Posted in daily, recipe, salad, vegetable

Creamy Cucumber Salad

This salad has been a staple in my family for years during the steamy months of summer, especially when dad’s garden had a plethora of cucumbers. It’s simple enough to throw together in a pinch, and the sweet/tangy flavors make it a great accompaniment to almost anything. 

Five ingredients. Could this salad BE any easier?

Mix your dressing together first: Mayo, vinegar, a touch of sugar, salt, and pepper. Start will small(er) amounts. Whisk whisk whisk. Taste. If it’s too sweet, add a touch more vinegar. Too much vinegar? Add a bit more mayo. Taste again. Perfect.

Peel and slice cucumbers. I removed the seeds because I think they give me the burps. You can leave them in, though. Most people do.

Cut a red onion in half, remove the root end, slice in three lengthwise, then slice across thinly.

Toss cucumber and onion in the bowl with the dressing. Stir to combine and place in fridge for at least an hour to allow flavors to combine.

A tip: Don’t make a huge batch of this and expect to eat it all week. I don’t think it keeps very well past a day or two.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced. (Seeds removed, if preferred)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TBS granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly. Taste and adjust as needed. Toss cucumber and onion with dressing and stir to combine. Place in refrigerator for at least an hour to allow flavors to combine, and serve.

Someone pass the barbecued chicken thighs.

Posted in daily, food, recipe, vegetable

“Aw, Shucks”-Style Spicy Parmesan Roasted Corn

Midweek, Musikfest 2015. Is anyone else exhausted yet? And I’ve only been there twice so far!

I blame work, as per my usual. This past weekend wasn’t too bad but Friday and Monday were busy busy busy. And as of 6 pm Monday I went right into “Do ALL The Things!” Vacation Mode, so I haven’t given myself a minute to relax and breathe. I slept in a bit this morning, and plan on heading to my parents’ this afternoon for some pool time and dinner. I’ll most likely skip ‘Festing tonight to save my energy for the rest of the week, including the Snoop Dogg show Saturday night.

When people talk about Musikfest, the conversation quickly goes from the big paid acts to all the amazing free acts to the beer to the food. Oh so much food. There’s succulent shish kabobs, tasty tacos, stuffed pretzels bigger than your head, ice cream sundaes bigger than your car, pickles on sticks, and – brand new this year! – fried butter. (Yes I tried it. Just a small bite. It was as horrible as you’d imagine.) But one of the foodie favorites of ‘Fest by far is Aw Shucks corn on the cob. Sweet corn on the cob, roasted over an open flame, dipped in melted butter, sprinkled liberally with a kicky southwestern spice mix and covered in parmesan cheese. There’s not enough adjectives to describe how freaking good this corn is. Everywhere around Musikfest you’ll see people walking around, ear of corn in one hand, light-up beer mug in the other, butter and spices covering their blissful faces.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In the past few years Aw Shucks has become so popular at area festivals and fairs that they have a permanent stand in the local AAA baseball stadium, so if you have a corn craving from April through August and there’s not some sort of fest going on, you can still get your fix.

Or you can just make it at home, like me.

I can hear you from here. “But Jenn! That’s not an ear of corn! YOUR BLOG IS FULL OF LIES.”

Oh calm down, kittens. As much fun as it is to eat corn on the cob, it’s also messy as all get out. The days I plan on partaking of Aw Shucks at ‘Fest I always take wet naps to clean up after. And a change of clothes. And sometimes a drop cloth. It takes dedication to eat that corn. It’s definitely not a dainty undertaking. My way, however, is much neater and less work to get to the good stuff.

First thing you’ll need is the Aw Shucks spice mix. The mix itself consists of granulated garlic, paprika, garlic salt, onion powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, so you can “try” to recreate it at home, but there’s mysterious “other spices” listed in the ingredients, so it’s doubtful you’d get just the right combination. The mix is available at all Aw Shucks stands, on their website, and at certain farm stands in the valley. Which brings us to our next ingredient – the corn, of course.

I picked up a dozen ears at Newhards Corn Shed in Coplay, just a short drive up Mauch Chunk Road off of the 15th St exit on Route 22. A great little farm stand, reminiscent of the places I always shopped at with my mom and grandmother growing up in the Poconos. Some of the best corn I’ve tasted, too. If you’re buying your corn at the grocery store instead of Newhards you’re doing it wrong.

