Coconut creamed corn

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Creamed corn isn’t generally considered a “healthy” side. But swap in coconut milk for regular old dairy or a heavy bechamel sauce and you have a much lighter version of this classic that celebrates the beauty of late summer corn.

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This dish also comes together in minutes and is full of herbs and aromatics like garlic, shallot, ginger, lime zest, and basil. Add some quick sauteed shrimp, some grilled or roasted white fish, or a rotisserie chicken and you have a very quick dinner filled with healthy fats and real ingredients. You’re also free of gluten, dairy, sugar, nuts, and soy if you have corn leftovers for tomorrow’s lunchbox.

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Coconut creamed corn

½ tsp coconut oil
2 medium or 3 small garlic cloves, sliced or minced  
1 very large or 2 smaller shallots, sliced or minced
½-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced or shredded
3 large ears corn with kernels removed from the cob (about 2 heaping cups of kernels)
6 Tbsp coconut milk
Heaping ¼ tsp lime zest
15-20 basil leaves, chopped
¼-½ tsp flaky sea salt
Pepper

Heat the coconut oil over a medium flame and when hot, add the sliced or minced shallots. Saute for 1-2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent and starting to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium low and add the sliced or minced garlic. Saute for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant. If the onions or garlic brown too quickly, turn down the heat.

Add the minced or shredded ginger and sauté for one more minute.

Add the corn kernels and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and let bubble for one minute until the milk has reduced to more of a sauce than a milk, but don’t let it disappear.

Remove from the heat. Add the lime zest, minced basil, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust according to your taste.

Yield: 3 servings

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Lemon basil ricotta cake

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You may find the idea of turning on the oven insulting given that the weather is so unbelievably hot and humid. But hear me out: This cake requires one bowl and less than 30 minutes in the oven. AND is chock-a-block with sweet, tangy, summery flavor. A weeknight cake if there ever was one.

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One of my favorite things about finally having a yard is growing our own herbs. And we can't keep up with how fast the basil grows. It's a good thing I L.O.V.E. pesto. And we've definitely been throwing a handful of basil into just about everything, including our cakes.

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I didn't healthify this recipe at all; It's full of white flour and sugar. I did use the smallest amount of sugar possible in the batter to have a sweet cake without it being cloyingly so. Not for nothing, there's another 3/4 cup of confectioner's sugar in the glaze, so this baby doesn't want for sweetness.

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It took some tinkering to figure out the right amounts of basil and lemon to impart a strong flavor without turning the cake bitter (too much basil) or sour (too much lemon). In the end, the basil is a background herby note that plays really well with the bright lemon flavor.

And ricotta! I adapted this recipe from the famous French yogurt cake and the textures are very similar. I think the ricotta makes the cake ever-so-slightly more dense and a little more savory.

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A quick note: Be sure not to overcook the cake. It will cool completely in the pan, which means it'll keep cooking a bit while it cools. Check the cake at the shortest time listed, even if your oven doesn't run particularly hot.

Lemon basil ricotta cake

2 eggs
1 cup ricotta (I've had equal success with part-skim and whole)
1/2 cup sugar
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tbsp lemon zest (zest of two extra-large lemons)
¼ cup basil (packed), minced
2 cups AP flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

For the glaze:
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup of lemon juice (juice of 1 very large lemon)

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly oil a 9-inch cake pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, sugar, olive oil, vanilla, lemon zest, and basil and mix well.

Add the dry ingredients and mix just until the wet and dry components are combined and no clumps of flour remain. The batter will be very thick.

Pour (or plop, as this is a thick batter) the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 22-30* minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. (We have a very hot oven, so yours may need more time, but check often to avoid overcooking.)

Let cool for about 10 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Add the confectioner’s sugar to a medium bowl and slowly pour in the lemon juice, whisking constantly, until you’ve reached your desired consistency (a thin glaze soaks into the cake better, so use your judgment) .

