Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Corn Chowder

Summer travels have brought me to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Everyone calls Wisconsin the cheese state, but as much as I love cheese, I am all about the corn. My days here have been filled with 4th of July celebrations, bright blue skies, summer meals, brat tastings (sausages, not unwieldy children,) driving through corn fields searching out produce stands and swimming in the lake.

This is a quick and easy soup that tastes like summer. I garnish it with bacon, chives and some fresh lime, but you could always add some cheese....


Summer Corn Chowder

6 ears of corn
2 Tbs unsalted butter or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large leek, white and light green parts, chopped and well rinsed
2 stalks celery, cleaned and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large bell pepper (red or yellow,) seeded and chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" peices
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1-2 c cream (depending on your taste)
1 bunch of scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1/4 c roughly chopped parsley

to garnish:
bacon, crumbled
chives, finely chopped
olive oil
lime wedges

Shuck the corn and use a knife to slice the kernels off the cobs.

In a large pot sautée the onion, garlic, leeks and celery in the butter or olive oil. Add a heavy pinch of kosher salt and let it cook for about 5 minutes until soft, being careful not to let it brown. Add the carrot, bell pepper, potatoes, stock and thyme. Cover and bring to a low simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are almost tender. If the liquid level gets too low, add a cup of water, milk or more stock. Add the corn kernels and continue simmering for 5 more minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Remove thyme.

At this point you can stick an immersion blender in the pot and pulse it for 30 seconds or so to slightly blend things together, but you want it to remain a little chunky. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can do this in a regular blender. Just do it in a couple batches, and again, you don't want to purée it, you want some chunks.

Add the cream, scallions and parsley. Season to taste with salt and fresh black pepper.

Serve in bowls garnished with bacon, chives, parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and lime wedges. Or cheese.

Serves about 8

Friday, July 6, 2012

Quinoa Breakfast Bowls

I'm writing this post on a glorious summer day in Aspen, Colorado. I'm here working for a week, cooking in the mountains and loving every minute of it. I'm staying in a little house on the banks of the Roaring Fork river with all kinds of wild life (baby deer! bears!!) to play staring games with. As much as I love LA, it's a welcome change and it's fun to adapt my cooking to the hearty, healthy mountain vibe that Aspen exudes.

This isn't really a recipe, but a blueprint for a tasty way to start your morning. Instead of oatmeal, I've been making big batches of quinoa and topping them with various breakfast (and non-breakfast) things every morning. Quinoa has more protein than oatmeal (eight grams in one cup) and is a good source of iron, magnesium and folate. But enough science - it tastes great, kind of nutty and although it looks like a grain, it's actually a seed. I've been using black quinoa and the regular yellow one, but there's also red quinoa - if I'm missing any cool colors, let me know. I prefer the black and red because they're a little heartier and toothsome. The yellow is pretty mild and a little soft for my taste, but they're all basically interchangeable.

On to the breakfast bowl. Cooking quinoa is easy. I don't measure anything. Some people think you have to cook it with the right proportion of water as you would with rice. You don't. Just give it a good rinse under running water to take anyway any bitterness, put it in a pot (one cup of raw quinoa should make about three or four servings once cooked) and cover it with cold water by about two inches. Add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon or so of butter or olive/flax/coconut oil if you wish, bring it to a boil and then turn the heat to low and let it simmer. I find yellow quinoa takes about 12-15 minutes and the red and black take 15-20 minutes. You can tell it's done by taking a little bite. It shouldn't taste raw, but you want it to have a little crunch to it. When it's ready, take it off the heat, strain off whatever water is left in the pot, and you're ready to go.

Quinoa is great in salads, veggies patties, as a substitute for rice or in this case, breakfast cereal. In the bowl above, I added organic berries, toasted coconut (unsweetened, which I toast in a pan on the stove or in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes - careful, it burns quickly,) almond milk and a little agave. You could add nuts, bananas, peaches, Greek yogurt, milk, cream, coconut milk, soy milk, even maple syrup or cinnamon. Or go savory and add bacon, a fried or boiled egg, some greens, chopped veggies, a piece of wild salmon.... Whatever you like. It's breakfast - it's personal - start your day off how YOU like it, and don't forget to take a moment to enjoy it.

Yhea, that's a bear.

Quinoa, bananas, strawberries, Greek yogurt, pecans and maple syrup

Little mule deer stopping in to say good morning

Quinoa, 6 minute egg with chopped veggies and herbs

I cross this to get in to town and go to the farmer's market. I may or may not pretend I'm Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Quinoa, wild salmon, crispy prosciutto, sautéed local kale and arugula

View from a hike I took, fueled by my morning mountain quinoa breakfast bowl :)