Monday, August 26, 2013

Savory Corn Pudding

School starts in two days, and I’m too catatonically depressed to say much. But: this was a fantastic dinner! It was all I could do not to make my usual favorite late-summer corn dish, but I’m glad I tried something new. The pudding is delicious: like an herby, cheesey corn-filled soufflé.

The corn stays sweet and burstingly juicy, plus, the whole thing is so cheap and easy to make, and you could add any herbs you like (cilantro would be good, and so would basil).

I’m adding the arugula salad recipe, not because you couldn’t figure it out on your own, but because it really is so simple and delicious. Kind of like another salad, I’m realizing.

Savory Corn Pudding
Serves 4 to 6

This recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison’s absolutely beautiful, useful book Local Flavors—a book I turn to constantly at this time of year, when I often have lots of this or that particular, fresh vegetable, without a clear sense of how it’s going to become dinner. She always helps it become dinner. I have mentioned this before, but I can’t say enough good things about the corn zipper, which has turned a job I used to hate (stripping kernels from cob) into one that I almost kind of like.

1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
6 ears sweet corn, cut from the cob (3 cups or so of kernels. DM also has you scrape and reserve the “milk” from the cobs, and add this to the egg mixture, but I forgot.)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cream, evaporated milk, or whole milk (I used cream)
1 cup grated or crumbled cheese (I used a sharp cheddar)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped marjoram (or another herb of your liking)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
Freshly ground pepper

1.     Heat the oven to 350 and butter a 6-cup baking dish.
2.     Melt the butter in a skillet over low heat and sauté the onion until it’s soft and lightly colored, about 10 minutes.
3.     Now add the corn to the pan and sauté another minute or two, until it is just tender (DM has you boil it separately in water, I’m not sure why).
4.     Beat the cream into the eggs, then stir in the corn and onion, the cheese, the herbs, and the salt and pepper.
5.     Pour the mixture into the dish, shake a few dashes of paprika over the top, and bake until puffed and golden, around 45 minutes. Serve warm.

Perfect Arugula Salad
Serves 4

6-8 cups very fresh arugula, washed and torn
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) breadcrumbs (Note: if you don’t have any, just put a slice or two of any kind of bread in the blender! But maybe don’t use the dusty cardboard-scented kind from a cardboard can, which will not be tasty here.)
Perfect vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan

Put the arugula in a large bowl.

Heat the butter in a smallish pan over medium heat and fry the breadcrumbs, stirring some, and then later more, until they are very brown and toasty, which will take longer than you might imagine (5 or so minutes). Set them aside in a bowl so that they don’t burn in the still-hot pan. Let them cool.

Toss the arugula with dressing to taste, then add the breadcrumbs and parmesan and toss again.

Perfect Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

1 clove garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram (or oregano, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much are you even paying attention?)

Shake it up in a jar. Store it in the fridge. (This will make lots more than you need for the arugula.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Better and Better

Nothing says wilderness like suit socks with flip flops.
Have I mentioned camping before?

What?! I have?!

Oh. You mean here? And here And here. And then here. And here. And here. Also here. Oh, and my favorite: here. And another one here

It might not be funny, but Michael pretending to kill us with a sledgehammer is kind of a hilarity-ensued staple around here.
Anyhoo. I have two new favorite things to do camping. 1) Admire other people's toddlers and babies as they scuttle past on the road, but from the campfire, where I am sitting with a beer in my hand and a pile of chips in my lap, because I never need to stand up ever again because the big children can build the fire and rig the tarp and start dinner and put on their own sunscreen and go to the bathroom by themselves and set up Chinese Checkers. Meanwhile I watch a pair of preschoolers argue about a package of Goldfish crackers and run into the road and soak themselves in the faucet and lie down in the muddy pine needles to cry about how wet they got in the faucet where they were soaking each other. "Keep at it!" I offer, unbidden, to harried parents around our loop. "It gets even better than this!"

It's not that I don't still worry about them drowning. But it does feel a little less imminent these days. Knock wood. Shit.

2) Reminisce with the children themselves. I have always been a profligate nostalgia-oozer, but now the kids have gotten roped into my woozy, sentimental shenanigans. Walking up to the bathroom with me (because I have to go! not because she needs me!), Birdy sighs happily and says, "How many times do you think we've done this walk together, Mama?" And I would answer "A million?" if my throat would open up for a second. Her hand in mine is firm and cool, her eyes steady and sparkling on my face, the whispery, fragrant pines and washed air blowing away all traces of whatever gunk can fog up the space between us. If I've ever been happier, and I don't say this lightly, I can't think when.