Once the cake is slightly cooled, pour your glaze over the entire top, making sure that the liquid goes into the holes. I sometimes use a brush to coax the glaze into the holes, but this isn't strictly necessary. Let cool completely in its baking dish.

Yield: 8-10 pieces

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Mediterranean caprese salad

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I don't know if we can go back to regular oil-and-vinegar caprese after this. I love a good caprese salad, but I accidentally keep typing "craprese" and that's sort of a fitting description for a lot of them. If the mozzarella is rubbery or cold, if the tomatoes are mealy or our of season, and if the dressing isn't lively and tangy, then they're just...nothing. I mean, they're bad, but more than that they're just absent any flavor or texture or redeeming qualities.

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However, tomato season is upon us, so it's much more likely that your tomatoes will be delicious. And if you have any access to a backyard, side yard, fire escape, community garden, etc, I implore you to plant some basil and mint. Both of these plants are hardy in the summer and will save you so much money at the grocery store. AND, you'll have no excuse not to make the pesto that accompanies this caprese salad (and that you'll want to pour on everything).

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So, we have good tomatoes and a tangy interesting pesto, but what else does this salad need? Well, I also implore you not to serve cold mozzarella. Room temperature is SO MUCH BETTER. If you can get even a decent mozzarella, I think it's improved exponentially by sitting out for a short time (or, if you're also in the middle of our current heatwave, a few seconds?). And, I like to guild the lily by sprinkling a generous amount of crumbled, salty, briny feta on top. Is it necessary? No. Is it delicious? Yes. Should you do it? Without hesitation.

Buy a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes and you have a showstopper for a dinner party that requires basically no effort (I even opted for a pre-cut cheese because I'm that lazy) and better yet, NO COOKING. Did I mention the heatwave?

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We ate it yesterday as Sunday lunch on our back porch with some prosciutto and salami, some Bantam Bread, and white peaches. A glass of cold rose or Sancerre would have made it heaven, but I'm old now and can't day drink without needing a nap and an Advil, so we forwent the wine. Boo.

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Mediterranean caprese salad

4 large heirloom tomatoes
1 large or 2 medium balls of mozzarella
½ cup crumbled feta
¼- ½ cup mint and basil pesto (recipe below)

Mint and basil pesto
1½ cups basil leaves, loosely packed
½ cup mint leaves, well packed
1 large garlic clove (or 2 smaller ones)
1 medium shallot, quartered
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice (juice of 1 large lemon)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt

To make the pesto:
Place all of the ingredients except the oil in a large food processor or blender. While the machine is running, pour in the oil and blend until you've reached your desired consistency. Add salt to taste.

To assemble the salad:
Alternate the mozzarella and tomatoes in whatever color combination you like. Top with the mint and basil pesto and sprinkle with the feta.

Serves: 3-4 as a main course, 5-6 as a side

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Chard, corn, and garlic scape pasta salad

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Are you guys ever surprised by your own agency? I feel like I've gotten more on board with the decision-maker role, but some things still catch me off guard. For example, I often forget that I can change the radio station in the car when I hear a song I don't like. I'll listen to something really annoying until it suddenly occurs to me, "I could change this." I'm a weirdo.

That said, you don't have to live with boring basic pasta salad! (In fact, you don't have to bring pasta salad to parties at all, but you'll want to when you read this recipe.)

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Pasta salad feels like one of those things that food snobs are supposed to hate. But I'll be honest, my mom makes one that, on paper, sounds gross (pasta, mayo, celery, hard boiled eggs, celery salt, etc), but is actually delicious.

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However, more often than not it's included on a BBQ table as more of an afterthought than a star. But this guy right here, is a star. It's nutty, salty, crunchy, tangy, and full of greens. AND, it's vegan. When do you have a pasta salad whose flavor doesn't hinge on some meat or cheese? Use a gluten-free pasta if that fits your dietary needs and everyone is happy.

