Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives

"Your parents always made the BEST food!" my aunt said while weaving in and out of traffic on our way to Pearl, our favorite Vietnamese place. I was up for my annual Seattle visit and we were engaged in a "Family Secrets" talk. These talks happened every so often, most commonly over two bowls of steamy pho and fresh spring rolls, and comprised of never before told stories about my parents, grandparents and, occasionally, great-grandparents. "When your parents had their apartment in Santa Monica, they experimented with all kinds of food and everything was amazing. Wonder why they don't do that anymore?" I had briefly heard about these cooking adventures in passing from my mother and imagined my parents as lovely hosts who cooked, drank red wine out of bowl-sized glasses and showed off their culinary skills with Fleetwood Mac on the record player. Skills, might I add, that I never saw. Of course I saw my mother cook, but nothing like she or my aunt ever described.

It was the mid-seventies and my parents lived in a beautiful "Spanish style" apartment building in Santa Monica that my grandmother conveniently owned. Being quit handy, my father became the building manager and soon had the run of the place. With a lovely courtyard and fire pit perfect for impromptu jam sessions and a teeny-weeny kitchen that allowed you to smack your face on the fridge when turning away from stove, it was ideal for the newly married couple. And it was in this little apartment that my parents made braised veal with lemon, capers and stuffed white fish. Where they invited my aunt over to partake in hand-rolled pasta that my mother had literally hung from the rafters because there was no table space. They held monstrous brunches and served quiche, bagels, fruit salad, and my Dad's famous fish eggs. (This is the only dish I've ever seen my father make. Take sauteed onions, mix with your eggs and throw into a hot, oiled pan. Toss in any vegetable you have in the fridge. Then, add kippers, herring or smoked trout and serve to your mortified children. Viola, fish eggs!) In her hippy glory, my mother loving made strudel by hand, laying the long dough out over her too-short table. By the time she was done, the sheets hung over the table edge, kissing the floor.

I felt like a reporter getting the goods on breaking news every time I heard one of these food stories. The characters were my parents, Debra and Steven in name and body, but somehow I didn't recognize them; these characters were the youthful, care-free counterparts, Debbie and Steve, to my now busy, children-laden parents. It was a side of my mom and dad I'd never seen before and I desperately wanted to know. Who were these people that made pasta from scratch or spent an entire Sunday cooking for friends? With every morsel of information I felt more connected to these young, exciting newlyweds, as if they were my friends and these memories were sourced from my own seat at the dinner table. There is one night in particular I could swear I was there. It was the evening my parents ventured into Middle Eastern cuisine. I think I was born with olives and lemons in my blood because there is no other flavor profile I adore more. On this particular night, young Debbie and Steve made chicken tagine with quince and almonds and homemade baklava. The sweet, astringent flavor of quince and delicate texture of long-cooked chicken filled my mouth and trickled down my throat as I imagined the dish in my mind. The table oohed and ahhed as my mother served her slightly intoxicated guests their generous helpings. A bit of sauce spilled on the floor and their kitten Rocky quickly pounced to lick it up. Even the kitty was smiling. Like a director I watched from behind the camera and took in all the smiles, laughs, smells and tastes. They may have not seen me but I certainly saw them and reveled in their unabashed delights. Hours of patiently maneuvering delicate phyllo dough and sticky honey made the baklava all the more delectable. It's thin layered, buttery sweet crunch left a party in the mouth only the tagine might have hoped to rival. And there it was. The party I knew I attend though it was held years before my birth.

Amazingly, I only heard about this particular meal a few times but there was something about the time, the place and the menu that stuck with me. Envisioning my parents as two youngsters creating a fun-filled home allowed me to break out of our parent/child relationship and relate to them under the umbrella of what we all jointly

Though not my mother's original recipe, I recently served this dish for my brother's 21st birthday to my own table of ohhs and ahhs. It really is a crowd pleaser and not very difficult to make. All you need are some foodie friends and you are good to go.

Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives
Adapted from Cover and Bake by Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Serves 4

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 3-4 pound organic chicken, skinned and cut into respective parts with the wings reserved for another use. (You can also do this with 8 skinless thighs or breasts)
1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
2 tablespoons of water
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup organic un-sulfured apricots, chopped
1 (2 inch) strip of lemon peel or 1/2 a preserved lemon, minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and pre-heat to 300 degrees. Combine the ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Dry the chicken pieces thoroughly with paper towels and add to the bowl with the spiced and toss to coat. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large oven-proof Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 3 of the chicken parts, skinned side down, and cook without moving them until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue to cook until the second side is golden, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining chicken parts to the pot and repeat, then transfer them to the plate and set aside.

Add the onion and 2 tablespoons of water to the pt with the drippings and return to medium-high heat. Cook, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pot, until the onion has softened and begins to brown, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bay leaves, water, apricots, lemon peel, and browned chicken with any accumulated juices; bring to a simmer. Cover, transfer to the oven, and cook until the chicken is easily pierced with a knife, about 1 1/4 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover to keep warm. Add the lemon juice and olives to the sauce. Bring to a simmer and let the juice reduce by half. Add salt and pepper to taste then add the chicken back to the pot, and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

End of Summer Salad Party

I have a theory. Simply stated, most people don't truly dislike as many foods as they think they do. I pose it's more a matter of preparation than actual hatred of that specific food. Granted there are definitely a few foods on my "rather not eat" list (sea urchin, any type of aspic and egg salad are a few that come to mind) however, I can honestly say that I have tried them all at the height of their preparation and come to my conclusion legitimately. Consequently, I'm always shocked when I run into an adult that says, "I don't like vegetables." What do you mean you don't like vegetables?!? Do you even know how many types of vegetables there are? It's impossible for you to dislike them all! The truth is, most of these poor people suffered through childhoods filled with canned, boiled or microwaved vegetables. It's no wonder they now won't touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole! If that was my only knowledge of vegetables, I wouldn't either. In 9th grade I practically lived at my best friend's house, a sprawling multi-level place where kids ran free and parents escaped to the opposite side of the house. Her parents were lovely people but not what I would call culinarily inclined. To give you an example, twice a week they microwaved broccoli and served it with spray butter. Now, I have always been a broccoli lover but even I couldn't get myself to stomach this zapped, rubbery "vegetable". (They also cooked their morning eggs and bacon in the microwave. OY!) In retrospect, I still don't know why I didn't just eat before going over there. I'm pained deeply when I hear stories of gray asparagus and carrots boiled to mush not only because it brings back microwave memories but because it makes me wonder how we could be made to put such yucky stuff into our mouths year in and year out. I should say kudos to parents for trying. I truly appreciate you wanting to get vegetables into your children but I'm sure we could have found a more delicious way.

When I met my husband, he too had a laundry list of things he didn't eat, including kale and asparagus, my two all time faves. The first time I said I wanted to make him a kale dish he stared back at me, horrified, and said, "Are you sure that's safe? I used to feed it to my Iguana Spud. I don't think it's for human consumption!" And so goes the life of kale, relegated as garnish or lizard food. As a girl who likes a challenge, I made it my mission to make him fall in love with everything that he refused to eat. Once I had won him over with my braised kale (he was surprised not only by its deliciousness but by the fact that he didn't die!), I moved on the asparagus. When spring came, I found the most beautiful tender asparagus and roasted them with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Let me just say, he mowed through those asparagus so fast I only snagged two spears for myself. Since conquering Gray's taste buds (he eats anything I put in front of him now and just last night requested more dark leafy greens. I adore this man!), I now work on friends and family. Yes, I love hosting dinner parties for the sheer joy of feeding friends but my devious side also enjoys sneaking foods into the menu previously deemed inedible.

Enter the summer salad party. First, I wanted to make dishes that reflected the bounty of summer before it left us. I also wanted to show the men folk that YES you can have salad for dinner and be quite full and satisfied. Lastly, we have this friend, who shall remain nameless, who does not like beans or potatoes. Again I ask you, what the WHAT??? How is this possible? Beans and potatoes are the easiest foods to like because you can do anything with them. Mashed, fried, baked, broiled, they taste amazing every which way. But no, she doesn't like them in any form. We've decided she is a communist! So, of course, I couldn't contain myself and made a bean salad which I promptly insisted she try the second she walked in. She filled her plate with the other salads and took just a smidgen of beans. Whatever, as long as she tried them. About an hour into dinner I notice my friend get up for seconds. Now as a health coach I'm in a complete moral dilemma with seconds. I encourage people to try and stick to one plate, especially if they are no longer hungry, but the cook in me takes seconds as the most supreme form of praise and wants people to load up. Anyway, I noticed that when my friend sat back down, plate fully reloaded, she had indulged in a lovely scoop of beans. YES! Mission accomplished.

