The Simple Joys of Summer

For us, Summer consists of mostly simple meals. Fresh produce, prepared to bring out its true flavors, with only minimal cooking involved. Fresh herbs and spices abound, and meat, most oftentimes grilled, takes on more of a supporting role than being the center of the dishes on our plates.

Chicken palliards, or chicken breasts that have been pounded to a mere 1/4"- 1/2" thick (a great stress reliever!) and flavored with a sprinkling of a myriad of spices and a bit of extra virgin olive oil, has become a favorite of mine. Best about them is that they can act as a perfect canvas for whatever cuisine you're craving. So in a reversal of my usual way of thinking, I've been deciding on my side dishes first - whatever vegetables looked most beautiful and full of flavor, or that needed to be used up, lest their delicious natural sugars begin turning into starch or they not be caught at the peak of their flavor.

This particular evening, I wanted to use up sweet, succulent summer corn. There's a vendor at the Farmer's Market who brings huge piles of corn in on the back of his truck every week when it's in season. It usually disappears by noon, so if I can get there early enough, I always stop there first. We decided on a Mexican theme for dinner to go with the corn, pounded and grilled our chicken (I left the chicken and the spice mix up to LB this time, so I don't know what he put in it), and I took that delicious corn, placed it on a baking sheet and roasted it, husks and all, for half an hour in the oven at 350 F.

Now, I love corn on the cob. But for some reason, I love corn even more when it doesn't get stuck in my teeth and require me have to floss them; so I always cook it on the cob, and then cut it off - it just tastes better that way! Once the corn was cool enough to handle, I husked it (corn cooked this way is easily de-husked because the silk and husks dry out), cut the sweet kernals off, added just a touch of butter, about 1/2 tsp of chili powder, salt and pepper, the juice from half a lime, and about a 1/2 tsp. of zest as well...so I guess you could call it Chili-Lime Corn. I had seen various renditions of it from various places...this was just mine. It was excellent, and the corn flavor still shone brightly through and went perfectly with the chicken, and the fresh heirloom tomatoes draped over it (drizzled with just a touch of olive oil). You could even add a bit of chopped cilantro to the mix, although I only garnished with it. Ahhh...the simple joys of summer food!


Dear Friends,

If you have been coming by lately, you've have probably noticed that I haven't posted much in the last several weeks. Thank you to those who have sent emails and hugs (thanks Nerissa!) my way. Rest assured that I'm okay! Life is just busy, full of changes, and has recently thrown me several "ups" and several "downs." All of this combined has left me little time for cooking, even less time for cooking creatively, and has also somewhat zapped my inspiration for writing and keeping up on my blog.

But that's beginning to change. As Life has started to slightly settle down, I've been cooking more, spending more time in my kitchen, and even found a few recipes that I want to share with you. Bear with me if it's a slow beginning, as this last month has been a difficult one for me, but do check back soon, and hopefully there will be lots of recipes, food and anecdotes to come.

Thank you, my friends: for stopping by, for caring, and for your patience.
"See" you soon!



I hate Martha.

I have a love-hate relationship with Martha Stewart. Her magazines and her website are filled with beautiful things and truly delicious and gorgeous food. Although I could never (would never?) aspire to be Martha, with all her perfection and knowledge about the 'right' way to clean a windowsill, collect glass jelly jars, when to plant your hyacinths, or make a gigantic centerpiece just in case some random friend drops by, I do envy the food that her food editors come up with every month. And I also envy the way they somehow "discover" a person having a party in a beautiful barn, old dock, family cabin, or other perfect setting for each story. Oh, and that person just happens to collect antique farm tools, boats, tea sets, etc. Yeah, like normal people living in small or perhaps, say, rental homes have gorgeous places where they can have 14 of their gorgeous friends over to eat their gorgeous food that was prepared and displayed, gorgeously, by Martha's food editors.

I do admit, though, that I've started to buy her magazine. And every month, the food makes me drool. Some of it is easy. Some of it is not so easy. And some of it looks easy, but leaves you wanting to yank your hair out and throw it at the old girl herself! Take this cake for example. Some of you may remember this post: I wanted to decorate a cake. I liked Meyer lemons and seeing a recipe for "Meyer Lemon Cake," I wanted to make a cake from them. I thought, sure, a cake takes an hour or two to make. I can spare that! I didn't know it would take 10 hours to make all the parts of the cake and another 10 just to put it together. Or how about how they make their pretty little sugared lemon leaves look so perfect (which I, consequently, had to steal from my boss's lemon tree - shhhh - because they are impossible to find unless you know someone with a tree!). Sure, the cake tasted good, but I should have learned my lesson.

Oh, but I didn't. When I saw a recipe for gooseberry tarts, I stepped right up to the plate...er, tart pan. Oh! I just found gooseberries at the Farmer's Market! Hi ho Hi ho, it's off to work on a Martha recipe I go! Don't let me fool you either. I did actually browse through the recipe, seeing what I needed to buy, about how much cooking it would take. I think I just may have missed a few lines....

First, I had to purchase myself a few tart pans. At $1.95/each, this was affordable...but even though the recipe called for 8, I only bought 4. Four tart pans with removeable bottoms are plenty tart pans enough for a woman of my meager cooking abilities, so I just halved the recipe.

Then, I had de-stem the gooseberries. Here's where I started realizing I had made a mistake in choosing this recipe. Have you ever de-stemmed a gooseberry? The little buggers have a "stem" of sorts on both the top and the bottom. This 40 minute excursion equaled only a little tiny line in the ingredient list: "gooseberries, destemmed."

Next, make the pastry. Right-O. I can do that. Here, she calls for a pate brisee. You can find a basic recipe here. I made the dough. What I didn't notice (one of those lines I must have missed) is that you have to bake it first. Filled with stuff. Stuff like dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Which I had to scrounge around for. But, I did that too. Oh, I forgot to mention it has to cool in the fridge for an hour before you roll it out, fill it with your weights, and then bake it for 25 minutes.

Finally, you take your pretty little tarts out and then you have to let them cool. Completely.

Uh huh. Then, it's time to make the custard. Here, you mix up your basic custard; this part wasn't so bad. Then you get to mix those de-stemmed gooseberries (just thinking of picking off those stems made some of my hair fall out) with some sugar, put them in the cooled pastry crusts, then pour the custard over the top. Sprinkle a bit more sugar, and in the oven you go, for 30 more minutes.

Take out your little custard tarts when their set, allow them to cool slightly, and then, finally, you can eat your heart out.

So, let me break that down for you:

Running to the cooking store to buy tart pans. Time = 20 minutes;
strands of hair pulled out = 0.

Destemming 1/2 pint of gooseberries. Time = 40 minutes; strands of hair pulled out = 100.

Making the pastry, letting it cool for an hour, weighting the pastry, and baking it. Time = 2 hours; strands of hair pulled out = 200, or somewhere around 2 large handfuls.

Letting your tarts cool. Completely. Time = 1 hour; strands of hair pulled out = 100.

Making the custards, Time = 30 minutes; loss of hair = 50.

Assembling the tarts, and baking them. Time = 35 minutes; strands of hair pulled out = 15.
(+ just thinking of destemming gooseberries = another 100 strands of hair...)

Taking them out, letting them cool and finally getting to eat your deliciously cute little tarts. Time = 15 minutes; strands of hair pulled out = 10, while waiting for them to cool...it's sort of like torture.

Finding out you still have hair left after 12 hours spent on a Martha Stewart recipe you thought would take "a little over an hour:" Priceless.