A baker’s dozen will run you about $6.50. My only quibble is that they appear to only sell dozen and half dozen bags, so like it or not, you’re buying corn for a crowd.

Shuck, de-silk, rinse, and pat dry. Place corn on your grill on high heat and roast, turning every few minutes, for seven to ten minutes total, until the corn is toasted and brown. Even darker in spots won’t hurt in the least – it’ll just lend to that authentic “Aw, Shucks” flavor. Had I a charcoal grill this would have been even better, but charcoal intimidates the hell out of me.

Next, de-corn your cobs. I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is the method I learned from Rachael Ray – one small bowl inverted in the bottom of a much larger bowl, stand the ear of corn up on its end, and cut down each side of the cob. Corn goes into the larger bowl and not all over the floor, boom.

Like so.

Once all the corn is cut from the cobs (and you’ve removed the smaller bowl), add melted butter, spice mix, and grated parmesan cheese.

Mix to combine. You don’t need additional salt or pepper — there’s more than enough in the spice mix and the parmesan cheese. Add the mixture to a casserole dish.

Grate some additional parmesan cheese and sprinkle just a touch more spice mix on top. Bake uncovered at 425 for approximately 15 minutes.

You can turn the broiler on for a minute or two to brown up the top if you like.

Almost as good as the original.

“Aw, Shucks”-Style Spicy Parmesan Roasted Corn

  • One dozen ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 4 TB butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, with more for grating on top
  • 1/2-1 TB “Aw Shucks” spice mix, depending on your taste

Grill ears of corn over high heat for 7-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned and roasted. Remove corn from cobs. Stir in melted butter, parmesan cheese, and spice mix (Start with a smaller amount, and taste as you go to your desired spice level). Pour mixture into a casserole dish, top with additional grated cheese and sprinkle a bit more spice mixture on top. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, turning on the broiler at the end to brown and crisp the cheese on top, if desired. Remove from oven (duh) and serve. Makes an awesome side for steak or BBQ chicken.

Posted in daily, food porn, recipe

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

I came up with this one over the weekend. I knew I wanted boneless pork chops with some sort of fruity-saucy accompaniment, but wasn’t sure what kind of fruit until I was walking through the store. Usually when you think pork chops, you think apples or apple sauce. Well, Peter Brady, let me show you something a little different.

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”

This is another very simple recipe, with just a little bit nicer result than your normal grilled chicken breast or sautéed chop. The sauce isn’t too rich or sour, and the fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness to complement the chop and the wine. I added a few healthy grinds of fresh black pepper to add a little depth of flavor.

The chops cook quickly, and the sauce comes together in a matter of seconds. You can literally have this on your table in less than 15 minutes.

I’m always worried when I make something for the first time that I don’t have a recipe for – something original. I’m still a bit unsure of myself when it comes to pairings and flavorings and what “goes” with what. I was questioning myself all week as to whether or not I should sautee an onion in the sauce, or add a vegetable to braise. Ultimately, I decided that the chop and the sauce could stand on their own.

And I was right.

I served this with a simple herb roasted potato (‘recipe’ to follow) and these green beans (minus the shallots). Definitely a keeper.

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

  • 3 or 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 cup frozen cherries, thawed, with juice (mash them up a little with a fork or potato masher)
  • 1 cup merlot (use something you would drink. This is a personal favorite.)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB butter
  • Salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch or two of sugar (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add chops to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes on either side. Remove from pan.

2. Add wine to pan and deglaze, scraping all the brown bits into the wine. Add butter and allow to thicken slightly.

3. Add mashed cherries with juice, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

4. Spoon sauce over chops and serve.

Herb Roasted Parmesan Potatoes

I only cooked one potato for this meal, you can adjust this for as many people as you like. 

  • 1 medium potato, cut into large dice
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 TB grated parmigianno regianno
  • salt & pepper

Heat oven to 375. Toss diced potato with oil, herbs, and salt & pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Toss with parmesan cheese & bake for an additional five minutes.

Serve.

Posted in daily, filler, recipe, simple suppers

Steakhouse Style Wedge Salad

This is another ridiculously easy recipe; I made it as a side to another dish I’ll be writing up soon-ish, and I figured what the heck, I’ll write this up too. Plus I want to keep the habit of posting regularly and it’s almost bed time and this was the best I could do short notice, so.

