View The Austin Gastronomist blog the traditional way– in reverse chronological order starting with the most recent post.
Fruit seasons in Texas are notoriously short. We got strawberries for about three weeks this spring, and much of this summer’s tomato production is on hiatus until cooler months. If you want to enjoy the bounty all year-round, canning is one of the best– and sweetest– ways to preserve local produce.
Stephanie McClenny, purveyor of the award winning Confituras preserves, and local author Kate Payne (Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking) are teaming up once again to teach the art of home canning, from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm on July 31st in downtown Austin. The class is geared towards beginning canners, and it will cover the fundamentals of safe water-bath canning, along with the secrets to balancing flavors and creating tasty preserves in your own kitchen.
You may remember Kate and Stephanie’s last class, a strawberry jam session in April, sold out quickly. This time around they’re demonstrating with local figs, and there are
only a couple slots left only waitlist spots available for the morning session. They have opened up an afternoon session from 2:00-3:00 PM, which has a few openings left. To reserve your place in the class or add your name to the waitlist, purchase a ticket online. Admission to the class is $60 and includes recipes, light refreshment and a jar of preserves to take home.
*Edited 7/26/11 to announce that Kate and Stephanie’s morning class is sold out! They have opened an afternoon session for folks who want a guaranteed place in the class, and they are accepting waitlist names for the morning session.
A kolache is a Czechoslovakian wedding pastry made with a yeast dough and a filling in the center. In the Czech pronunciation of the word, the “e” in kolache is silent. Unless you’re in Texas, in which case you say it, “kuh-LAH-chee.” Bonus points if there’s an extra syllable because of a dialectical twang.
Texas kolaches are a special breed of pastry, having descended through several generations of Czech immigrants in various parts of the state. You’ll find that kolaches in the self-proclaimed Kolache Capitol, West, differ from those in La Grange, Fredericksburg, El Campo and other areas. Some kolaches are filled with fruit, others with cheese or custard. Some are topped with a sugar glaze, others brushed with butter. And the kolache culture extends beyond the kitchen: Caldwell, Texas will hold its annual Kolache Festival this September, complete with a “Miss Kolache” pageant and a co-ed Kolache Softball Tourney.
The kolache’s funny name and sweet taste, along with its proliferation in tiny towns across the state, make it a popular part of the Texas road food experience. One of the most recognizable kolache bakeries in Texas is the Czech Stop in West, about an hour south of Dallas. This bakery, housed inside a Shell station, churns out thousands of kolaches each day and has become a must-stop part of the journey between Austin and Dallas on I-35. (Only recently did I realize how uniquely Texan it is to have one of the state’s largest kolache bakeries located inside a gas station.)
This weekend my husband Rami and I took a mini-road trip to east Texas, and I was disappointed when our route didn’t take us by any kolache bakeries. However, we did visit Berry Hill farms in Edom (pop. 375) where we picked bushels of blueberries– my favorite kolache filling. I didn’t wait to make it home before I cooked up kolaches with those berries; my mom was kind enough to open her kitchen and bake a big batch with me in Dallas.
The kolache dough we made was a family recipe from my Aunt AdriAnne. I’m not sure whether AdriAnne grew up eating kolaches like I did, but she really nailed it with this dough. It is the lightest pastry dough I’ve ever made, and the perfect complement to juicy blueberry jam in the center of the roll.
The blueberry filling recipe is my own, scaled to make about 30% more filling than you’ll need for the kolaches. The reason for this is two fold: I wanted to use an entire jello envelope (what do you do with a tablespoon of leftover jello powder?) and I wanted to have extra filling to eat
straight out of the jar with a spoon on pancakes.
You’ll notice that the consistency of the un-baked kolache filling is slightly wetter than typical jam– this is intentional to keep it from getting too hard as the pastries bake in the oven. If you elect to use a storebought jam as the filling instead of homemade, be sure to water it down just a touch with some simple syrup so you avoid a crusty kolache. No one wants that!
