I am headed to Long Island this week and my first stop (after I say hello to my parents) is the nearest farm stand. My father’s vegetable garden is wonderful and bursting with all sorts of goodies, but there’s no corn to be found. And I can’t be on Long Island in the summer without corn. I think my father doesn’t plant it because A) corn takes up too much space and B) when he was growing up on a farm in Italy, corn was fed to the pigs, not to human beings. He just doesn’t get it.
How sad is it that I never had an avocado until I was in college? Not even guacamole. I mean, what kind of a life is that? Fast-forward I’m-not-going-to-tell-you-how-many-years later, I eat avocados almost every day. I am crazy about the texture and flavor, and they go with everything. Avocados are so amazing for your health — the fats are the best kind, so fresh and pure. Recently, a few people have asked me to share my skincare regimen. I am thinking about writing a post about it, but until then, avocados are an incredible beauty food! Avocados can promote supple skin because they moisturize from the inside out. They are also rich in glutamine, a powerful antioxidant which can help with anti-aging.
Sometimes, a little freshening up is in order. I put this chopped grilled vegetable salad on my weekly dinner planner and when I pulled the image for it, I cringed a little. The photo did not do it justice at all. This salad is one of my absolute favorites and one that I posted almost 5 years ago. In all fairness to me, I didn’t even know how to use a camera when I started this blog, and although I am still no photography expert, I think my images have improved since 2011. So I thought I would pull this post from the archives and give it a facelift, especially on the eve of Memorial Day weekend when you might be inclined to make a fantastic, crowd-pleasing salad such as this one.
Whenever I plan the amount of food I make in my classes, I always make sure I have tons of whatever salad I am teaching. 96% of my students are women and women loooooove salad. And so do I. I could eat salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner. First course, side dish or main course. I love lots of color, texture and juiciness. And I love playing around with what’s in season.
One of my pet peeves is a salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber all year round. People, this is so boring and completely out of synch with the seasons, unless it is summer. Get some red cabbage in there or some microgreens, herbs or radishes. Or something creamy like avocado, feta or peaches. Crunchy like nuts, seeds or jicama. There are infinite possibilities for salads and every meal is more complete and more delicious with a salad in it.
If you are planning a Mexican or Tex-Mex meal for Cinco de Mayo or otherwise, this salad is perfecto. It is super simple as it is written, but I will offer you a dozen ways you can make it more interesting and I’m sure you can come up with a dozen more. The best part of this salad is the dressing, which uses salsa or pico de gallo as the base. Chances are, if you are having a Mexican-inspired meal, you very likely have salsa on hand. And this is a great recipe to make the day after your Mexican meal when you likely have leftover salsa on hand. Speaking of dressing, I love this salsa vinaigrette not only only a salad, but on top of grilled fish, chicken or steak, too. Or on a big platter of grilled veggies.
In these photos, I used fire-roasted corn, but if you can’t find it or corn isn’t in season yet, use pinto beans. Shredded chicken or steak is amazing in here, as are cucumbers, grilled red onions or zucchini, cubes of Monterey Jack cheese or tortilla strips. If you want to add all these, go ahead and make lots more dressing. The dressing stays fresh in the refrigerator as long as the salsa is fresh. The pico de gallo in the pictures is made fresh at my Whole Foods, but it only stays good for about 4 or 5 days.
One of the best things about a salad as part of your meal is that you can usually prep the whole thing in advance and just assemble at the last minute. This salad is no exception. Greens can be washed and dried two days ahead. Vinaigrette can be made 2 days ahead. Radishes can be sliced the day before. This really is the perfect salad for your fiesta!
- ½ cup fresh pico de gallo (pulse it in the food processor if it’s too chunky)
- 3 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ - ¾ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2-3 teaspoons raw honey
- a couple pinches of chili powder
- 2 ears of corn, shucked or 1 ½ cups thawed frozen fire-roasted corn or cooked pinto beans
- 8 cups chopped lettuce like Romaine or Butter lettuce
- 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
- 1-2 ripe avocados, sliced or cubed
- ⅓ cup pepitas, toasted and drizzled with ¼ teaspoon olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt OR sub a handful of tortilla strips instead of the pepitas
- To make the vinaigrette, whisk all the dressing ingredients in a bowl until combined. Set aside.
- Preheat a grill to medium. Grill corn directly on the grill, turning occasionally until lightly charred on all sides. Remove from the grill and place on a cutting board. Cut the kernels off the cob.
- Place the lettuce, corn kernels, radishes, avocados and pepitas in a salad bowl. Dip a piece of lettuce into the dressing and taste for seasoning. Drizzle salad with enough dressing to coat lightly and combine gently.