I love the flavors in a wedge salad. The “salad” part is just a big hunk of iceberg lettuce, but it’s the toppings you add that make it really special. I see it once in a while on a menu when I go out for dinner and I always consider ordering it, but then I think “Why would I pay twelve dollars for it here when I can make it at home for half that?”

So that’s what I did.

For this I had scallions, crispy onions, bacon, blue cheese dressing, and crumbled blue cheese. I made it easy on myself by buying the precooked bacon. Just one less step and ten minutes faster to salad perfection.

You can make it your own with chives, diced tomatoes, crispy prosciutto instead of bacon (ooh, yum), a different dressing…you get the idea.

Steakhouse Style Wedge Salad

Iceberg lettuce, quartered

3 slices of bacon, cooked and sliced thinly

3 scallions, thin sliced

2 TB blue cheese crumbles

2 TB blue cheese dressing

2 TB crispy salad onions

Top lettuce with bacon, scallions, dressing, cheese, and onions and serve. Goes well with a medium rare steak, but don’t let me tell you what to do.

See? Stupidly, ridiculously easy.

But hey, it counts as a blog post. BAM.

Posted in recipe, Uncategorized

Orzo and Peas in Basil Lemon Cream Sauce

Have I ever told you I’m a horrible gardener? Like, awful. I go for weeks without mowing the lawn. I’m excellent at ignoring weeds. I’ve killed cacti, for crying out loud. When it comes to planting a summer vegetable garden, no matter how hard I try to make a decent go of it, halfway through July everything just sort of…meh. Withers, dies, stops growing. You name it. So when people in my life offer home-grown produce, I jump on that train faster than you can say, “Free Vegetables”.

I was trying to think of something quippy there but it’s late, and I’m tired.

Anyway, a coworker offered me a small bag of peas today, which I gladly took. I usually eat them raw in the pod (extra fiber!), but on the way home today I was thinking about making them with dinner and I came up with this. It’s super simple, you can throw it together while everything else is in the oven (or on the grill), and super tasty.

This was only about 3/4 cup of fresh peas. I would have liked at least a full cup, if not a cup and a half to the half pound of pasta I had. If you don’t have fresh peas, you can absolutely use frozen, just toss them in the pasta when making the sauce as opposed to boiling them with the pasta.

Julienne (or chiffonnade) of basil. This was four large leaves, I only needed two.

Lemon zest. Best smell. Just use the zest, not the juice, or you’ll end up with pasta with curdled cream, which, ick.

See? Simple. Tasty.

And also kind of pretty.

Orzo and Peas with Basil Lemon Cream Sauce

1/2 lb orzo pasta

1-1 1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) peas

2 leaves basil, julienned

2 tsp fresh lemon zest

3 TB butter

2 TB flour

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Shell fresh peas. Place a pot of water on to boil. Salt water, add orzo, and cook according to package directions. Add peas to boiling pasta with 2-3 minutes left and drain.

2. Melt butter in a pan over medium high heat. Add flour and stir, creating a light loose roux. Add pasta, peas, and cream to the pan and stir, allowing the sauce to thicken.

3. Add basil & lemon to the pasta, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Enjoy! And if you have any home grown produce you’re looking to get rid of this summer? I’m your girl.

Posted in daily, recipe

Recipe: Roasted Parmesan Zucchini

I have a tendency to over-purchase produce whenever I go to the grocery store. Every Sunday I go to Wegmans with an idea of what I want to make for dinner and take as lunch for the next week, and I have the best of intentions, but many times, whether it be because I end up working or going out for dinner with friends, or just don’t feel like cooking that night, I end up with leftover veggies in my fridge at the end of the week, and no idea of what to do with them. This was just such a week.

I’ve had two zucchinis floating around my crisper drawer for a while now; my original intentions were to make this zucchini spaghetti and meatballs…yeah, that didn’t happen. I wanted to use them up this weekend instead of letting them go to waste, so I threw this together instead.

Please excuse the crappy cell phone pictures, my dad borrowed my good camera last week and I haven’t gotten it back yet.

Roasted Parmesan Zucchini

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini

2TB extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp herbs de provence

2 TB grated parmigianno reggiano cheese

pinch salt/fresh cracked pepper

Slice the zucchini thinly.

Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.

Arrange in baking dish and top with grated cheese. There’s no need to be as fastidious with it as I was, but I have culinary OCD.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is browned and the zucchini is tender.

Delicious, and the perfect way to use up any extra squash you have lying around.