And while I'm sure that our friend will probably continue to voice her objection to beans, I now have proof that with the right preparation, she is open to bending the rules. Now it's time to move on to potatoes :)

End of Summer Salads

Here is the menu I put together for the party:

Green salad with orange, avocado, and tamari roasted pumpkin seeds
Grilled chicken breast and fresh green bean salad
Farro salad with fresh corn and roasted red onions
Bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette

Farro salad with fresh corn and roasted red onions
Serves 4

4 cups water
1 cup farro, soaked overnight
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 large torpedo onions, sliced into 1/2 inch strips (Regular red onions will work well too)
1 teaspoon organic butter or ghee
2 cup organic fresh corn, cut off the cob
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the strips of onion on a 8 1/2 x 11 pyrex baking dish. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, stirring once half way through, until the onions are soft and a little crispy at the ends.

Place the water, farro, and salt in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until the farro is tender but still toothy. Drain excess water and set aside.

In a heavy skillet, heat the organic butter and sauté the corn until just tender, about 4 minutes. Place the cooked corn, farro, and onions into a large bowl and season with the remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the parsley and enjoy!

Bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes and Dijon vinaigrette
Serves 4-5

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 stalks of celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (If they are oil packed, simply chop them. If they are dried, reconstitute them in boiling water for a few minutes then chop.)
1 handful arugula
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
A pinch of smoked sea salt

For the Dijon dressing

1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy bottomed skillet at the beans and heat through. **You can also quickly blanch them at this point if you prefer. Place them in a large bowl and add the celery, onions, tomatoes, arugula, parsley, and smoked salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, dried herbs, Dijon mustard, and vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Continue to whisk until the dressing comes together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle the dressing over the beans, toss well, and serve immediately. Yum!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Candy Club

I had been waiting for my sister Laura to come home for the last hour. We attended separate schools and I always made better time on my royal blue 10-speed than she did on the rickety yellow school bus that brought her home. (My sister had been admitted to a school for gifted children the year before. A school, I might add, that denied me 3 years in a row. This was certainly a gaping wound on my part and one that my sister often enjoyed dousing with salt.) I sat on the front porch playing with the roly polies and trailing the lines between the big red bricks that made up our stairs with my finger. Finally, she turned the corner and walked up our driveway. I yelled from the porch, "Hey you wanna go to the little store?" My sister and I asked each other this question at least four times a week. The little store was just that: a ram-shackled little building about three blocks from our house that resembled an "old-tyme" general store with an ethnic twist. The back of the store was stocked with frozen vegetables and meats, and right next to the pig trotters, popsicles. (I only ever grabbed a popsicle when in dire need.) The left side of the store was stocked with beer and liquor while for us children, the right side was dedicated entirely to candy. The old man behind the counter always recognized us but rarely offered a smile. I'm sure he thought we were just biding our time before pick-pocketing our favorite items. Which was true. I had dreamed of hijacking the place and escaping with every last bit of candy on the shelves. However, this sugar fueled fantasy was nothing compared to the sweet devotion of my sister Laura, aka, "the candy queen".

Of course all children love sweets, but Laura took it to a entirely new level. While my mother craved green vegetables and salads when pregnant with me, she inhaled every candy, cake and chocolate bar in Ventura County while Laura was in the womb. My sister was literally made out of sugar. And so our respective preferences were shaped. I ate vegetables constantly and Laura hoarded candy in her room. Many times we didn't even know the stash was there until a conspicuous trail of ants blew her cover. About a decade later she was outed by my cousin's dog who found a hidden donut in my sister's overnight bag. I thought she was going to KILL that dog! Every Halloween we laid out our "bag of crap", as my father lovingly called it, to swap Abbazabbas for Snickers bars and haggle over the price of Red Hots. My sister owned her sweet tooth and quickly decided that everything should taste like candy. Like when my parents attempted to get her to stop sucking her middle and index fingers by saying, "Laura, your fingers are dirty and they must taste terrible!" "Nope," she smirked. "They taste like chocolate!"

