Summer Corn Salad with Roasted Potatoes

Summer has officially begun and no other vegetable epitomizes summer like fresh corn. We love the taste of fresh corn from the cob and knew it would make a fine companion to potatoes, asparagus and roasted red peppers. Roasting red peppers over a flame until parts of it are good and charred gives them that camp fire smokiness that screams summer barbecue. This summer veggie melange becomes a beautiful summer dinner salad or side to grilled meats or fish. Just dress it with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, then toss it all with spicy arugula and fresh chopped sweet herbs like dill, basil or tarragon.

Each of the “fresh” veggies in this salad spent some time with heat. The corn and asparagus pieces were blanched and then dropped into an ice bath before serving. The potatoes were boiled, halved and then browned on a stovetop griddle. The peppers were completely cooked, whole, skin on, on an open flame on our gas burning stove until it was black. We then wrapped them in paper towels to steam before we peeled them. Why blanch? It seals in vitamins, brightens color, sweetens and cleanses. It renders fresh veggies crisp/tender to the bite. It also readies them for storage – freezer or canning – and extends their fresh shelf life in the refrigerator. We ate this salad for a couple of days and it retained its great taste and texture.

We served the salad with rotisserie chicken and paired it with a simple Spanish rosé. Instead of salad, the veggies could be combined and warmed together with herbs and served with a fried egg and crunchy toast for a summery weekend brunch.

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Summer Corn Salad with Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs or 1 small bag small potatoes such as yukon gold or red
1 bunch asparagus or green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 ears fresh corn, shucked from the cob
1 red pepper
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bunch arugula
fresh dill
blue cheese crumbles

In a medium sized pot, fill half way with fresh cold water. Place the pan over medium – high heat until water is boiling. Add a large pinch of salt and place the potatoes in the pot. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or just until a knife pierces the potato. Remove the potatoes from the water and set aside uncovered to cool.

If you have a gas stove, place the red pepper over a burner and turn the gas on medium heat to roast the pepper. Turn the pepper with a set of tongs to keep the pepper from burning all the way through. Once it is charred on all sides, wrap in a couple paper towels and set aside to loosen the charred skin, 3 minutes or so. Rub the paper towel over the pepper to remove the skin. Remove stem and seeds from the pepper then slice into strips, and dice. Set aside.

Add the asparagus to the potato water and cook for 3-4 minutes, or less depending on the the size of the asparagus. Remove from the pot and place in an ice bath. Set aside until chilled.

Add the shucked corn to the heated water. Heat for 30 seconds then remove and place in an ice bath. Allow to cool.

In the bottom of a large bowl, add the juice from 1 lemon and at least 3 tablespoons good olive oil. Add a 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few good grinds of pepper. Whisk.

Dry the asparagus, add to the bowl with the dressing. Add the peppers and corn. Toss with the dressing and season to taste, adding more lemon juice or olive oil if needed. Set aside.

On the stovetop over medium-high heat, heat up a skillet or pan. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice in half and add to a medium sized bowl. Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil to coat the potatoes. Add the potatoes, cut side down, to the hot skillet or pan. Roast until golden, 4-8 minutes. Once cooked, take off the heat and set aside.

Add the arugula to the corn and asparagus, toss. Plate the salad and top with warmed potatoes, fresh dill sprigs, and a crumble of blue cheese. Serve and enjoy.

Noodle Mania

Top (Left to Right) Spinach Fettucini, red peppers and shiitake mushrooms. Asian Noodles with bok choy and mushrooms. Bottom (Left to Right) Fettucini with summer squash, basil and tomato. Asian soup with rice noodles and shredded Napa cabbage.

How many times have you come home from grocery shopping feeling hungry, looked at what you just purchased and asked yourself “What is there to eat?” If you purchase bulk items – vegetables, beans, rice – you know, the staples, you always need to factor in some time to prepare your meals from these basic ingredients. Making dishes in large batches and then storing them in meal-sized portions makes a lot of sense and takes the guess work out of weeknight meals. We used to keep soup and other items stored in the freezer for just this occasion, but since going plastic free we have had some difficulty finding a substitution for Zip-loc bags. If anyone has a non-plastic freezer-safe suggestion please let us know.

There is always one go-to item that’s easy to prepare, can be made in a variety of ways, and takes less time than heading to the nearest fast-food joint (unless of course you live just above one). I’m talking about pasta! That wonderful, versatile, shape-shifting, flour, water (and sometimes egg) concoction with names like ziti, penne, and spaghetti. With a range of flours and grains used to make this unique and tasty food, everyone can enjoy what has been a staple in so many food traditions around the world for centuries. The invention of pasta is often credited to the Italians but cultures around the world have been making their own version for thousands of years. While debated, the noodle likely made its way to Italy via trade with Arabs in the Middle East. Recent archeology suggests the Chinese were first to the noodle making craft. The Japanese have soba and ramen noodles. The Chinese have chow fun noodles. The Vietnamese have bun (rice vermicelli). In Europe, the Italians aren’t alone in their adoration of the noodle. The Germans have Spätzle which is very pasta-like and takes to a myriad of sauces.

With some dried pasta and a few items from your cupboard a wonderful meal can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Olive oil, anchovies, olives, capers, lemon zest, and parmesan cheese make a wonderful and salty sauce. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the anchovies, olives and capers. Mix in the cooked pasta with a little pasta water add the lemon zest and grated parmesan cheese and Voila! You’re eating like an Italian.

Want a quick hearty soup? Heat up some broth, add soy sauce, throw in a mixture of equally sized cut vegetables (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, squash, celery, etc.), and heat until the vegetables are cooked. Throw in some left-over chicken or beef, or even a raw egg or two that will scramble in the broth, then add some cooked soba or ramen noodles, and a handful or two of green leafy vegetable, such as spinach, or watercress. Top with a drizzle of sesame oil and enjoy.

If you want soup but don’t want to go the soy route, add savory herbs like oregano, thyme or sage and a bay leaf to the broth instead (dry herbs work just fine here) and toss in a handful of orzo, pan fried broken spaghetti or any short shaped pasta and you’ve got yourself a bowl of something reminiscent of the Mediterranean. With a dusting of fresh chopped parsley and a little extra-virgin olive oil drizzled on top, you’ll think you’ve just plated something special from your favorite Italian trattoria.

These aren’t really recipes. It’s called making do with what you have in your kitchen. Be creative and try new things. Read recipes for inspiration and then break the rules. Be fearless! It’s only food after all. Just make sure you eat what you make and don’t be wasteful.

A good rule of thumb is that almost anything goes well with pasta, even peanut butter! The peanut noodle recipe that follows is a household favorite around here. The sauce is so simple to prepare but the flavors of the finished dish are rich and complex. We’d take this Asian inspired comfort dish over microwave dinners any night of the week.

Peanut Noodles

Spaghetti or Rice Vermicelli

¼ cup peanut butter (best to use a non-sweetened, organic variety)

3 tbsp soy sauce

Hot water

1 clove fresh garlic, mashed

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp rice vinegar

Dash of cayenne pepper

1 cup diced or julienned cucumber, seeds removed

While pasta is cooking, heat water and add all sauce ingredients to a mixing bowl and stir until sauce is thick but fluid enough to coat pasta. Once pasta is cooked, be sure to reserve some of the water and then drain. Place pasta back into the pan and toss with peanut sauce.  Place in bowls and top with cucumber.