Dog Days of Summer: Corn & Sausage Tart

The phrase “dog days of summer” conjures images of sultry heat, fruity drinks, and scant clothing—my favorite time of year. And, though I’ve been slacking with my blogging during this year’s dog days, I haven’t had a real chance to slow down enough and enjoy the stagnant, humid weather.

Jim and I did have a spectacular, if short, vacation two weeks ago. Lazy reading on the beach and naps in the afternoon. No cooking. Four days of nothing. It was fantastic.

And then… I came back to a crazy workplace. One of my employees quit and the new art studios she was supposed to raise that week were feeling shaky. I spent the week traveling to Philly and up and down New Jersey in her place—not to mention trying to get back on track with my own work after my little vacation. Much to my dismay, there was no cooking then either.

When I couldn’t take it anymore, I shook away my fatigue and went shopping. I needed a satisfying meal—one that takes longer than 10 minutes in the kitchen. I needed a meal that made me feel like I worked for it.

This corn & sausage tart fit the bill nicely. There’s something very satisfying in an iron skillet—I love meals where I begin on the stove top and end up in the oven. And cutting 6 ears-worth of corn off the cob makes you feel laborious. The best part about this though, was how much it tastes like comfort food after a long day of work and cooking!

I used smoked mozzarella in this recipe because I felt it complimented the chorizo well–but substitute any cheese, or any type of sausage, you like. Make sure the polenta is thick enough before you place it in the skillet to bake so that it forms into a crust for the tart.

I look forward to many more dog days of summer in August, when (as crazy as it may seem) all I want to do is stay in my hot kitchen and cook!

          

Corn & Sausage Tart

Oven Temp: 400° You need an iron, or oven-proof, skillet.

Time: depending on how fast you can prep—start to finish took me about an hour.

  • 1 lb. chorizo sausage, out of casing
  • 6 oz. smoked mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 5-6 ears of corn kernels—stand the corn on its end and use a knife to slice off kernels in downward motions. Use the back of your knife to run along the empty cobs and extract any juice.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Poblano pepper, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¾ cup dry polenta
  • 2 cups water
  1. Heat a 10-in (or around that size) coated iron skillet. Add onion to pan (use a dash of oil if you want) and sauté for 5-10 minutes. Add chile to pan and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add sausage to pan and sauté, stirring to separate, for another 5 minutes or so. Add corn and garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from skillet into a bowl.
  2. Wash skillet, pat dry, and re-coat with cooking spray.
  3. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When boiling, add polenta and whisk until thickened (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Add 2 cups of corn mixture into polenta. Pour polenta mixture into the dried skillet and spread over the bottom.
  4. Place slices of cheese over the polenta—saving a little for later. Layer the rest of the corn mixture over the cheese. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
  5. Place in oven for about 25 minutes, or until browned. Be CAREFUL taking this heavy, hot skillet out of the oven! Serve with sour cream if desired. Enjoy!

Blog or Bust #1 Round-Up

Blog or Bust #1 feels like a huge success to me! I’m so excited to have a bunch of fantastic recipes from bloggers all around—I was a little nervous that no one would join in. My mother too, confessed that she was anxious for the upcoming event, hoping that people would join her daughter’s party. It felt a little like playing at recess, hoping some of the cool kids will play your game—and I’m delighted to have some super cool dishes to display!

Blog or Bust #1 Round-Up

M of The Hungry Phase created a low-calorie Sushi Restaurant Salad, No-Fail Potstickers, and a Tangy Dipping Sauce to go with them. Usually I am afraid of potsticker recipes, thinking them too complicated for my clumsy fingers, but the No-Fail title and the fact that they are freezable encouraged me to go for it. M’s recipes offer sound cooking advice and detailed directions—the recipe is absolutely No-Fail when you have such great guidance! DELICIOUS!

Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen cooked up some Chana Masala, or Spicy Indian Chickpeas. She started from scratch sans a recipe and the outcome looks drool-worthy! I can smell all of the sensuous spices and seeds just by looking at it!

Sara from What Smells So Good? brewed together some fragrant and cooling Minty Lemon Tea. She wonderfully explained how lemon can lower your Glycemic Index and mint will aid digestion (something that many of us need help with at summer parties full of hot dogs and beer!) The tea can be served hot or cold—so this is a year-round must-have!