So these were the two little devils that entered the little store. Two candy junkies looking for a fix whose mother had no idea what they poured down their throats four times a week. Laura immediately went for the chewy, fruity stuff like Starbursts, Now and Laters, and Skittles, while I stuck to the Red Hots, Fireballs, Skor bars (AMAZING!) and Lemon Heads. Our choices certainly revealed our personalities: one child sweet and bizarrely malleable, and the other, a rare combo of a sour and spicy. We walked back home in a sugar haze, almost blinded by the effects of sucrose coursing through our veins. Once home we promptly got into a fight and usually had to be separated. (See what happens when you have too much Yellow #5? I remember reading labels even back then and thinking, "Eating something with a number on it can't be good for me.")

As the years went by we became experimental, like when our babysitter Jessica Woodcock (P.S. I just recently realized the hilarity of her last name) showed us how to soften a jolly rancher stick in the microwave and wrap it around a blow pop to make the largest lollipop ever! We'd throw our multi-colored sucker monstrosities into the freezer for a quick cooling then eat them over the next few hours until our mother got home. Unfortunately, the ginormous lollipop factory shut down only after a few months when Laura turned the microwave on high and cooked the jolly rancher until it liquefied and almost caught fire.

I don't know when we stopped going to the little store. We got older, our tastes changed, and eventually our family moved from the neighborhood. Of course, now in my chosen profession as a whole foods crusader, it's shocking to think I was ever such a sugar fiend. Who knew it would come to this! Thank goodness Laura still keeps the little store flame alive by keeping mini snickers bars in her purse and hard candies in the car. My younger sister has never forgotten her roots, and holds on to them as tightly as I now grasp my kale. Ah, the candy queen lives on! She says it's her duty to make up for all the candy I'm not eating.

Well, I guess someone's got to do it.

Balsamic and Butter Glazed Frittata
Served 4

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

For those of you expecting a "healthy" candy recipe, I'm sorry to disappoint. I'm actually working on a relatively healthy toffee recipe which I will post as soon as it's ready. Promise! In the meantime, when you need something sweet, try this frittata. Eggs, you say? Absolutely. The caramelized red onions give it a nice smoky sweetness and the reduced buttery balsamic glaze just puts it over the top. SO GOOD!

2 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, Bariani is the best
Salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 eggs
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon organic butter or ghee
¼ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Warm the olive oil in a 10 inch skillet and add the sliced onions. Cook over medium heat until they are golden, about 30 minutes. Add half the vinegar, let it reduce, and add in the cloves and a touch of salt. Preheat the broiler.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs. Season with salt and add in the onions and parsley. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the skillet (you do not need to clean it out from the onions) until it is sizzling. Add the eggs and lower the heat. Scatter the walnuts on top and cook until the eggs are set and browned on the bottom, about 8-10 minutes. Slide the pan 6 inches under the broiler to finish cooking the top, about 2 minutes. Take care not to burn the walnuts.

Loosen the frittata and tilt it onto a serving plate. Return the skillet to the stove and raise the heat. Add the remaining teaspoon of butter and when it melts, add the remaining vinegar. Slide the pan back and forth to combine the two then pour the mixture over the eggs. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Figs, figs, a wonderful fruit

I adore figs. Green, black, brown, Turkish, I don't care! Just give me sweet, seedy, jammy figs and I am a happy girl. Today I don't eat many foods from my childhood, but figs for some reason have always possessed staying power. I grew up in a small craftsman-style house built in the early 1900's. It was a sweet little home with two beds and built-in cabinets, perfect for a young couple, which is exactly what my parents were when I came into the picture. Our backyard was not huge but it did have a few good fruits to bare, one of which was an enormous Haas avocado tree that dropped fruit the size of my head. Rich, thick and creamy, we ate them every chance we could, usually as guacamole, though sometimes I caught my mom sticking tablespoonfuls directly into her mouth. There was also a tangerine tree, a peach tree, a Meyer lemon tree and wild mint that we mashed with sugar and hot water to make "mint tea" (though in reality it was more like warm simple syrup with mint essence. Ah kids!)

