Saturday, July 30, 2011

Confetti Corn Chowder

I'm a Hoosier. I love corn. 

If you've got some fresh farmer's market corn and you aren't in the mood to stick your face into corn on the cob, you should enjoy your corn all gentleman-like by sticking a spoon in a hearty bowl of this chowder. 

This isn't a recipe I'd usually make, because my lactose-intolerant mother would frown on the two cups of milk involved in the soup, but if you can digest milk, try this chowder.

While corn and potato chowder could be rather bland to look at, purple potatoes, red pepper, and green parsley jazz it up to make a real bowl of confetti.  

Useful Thing Mia Lewis Taught Me #49382: How to cut corn off the cob
Prep your corn by peeling it and removing the hair. Choose a small bowl with a lip on the bottom (basically, not something smooth. This works, this doesn't.) Put your little bowl upside down inside a big mixing bowl. Rest one ear of corn on the little bowl and cut the kernels off with a bread knife. Be careful not to cut too close to the cob. Cut down in straight lines, then turn the corn. When all the kernels are cut off, use the back of the knife to scrape the cob. All the juicy corn milk will be released into the bowl. The cut corn will collect in your big bowl. When you've finished all the ears of corn, remove the little bowl and you're all done!  

Confetti Corn Chowder
Adapted from amybites

4 ears sweet corn
1 lb. potatoes
olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups lowfat milk
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
parsley or green onions, to garnish

Wash potatoes and put in boiling water, boil until tender. Peel potatoes and dice. Set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, cut the corn off the cob (without cooking). Make sure to scrape out all the yummy corn milk with the back of the knife. Set aside the corn.

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or other pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until tender. Add red bell pepper and sauté for 1 minute. Add corn and stir.

Whisk flour into 1/2 cup milk and add to the corn. Add the rest of the milk and the broth. Stir in salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then cook for 1 minute. Reduce heat to a simmer, uncover, and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until thickened. Stir in chopped potatoes. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve, topped with sliced green onions, parsley, or something else green. 

Enjoy! (Preferably outside with a salad for a lovely summer supper)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Unexpected Consequences

When making decisions, I know it's important to evaluate the complete procedure to avoid unintended outcomes. Unfortunately, that process rarely happens when I'm baking, since I'm baking on a whim without thorough consideration of possible consequences.

Thus, not once did it cross my mind that making three key lime pies with four egg yolks a pie would mean I would have twelve whites floating around the refrigerator. What do I do with twelve egg whites in the fridge?
Someone new to this blog might think "make an egg white omelet!" or something annoyingly healthy like that, but to anyone that knows me, the answer is obvious: add vast quantities of sugar and bake. AKA make meringues.

Note: in my new actuallypostingtherecipe frenzy, I was planning on including the recipe for meringues that I used from a giant children's baking book someone gave Zoe and me when we were little. Regrettably, that book is currently in a heavily taped up cardboard box of cookbooks. If you want to make meringues, you'll have to google your own recipe. Sorry!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


When the clock struck midnight and I turned 18 a few weeks ago, I got a room service brownie for my birthday. It was warm and gooey with caramel on top and two scoops of ice cream on the side, so there's no denying its deliciousness (thank you, Marlene!), but sitting in bed eating a brownie in a Sheraton in Dallas, Texas somehow didn't feel enough like a birthday celebration. 

We left early that morning to return to Indiana. Finally achieving a win in minesweeper on the plane home was exhilarating, but not quite like a birthday party. Back at home, I avoided being alone. I went to IHOP with a friend's family for dinner (thank you, Furtners!) and Silver Dipper with some friends for dessert. Six mini scoops of different chocolate ice creams in one bowl? That was great. But my birthday passed without feeling absolutely real. 

I diagnosed my uncertainty a few days ago. The reason I didn't believe that my birthday happened was quite simple: I didn't have any birthday cake. I had a brownie and chocolate ice cream, but no actual cake. Just as no relationship is real unless it's Facebook official, no one really ages unless they eat cake with icing.

I solved my problem by arranging a birthday picnic for myself and my friend Namita, whose birthday is coming up soon. The picnic was tons of fun. It was boiling hot in the park, but we ate watermelon and drank lemonade and hid in the shelter's shade. Coleslaw and potato salad made it an official picnic; lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting made it an official birthday. I wanted a layer cake, but those don't hold up as well in the heat as cupcakes. Layers or no, there was frosting and cake. My birthday was real. I'm eighteen!

Lemon Cupcakes
from a layer cake in Gourmet January 2001
makes about 30 cupcakes with leftover frosting

4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c whole milk
5 T lemon juice
2 stick unsalted butter
2 c sugar
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 375. Set cupcake papers in your muffin tin. 

Mix flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl, stir together milk and lemon juice (mixture will curdle*.) In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour. Mix at low speed until just combined. 

Fill cupcake papers in 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full. 

Bake 15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on rack. 

When cool, frost with cream cheese frosting. 

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2001

2 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature
4 c powdered sugar
2 t lemon zest**
1 t vanilla extract
1 T lemon juice
yellow food coloring 

Beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Beat in zest, vanilla, and lemon juice. Taste, then add more zest if necessary. Tint with 3-6 drops of yellow food coloring if desired. Keep refrigerated so that it is firm enough to spread. 

**Original recipe called for just 1 t of grated lemon peel and no juice. I prefer a more intense lemon flavor. For a lighter touch, use the original amount. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tiger Salad

In the summer, it's very easy to lose track of what day it is. Normally, it's not an issue if I have no idea whether it's Monday or Tuesday, but on Wednesday, my mom and I forgot all about the Wednesday farmer's market. Without any fresh vegetables or fruit, we faced an empty fridge for dinner. Luckily, we had a bag of carrots, half a watermelon, and one kohlrabi.

