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Corn Cakes

11 Oct

corn-cakesEvery August my son plays with his bluegrass band at the Wilson County Fair in Tennessee. One year he brought us back a bag of “traditional stone ground corn” from the Livesay Grist Mill at Fiddlers Grove in Lebanon, Tenn.

On the back of the bag is a recipe for “Miss Valerie’s Hot Water Cornbread” — which I ignored for the longest time because it doesn’t include eggs, like my usual cornbread recipe, and I wondered how it could be any good. Then my daughter said she’d tried it and loved it, so I gave it a try, and she was right!

I think of cornbread as something baked in a square  or round pan and then cut into squares or wedges. In this recipe, the cakes are fried on the top of the stove.

These corn cakes are very easy to make, and the they taste yummy with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Ingredients:

1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbs. sugar
1 cup boiling water

Directions:

Mix dry ingredients, then pour in hot water and mix quickly.

Heat 1/4-inch oil in a skillet, and drop the batter by tablespoons into the hot oil. Fry until golden on both sides.

Makes about 8 to 10 cakes.

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Fresh Corn Salsa

8 Sep

Corn salsaWell, you could make this with frozen or canned corn, but it’s SO much better with fresh, and that’s SO easy to get right now that there’s no excuse.

This is a very easy dish to make, especially if you have a “corn zipper” tool to remove the corn from the cob. Leftovers will last about a week in the fridge.

Double the recipe if you’re serving a lot of people or taking this dish to a potluck.

Here’s a trick for cooking the corn easily:

Put it in the microwave, husks, silks and all, and nuke for 4 minutes at high for one ear or 8 minutes for two (don’t cook more than two at a time). When it’s done, cut about an inch off each ear above any stalk on the bottom. Then, starting at the top of the ear, squeeze gently and the corn will slide right out of the husks, without any silk (or very little) attached. You will probably need a potholder to do the squeezing, because the ear will be quite hot.

Ingredients:

Cooked fresh corn from 2 – 3 cobs
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1/2 bell pepper, any color, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, chopped fine
1 small onion, preferably red, chopped fine
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. lime juice (or lemon juice if you don’t have lime)
1/2 tsp. salt or more to taste

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Allow flavors to mingle for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

Gazpacho

1 Sep

GazpachoIt’s the perfect season for gazpacho! Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers abound, and the heat makes it a good time for a cold soup.

I have a former neighbor, Rob Musial, to thank for this recipe. In the late 1970s, we lived in Detroit’s Palmer Park apartment community, and the citizens’ council published a cookbook, What’s Cooking in Palmer Park. Rob contributed this gazpacho recipe. Because the Ponchartrain Wine Cellar was a classy Detroit restaurant at the time, and because Ponchartrain Drive was a main street in Palmer Park, he called it Ponchartrain Drive Wine Cellars Gazpacho Soup.

I flip to the recipe so often, that page has come loose from the book’s plastic spiral binding.

I usually cut the tomato, cucumber, celery and scallion into large chunks and pulse them a few times in the food processor to chop finely. Don’t puree — you want to keep some crunchy bits.

Ingredients:

1 large onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 fat cloves garlic, minced
2 large tomatoes (or 3 medium ones), peeled and well chopped
1 large regular cucumber or 1 small English cucumber, peeled, seeded and well chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 dash of Tabasco sauce (or a few more if you like a little more spice)
3 Tbs. vinegar
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup chopped scallions
2 celery sticks, finely chopped (optional)
5 cups tomato juice
croutons for garnish (optional)
sour cream for garnish (optional)

Directions:

In a soup pot, saute the onion in the oil until they are tender.
Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat off.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
Add the tomatoes, cucumber and all the remaining ingredients except croutons and stir well. If using a food processor, cut the vegetables into large chunks and pulse until the soup has a chunky consistency, then add the spices.
Refrigerate for several hours. Serve chilled, garnished with croutons and/or sour cream if desired.

Miracle Bars: easiest cookies ever

21 Apr

passover miracle barsWhen we make sweets for Passover, the ultimate accolade is, “This is good enough for regular!”