My favorite however was the fig tree. Placed right next to our rickety (and definitely dangerous) swing set, it was in a prime location for me to swing over and grab an unsuspecting fig any time I wanted. I waited all year for that tree to bloom and when it did, I went crazy! I averaged a good 12 figs a day. At first I went for the ones at eye level, but as the summer progressed and those thinned out, I needed help getting my fig fix. I begged my Dad to come help me grab the luscious ripe ones that stared down at me from their high perch. "I'll get you my pretty!" I thought as I glared back at them. But one sunny Summer afternoon, I found myself in the middle of a major fig meltdown with no one to help me. I needed a fig bad and I simply couldn't wait for parental assistance, so I bravely decided to climb the tree. This was an emergency after all! It wouldn't have been so bad had there not been copious amounts of sap and ants lining the tree. I'd hated ants ever since my 6th birthday when I accidentally swallowed one that decided to take a nap on the lip of my 7-UP can. EEEEWWWW!!!

The ants had multiple trails going up and down the trunk and on every branch of the precious fig tree. Apparently, they too were all about figs. As I climbed the tree I kept thinking, "No ants in my mouth, just not in my mouth!" I gingerly picked as many figs as my left hand could hold as my right tightly gripped a sturdy-looking branch. However, the tricky part was not the climb or even picking the fruit, but getting down with two handfuls of sticky, split figs. I awkwardly descended, trying not to cause any accidents among the many ant highways. But wherever my hands touched the tree, eager ants assumed they were other branches and immediately hopped on. They seemed to have no problem with detours. With hands full of melty figs and arms covered with ants, I simply couldn't take it any more. I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer, and jumped. The ground was not as springy or soft as I'd imagined, and I hit the grass with a decided thud. Granted, I'd jumped down maybe 2 1/2 feet but it seems pretty dangerous at the time. I actually managed to save most of the figs though some were greatly damage by my now tightly closed fist. I rolled onto my back and looked up at the fig tree. "That's right fig tree," I yelled. "Who's the boss now?!" I rested my head on the grass and popped a glistening fig into my mouth. It somehow tasted sweeter than it ever had before. Perhaps it was my brush with death, or the simple fact it had had more time to ripen. Either way that fig was amazing and it felt good to have risked life and limb for it. I was a food hero! And there I stayed, spread out on the grass, feeling wonderful about myself and barely feeling the ants navigating their way up and down my arms.

Best ways to eat figs

1) Throw them on the grill until the jammy center begins to caramelize
2) Stuff with a small piece of goat cheese and fresh thyme
3) Stuff with a thin piece of prosciutto, and top with mint and drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar
4) Split them open and smear with almond butter
5) Thinly slice and lay them over an arugula and basil salad with shaved Parmesan
6) Slice and put on a pizza with goat cheese, shaved fennel, and caramelized onions
7) Place them directly in your mouth a chew (My favorite!)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Grilled corn and tomato salad

"Just pick it up and eat it!", she said in an exasperated tone. I stared down at the glistening corn cob. Laurie was already half way through hers, chomping down so hard that with every bite she shot out a bit of yellow corn juice. I just sat there looking back and forth from the buttered cob to her. I wanted to be her as much as I wanted to eat the corn off that cob, but I knew neither was truly possible. Laurie was my idol, a goddess among awkward 12 year olds. Honestly, this girl never had an awkward faze. Though only 11 months older she had been blessed early with long legs, beautiful black hair, and a pert little All-American nose house on a lovely heart shaped face. With my uncontrollable Jew-fro and Streisand-inspired nose I knew I could never look like her. That left my only other eat like her.

