A Tale of Terror and Bravery – Corn, Zucchini, and Red Pepper Salad with Feta

Corn and zucchini salad with red pepper and feta

Some chopped  fresh veggies

I have debated the merits of including the descriptions of BUGS IN MY FOOD before a tasty recipe, but all other descriptions of this salad pale in comparison to the True Tale of Terror. So, please keep in mind as you read: “Nature is terrible but this corn salad is delicious.”

This is the story of how I almost died, but was the most courageous girl in the world and managed to finish this corn salad despite the extreme terror and agony I suffered.

THERE I WAS, innocently shucking corn for a corn salad. I peeled back the husk, only to see the world’s LARGEST WORM lunge at me from the corn kernels.

death worm

ACTUAL SIZE OF CORN DEATH WORM

 

I screamed and threw the corn into the trash can, then retreated into the furthest corner of the kitchen. Needing to share my terror, I called Christopher, who was driving back from Target.

“Hello?” he said.

“AUUUGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!” I said, bravely, in the calmest tones despite the abject terror before me.

“WHAT’S WRONG!?!” he said, flooring the gas, assuming I was the victim of a stabbing.

“WORM! CORN! AUGH! WORM!”

“That’s – that’s it?” he said, obviously not understanding the sheer terror I had bravely faced.

“IT’S IN THE TRASH CAN WAITING TO ATTACK. TAKE IT AWAY. TAKE IT AWAY.” I said, calmly and rationally, with pure survivor instincts.

He hung up on me, obviously needing to focus on driving speedily to come to my side to fight the Death Worm Beast. I tweeted about my harrowing experience, as one does.

When he finally arrived, not appreciating the ongoing threat, Christopher removed the corn from the trash and examined the worm. I had not expected to face my enemy again so soon. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! IT’S GOING TO ATTACK.”

He assured me it was not, but returned it to the trash can. After shucking the rest of the corn and examining the rest for unwelcome guests, the Corn Death Worm and its corresponding corn cob were whisked away to Trash Land.

I, the picture of bravery, knew now what must be done. I must finish the corn salad.

SO. This corn salad, WORM FREE, is absolutely delicious. The dressing is tangy, the vegetables crisp, and the feta cheese creamy. I started out using a recipe from Bon Appetit, but changed up a few of the ingredients along the way. OBVIOUSLY there was less corn than originally planned. I cut down the amount of zucchini because there really is so much raw zucchini one can take. I added a diced red pepper  for crispness and sweetness. I also upped the amount of feta cheese, because if there’s one thingI know, it’s that there is never such a thing as too much cheese.

You should definitely make this salad. You should also definitely check your corn at the store for unwanted intruders.

 

corn and zucchini salad with red peppers and feta

corn salad of bravery

Corn, Zucchini, and Red Pepper Salad with Feta

(Adapted from this recipe by Bon Appetit)

Ingredients

  • 3 ears of corn, husked
  • 1 medium sized zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces of feta, crumbled

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the corn in the boiling water for three minutes until bright yellow, remove from water and let cool. Once cooled, cut the kernels from the cob.
  2. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise, forming thin strips.
  3. Combine the corn kernels, zuchinni slices, red pepper, basil, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Top with feta.

 

 

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Smashed Fingerling Potatoes with Jalapeños- Bon Appétit, July 2014

Fingerling potatoes with jalapenos

“FOR OUTDOOR USE” declared the July issue of Bon Appétit. I thought that was terrific, and pictured myself standing over the grill, Bon Appétit in one hand, fork in the other, tasty meat charring before me. Possibly while wearing  a jaunty chef’s hat.

Of course the first recipe I made from this issue was not outdoors during the glory days of summer, but indoors at the end of August. If I was an issue of Bon Appétit magazine, my cover would read “FOR INDOOR USE ONLY.” The outdoors is just a terrible place, guys. Mosquitoes. Dirt. Bugs. Non-controlled climate.

If you somehow are still grilling into the final days of summer, this is a very nice potato dish to make indoors and then eat with your outdoor food. Or you could cook your entire meal indoors and congratulate yourself on your passive dominance over nature.

Usually when someone says “Potato Salad,” one pictures a bowl of mayonnaise with a few sad potatoes floating around. This recipe is a million times better. Small fingerling potatoes are drizzled in olive oil and oven-roasted, then tossed with a delicious whole-grain mustard vinaigrette, fresh parsley, and jalapeños while warm. The jalapeños provide the perfect kick.

These potatoes pairs well with any summer-ish meat main – burgers, steak, barbecue chicken.

Smashed Fingerlings with Jalapenos 

(Bon Appétit, July 2014, recipe by Lou Lambert and Larry McGuire)

My Notes: 

  • Smashing the potatoes is fun. Give them about five minutes to cool then gently press on them with a wooden spoon until they pop.
  • I used red-wine vinegar.
  • I didn’t think my potatoes were overly large but halved most of them anyway to make them more bite-sized.
  • I was bringing this to a Labor Day party, so I removed the core and seeds from the jalapeños before slicing in case others did not share in my adoration for spice.
  • I thought this was better warm, so make it as close to meal time as you can. I made mine about five hours before serving it, and it was definitely tastier in the first hour than it was in the last.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved crosswise if large
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed if desired
  • ¼ cup (lightly packed) torn flat-leaf parsley leaves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Toss potatoes with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until golden brown and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then lightly flatten.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes, jalapeño, and parsley and toss; season with salt and pepper.