From Maninas: Food Matters we get some mouth-watering Fiesta Chicken and Black Bean Salad! This Salad is made with summer’s ripe Roma tomatoes, spring onions, corn, chicken, black beans, and rice—sounds like a party to me! There are also some great tips and suggestions. I absolutely love that readers are encouraged to experiment!! 🙂

Tigerfish from Tezcape got creative with a Vegetarian roll. The roll has a beancurd skin with tofu, celery, and mushroom fillings. It is gorgeous! What’s more—it’s a super healthy dish that involves deep frying! Now, how can you beat that? And a fruit cake for dessert? Let’s party!

You can check out my entry here. Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who joined in. I look forward to seeing entries for Blog or Bust #2!!

Now, I am off to vacation in East Hampton, NY until Sunday night, I’m so excited! I’ll be taking pictures of all the fish and chips and pizza places I go to for when I return—I think this week I’ll be busting instead of blogging, huh? 😀

Party Food: Corn Relish & Black Beans


When I came up for the theme of my Blog or Bust event, I underestimated the trouble I would have coming up with a suitable recipe. The theme is healthy party food. It should have been a snap, I’ve cooked for many parties with a high percentage of good outcomes (save some very strange Danish potatoes) and healthy food is something I’m good at. When I remembered some of the foods I’ve cooked at parties—fried chicken, paella cooked in chorizo fat, steak covered in a butter-wine sauce, green beans simmered in bacon fat and Parmesan cheese, etc, I realized I cook healthy at home, but when I cook for a group, I strive for inordinate amounts of fat and cholesterol. Maybe I’m trying to make my friends fat. Or maybe I use parties as an excuse to over-indulge, since my favorite way to over-indulge is to cook the food myself. Either way, I have a complex.

I brainstormed all month about what healthy party food I could make, and then POOF, like magic, I won Jasper White’s Summer Shack Cookbook from Serious Eats. I’m absolutely in love with this unpretentious, shore food book. It’s a summer must-have, and thrown my into full beach mode—which is good timing since I’m going on a little VACATION to East Hampton tomorrow (YAY!!!)

There’s a recipe for corn relish in this book which made me think “healthy alternative to beef chili on your hot dog.” So, if you do not have the willpower to withstand a hot dog at your next party, make this relish to go with it, and commend yourself on the calories saved! It also works fantastically on fish, so you can take the step further into healthiness and serve some grilled salmon and corn relish at your next get together. Grilled fish is so hot right now.

Corn Relish

adapted from The Summer Shack Cookbook*

  • 8 ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  1. In a large bowl with a sharp knife, slice the kernels off the raw corn, holding the ear upright and using downward strokes of the knife. Scrape pulp off the ears of corn, discard cobs.
  2. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine ingredients from cider vinegar to cornstarch. Bring to boil over medium heat.
  3. Add diced peppers and onion and cook until tender (10 minutes.)
  4. Add corn and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool and divide into jars. This makes about 5 cups of relish.

*adapted because (even though I feel silly contradicting such a great chef like Jasper White) I thought the recipe had too much vinegar. I lessened the vinegar and sugar and also the celery seeds (the recipe actually calls for another 1/4 tsp) because I don’t like them much. I also omitted mustard seeds because I didn’t have any on hand. If you have them, add in 1/2 tsp.

Being that I didn’t actually have this relish at a party, but made it to use with dinners all week—5 cups of the stuff was A LOT. Not wanting any to go to waste, I thought up a bean recipe, which turns out is another party-worthy food. Even though this recipe uses a whole cup of cheese, I would call it healthy (especially alongside macaroni salad and burgers at parties) and it’s a great vegetarian side or small meal. If you make the relish, or even if you substitute a quick mixture of corn, peppers, onion, vinegar and some spices, make these beans. They are good. Cheesy, satisfyingly good.

Best Black Beans

  • 1 1/2 cups corn relish
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 Pablano pepper, sliced
  • 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, one half of second can mashed with back of fork
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (I used Canadian cheddar)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • olive oil
  1. Coat a medium saucepan with olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic cloves and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add Pablano peppers and cook another 2 minutes.
  2. Add black beans and cook 3-5 minutes. Add cumin, cayenne, corn relish and cheddar cheese. Cook until beans are tender and cheese is melted.
  3. Serve with sour cream or extra cheese on top if you like!

CHECK BACK TOMORROW TO SEE THE DELICIOUS DISHES MADE FOR BLOG OR BUST! 😀

What is a “Power” Bar, anyway?