Unfortunately what stood between me and my desire to be Laurie's corn companion was a mouth full of metal. That's right! I was a serious brace face, a gift from my orthodontist Dr. Saint (yes, his real name) that was to last three very un-cool years. I was only in year one and still fearful that the wrong food might blow the braces right off my teeth. Dr. Saint had sternly advised again gum, candy, and definitely corn on the cob. I couldn't go against my orthodontist. He was a Saint for goodness sake! "Nothing is going to happen to your teeth," Laurie said, as if listening in on my mental anguish. "It's physically impossible for your face to explode from one bite of corn," she said in between buttered lip smacking. "She's right," I thought. "Stop being a wuss and don't let Dr. Saint run your life. Just do it!" And with that I opened my mouth, bared my shiny imprisoned teeth and crunched down.

Now, what I should have done was stop at the first bite. However, I hadn't crunched on anything in months so once I started, I was not about to look back. Bite after bite I filled my mouth with the intense, sweetly rich flavor of fresh corn. I didn't come up for air until all that was left was a thoroughly abused cob. I looked up at Laurie who had put down her own cob to watch me inhale mine. "Oh my god, Jamie!" she laughed. "You've got more corn in your teeth than actually went down your throat!" I knew it was true before she even said it. My teeth felt oddly heavy and tight, being weighted down by a good 2 cups of stuck corn. I raced to the bathroom to rinse my mouth and get some relief. Water didn't do anything. The kernels just smiled back at me as if to say, "Best of luck gettin' us out. We aren't moving!" Tooth brush, toothpicks, floss; I hammered at my teeth with all sorts of oral hygiene accessories but nothing worked. I picked corn out of my teeth for the next three days, always thinking I was done until another hidden kernel appeared. It took 4 years before I ate corn again and only after my braces were long gone.

OK, let's tell the truth. I still don't eat corn on the cob and haven't since wrapping my metal mouth around that fateful corn cob so long ago. With a sharp knife I now cut off all the sweet kernel goodness and ladle each bite in with a spoon. So painless and easy! My husband calls me a wuss but I really don't care. I'm still scarred from the lodged corn conundrum 18 years ago. Granted, I no longer have braces but corn in the teeth is still a valid concern. Of course, all of these old emotions are coming up because I've been surrounded by corn for the last two months. I know people eat corn morning, noon, and night when it's at the market but honestly, this is the first year I've EVER had corn at my dinner table. Why, you ask? Because I still harbor resentment (how Jewish AND motherly of me!) towards corn and haven't felt like inviting it into my kitchen, that's why!

However, that all changed a few weeks ago during a dinner party. I decided on a theme of summer salads and headed off to the market for some much needed inspiration. I loaded up my bag with crisp green beans, gorgeous orange and red cherry tomatoes, and a giant head of red leaf lettuce that I scored for $1. I initially ignored the giant wooden bins piled high to corn until I heard an elderly man, elbow deep in the bin, exclaim, "This is the best corn I've had in years!" Well, I may hold a grudge but if I can get my hands on the "best" of any type of food, all bets are off. I quickly grabbed a few good-looking ears, threw money at the cashier, and headed off home wondering what I had done.

I decide to make a roasted corn and cherry tomato salad with fresh basil. An easy representation of summer's bounty with a clincher that the corn could be off the cob. Let me just say this, the gentleman was not lying! The corn was smoky, sweet, and juicy with a just touch of crunch. Perfection! The salad was by far the most popular at the party and the only one with ZERO leftovers. (DARN!) Since then I've made a few variations, one with a cup of kidney beans, the other with a bit of farro, but always the same foundation of fresh corn, tomatoes, and basil.

It is safe to say that yes, my struggle with corn has finally been laid to rest. And the best part is, we both won in the end.

Grilled corn and tomato salad
Serves 4

Grilling the corn is not necessary though it adds a lovely flavor. If you don't want to heat up the grill, simply sauté the corn in olive oil with a bit of onion then add it to the tomatoes and dress accordingly. If adding beans or grain, add a few more tablespoons of dressing.

2 ears of corn, grilled and shucked
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
3 scallions, washed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into bite size pieces
2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (you can also use lemon juice or balsamic for a sweeter taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Grill the corn until tender and segments have a nice dark char, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the grill and once cooled, cut the tip off one end and stand the cob up in a bowl. With a sharp knife cut downward, removing the corn from the cob.

In a separate bowl add the tomatoes, scallions, and basil. Toss in the warm corn and dress with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!