Honey Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

honey bourbon sea salt caramel

Have you ever made candy before? It’s actually shockingly easy, even though it can sound intimidating.

Like baking, candy making is extremely precise. You’ll want to have a candy thermometer (I have some random one I picked up at Giant, but it’s basically this one.) and make sure to keep a careful eye on the temperature. Too high, and you’ll have hard, brittle candy (which is great if you want peanut brittle, bad if you want gooey caramel). Too low and you’ll have a caramel sauce. Luckily, most candy thermometers have markings telling you which temperature equals which stage of candy making. A quick rundown of the stages:

  • 230 F  – “Thread.” Sauce.
  • 235-240°F – “Soft Ball.”  Soft caramel, fudge, pralines, and fondant.
  •  242-250°F – “Firm Ball.” Caramel, marshmallows, gummies.
  • 250- 265°F – “Hard Ball.” Nougat, rock candy.
  • 270-290°F – “Soft Crack.” Saltwater Taffy, Butterscotch.
  • 300-310°F –  “Hard Crack.” Toffee, PEANUT BRITTLE, and lollipops.

The other thing I recommend having for candy success is a three-quart saucepan. Candy has a tendency to bubble sharply, and what is a sticky disaster in a two quart pan is merely bubbles with a three quart saucepan.

“This sounds very messy,” you may be thinking to yourself. Here’s the best part of candy making – if you soak your pot, candy thermometer, and any utensils used for about an hour, the sugar just melts away.

SO, gather your candy thermometer and let’s blow our minds with these caramels.

The basic recipe for these is from Bon Appétit.  Let me tell you, I’ve made vanilla caramel before. These are way better. Partly because of the direction to cook the caramel to a dark amber, partly the sweetened condensed milk, and partly the Honey Bourbon, these have a luxurious undertone that makes all other caramels seem bland in comparison.

One last thing to keep in mind about candymaking is you can spend a lot of time waiting for the sugar to melt, but the final stages usually move VERY quickly, with a lot of stirring. I recommend prepping all your ingredients ahead of time and keeping them handy.

So gather your candy thermometers, think very hard about the shades of amber, and make these caramels. The most difficult part of this candy recipe will be waiting for it to cool.

Honey Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels

(Only a little bit adapted from this Bon Appétit recipe)

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray, such as Pam
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons honey bourbon (I used Wild Turkey Honey Bourbon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Flaky sea salt (optional. Christopher HATES sea salt crunching on things so I skipped it.)

Instructions

  1. Spray an 8″x8″ or equivalent baking pan with the nonstick spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of about 2″ on 2 sides. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick spray.
  2. Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water  to boil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture turns a deep amber color, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. You don’t need a candy thermometer for this step.
  3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter. Everything will bubble aggressively, DO NOT BE ALARMED. Instead be thankful you used a 3-quart pan.
  4. Attach the candy thermometer and return to a medium-low heat. Continue to whisk constantly while watching the thermometer, until the thermometer registers 240 degrees.
  5. Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt.
  6. Pour into prepared pan; wait impatiently to cool.

Croque-Monsieur – Bon Appétit, May 2014

My dad, like most, was not first in line to start texting. “You can just pick up the phone and call someone,” he would say, Dad-ly.

But the future catches up with us all. A few months ago, this happened:

2014-05-26 11.29.45

Although I did not immediately run out and procure sandwich ingredients, it stuck in my mind as “something I need to east soon.” So when I saw a Croque-Monsieur recipe in the latest Bon Appétit, along with a béchamel tutorial, I decided it was a sign.

Good news, everyone: this is a really easy sandwich to make. The thick, country style bread is spread with creamy béchamel  sauce (with a hint of mustard), then topped with ham and Gruyere cheese before being baked. The result lies on the “life changing” tier, somewhere between “discovering goat cheese” and “buying a coffee grinder.”   Don’t be intimidated by the béchamel! It involves a good bit of stirring and whisking, but comes together quickly and easily.

You can even make the sauce and assemble the sandwiches the day before, then just pop them in the oven 15 minutes before you want to eat them.  We ate these two days in a row and found that sitting overnight gave the flavors time to develop.

The first thing I did after making these sandwiches was text a picture to my dad. He promptly one-upped me.

 

CHEESE IN THE SAUCE, YOU GUYS. 

I’ve included the original recipe below, but I will never make it again without adding cheese to the sauce. I suggest you do the same.