I hope you're enjoying the last gasp of summer. And if you've already breathed your last, and your kids are back at school, I hope you're enjoying that too.


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Plum Popsicles

The circling of the wagons, for the umpteenth time. Thank you, so much. And please forgive me for not responding to the comments, all of which I read and treasured (except for, you know, the hateful ones). I got a little emotionally bogged down, and, also, we were somewhere (cough *my parents’* cough) with only dial-up internet access. I admit to being surprised that, in support of niceness, people would think to call my heartbreakingly kind and wonderful 10-year-old daughter a “snotty little bitch.” And, also, that it turns out we *should* be encouraging our kids to interact with leering strangers. Who knew? Okay. Letting it go. Breathing. . .  Thanks to a friend of mine, I was reminded of this piece I wrote when Birdy was two. She has always been herself, that kid.

Moving on to. . . Plum Popsicles!

And let me say this: if you are a little ho-hum about popsicles? As I typically have been? This recipe will change your life. These are absolutely the best popsicles I have ever tasted. They are fragrant, bursting with plummy flavor and plummy chunks, perfectly sweet-tart, tender-textured, and stunningly gorgeous.

These are the yogurty ones. Pretty, no?
Full disclosure, we only thought to make these because the plums we got were so, so good: red and juicy and full of flavor. (I cannot recommend red plums enough. The yellow-fleshed black ones I do not understand.) In fact the plums were so good that I could hardly bring myself to cook them. But it always seems, with a new cookbook, that you should follow exactly the first recipe you try, and I’m so glad we did.

If you're waiting for it at the Amherst library, I am *so* sorry! Almost done!
Fuller disclosure: I requested People’s Pops from our library because last year, on the High Line in New York, we bought and ate a sour cherry-plum pop from their cart. And I said, like the Sesame Street Jew Grouch I can be, “Three dollars for a popsicle? It better be good.” And it was. In fact, it was the best popsicle I had ever tasted. Until now.
The High Line, back when Birdy had long hair and my mum was almost as gorgeous as she is now.
Two more things: we made half Roasted Plum Popsicles and half Plum Yogurt & Tarragon Popsicles, and they are both fantastic.
I’m only putting the plain one here because, beyond that, don’t you think you should get your hands on the book? I do! Next up we are trying Raspberry and Cream. Then Blackberry and Rose. Oh, and also Peach and Bourbon. And Peach and Jalapeno. And. . .

That was only one thing. The other is that I finally bought this popsicle mold, after keeping it unbought in my shopping cart on Amazon for so long that they actually changed the material of the lid from metal to plastic. I am overjoyed and only wish I'd sucked it up to buy it sooner. They are real popsicles, with real sticks, and the molds are BPA-free. Totally worth it.

Roasted Plum Popsicles
Makes 10 pops

This recipe is from the People’s Pops cookbook. We followed it to the letter, and the results were nothing short of spectacular. Plus, the recipe made the exact right amount of mixture, which I love.

1 ¼ pounds plums (about 12 small or 5 large), halved
1 cup simple syrup

Heat the oven to 350. Place the plums cut-side down on a cookie sheet, then roast until the skins and flesh have significantly softened, 20 to 40 minutes. [Our plums were so fragrant and beautiful, that we stopped at 20. Also, I lined my cookie sheet with foil and then parchment, because I wasn’t confident about its non-reactivity, and the recipe was not for Plum & Rust popsicles.]

Once the plums are cool enough to touch, removed and discard the pits, and whiz the plums, skins and all, in a food processor, though feel free to leave the puree somewhat chunky. You should have about 2 1/8 cups of puree.

Transfer the pureed plums to a measuring pitcher with a pouring pout and stir in the simple syrup. The mixture should be sweet yet slightly tart.

Pour the mixture into your ice pop molds, leaving a little bit of room at the top for the mixture to expand. Insert sticks and freeze until solid, 4 to 5 hours. Unmold and transfer to plastic bags for storage or serve at once.

Simple Syrup
Makes 1 cup

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is transparent. Turn off the heat and let it cool.