“Power” bars make me hesitant. I just can’t believe that the little squares of grains and dried fruit, albeit delicious, will grant me “power.” To explain, I went to the dictionary:

Power is defined as (1) The ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something—OK, “power” bar, you have me there. Your yummy carbohydrates do motivate me for a short period of time, and every once in a while, I accomplish something with that burst of sugar.

(2) Political or national strength: the balance of power in Europe—Haha, showed you bar! A “power” bar will definitely not grant me political strength, and they will not keep Europe balanced. I don’t think Europeans even eat “power” bars.

(3) The great or marked ability to do or act; strength; might; force—Touche. I do get a bit of strength, but seriously “power” bar, I think you are exaggerating.

(4) The possession of control or command over others; authority; ascendancy: power over men’s minds—“Power” bar, if you could do this, I would buy you a beer. I’d buy you the beer factory.

(5) Legal ability, capacity, or authority—I’m not sure I know what this means, but I ain’t got it.

(6) A military or naval force—I don’t think my “Power” bar has very good military skills, he’s kind of a hippy.

(7) Energy, force, or momentum—Okay, okay, you get this one too, “power” bar, but it’s really just (1) and (3) worded a bit differently, don’t you think?

The list goes on and on, well for another 23 entries for “power” ranging from electrical units to orders of angels, and I’m convinced that my “power” bars will neither make me electrical or angelic (certainly not the latter.) But while I will not be granted the power to rule countries or read men’s minds, these power bars are pretty tasty. And maybe I’ll feel empowered enough to do some laundry, too.

Power (in a sense) Bars

These bars can be easily molded to your liking—exchange any ingredients you don’t like with comparable or it’s in-season counterparts.

Time: About 15 minutes, or as quickly as you can get out all of the ingredients!

Makes about 20 thick bars.

  • 3 cups crisped rice (a much more mature way of saying Rice Krispies)
  • 3  cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups dried cranberries
  • 1 ½ cups raisins
  • 2 mashed bananas
  • 1 cup chunky natural peanut-butter
  • 3 Tbsp shredded coconut
  • OPTIONAL: 2 Tbsp protein powder
  1. Bring corn syrup and vanilla to a boil in small saucepan.
  2. Mix all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
  3. Add just boiling syrup to large bowl and combine very well.
  4. Spread mixture into a greased baking pan—let cool completely and then cut into 20 bars. Will keep for about two weeks when individually wrapped.

The Road to Perfection is Paved with Chocolate Chip Coffee Almond Muffins?!

I have been keeping secrets from you, food-blog.

I didn’t realize it at first, but I was keeping you in the dark, unconscious of the obsession that had begun to take over my life.

I gave you the first hint of my obsession, but never mentioned it when my life began to slowly unravel—flour on the walls, ceilings, supermarket stops where an ungodly amount of money is spent on mix-ins, hour upon hour staring at Kitchen-aid mixers online, trips to Macy’s where I take the gleaming mixer, walk up to the register, and then double back, screaming at myself that I do not have an extra 300 bucks lying around, the full hour cross-trainer sessions where I sweat enough to fill a bath tub, and the experimentations… oh, the experimentations.

If you haven’t guessed, muffins have taken over my life.

I think about them, a lot. I think about the new flavor combinations I can create. I think of ways to make them moist and fluffy. I categorize them as healthy and unhealthy and I schedule which days I should make which kind so that they coordinate with the days I work out. I add dollops of raspberry jam on top of the healthy ones so that they don’t seem healthy anymore. I toy with the ideas of using stranger and stranger ingredients, in varying quantities. I think about the best muffins I’ve ever had, and I plot destroying them with my super-muffins (when I actually create some, I’ll let you know!) I use marscapone cheese. I bark at my boyfriend, who used to be a personal trainer and is the epitome of a gym freak, that we need 10 more minutes on the cross-trainer, chanting to myself, “Another muffin tonight baby, who says muffins are for breakfast?! I’mma eat em all day long!” I fear soon I may have calve muscles the size of Texas.

And I don’t tell you any of this. I let you suffer, food-blog, with only one or two posts throughout the week. But no more. I’ve decided to open myself up to you and let you in. But, please, don’t hurt me—not all muffins are delicious, some are down-right nasty. Sometimes chocolate just doesn’t go with pumpkin granola… and that’s OK. The road to perfection is paved with failed recipes.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Almond Muffins

Despite all the chocolate, these muffins are not sweet. The almond extract makes them a bit interesting so if you want more traditional muffins, omit. If you want a sweeter muffin, add 3/4 cup molasses or and extra 1/2 light brown sugar.