Blueberry Kolaches (makes about 5 dozen filled pastries, plus an extra 8 oz. of blueberry filling)
2 pints blueberries
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
1 package lemon jello
1 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for proofing yeast
1 cup boiling water
2, 1/4 ounce packages active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
4 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon salt
6-8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
First, prepare the kolache filling; this can be done a few days ahead of time if you like. Rinse blueberries in a colander and pick out any stems. Place wet blueberries along with lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar into a two-quart saucepan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, for about half an hour, until the mixture boils and berries have given off lots of juice. Stir in the jello and turn the heat down to medium low. Continue to cook jam for about half an hour, until it has thickened slightly. Allow filling to cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
For the dough, cream together 1 cup butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a large mixing bowl. Pour one cup of boiling water over the butter mixture and let it cool to lukewarm. Meanwhile, dissolve two packets of yeast in one cup lukewarm water and one teaspoon sugar. Let the yeast mixture stand until foamy, about five minutes, before pouring it into the mixing bowl. Add four beaten eggs and a teaspoon of salt to this and stir to combine.
Next, add all-purpose flour to the mixture one cup at a time, stirring well to incorporate the flour between each addition. There’s enough flour in the dough when it forms a self-contained ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, typically around six to eight cups. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, or in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will double in size during this time, so leave plenty of room.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and melt two tablespoons of butter in a small dish. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured countertop and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough into circles about 2-1/4 inches in diameter with a biscuit cutter or a glass. Place the cut dough on greased cookie sheets or jelly roll pans and allow to rest for about 20 minutes. Then, use a shot glass or your fingers to make a large depression in the center of each roll. Fill the depressions with jelly (I found that a baby spoon worked well for this), brush assembled rolls with melted butter and bake kolaches in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Brush kolaches again with butter after they come out of the oven.
These kolaches are time consuming, but the homemade taste is totally worth it, particularly for a large gathering or a holiday.
There’s good news and bad news this week if you live in Central Texas. First, the bad: it’s about a million degrees outside with barely a chance of rain. Now the good: all this hot weather is the perfect excuse to hang out by the pool and drink cucumber basil mojitos. Cucumbers are growing like crazy in our dry climate and there’s no chance of rain to spoil your pool party.
I know that’s pretty weak good news, but it’s hard to find a silver lining when there are no clouds in sight. I saw the 7-day forecast on the news this morning and had to chuckle, because all the triple digit temperatures barely fit into the graphic on screen!
Crazy, right? Luckily our local farmers are fighting the good fight and growing tons of delicious produce for us in the midst of this drought. Here’s what they’re sending our way in the Local Box:
- Peaches – Caskey Orchards
- Blueberries – Berry Best
- Pinto Beans – Gundermann Acres
- Onions – Gundermann Acres
- Assorted Squash – Massey Farm
- Indian Cucumber – My Father’s Farm
- Armenian Cucumber – Fruitful Hill Farm
- Mango – G&S Groves
- Eggplant – Gundermann Acres & Fruitful Hill Farm
- Basil – My Father’s Farm
- Red Potatoes – Gundermann Acres
I just got home from a lovely Bastille Day Party hosted by Emily Ingle and Lindsay Leslie of The Pie Society. I met up with several other local food bloggers there to celebrate France, drink champagne and feast on The Pie Society’s line of sweets. The Pie Society is one of several outstanding Austin pie businesses; Emily and Lindsay’s specialties are bite-sized pies called crimps, full-sized sweet and savory pies and tarts. They deliver to most of the Austin area, and I first met them when they supported the charity bake sale, “Austin Bakes for Japan,” that I helped to organize earlier this year. The Bastille Day party was at House Wine, a wine bar in south Austin near the Zach Scott Theatre.
I had never been to House Wine before, although it’s been a popular hangout years now. There is a small party room in the back of the bar where Emily and Lindsay set up a spread of french tarts, crimps (mini pies) and “The Austin Creme Pie” (pictured at top of page), a sweet potato pie with a layer of chocolate ganache and whipped cream, topped with pistachios. My favorite crimps of the evening were the strawberry kiss and a spicy bacon variety.
The tarts were gorgeous, but maybe too gorgeous! No one wanted to be the first to cut into these beauties.
I balanced out all the sweets at the party with a slider from The Hot Dang Grain Burgers. I had seen the full-sized version of these grain burgers in the freezer section at Wheatsville Co-op, but I never realized that a fellow food blogger , Martha of the “Not that Martha,” was behind the products. Martha uses local eggs and whole grains like organic Texmati rice in her burgers, which were heads above the usual veggie burger offering. Martha mentioned that the patties are sold as a burger or as part of a salad at Hat Creek Burgers on Burnet Road if you want to try one before committing to a whole package. I’m just going to commit to a whole package next time I’m at Wheatsville, thank you very much.