Two light salads made our summery supper. Both are great food for a warm night or a picnic. The first salad was cubed watermelon and little cubes of feta with plenty of basil. The juicy watermelon doesn't need any dressing, just the salty feta to make a refreshing salad.

The second salad was a bit of an adventure. Kohlrabi is a dramatic vegetable because of its strange name and rare presence. It looks like something straight out of J. K. Rowling's imagination, but the taste is mild. Raw, it's very crunchy and juicy; cooked, it has the texture of a broccoli stem and tastes faintly of cabbage. It's great in sticks raw as a snack or in stir fries for an interesting texture. This week, though, we did something different with it. We grated it, making pure white, juicy shreds that we tossed with grated carrot. Brown vinegar would have ruined the bright colors, so we used seasoned rice vinegar. Seasoned rice vinegar is great for light salads because you don't need to mix it with any oil to make a vinaigrette, you can just toss it on the vegetables. With some fresh herbs, we had a beautiful tiger-striped salad.

Tiger Salad

1 kohlrabi
4 small carrots (enough to make an equivalent volume to the kohlrabi)
fresh dill and cilantro (or other fresh green herbs)
seasoned rice vinegar to taste

Peel the kohlrabi with a knife, then grate it into a bowl. Peel and grate the carrots. Wash and finely chop the herbs. Toss the salad together with a large splash of vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Key

At this point, you could call key lime pie my signature dessert. I adore key lime pie for more than its ridiculously easy preparation. Key lime pie is both classic and unexpected; the smooth filling is both rich and refreshing. Seriously perfect is the only way to describe key lime pie. The only difficulty is that it never leaves leftovers for me to eat myself. I solved that problem for my mom's party this weekend. The guest list was large, so even though I knew there would be many desserts, I made three key lime pies. I brought one after another out of the fridge, weaving through the clusters of guests in the garden to place the pie on the dessert table. The pies disappeared, proof that my favorite dessert is as good as it looks.

Key Lime Pie
Gourmet, May 2003

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs*
2 T sugar
5 T melted butter

1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 T key lime juice**

Heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350.

Stir together the crust ingredients with a fork. Press the sandy mixture onto the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie plate. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then let it cool.

While the crust is baking, separate your eggs. Whisk together the condensed milk and the yolks. Add the lime juice and whisk well.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake the pie for 15 minutes. Cool the pie on a rack. When it is completely cool, put it in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

Just before serving, beat the heavy cream. Decorate the top of the pie with whipped cream*** and serve with generous amounts of cream.

*Put the crackers inside a large ziplock bag, close it well, and crush them with a rolling pin.
**Using bottled key lime juice is the easiest and tastiest option. Key limes are often available at the grocery store, but juicing them is extremely annoying and they can give a slight bitter taste to the pie. If you can't find key limes or key lime juice, you can use regular limes, but then it's just a lime pie and the name doesn't have the same ring.
***To make the July 4 American flag pie you see above, I mixed a small dollop of cream with strawberry juice to die it pink. I alternated stripes of plain whipped cream and strawberry cream, then arranged blueberries as stars.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ake's Handiwork

Before leaving for a month in Thailand, Ake carved a mango for me. If only all goodbyes could be packaged in such a beautiful, unique way, leaving home would be much simpler.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Raspberry Yogurt Muffins

Walking in to campus a few days ago, I grabbed a few raspberries from the bush in the alley that I still think of as Zoe's. I nibbled as I walked; the berries were gone too soon. On my way home, I stopped again and grabbed a few more. They were ripe and sweet, as if I had discovered them in a clearing in a dark forest, not in an abandoned alleyway sprinkled with broken beer bottles. I popped another handful of soft red berries in my mouth, then a few more. Whose bush was this? And why weren't they eating their berries? The overripe berries made it clear that no one was taking advantage of this bush. Before I knew what I was doing, I pulled an empty bag out of my purse (it's amazing what one can find in there) and I was picking every ripe berry in sight. I'm not sure how long I stood bent over, oblivious to passersby, but it must have been a while because I listened to Gracie five times in a row.

Back at home, I poured the berries into a colander and washed them, then measured them. That scrawny little bush had given me 1 1/2 cups of berries. And you know what they say: when life gives you raspberries, make raspberry yogurt crumb muffins.

I started with the batter for a Smitten Kitchen blueberry loaf cake, but I wanted mini muffins, not a loaf. I replaced the lemon syrup with a crumb topping because I've never made muffins before and I didn't want to pass up a streusel opportunity. 

The results were adorable. I dare you to show me anything cuter than a pink-speckled streusel mini-muffin. And for my first muffins, they were delicious. The fruit and yogurt made them incredibly moist and light. I'm definitely going to make these again.

I brought them to work to keep them away from my hungry little hands and they disappeared extremely quickly. I saved just one, which is sitting in a tupperware on the counter waiting for my mom. She insists she doesn't like muffins, but she'll like this one.

Raspberry Crumb Muffins
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For muffins:
1 1/2 cups plus 1 T flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 cup yogurt
1 cup plus 1 T sugar
3 eggs
2 t lemon zest
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil or half and half)
1 1/2 cup raspberries

For crumb topping: (I did half of this, but I don't think they were crumby enough for me)
1 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
6 T butter
1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.
Stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the raspberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them into the batter.

Make the crumb topping in another bowl (your empty dry ingredient bowl, for example).
Mix the flour and baking powder. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir the sugar into it. Add the butter/sugar to the flour and stir.

Grease your muffin cups and spoon in the batter to make them about 3/4 of the way full. Crumble some crumb topping over each muffin. Bake until the top no longer looks wet, the edges are golden, and a toothpick comes out clean.