I just returned from Dallas, one child and many suitcases lighter. Sigh…. My daughter has officially opened her wings and flown from the proverbial nest to plant her roots at college. The whole thing is quite surreal as many of you may or may not know. One minute they’re spinning around in a pink tutu drinking from a sippy cup and the next you’re renting a mini fridge and lecturing them about why beer is the devil.
I actually met my husband freshman year of college. So we couldn’t help but reminisce about our move-in experience and our crummy, old and unrenovated dorm. I think my daughter was a little tired of my exclaiming every five minutes how her new dorm is “like the Four Seasons compared to where we lived!” Of course you can’t furnish the Four Seasons with cinderblocks and plastic milk crates. So we channeled our inner Nate Berkus and coordinated duvet covers with cork boards. Funny, I do not remember my parents making two trips to Bed Bath & Beyond, two trips to The Container Store, a visit to the campus bookstore, Whole Foods, and, of course, amazon.com for anything and everything we didn’t find in the oasis of Dallas and that could be delivered in 2 days flat. As another student’s exasperated father said to me after his ninth trip up the stairs with the umpteenth box, “My parents sent me to school with a towel.” Yep.
Even the food is better at college than it used to be. My daughter’s school has a smoothie and juice bar in the dining hall. I knooooow!!!!!! So I kinda had to stick my fingers in my ears and sing a little “la-la-la-la” song when my sweet girl started to complain about what she was going to eat. Not listening!
In the week after we returned from Europe and before she left, I did indulge her with all her favorites though. And it was my pleasure. We had pasta with pesto, caprese salads, spanakopita, oatmeal-butterscotch chip cookies, veggie frittatas, acai bowls and on and on. All for my daughter who was pickier than Mr. Picky and at 17 now craves fresh-pressed juices and veggie tacos. Certainly, nothing beats food cooked by your mom who loves you to the moon and back. I will miss cooking for my baby to be sure, but I am already planning cookie and granola bar care packages.
This corn and zucchini frittata is one of my daughter’s favorites and a perfect way to enjoy summer’s last gifts before they slip away. I very often make frittatas on Fridays or the weekend to use up whatever’s left in the fridge and that’s exactly how this one came about. I had leftover sautéed corn and zucchini from dinner to which I added some beaten eggs and voila! Our newest favorite frittata was born.
Surprisingly, corn goes so well with eggs and adds a beautiful sweetness, but more importantly, the perfect texture to the soft eggs. Sometimes I add goat cheese or feta to the top and I’ve even made this for a big crowd by doubling everything and baking it in a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Summer’s bounty is still here, but only for a few fleeting moments longer. Enjoy every last morsel while you can, because it will slip from your fingers before you’re ready to let it go.
- 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil + additional
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- 3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), ends trimmed and sliced ¼-inch thick by hand or by the slicing disk of the food processor
- Fine grain sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups of organic corn kernels, from 2-3 ears (frozen, defrosted is fine)
- ½ cup grated cheddar or mozzarella or a few crumbles of feta or goat cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a 10-inch skillet, warm the olive oil. Sauté the scallions until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the zucchini slices and a generous pinch of salt and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir the cooked zucchini mixture and the corn (and grated cheese if using) into the eggs and combine well. Pour the mixture back into the skillet. If using feta or goat cheese, scatter the pieces across the top of the egg mixture.
- Transfer skillet to the oven and bake until firm, about 40 minutes.
Or, cook gently over medium-low heat, covered until slightly set on the bottom, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and broil until the top is slightly puffed and golden, about 3-5 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.
I am at the end of my summer visit with my family on Long Island and I am starting to pout. “I don’t wanna go home!” Believe me, home, which is Manhattan Beach, California, is not so shabby. But it’s not getting out of bed at 7:30 am (instead of 5:30.) It’s not wine at lunch AND dinner. It’s not lingering at the table outside without a sweater for hours. It’s not falling asleep to crickets at night.
I love summer and I love it more on the East Coast. It’s the way I think we should all be living regularly – present, in the moment, grateful for what we have. I associate summer produce with this emotion, too. Strange, but true. When I think of tomatoes and corn, I always think summer. And therefore I think of freedom and happiness and relaxation and good times. That’s what comes to mind when I see real, seasonal, local tomatoes and corn. They make me HAPPY! When summer rolls around, I am jumping for joy every week when I come back from the farmers market. “Guess whaaaaat, kids?! Corn is baaaack!” They are a little over it.
What I know for sure is that this corn salad is a winner. It’s simple and nutritious and darn delicious and it screams “Hey there, summer!” You can do most of it ahead of time which is the way I like to operate. I personally love corn with a little char on it. It’s a bit smoky and goes really well with the touch of smoked paprika or ground chipotle in the recipe. But, if you are lucky enough to get just picked (as in, a few minutes ago) corn, go ahead and cut it raw. Such a treat! I know corn is controversial because most of it is genetically modified, but if you can find certified non-GMO or organic, I say go for it! Add a little protein, like a veggie burger or some grilled shrimp and you have the perfect summer meal. Hope you have a safe and fun July 4th!