 

Croque-Monsieur 

(Bon Appétit, May 2014) – Recipe by Jody Williams

Serves 4

My Notes: 

  • I plan to re-make these but add half a cup of Gruyere to the béchamel, per my dad’s instructions. I don’t think you can go wrong with additional cheese.
  • I used dijon mustard in absence of whole-grain mustard.
  • These really do taste better after sitting overnight, which is good for you since they’re so easy to prep ahead of time.

Ingredients: 

BÉCHAMEL

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ¼ ground nutmeg
  • Kosher salt

ASSEMBLY

  • 8 slices ½”-thick country-style bread
  • 6 oz. ham, preferably Paris ham (about 8 slices)
  • 3 oz. Gruyère, grated (about 1½ cups)
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

Preparation:

BÉCHAMEL

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Add flour and cook, stirring, until mixture is pale and foamy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring until mixture is smooth. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick and somewhat elastic, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and nutmeg; season with salt.

DO AHEAD: Béchamel can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool; press plastic wrap directly onto surface and chill.

ASSEMBLY
Preheat oven to 425°. Spread bread slices with béchamel, dividing evenly and extending all the way to the edges. Place 4 slices of bread, béchamel side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet; top with ham and half of cheese. Top with remaining slices of bread, béchamel side up, then top with remaining cheese and sprinkle with herbes de Provence. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbling, 10–15 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Sandwiches can be made (but not baked) 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.

 

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco – Bon Appétit, April 2014

SO FANCY

MAKE THIS YOU WILL FEEL SO FANCY

This dish will give you so many things:

  • Introduction to the alleged trendy Romesco
  • A super speedy weeknight dinner
  • The feeling that you are SO FANCY when you plate it

I am not the artistic one in my family, not by a long shot. Our house is decorated with lovely paintings from my grandma. My sister sketches to relieves stress. My husband has taught art classes. I sort of just plop things together and hope for the best, and Christopher will surreptitiously rearrange it.

This dish, however, made me feel SO FANCY. My first inclination was to serve the pork tenderloin in slices, with the Romesco just on the side. But all by itself, the Romesco was not visually appealing. So after asking myself What Would Martha Do? (WWMD, not sure why this isn’t a bracelet yet), I plated the sliced pork tenderloin on top of the Romesco and arranged the salad on top. It probably wouldn’t win me first place on MasterChef, but hey, baby steps.

This is a really simple dish. The pork tenderloin is browned on the stovetop then roasted in the oven, with a dash of salt and pepper. The watercress and roasted carrots are tossed with a little red wine vinegar to make a speedy salad.

The real star of this dish is the Romesco, a Spanish answer to pesto. Bon Appétit declared it was currently trendy, and I see no reason to disagree with them. Traditional Romesco is a red-pepper based sauce  pureed with nuts and garlic. Bon Appétit subs in roasted carrots for the red peppers to make a slightly sweet, nutty spread with a kick from the raw garlic and red pepper flakes.

If you decide to be SO FANCY and make this, do not be alarmed when you are not blown away with joy by the Romesco on its own, or you nibble a bit of watercress and think “this tastes like the Fresh Rain scent if you put it in a leaf and I’m not sure how I feel about it.” Once everything is on the plate and you take a bite of the juicy, salted pork with the sweet, nutty bite of the Romesco with just a hint of fresh spice from the watercress,  you will realize it has all come together beautifully. And you will feel SO fancy.

Bon Appétit, April 2014

 

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco

(Bon Appétit , April 2014) 

Serves 4 (ALLISON’S NOTE – I know it says four, but this really serves 2.5. If you had crusty bread on the side it would probably serve 3ish).

My Notes: 

  • Pine nuts can be pricey. I had a few in my freezer, but greatly overestimated how many I had (a tablespoon) and had to sub in walnuts. I’ve done walnuts in pesto before without an issue, and it turned out just fine.
  • The Romesco gets better the longer it sits, and tasted delicious the next day on a wasa cracker with avocado. Although I got a REALLY weird look from a coworker who thought I had just spread peanut butter on a cracker and topped it with avocado and lemon.
  • My food processor didn’t handle the small amounts of ingredients well, merely sending the pine nuts on a merry circular journey without chopping them, so I used my immersion blender to make a smoother puree.

Ingredients: 

  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1½ pound small carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if larger
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large pork tenderloin (about 1½ lb.)
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated (Allison’s note: I DID NOT DO THIS. I just tossed it in the food processor whole).
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper or ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
  • 2 cups spicy greens (such as watercress or baby mustard)

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes; let cool.
  2. Increase temperature to 450°. Toss carrots with 1 Tbsp. oil on another rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and black pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until softened and browned, 15–20 minutes; let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and black pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 10–15 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°, 8–10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  4. Pulse pine nuts, garlic, and remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in a food processor to a coarse paste. Add Aleppo pepper, one-fourth of carrots, 1 Tbsp. vinegar, and 1 Tbsp. water. Process, adding more water as needed, to a coarse purée; season romesco with salt, black pepper, and more vinegar, if desired.
  5. Toss greens with remaining carrots and remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar in a large bowl; season with salt and black pepper. Serve pork with romesco and salad.