Well, these easy-t0-make bars really are, probably because they contain no matzoh meal or matzoh flour — not even potato starch!

I got the recipe from a collection of Passover recipes that came into my email in-box; I apologize that I can’t credit the source.

It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made, and it would be a great one to make with young children, who can dump the ingredients into a bowl and stir. And they’re gluten-free!

The recipe says you can shape them into cookies instead of bars; I haven’t tried this. My own suggestion is to consider replacing the chocolate chips with Craisins or dried cherries — or add those in addition to the chocolate chips.

The original recipe also called for a 9 x 13-inch pan. I used an 8-inch-square pan and it worked well; I think in a 9 x 13 pan the squares would be too short. I also changed the baking time and temperature slightly.

Another bit of advice: the first few bars tended to stick to the pan, even when I greased it well — after the first few came out crumbled I was able to pry out the others intact. The second time I made this recipe I put a piece of parchment paper in the pan before adding the batter — and had no broken bars!

Ingredients:

1 cups ground almonds
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs (extra-large work best)
1 cup chocolate chips
Optional: 1 cup Craisins or dried cherries in place of or in addition to chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. The batter will be thick; do not add water or other liquid.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan and put parchment paper on the bottom. Or lightly grease a cookie sheet if you plan to make cookies. Spread the batter evenly in the pan or shape into cookies and place on the greased cookie sheet.

Bake square pan for 30 minutes (cookies will take less time) until the top is nicely browned and the center of the pan looks dry; do not undercook.

Cool completely in the pan, then turn out and cut into 16 squares. (If making cookies, cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.)

Passover fruit compote

31 Mar

Passover compoteThe biggest complaint about all the matzoh we eat at Passover is that is turns into a brick in your innards, a cause of digestive distress for many of us. Of course you can mitigate this by eating less matzoh and more fresh fruit and vegetables, but we know how much you love those matzoh breis, matzoh kugels, cakes and other treats.

One thing I always make at Passover to balance out the matzoh is fruit compote. It’s really easy, and it tastes great plain or mixed with a little yogurt. I eat it often for breakfast during the holiday.

Compote is more a method than a recipe, so feel free to improvise and add other dried fruits if you like.

Happy Passover and Easter to all who celebrate, and happy spring to all. I’m taking a break next week — see you in a few.

Ingredients:

2 cups pitted prunes
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup raisins, Craisins or dried cherries
1 lemon, sliced
2 Tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down so the water is barely simmering and cook for at least a half-hour until the prunes and apricots are really soft, adding a little more water if necessary. Discard the lemon slices and cool. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

 

Easy Passover Brownies

24 Mar

Passover browniesGroan! If you’re like me, you’re up to your elbows in Passover cleaning and starting to think about the cooking. For everyone in the midst of this craziness, I wish you energy to complete the task and joy when everything is done!

I make these brownies every year because they’re easy and they’re good. In fact the recipe is almost exactly the same as the non-Passover brownies-from-scratch recipe I use year-round except it leaves out the baking powder (even though you can find kosher-for-Passover baking powder) and it uses a little less cake flour than all-purpose flour. If you wrap them well, they’ll keep for a few days.

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
⅓ cup matzo cake meal
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbs. cocoa
1 stick butter or margarine, melted (tip: if you melt it in the baking pan, the pan will be nicely greased!)
½ cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat eggs. Add sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy. Add the salt, matzo cake meal and cocoa powder and mix well. Add the melted margarine and mix well.

Stir in the nuts or chocolate chips.

Bake in a greased 8-inch square pan for 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Wrap leftovers carefully so they don’t dry out.

Makes 16 brownies

Crunchy onion chicken

11 Nov

crunchy onion chickenI got this recipe from my friend Mandy Garver, who said she got it from a French’s fried onions can. I couldn’t believe how easy it was!

Ingredients:

2 cups (4 oz.) canned French fried onions (e.g. French’s)
2 Tbs. flour
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Crush French fried onions with flour in a zip-lock bag.
Dip the chicken pieces in egg.  Coat with onion crumbs and press firmly to adhere.
Place the chicken pieces in a greased baking pan.
Bake 20 minutes.

Serves 4