Besides chowing down on delicious food, I got the chance to catch up with some of my blogging friends and meet new ones at the party tonight. Throughout the conversations, I discovered that all three small business owners– Martha of The Hot Dang and Emily and Lindsay of The Pie Society– first discovered their love of food through blogging. With over 200 active food blogs in Austin, it seems likely that our city will be seeing many more of these culinary entrepreneurs in the future. I hope that all of them create food of the quality that I tasted at tonight’s party, as that will mean only good things for the city’s dining scene. As the French would say, “Vive la cuisine en locale!”
Potato salad is one of those polarizing side dishes that people either love or hate. I’m in the love category. However, I can see how eating the sticky yellow store-bought stuff could turn someone away forever. This year I put my own spin on this controversial dish when a friend requested that I bring potato salad to an Independence Day party. I am so glad that I did. The potato salad I created showcased some of Austin’s best summer produce with bold flavors and a more appetizing texture than store-bought salad.
I started developing my recipe with the proportions from my Grandma’s potato salad: 1-3/4 cups dressing and and 1-1/2 cups diced vegetables for every two pounds of cooked potatoes. (See similar recipe here.) I made significant changes from her list of ingredients, though, to reflect my friends’ contemporary tastes and the array of great ingredients available here in Austin.
Grandma’s recipe called for peeled potatoes. I chose red potatoes from Acadian Family Farm*, which hold their shape after cooking, and left the tender skins on. Instead of generic yellow mustard in the dressing, I used Dai Due’s famousFireman’s Four Mustard. Austinite Jesse Griffiths makes this hot and tangy mustard using Real Ale’s Fireman’s #4 brown ale and sells it through Greenling Organic Delivery and in person at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown every Saturday.
For the crunchy elements of the salad, I strayed even further from the standard deli recipe, with red onions from Gundermann Farms and radishes. Red onions add a ton of color, crunch and a hint of sweetness to the salad that white onions just can’t match, while radishes add bite. My secret weapon in making the potato salad crowd pleasing was lots of applewood smoked peppered bacon. The smoky flavor of crisped meat, along with the heat from the peppercorns, really kicked the intensity of the salad up a notch. I finished the salad with a handful of chopped fresh parsley from Pure Luck Farms. The green parsley popped against the creamy potatoes and their flavor brightened the dish.
I don’t think that my version of potato salad is healthier than the original by any stretch, but it is more adventurous. I didn’t have to worry about it spoiling in the heat at my friends’ cook-out, either. It was all gone in the first 15 minutes.
Potato Salad (serves 8 )
6 medium-sized red, blue or yellow potatoes (about 2 lbs.)
4 slices applewood smoked peppered bacon
1 medium red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
10 small radishes, diced (about 3/4 cup diced)
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Dai Due Fireman’s Four Mustard (substitute another spicy brown mustard if you must)
1/4 cup chopped parsley, half reserved for garnish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Place whole potatoes in a few inches of water in a 3-quart saucepan. Heat the water until it is boiling, then cover and cook the potatoes for 20-30 minutes, until they are tender enough to be pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.
While potatoes are boiling, fry the bacon: separate bacon slices and place them side by side in a large skillet. Heat the skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Once the bacon becomes limp and begins to render fat, use tongs to turn the slices over. Leave the bacon undisturbed as it shortens and begins to crisp. Once the slices are a deep brown on that side, turn them again to crisp up the first side. The bacon will be finished cooking when the edges on both sides are a deep brown (not black!). Remove the bacon from the pan and set it to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve the bacon fat for another use.
Combine diced onions and radishes in a large mixing bowl with mayonnaise, mustard and half of the chopped parsley. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, chop them into bite sized pieces. The skin will likely peel away from some potatoes; just toss that along with the diced potato pieces into the bowl with the salad dressing. Next, chop the crispy bacon into very fine pieces and add about half of it to the potato salad. Use a spatula to gently stir the potatoes, bacon, and dressing together until all the potatoes are covered in dressing and the bacon is distributed evenly throughout the salad. Transfer salad to a serving dish, then top with reserved parsley and bacon bits.
*Sadly, Acadian Farm recently moved from Moulton, Texas, to just outside Norman, Oklahoma. Check out Tecolote and Massey Farms for potatoes once local stores of Acadian’s run out.
This post is sponsored by Greenling Organic Delivery and appears on their blog, “Eating Out of the Local Box.”