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A few notes:
-None of these veggies need a ton of cooking and I would eat corn raw all summer if you let me. But if you like things more well done, feel free to increase cooking times. Just a note, the more you cook garlic scapes, the mellower the garlic flavor gets, so I would advise against overcooking them lest they lose their kick entirely.
-Don't be afraid of salt here. Since there isn't a traditional sauce or a terribly large amount of oil, the flavor of this pasta hinges on the salt (and the veggies, nuts, lemon, and olive oil, but mostly, the salt). I oversalt the pasta water (use what you normally would and then add another 2 large pinches) and season the veggies as they're cooking and again once you've added all of the ingredients together. It may feel like a lot of salt (and taste throughout cooking and prepping, lest you add more salt than you personally enjoy), but I do think it's necessary to have a hefty amount of seasoning here.

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Chard, corn, and garlic scape pasta salad

¾-1 lb dry pasta (in v salted water)
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large head chard (if less than 8 leaves or if very small leaves, use two heads)
8-10 large garlic scapes
3 medium or 2 large ears of corn
2-3 Tbsp lemon juice
½ cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
½ cup marcona almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup torn fresh basil
1 tsp kosher salt
Pepper
Nutty cheese (optional)

Bring water to a boil and cook your pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta and add to a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

While the pasta is cooking, wash and chop the chard, garlic scapes, and corn. In a large sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chard first and allow it to wilt for 1 minute. Season with more salt. Add the garlic scapes and cook both veggies, tossing and stirring frequently, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the corn kernels and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables to the pasta and olive oil and toss. Add the lemon juice and toss again. Add the chopped nuts and torn basil and toss again. Test for seasoning and adjust with more salt and pepper as needed.

If using, add the cheese just before serving.

Yield: So much pasta salad. But seriously, at least 6 adult servings, more if this as a side dish.

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The best broccoli, maybe ever.

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I don't make that claim lightly. Even the toddler eats this with abandon, though he's intermittently a huge fan of broccoli. I say "intermittently" because, like all toddlers, he's mercurial and what he loves one day, he abhors the next. But broccoli falls back into favor more often than any other vegetable. All that to say, this broccoli is great- salty and crunchy and garlicky, but with a bit of freshness from the basil and something indefinable and unctuous from the anchovies.

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Two things: Don't fear the anchovies and don't skip the fresh basil or substitute dried. It won't be the same. But back to the anchovies: This is a divisive little bottom-feeder. Love them or hate them, try them in this recipe. You won't really taste them because they are broken down at the start of the cooking process, so they really just become a salty, briny background note.

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This dish is a great side for grilled proteins or mixed with whole grain or white pasta. I haven't yet tried it, but I also want to mix in some lentils for some non-meat protein.

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Broccoli with anchovies and basil

2 medium heads broccoli, chopped into small pieces
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2-3 large anchovy filets (or 4-5 small ones)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup whole wheat panko
15 basil leaves (about 1/3 cup chopped)

Preheat the oven to 400. Chop the broccoli and spread evenly over a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Add 2 Tbsp of oil and toss to coat. Add a small pinch of salt (the anchovies are salty, so you don't need much extra seasoning). Roast for 30-40 minutes until the broccoli is deeply browned on at least one side (usually the side touching the hot pan roasts first). Check the broccoli occasionally to make sure it isn’t burning. If it looks like the greens aren’t cooking evenly, give them a shake.

While the broccoli is cooking, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil over a medium flame. Turn the heat to low and add the anchovies. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, squash and chop the filets while they cook until they are completely broken up.

Add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Increase the heat back to medium low and add the breadcrumbs. Mix ingredients thoroughly and toast the breadcrumbs for 4-5 minutes, shaking the pan often to stir the ingredients and distribute the heat.

When toasted to a slightly darker golden brown, remove from the heat and place in a large bowl. When the broccoli is done, add it to the breadcrumb mixture and turn to coat.

Add the chopped basil and turn a few more times to distribute.

Yield: 4-6 side servings

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