Time: 30 minute prep, 15-25 minute bake at 350°

Yeild: 12 hulkin’ muffins or 16-24 little ones

  • 2 cups unprocessed wheat bran
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used 60% chocolate)
  • Tbsp dark roast, fine ground coffee or espresso
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • extra chocolate chips
  • extra sprinkle of coffee
  1. Place first five ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Sift the next three ingredients into a small bowl.
  3. Mix butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly add in each egg one by one, combining well. Fold in almond extract.
  4. Add the bran mixture to the large bowl, fold in.
  5. Slowly and gently add the flour into the large bowl also, try not to over-mix (but it happens to the best of us!)
  6. Heap batter into greased (or lined) muffin cups. Make anywhere between 12 and 24 depending on the size you want your muffin. Top with extra chips and coffee.
  7. Bake in oven for 15-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (if it comes out chocolatey that’s alright, just not stuck full of batter!)
  8. Cool on a wire rack, eat some while warm and gooey, save others in an airtight container for 7-10 days (if they last that long!)

Chipotle Shrimp

When I was younger (okay, up until two years ago) I hated shrimp. I thought they looked like baby fetuses of the sea, and I just couldn’t eat a baby (though I did manage to eat my share of veal parmigiana.)

I realize now that shrimps in fact do not look like baby fetuses (that much), and that I really have no way of telling how old a shrimp is when I eat it, and that it’s quite possible the shrimp lived a long and fulfilled life before throwing himself into the net to avoid dementia in his twilight years.

Yes, I’m positive that’s how most shrimp are caught—so let’s eat!

Chipolte Shrimp

Though this shrimp doesn’t need cocktail sauce, I prefer it anyway—as long as you have a good one. Lou’s Cocktail sauce is far and away my favorite brand.

Time: 10 minutes (if your shrimps are already cleaned)

Equipment: A small bowl, a plate or pan, a skillet

  • 1 pound of shrimp (Jumbo Gulf shrimp if you can get them), cleaned and deveined
  • ¼ cup regular mayonnaise
  • ¼ to ½ tsp. chili paste
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ cup (or more) Panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil
  1. Place mayonnaise in a small bowl and mix in chili paste and chili powder. Taste test your chipolte mayonnaise and see if you need to add more paste or powder. Spread panko breadcrumbs in a baking sheet or on a large plate.
  2. When the mayonnaise is perfect to your liking, dredge the shrimp in the mayonnaise and then the breadcrumbs. Add more breadcrumbs if needed.
  3. Pour olive oil around your skillet on medium-high heat. Add in shrimps. Cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until their colory is a creamy pink.
  4. Enjoy!

Nicholas

I am a fledgling restaurant snob, learning that it’s not worth going out to eat unless the food wows, the atmosphere flows, and memories are made. So, over the past year, Jim and I have done a lot of dining in NYC, leaving NJ restaurants to days when we are too tired to cook or drive to the city.

Nicholas in Red Bank, NJ, put my NYC-food snobbery to shame.

The restaurant, sitting unassumingly on a regular suburban highway near the Jersey Shore, is cozy but chic. There are candles lighted in the fireplace and jazzy music. Two divided rooms make up the restaurant, one with a bar and booths, and the other somewhat fancier, fine dining-looking.

I had the crab and avocado salad, potato gnocchi with braised artichokes, lobster in white truffle sauce and pulled pork in a cinnamon jus. To top it off (like anything that ridiculously delicious needed topping off), the table shared a cheese plate and we all had plates sampling the best desserts—including an orgasmic creme brulee and the best molten chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted!

Throughout the entire dinner, we were treated better than what you normally get at a restaurant of this scale in NYC. The waiters gave beautiful gifts of blueberry bread at the end of the meal, extending the Nicholas experience until breakfast the next morning. And even the smallest things, like the tableware, made me feel fawned over—in NYC I usually find the outwardly beautiful tableware to be a lower quality than what it looks like when I lift it up and inspect. At Nicholas, however, the silver was heavy, high quality and gleaming. Now if that’s not restaurant snobby, you tell me what is! I guess I will pack away my NYC food bias, and leave my snobbery to the forks and knives!