Monday, August 16, 2010

Before It's Too Late

I don't know about y'all but I feel like summer's almost over! Even though it seems like it just arrived (thanks to the foggiest summer in the past 52 years in Santa Barbara), kids, parents and teachers alike are already preparing to head back to school. I'm starting to feel a bit of panic set in, like I have to really take advantage of these final weeks. So before it's too late make this interesting summer salad. Interesting. . . . hmmm, maybe not the most compelling adjective I've ever used to entice someone to make a dish, but it seems the most honest.

When I think of summer, I think of shiny, golden corn, as well as dark, darling blueberries which you can't resist popping into your mouth by the handful. Both are excellent representatives of summer's bounty — and both center stage in this salad. It's a weird combination but a definitely good one.

I don't know if I could eat a quart of this, but I do think it makes a refreshing, tasty and somewhat exciting side dish for a picnic, BBQ or beach banquet. Maybe that's why people call such things "side dishes," because although delicious you may not want to make it your entire meal. I mean do you really want to eat a pound of baked beans? They're enjoyable but perhaps offer a diminishing return the more you eat. But seriously, sometimes slaw or potato salad — no matter how much you love them — seem so blah. Some days you need to mix it up a bit. I think this salad qualifies.

I admit it was the unusual combination that piqued my interest and was compelled to give this a try. I found this surprising combination is actually quite stunning when all is said. There is the sweetness from the roasted corn; punctuated by the smokiness of the cumin and subtle heat of the jalepeño; which collectively is then foiled up by the crunchy, cool cucumber; and is finally perfectly balanced by the tartness of blueberries.

You're supposed to let this refrigerate overnight but I made this as a jerk reaction when I got home from farmers market and accessed my purchases. I did make enough to sample the next day (because like I said this is best eaten as a side dish), and I agree that the depth and delight of flavors only intensified with time.

Even though this may sound like a weird combo, do try it before summer runs out. It will surprise you . . . like the beauty of summer can.

Corn and Blueberry Salad
From Better Homes and Gardens

5 ears fresh corn, husked
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 small cucumber
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

Cut corn kernels off the cob and sauté in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until soft and slighted roasted. The fresher the corn the less cooking needed. In a serving bowl, combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño. For dressing, in screw-top jar, combine lime juice, oil, honey, cumin and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover, shake well to combine. Add to salad; toss. Cover and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours). Yield: 6-8 servings.

Monday, August 2, 2010

In Receipt of Lemons

You've heard the old phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But what happens when your friend gives you two big ol' grocery sacks full of lemons? While my first instinct was to make an enormous batch of lemon drop martinis, I figured it was better for my liver to find a Plan B. My second thought was to make a lemon meringue pie, but then discovered I only needed about 1/2 cup of lemon juice per pie so that would be a whole lotta pie . . . . So that's how I decided to makes preserved lemons. I know, it's so Martha Stewart of me!

I'd come across a few recipes calling for preserved lemons of late but kept forgetting to look for them at the grocery store. I did a little online research and apparently the learning curve for making preserved lemons is pretty non-existent. While "putting up" vegetables or making jelly is a terrifying prospect to me, this seemed quite manageable.

You basically just jam a ton of salt in between slits in the lemons, pack 'em in a quart jar, pour some fresh lemon juice on top, and then set them in a corner for 6 - 8 weeks. I don't have much of a green thumb when it comes to plants, so it's not unusual to find dead plants around my house. Even cacti don't last long under my watch. Watering them each week just seems like too much effort. I consider myself a very nurturing person but I guess I'm just not the cultivating type. But making preserved lemons is great because you basically have to do nothing to them once they're in the jar, and then *Shazam* two months later you've got these lovely golden gems!

I was all patting myself on the back for all my hard work. Whatever. It was awesome. I highly recommend it the next time someone gives you a bag of lemons.

And make this dish because it's awesome too. It's the moistest, tastiest chicken I've had in a long time.

My friend, Meredith, came over to eat some. I took her cleaned plate as a sign she agreed.

Preserved Lemon Citrus Chicken with Chervil Gremolata
from Serious Eats

1 chicken but into pieces, about 4 - 4 1/2 lbs
3 Tbsp chopped fresh chervil
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 small preserved lemons, thinly slices, seeded and rinsed (recipe below)
3 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced and 1 finely chopped
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp creme fraiche
2 stems fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped

When you buy a whole chicken cut into pieces, you should have 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 2 legs. Because the breasts are so much bigger than the other pieces, I cut them each in half, cutting perpendicularly through the bone. Season the chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chervil.
Heat a wide, deep saute pan over medium-high heat and when the pan is hot, add the oil. Place the chicken in the pan and sear until golden brown. Turn over and sear until golden brown on the other side and remove to a plate.
Lower the heat to low and add the preserved lemons, garlic and zest of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange. Quickly stir them around and then add the white wine. Raise the heat to high and use a whisk to pick up all the pieces of crisp chicken from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken pieces back to the pot and when the liquid comes to a boil reduce the heat to low. Cover the pop and cook for 25 minutes.
Remove the lid and cook uncovered for 5 minutes more. Mix together 1 clove finely chopped garlic, zest of 1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon, thyme, 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chervil and salt and pepper to taste. This is the gremolata. Take the pan off the heat and move the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Whisk 2 Tbsp of creme fraiche into the hot wine and stock. Then pour over chicken and top with gremolata. Serve over couscous or with crusty bread. I actually used Israeli couscous mix from Trader Joes that has lentils and garbanzo beans. It was perfect. Yields: 4 - 6 servings.

Preserved Lemons

10-15 lemons, scrubbed very clean
3/4 cup kosher salt, more if needed
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
Quart jar

In a bowl mix the spices into the kosher salt. Cover the bottom of an airtight jar with some of the salt mixture. Cut a cross into the lemons — almost to the base, so that the quarters stay together. Push the seasoned salt into the lemon segments and pack the lemons as tightly as possible into the jar. The less space there is between the lemons the better. Squeeze enough fresh lemon juice over the lemons in the jar to fill in any "air holes" and cover the tops. Screw the lid on the jar and put it away for 6 - 8 weeks. To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Store in the refrigerator. These will last for about 2 years.