I found this fantastic gallery of art from the 16th-19th century online today. I was searching for peach recipes when, wham!, Google images returned this lovely still life by Barrera Francisco. Three hours later, I had discovered over 100 images of food from all around the world. I really struggle to find good images for my meal plans, so I think I’ll start including one of these works when I post my menu every week(ish).
Besides my art binge, there’s nothing too exciting to report in my personal life this week. Most of my free time was absorbed by a switch from a WordPress.com-hosted blog to a self-hosted site. I’m still getting used to the new technology associated with this more powerful platform, but I already really enjoy all the neat behind-the-scenes tools I’m using. Self-hosted bloggers, what plug-ins do you recommend?
Here’s what I’m getting in my Local Box from Greenling this week:
- Nectarines – Cooper Farms
- Blueberries – Berry Best
- Basil – Pure Luck & Gundermann Acres
- Turnips – Gundermann Acres
- Assorted Peppers – Comanche Creek
- Purslane OR Mint – My Father’s Farm
- Juliette Tomatoes (Baby Roma)- Hillside Farm
- Eggplant – Animal Farm & Fruitful Hill Farm
- Figs – Gundermann & Oasis Gardens
- Wednesday: Purslane, tomato and cucumber salad, Fig and blue cheese pizza
- Thursday: Moroccan eggplant and venison pie (an adaptation I’m working on from Vegetarian Recipes from the Middle East by Art de Harotourian); Blueberry turnovers
- Friday: Rami and I are headed to Dallas for the weekend. We’re taking some tomatoes, basil, and nectarines with us to share with the family.
- Saturday: Dinner with Mom and Dad in Dallas
- Sunday: Brunch with Mom and Dad in Dallas; Spaghetti with peppers, tomatoes and onions when we get home.
- Tuesday: Leftover Awareness Night!
All you need for a no-fail peach crisp is a little fruit, a few pantry staples and an oven. In fact, making this dessert is so easy, I feel like I’m cheating by calling these instructions a recipe.
I have scaled my fruit crisp formula down to serve one as an individual dessert, and I’ve also made it in large quanitites as a pot-luck dish. Whatever quantity you need, this dessert has your back.
The base formula for fruit crisp topping is equal parts sugar, butter and flour. I like the texture of oats in my crisp topping, so I use half-flour and half-oats. Although this topping tastes great as-is, spicing it up is as simple as adding some cinnamon, allspice, cloves, bacon bits, grated fresh ginger, or whatever else sounds good that day. Crisp topping is pretty fun to experiment with since, unlike many other baked sweets, it’s easy to taste as you go and adjust the flavor profile without throwing off the chemistry that makes the dessert successful.
My favorite fruit crisp filling is plain raw peaches. However, I have made this dish with a mix of peaches and blueberries, blueberries and blackberries, and peaches and raspberries. I’ve also experimented with adding jam or preserves to the filling. Whatever filling you use, be sure to chop the fruit so it is uniform in size and use enough to nearly fill your baking dish since the volume of the fruit will decrease as it cooks down. Finally, if you want to add some flavor to the raw fruit, vanilla or other extracts are the way to go. Alcohols like rum, bournon or white wine give fruit fillings a wonderful flavor, but you’d need to pre-cook the filling to burn off the alcohol and reduce the liquid enough for the crisp to turn out right.
I can’t blog a recipe about peaches without giving a shout out to Caskey Orchards, my favorite source for Hill Country peaches. Their peaches are grown in San Marcos, Texas, and they are available through Greenling and at a few of the Central Texas farmers markets.
Five Ingredient Peach Crisp (serves 8 )
10 peeled, chopped raw peaches, or about four cups of other chopped soft fruit or berries
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cold butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
1/2 cup oatmeal
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter an 8×12 inch baking dish. Put chopped peaches or fruit in the baking dish in an even layer. To make the crisp topping, fit a food processor with the blade attachment and pulse together brown sugar, flour and butter until the mixture has the consistency of damp sand (this takes about a minute). Add the oatmeal to the food processor and pulse once or twice to distribute the oats throughout the topping. Pour the topping over the fruit in an even layer and bake the crisp, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes, until the peaches are bubbly and the topping has browned. It’s better to overbrown this disn than to underbake it– particularly if you plan to have leftovers.
The first time I ever voted in the Austin Chronicle’s Best of Poll was in 2003. I was waiting for an $8 haircut near the UT campus when I picked up my very first “Best of Austin” ballot issue. Mid-haircut, I was wishing that I had skipped the Drag and consulted the 2002 poll results for a salon recommendation.
