to stay home and snuggle. I've also never felt the need to exchange overly expensive gifts (unless of course you want to buy me the je t'aime necklace or the arrow necklace and in that case call me and we'll talk), I much prefer small tokens of affection.  Things that remind the other person that you know them so well.  I like giving presents because I like showing people how much I love them.  This is how I found myself making my better half a box of homemade granola bars as a Valentine's Day token of affection.  He loves snacks and a homemade version of his favorite snack seemed to me the perfect gift.  These are simple but so much better then anything you can buy in the store. (Except for the granola bars at Bouchon Bakery in Rockefeller Center but that's a story for another time.) These can also be customized any number of ways making them the perfect gift for the ones you love.


Homemade Granola Bars
Recipe adapted (slightly) from Ina Garten

This is the kind of recipe that can be adapted to whatever flavors you prefer.  Want pecans instead of almonds?  Sounds good to me!  Prefer dried cherries to dried cranberries?  Swap them!  You can even use chocolate chips in place of some of the fruit.  As long as you keep the proportions the same, you can make any variation.  My next plan is to use half pistachios and half almonds and lots of dried cherries to try and mimic my favorite granola.

Makes 12-16 Bars

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup thinly sliced or chopped almonds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, loosely packed
½ cup toasted wheat germ (I actually used pumpkin seeds which worked perfectly!)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup chopped dried apricots
¾ cup dried cranberries

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8 by 12 inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ or pumpkin seeds. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. 

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and slat in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture.  Add the apricots and cranberries and stir well. 

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Wet your fingers (or use a piece of parchment) and lightly press the mixture into the pan.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until light golden brown.  Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.  Can be stored in an air tight container for up to a week. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

miami style.

I just came back from Miami - the land of sunshine and pretend.  Everything about the city feels unrealistic  It's hard to imagine people working typical 9-5 office jobs.  How can you when it's always warm and bright and a pool or beach is always within arms reach?  The whole thing felt utterly over the top and extravagant.  (The hotel we stayed at was the epitome of over the top chicness - it had 5 pools!)  All of this means that I spent the entire flight home thinking about how I could bring that level of elegance into my home.  A dinning room like the below would be a pretty good place to start.  Blue curtains whose color mirror that of the ocean.  A chandelier in the style of the art-deco period.  I want it all. 


























Image via Pinterest.


Friday, February 8, 2013

grilled avocado and corn salad.

Have you noticed there is a blizzard going on outside ride now?  A blizzard named Nemo (I mean really who names these things?) and he is wreaking havoc on the city and flights (Miami I’ll be seeing you Sunday sorry for the delay).  I imagine you are sitting at home eating chocolate chip cookies and drinking hot chocolate (don’t tell me I’m the only one) and watching the fat flakes fall in an endless stream onto the city streets.  I haven’t experienced a winter wonderland like this in quite a while and I forgot how beautiful and quiet it can be when everyone is hibernating inside.  It’s rather magical, so magical in fact that I found self pressing my face to the glass in order to get a better look at the world outside.  Sometimes my inner child has a way of emerging. 

I decided this week, as a reward for making it to February, to finally dip into my stash of frozen summer vegetables.  I have the tendency to hoard summer’s bounty in my freezer so when the depths of winter doldrums have arrived I have a little of sun – a reminder of what will eventually arrive again.  I settled on the corn and knew a simple sautéed corn salad would help to cure my winter blues.  The cumin and crushed chipotle peppers give a great deal of warmth and complexion to the dish.  The grilled avocado provided the perfect creamy buttery touch to the salad.  I found myself slathering warmed avocado on homemade whole wheat bread and topping it with the corn salad.  It was an open faced sandwich that bridged the gap between seasons. 

Grilled Avocado and Corn Salad
Recipe adapted from Not Without Salt

I imagine when corn is in season again, this will then be on heavy rotation.  Cooking the salad on a cast iron skillet and grilling the avocados over an open flame will give the whole dish a smokiness that can never be achieved indoors.  If you don’t have a gas stove you can omit the grilling of the avocados. 

Also, this recipe is adapted from one I found on the most well-written and beautifully photographed food blog I have ever read called Not Without Salt (thanks Simone!).  She has beautifully well-written thoughts not only about food but also about love and what it means to be in a relationship.  I highly recommend it and I also recommend you have several hours available before you start reading because it’s addicting. 

Serves 2

1 tablespoon oil
3 cups frozen corn
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed chipotle pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/3 cup diced queso fresco or feta
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro 
1 avocado, halved
Sea salt for sprinkling

In a large sauté pan heat the tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot add the corn to the pan, stir to heat through.  Add the cumin and crushed pepper and continue to cook until the corn is heat through and just beginning to carmelize, about 3 minutes.  Add the sour cream and stir to combine.  Mix in the cheese and continue to cook for another minute.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Stir in the cilantro and remove the corn from the heat. 

Place the avocado cut side down on the burner over a medium heat.  Heat for a minute and the flip.  Divide the corn onto 2 plates and top each with an avocado half and then a sprinkle of sea salt.