- 4 ears of corn, husked
- 2 green onions, sliced (thinly sliced red onion can be substituted)
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 avocado, cubed
- 2 ½ Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder or a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Heat your grill to medium-high. Grill the corn directly on the grill, turning frequently, until the corn has nice char marks on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from grill. When cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobs and transfer to a large serving bowl.
- Add remaining ingredients to corn. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if necessary and more lime juice, if desired.
The salad can be assembled 1 hour ahead of time and kept at room temperature.
I know time flies when you’re having fun, but these days I think it flies because everything moves at warp speed, whether you’re having fun or not. And sometimes I think it’s not very fun when life happens so quickly, especially when you’re eating good food! Eating is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Thankfully I get to do it several times a day, every day. But very few things annoy me more than having to rush through a very delicious meal.
That’s what I was thinking the other day when I made these stuffed sweet potato skins. I enjoyed them so much that I didn’t want them to end. Need help with your math homework? No problem! Come back in 20 minutes. Ooops. Forgot to call my mom back. She can wait. I have a sweet potato party on my plate and I’m not ready to leave.
Cinco de Mayo, one of my favorite food holidays, is just around the corner. I know. It’s MAY in like 5 days! I had no plans to include this recipe on the blog but I made it on a whim last week and I knew I had to share it with you. Although I can say with 99% confidence that you will never find this recipe on the menu of any Mexican restaurant, so maybe it’s not Cinco de Mayo fiesta fare if you are having people over. BUT, the flavors here are totally South of the border and it’s such a healthful and satisfying meatless meal, you should make it no matter what day it is.
If you are not a sweet potato fan (stop it! really?), then maybe substitute a baked potato. But sweet potatoes are sooooooo nutritious and I never feel like I need dessert afterwards. They’re the perfect natural antidote to my sweet tooth. The best part of this recipe is the contrast between the creamy sweet potato and the smoky corn and a hint of spice. I made these about as spicy as my family would like them, but you can go as hot as you want. Serve with a green salad or some grilled asparagus and you’re all set. My girls and I loved them, and Mr. Picky ate half of one and said they were “okay.” I think if I had let him eat it with corn tortilla chips, he would have finished the whole thing.
For those of you like me, who very much like to either prep some or all of your meals in advance, it’s your lucky day. You can make this entire thing ahead and bake it just before dinner until it’s nice and hot. Or assemble different parts of this ahead, like baking the sweet potatoes or sauteing the onions. The cheese on top is very optional. I had mine without, as did Mr. Picky, and still loved it. My daughters added extra on top of theirs and asked me to tell you that they don’t think the cheese is optional and that if they were writing the recipe, they would double the cheese. Okay, girls. Have it however way you want. Just don’t rush me.
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
- 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, defrosted
- 1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tablespoon unrefined olive oil, coconut oil or unsalted butter
- ½ of an onion, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder (more if you like it spicy)
- 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
- ½ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
- ½ ripe avocado, flesh scooped out
- 6 Tablespoons shredded cheese, such as Cheddar or Monterey Jack or dairy-free Daiya (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, bake sweet potatoes until tender, about 45-60 minutes.
- While sweet potatoes are baking, place corn in a medium heavy cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Do not add anything else to the pan and do not stir so that the corn gets a little charred. Then toss a little and cook corn until browned and toasted on the outside. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add the black beans to the corn.
- You can use the same skillet to sauté the onion and jalapeno. Warm the oil in the skillet and sauté the onion and jalapeno until tender and translucent. Stir in the spices and salt and cook for 1 minute more. Add the cilantro to the pan and turn off the heat. Toss to combine the mixture and transfer to the bowl with the corn and beans.
- Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven. Allow to cool slightly so you can cut them easily or use rubber gloves if you’re in a rush and you don’t want to burn your fingers. Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop most of the flesh out and leave the skins intact. I like to leave a thin layer of sweet potato to help these stay together better. Transfer the scooped out sweet potato to a large bowl and leave the skins on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Add avocado to the sweet potato in the bowl and coarsely mash together, but don’t make a puree. Add the corn, bean and onion mixture to the mashed sweet potatoes and stir gently to combine.
- Preheat the broiler in your oven and arrange the oven rack to the second level from the top. Scoop the filling into the skins. It might seem like you have too much, but you should use it all and make them nice and full. Sprinkle each with cheese if desired and broil for a couple minutes or until cheese is melted.