I was eighteen years old then, and I had never voted in anything besides my high school’s student council elections, so my choices for this thing were a Big Deal. I spent a week poring over the ballot, and the moment I mailed it in was one of the first times I felt like I belonged in Austin. This year, I am submitting my ballot online, but I have spent just as much time thinking about which businesses to mention. My friend Jodi at Tasty Touring recently published some of her picks for the poll, so I thought I’d do the same here on my blog. Jodi won last year’s award for “Best Food Blogger” (I voted for her!) and she was kind enough to mention my friend Megan’s blog, Stetted and my blog, The Austin Gastronomist, for this year’s honor. There are hundreds of outstanding food bloggers in Austin, and regardless of the outcome of the poll, the fact that our collective importance is recognized by the Chronicle is thrilling.
A full list of my votes is posted below. Take a look! If you live in Austin, or feel strongly about keeping Austin weird, I hope that you’ll take some time to vote in the poll yourself. (Do it soon– the deadline is July 18th.) Then come back and tell me what you chose! What was your wildcard? What did I get wrong? Which all-important category did I skip? After all, half of the fun of this poll is talking with friends about what makes Austin such a great place to be.
ARCHITECTURE AND LODGING
- Public Art: “Play me I’m yours” street pianos
- Historic Site: Mayfield Park
- Statue: “Angelina Eberly,” Pat Oliphant
- Downtown View: Barton Creek Farmer’s Market
- Hotel: Hotel San Jose
- Bed and Breakfast: 1110 Carriage House Inn
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
- Art Gallery: B. Hollyman Gallery
- Visual Artist: Penny De Los Santos
- Museum: The Blanton Museum of Art
- Place to See Local Art: E.A.S.T.
- Composer: Steve Snowden
- Movie Theatre: The Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar
FOOD AND DRINK
- Local Food Company: Greenling Organic Delivery
- Food Event: Austin Bakes for Japan
- Local Farm: Boggy Creek Farm or Green Gate Farms or Tecolote Farm
- Lunch Delivery: FoodHeads
- 24-Hour/Late: 24 Diner
- Place to Take a First Date: Blue Dahlia Bistro
- Cheap Date: 24 Diner
- Outdoor Dining: Paggi House
- Intimate Dining: Asti
- Farmers’ Market: SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown
- Neighborhood Grocery: Wheatsville Food Co-op
- Sweets/Goodies: Sugar Mama’s Bake Shop, Miles of Chocolate, or Objects of Confection
- New Bar: Black Star Co-op
- Lounge: Nomad Bar
- Local Beer: Live Oak Brewing Company
- Local Liquor: Paula’s Texas Orange
- Cocktail Menu: Bar Congress
- Best-Kept Secret: (My fave ATX Breakfast) Chameleon Cold Brew, & a churro from Streat
- Local Food Blog: Hilah Cooking, Stetted, The Austin Gastronomist, Tasty Touring, or Lisa is Cooking
- Bookstore: Bookpeople
- Toys: Terra Toys
- Restaurant: Phil’s Ice House
- Birthday Cakes: SugaPlump Pastry
- Food Writer: Addie Broyles
- Art Photographer: Jo Ann Santangelo
- Event Photographer: Nathan Russell
- Local Non-Chronicle Publication: Edible Austin
- Radio Station: KUT 90.5
- Radio Deejay/Host: Susan Gayle, “Food Love Austin”
- Local Entertainment Website: Austin Bloggy Limits
- Local Blog: Austin Eavesdropper
OUTDOOR AND RECREATION
- Bike Ride: Keeper Collection’s 2011 Wine Ride
- Place to Skate: Playland Skate Center
- Day Trip – Dry: Enchanted Rock
- Day Trip – Wet: Texas Hill Country Wineries Tour
- Bowling Alley: Dart Bowl
POLITICS AND PERSONALITIES
- Legislative Moment: Passage of the Texas Baker’s Bill
- Nonprofit: Cooking up English or Capital Area Food Bank
- Grassroots Activists: Austin No Kill Coalition
- March or Rally: Queerbomb
- Neighborhood/Place To Live: Crestview
- Clothing: Spring Frost Boutique
- Thrift Store: Savers on Burnet
- Local Hardware Store: Breed & Co.
