Monday, August 23, 2010

Corn soup for mom

Quick, go out to the market now and get fresh corn before its too late. Yes, yes, I know, there is frozen corn year around, but then you won't be able to extract the wonderful corniness (yes, I consider that a word) out of the cobs.  Our mom is visiting now and I really wanted her to try the true essence of the sweet New Jersey corn.  Hence, a simple, creamy, soothing corn soup. This soup barely needs anything beyond corn, a knob of butter, a little cream, and a few shallots or small onions, which makes it perfect for warm Wednesday evening after I've been staring at the sun from the office window.

The dinner was complete with crusty bread and a salad of local tomatoes and mozzarella.  There is really no good reason to mess with summer market produce.

Fresh corn soup
6 cobs of fresh corn
8 cups of water
2 medium shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2-3 tablespoons of cream or creme frache
Salt and pepper

Remove the corn husks and cut the kernels of the cobs.  Bring the corn cobs and water to the boil in a large pan and simmer for 20-30 minutes to make a quick corn stock.  Feel free to scrape the cobs a bit with a spatula to extract some of that corn "milk".

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan and saute the shallots over medium-low heat until soft, but not browning.  Add the corn kernels and let them toast a bit in the butter with a touch of salt.  Pour in the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for l5-20 minutes until the corn is tender and sweet. The only thing you don't want to do with this soup is overcook the corn, which can become starchy instead of sweet.

Off the heat, puree the soup in a blender or with a hand blender.  Please be careful when blending hot liquids; it is best done in batches.  Set a strainer over a large bowl and strain 2/3 of the soup, pressing down on the corny solids.  I like to keep some of the soup not strained for a bit of texture.  Return the soup to low heat, stir in 2-3 tablespoons of cream or creme frache, and season to taste with salt and a bit of pepper.  The 30 minutes I spent making the soup were perhaps the most gratifying in my day.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer cannelloni stew and smitten hamantaschen cookies

Beans (skip this if using canned beans):
4 cups of dried cannelloni beans
10-12 cups of water
1 TBSP Kosher salt
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 springs of sage

Rinse beans and cover with water. Soak beans for at least 12 hours.
Rinse beans again. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add beans and remaining ingredients.
Simmer beans in a covered pot for 30 minutes. Open the lid and simmer for another 15-30 minutes until beans a soft, but don't fall apart.
Remove beans from the pot reserving 2 cups of bean water and discard sage with garlic.

1 TBSP olive oil
2 ounces of cubed guanciale or prosciutto or smoked bacon
3 medium or 2 large carrots piled if skin is thick and chopped into small rounds or half rounds
4 cups of cannelloni beans
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil (I use the same pot that I made beans in) and add meat. Lower the heat to medium low and cover the meat letting the fats melt.
Once the fats melted increase the heat and add carrots and saute for 2-3 minutes until carrots are caramelized.
Mix in the beans and saute for another minute or so.
Add reserved bean water and lower the heat to simmer.
Let the stew simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes until the liquid thickens.
If you like heartier stew mash the beans lightly with a potato masher.

Serve with toasted dark bread and good beer.
Recipe for cookies can be found at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fresh cranberry beans with summer pistou

I can't pass a farmers' market without buying something. Last week I got lucky and snagged a tangle of fresh cranberry beans, still in their pods, a few quick steps away from dinner. Fresh beans cook in 20 - 25 minutes and certainly don't need soaking. At the same stand, I grabbed some parsley and arugula, thinking a quick pistou would be a lovely foil for the beans. We ate the beans with a big arugula salad and some homemade meatballs that mom made.

Fresh cranberry beans with summer pistou
Serves 2 -4, depending on what else is for dinner
1.5 pounds of fresh cranberry beans to make about 1 pound shelled
A good fistful of parsley
1-2 cups of arugula
1 garlic clove
Hard cheese, like Parmesan, finely grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil, salt, pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil and shell the beans by pulling on the string at one side meanwhile. Salt the water generously and add the beans. Taste them after 20 minutes; drain if tender or let cook for another 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile, make the pistou. I make mine using a mortar and pestle, but you can use a small food processor. If you decide to use a mortar and pestle, chop the parsely and arugula and the garlic finely, then pound in the mortar, adding salt, pepper, grated Parmesan cheese, juice of 1/2 lemon and 1/4 cup of olive oil. If making in the food processor, just let the machine blitz it all together. Either way, taste to make sure you like it.
By now, the beans should be tender but not mushy. Mix the drained beans with the pistou, taste to see if additional cheese, salt, or pepper are needed and serve.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pickled/preserved lemons

I ended up with 20 lemons because they were on sale. Almost immediately I started to crave a braised chicken with olives and preserved lemons ( this is actually what I want NOW instead of the salmon that's baking in the oven). Good food required patience. It takes about 2-3 days to pickle lemons, which means for the next couple days I will be thinking about the braised chicken every time I rotate the jar with lemons.

Pickled/preserved lemons
1 tsp of kosher salt per lemon
1 tsp of lightly crushed black paper corns  
glass jar with a lid

Wash and put the jar in a 225F oven for about 20 minutes to sterilize it. Meanwhile was and dry lemons.
Cut lemons vertically into 4 equal slices keeping slices attached to each other at the bottom and creating a flower shape. I cut lemons on a plate not to waste lemon juice.
Salt each lemon inside and out.  Take the jar out of the oven and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt on the bottom of the jar. Pack lemons in the jar and add pepper with reserved lemon juice. Close the lid tightly. If the jar is not at least 3/4 filled with lemon juice add more juice.
Keep the jar at a room temperature and turn on a daily basis coating each lemon with the juice for next 2-3 days. 

After opening, lemons stay fresh  refrigerated for 3 months.