Are we having fun yet?! Good, good. I have been running around the house yesterday and today like a busy bee, very excited that the big day is almost here. I’m taking a quick breather from the Thanksgiving marathon just to touch base and check-in with you all. Hope everything is going according to plan and that you’re enjoying the process. What I am not doing today, however, is sharing a Thanksgiving recipe on the day before Thanksgiving because I know you are all planners and that ship has sailed!
Instead, I thought I would give all you super organized and efficient people a great way to use up any leftover turkey you might have on Friday. I always make turkey stock and a simple turkey vegetable soup the day after. I have also given in to chicken pot pie or shepherd’s pie with turkey. But I also think it’s nice to make something on Friday that tastes NOTHING like the dinner you just spent a month thinking about! It’s actually one of my strategies for getting everyone excited to eat leftovers even the day after Thanksgiving.
This recipe is inspired by the fabulous chili at the Deer Valley ski resort in Utah. I first skied Deer Valley in 1994 when my husband and I were engaged. He and his family have been going to the resort since it first opened over 30 years ago. It is a really special place and we are fortunate to be able to go there a couple times each year with the kids. Although I enjoy skiing and Deer Valley is absolutely stunning, I’m not super gung-ho about getting out there early and making the most of my day on the slopes. I’m really in it for the food. My favorite part about skiing is building up a good appetite and rewarding myself with a nice hearty lunch. I actually start thinking about this turkey chili when I sit down on the chair lift for the first run of the day!
Turkey chili is one of the few items that the resort serves every single day. I happen to notice the the lunchrooms also serve a roast turkey plate every single day. Hmmm, could it be the kitchen needed to find a way to use up yesterday’s roast turkey? Hmmm…. Anyway, we all love this chili because it’s lighter than a beef chili and a totally different take on the typical red, tomato-based ones that are so common. This one is lighter and tastes fresher, perhaps because of all the delicious vegetables. Regardless, all the signature shops on the mountain and many of the local grocery stores sell the special seasoning packet and the dried black beans in addition to the recipe so you can make it at home. For $7 or $8 plus the cost of the turkey, vegetables and stock, you can make this pot of deliciousness at home. Hmmm….$8 for 1/2 pound of dried beans and a few dried spices. It wasn’t long before I decided I need to figure out what the heck was in that seasoning packet!
I can’t say this turkey chili is exactly like Deer Valley’s, but it’s close enough and I’m not sure my kids have noticed. For sure I use half the amount of butter than the recipe calls for and I omitted the leeks, which I think don’t make or break this chili. I also don’t use canned creamed corn, because ugh — canned and creamed and sugar don’t go with corn — so instead I just make a little corn puree. The only ingredient you may not have lying around is masa, which is ground dried corn that’s been treated with lime. It’s what corn tortillas and tamales are made from. I have to say, it does thicken up the chili and give it a fabulous Southwestern corn flavor. It’s also not an expensive ingredient, so I say definitely go for it.
Alrighty, dear readers, that’s all the time I have today. I am elbow-deep in sweet potatoes and butternut squash and my kids are starting to bicker about who gets to pick the music we listen to while we work. Ahhh, sounds like Thanksgiving! Hoping you all have a lovely holiday. xoxo
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (you can use oil, but it won’t be as good) -- vegans can use organic Earth Balance
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless turkey breast, cut into 1-inch cubes or cooked turkey, cubed -- vegetarians and vegans can add 5 cups of additional vegetables and beans
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 cup chopped celery, about 3 stalks
- 1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 jalapeno, seeded (or leave seeds for extra heat) and finely diced (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
- ¼ cup masa harina (more if you like a thick chili)
- 2 ½ Tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 Tablespoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne (cut back if you don't like spicy)
- 2 Tablespoons maple sugar or natural cane sugar
- 2 teaspoons sea salt (double if you’re using unsalted stock)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 ½ cups of chicken or turkey stock, divided* -- vegans can use vegetable stock
- 2 ¼ cups frozen sweet corn, thawed (about 12 ounces)
- 5 cups or 3 15-ounce ounce cans cooked black beans (drained and rinsed)
- Melt butter in a large pot. If using raw turkey, add half the turkey and sauté until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining turkey. If using cooked turkey, do not saute in butter, but add in step 3.
- Add the onion, pepper, celery, jalapeno, and garlic to the pot and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add the masa harina, spices, sugar, salt and pepper to the pot and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Return turkey and any accumulated juices back to the pot.
- Add 4 cups stock, 1 cup corn and the beans to the pot. Take the remaining 1 ¼ cup of corn and puree with the remaining ½ cup stock in a food processor (a mini processor works too.) Add the pureed corn to the pot. Mix well and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered for 25 minutes. Serve with desired condiments (sour cream, cheese, minced onion, cilantro) or serve on top of a baked potato.