- Convenience Store: Whip-In
- Drugstore/Pharmacy: Nau’s Enfield Drug Store
- Local Bookstore: BookWoman or BookPeople
Some of Austin’s heaviest culinary hitters are getting together for a great cause next Wednesday at the AT&T Conference Center and Carillon Restaurant. Daniel Curtis, the assistant food and beverage Director there, was paralyzed in an accident last month. Although Daniel is on the road to recovery, the process will be long and expensive. The Carillon, along with Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, will host a benefit for him on Wednesday, July 13th from 6:30-9 pm at The Carillon Restaurant at the AT&T Conference Center.
The benefit has brought together Austin’s top culinary talents and will feature food by Chef David Bull of Congress & Second Bar + Kitchen, Chef Shawn Cirkel of Parkside, Chef Paul Qui of Uchiko, Chef Phillip Speer of Uchi and Uchiko, Chef Shane Stark of Kenichi, Chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon Restaurant, as well as beverages by The Tipsy Texan. Music will be provided by Austin’s own country music band The Derailers while attendees participate in a silent auction and raffle. All proceeds raised will go towards Curtis’ recovery.
To buy tickets to the benefit or make a tax-deductible gift on Daniel’s behalf, visit http://www.benefit4daniel.org/.
Unless you live in the Far West neighborhood of Austin, chances are that you’ve never heard of Allen Memorial Park. This hilly little hiking spot is tucked near an office park west of MoPac near Far West. There are no playgrounds or sports fields at Allen Park; its main draw is the well-kept trail, clean picnic areas, and a real sense of seclusion.
Nearly a mile of gravel trail twists through the park. Some hills are very steep, while other parts of the trail are relatively flat overlooking the city. Although sounds of MoPac traffic hum throughout the park, a thick layer of foliage helps the trails feel set apart from the surrounding city. My husband and I were the only visitors at the park at dinner time on the Fourth of July.
The wide, gravelled trail starts at Allen Park’s parking lot and ascends up a rocky scramble to a large picnic area. Besides this larger picnic spot, there are at least six separate picnic tables near the entrance of the park. Each table is located in its own paved clearing, and some have a charcoal grill nearby. (As of this post, these grills are covered and unusable because Travis County is under a burn ban.) Although it’s not a long walk from one picnic area to the next, each clearing is separated by dense greenery and windy trails. We chose to dine at this picnic table, which overlooks the Northwest Hills neighborhood to the west.
For dinner I made some easy summer salads with Local Box ingredients from Hillside Farm, Massey Farm and Tecolote Farm. The highlight of the meal was a spicy corn & black bean salad, studded with Juliet tomatoes and topped with Cotija cheese. The best part of this recipe– besides the tomatoes– is a spicy jalapeno vinaigrette dressing. To get an even level of high heat throughout the salad, I use a blender to liquify a whole jalapeno pepper and a clove of garlic into the dressing. This technique ensures a high level of heat without worrying about whole jalapeno seeds creating “hot spots” throughout the salad. I also don’t have to bother with wearing gloves as I mince the pepper by hand– a huge plus.
Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad (serves 6)
3 ears of fresh corn on the cob
1, 15-ounce can black beans
1 medium red onion
1 medium bell pepper
1 pint Juliet tomatoes
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
lime wedges to garnish
1 garlic clove
1 large jalapeno pepper
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring water to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the shucks and silks from the ears of corn. Wash and dry the corn, then cut the kernels off of the cob. Cook the kernels of corn for about three minutes in boiling water, until they are tender-firm. Drain the corn and set aside to cool.
Peel and dice the onion. Remove the ribs and seeds from the bell pepper, and dice the remaining flesh. Slice Juliet tomatoes in half. Place them in a large salad bowl along with the minced onion, bell pepper and sliced tomatoes. Chop off the tough stems from the bunch of cilantro. Chop the remaining leaves and add to the salad, stirring to combine.
To make the dressing, peel the garlic and slice the top stem off of the jalapeno pepper. Put the whole garlic clove and decapitated pepper– seeds, ribs and all– into the blender along with the remaining ingredients. Pulse on “liquify,” or your blender’s highest speed, for about three minutes, until all the pepper seeds have been obliterated and the dressing is emulsified. No blender? Peel and crush the garlic with a garlic press. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from the jalapeno and mince it by hand. Whisk the crushed garlic and minced pepper together with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.
Pour the prepared dressing over the salad and mix well. Top with crumbled Cotija cheese and garnish with lime wedges before serving. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator and tastes better the second day, although the tomatoes will not be as vibrant red by then.