Ginny’s Mexican Corn Salad

Mexican Corn Salad-1

Mexican Corn Salad is a riff on the south-of-the-border street food classic – grilled corn served with lime, mayo and cheese.  Except there was no room on our grill, so Jody’s sister Ginny, the creator of the dish,  threw it in the oven just to see what would happen.  It didn’t get smokey or charred, the way it would have on the grill, but it worked out fine nevertheless.  Testing the salad four times in the last two weeks (i.e. fed our kids and their friends), confirmed what we’ve always suspected: whether the corn is local or not is way more important than whether it’s cooked on the grill or in the oven.  We sampled corn from Whole Foods, from a farmers market down on the Cape and from our neighbor outside of Boston, Allandale Farms.  That latter two choices made corn salads that sing – the Whole Foods option was okay (the kids hoovered it up), but not in the same league as the farm stuff.   Don’t cheat yourself.  If you’ve got local corn available, use it–even if you just steam it.  People get a little loopy about corn, perhaps because it shows up so late in the season.  I’ve seen people who would sneer at an out of state tomato pawing through a mound of imported supermarket corn in June, obsessively wrenching apart  the husks to peer into the crown, invariably disappointed.  What are they hoping to find?  Do they really think that the starchy ears trucked in from ten states away will be any good?  Have tomatoes taught them nothing?  If peace, love and happiness aren’t growing in your own back yard–at least when it comes to corn and tomatoes–then they probably aren’t growing anywhere at all.

Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto

Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto-1

This is a recipe for the 5th, 6th or 9th of July, but not the 4th, when the grilling train pulls into town with its freight cars of steaks, lobsters, salmon filets, pork shoulders, eggplant, roasted peppers, whatever.  Grilled Spring Onion and Strawberry Salad with Pistachio Pesto is easy–you could do it–but it will get lost amid the fanfare over Aunt Sophie’s famous deviled eggs, and the potato salad made with diced fermented sour pickles from Brooklyn, and the story about your brother Bob who almost blew his thumb off with an m-80 when he was a kid.

Save it for a quiet day this weekend, when a meal with just one main course and only one or two sides or a salad sounds great, when there’s a bit of culinary light left to shine on a rare seasonal treat.

Casado – the Blue Zone lunch

Lunch in the Blue Zone - Casado-1

We’re back on course to the next Blue Zone* – the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica!  Casado – the married man’s lunch is our take on a Nicoyan central meal of the day, protein and salad along with a foundation of black beans and rice seasoned with a particular Costa Rican twist.

The Nicoya Peninisula is a 80-mile long thumb of land that juts into the Pacific from the northwest corner of Costa Rica.  Among a certain type of backpacking tourist the peninsula is famous for its many beaches which ring the coastline.  But the Blue Zone of the Nicoya Penisula does not include the coast – it is the interior, home of large national parks, still quite rural, and with many inhabitants living traditional lifestyles either as independent farmers or as sedentary agricultural workers finding employment on larger farms, and raising corn, beans, and other vegetables (including two forms of taro) in their own family plots.  Until recently the Nicoya Peninsula was relatively isolated, reachable only by ferry until 2003, which saw the opening of the Taiwan Friendship Bridge.

At first glance the Nicoyan diet may not seem that remarkable–rice, beans and tortillas–along with a lot of fruit. But at 60 a Costa Rican man has about twice the chance of reaching 90 as one from the U.S., and this from a country whose medical budget is about 15% of that of the U.S. Nicoyans are some of the healthiest, most long-lived people on the planent. Say hello to Casado – beans and rice with all the fixings.

Puglian Barley Salad with Pecorino Cheese

“Hot-buttered groat clusters!”  –Firesign Theater.

One of the pleasures of travelling is tdrawing close to the seemingly familiar only to suddenly discover it strikingly different, like this Puglian Barley Salad with Pecorino Cheese.  Looks ordinary.  But the taste – not like barley on this planet.  Many of the more forward thinking participants in Italy’s agritourismo movement are attempting to preserve regional variations on farm products that for one reason or another have fallen from grace or never gained the favor of larger commercial ventures. Barley is a case in point–in Puglia, where it’s often hulled, rather than pearled, it’s chewy.

And chewy barley is a delight.

Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas, Feta and Greek Yogurt

Craig Claiborne, the late pioneer of food journalism for the New York Times once wrote a New Year’s Day column that included the line, “Blessed indeed is the household whose refrigerator contains an overlooked tin of caviar.”  Yes, well.  For most of us, caviar times may be gone, but that only means the return of our salad days.  Substitute chickpeas for caviar and you’re halfway to Wilted Green Salad with Fresh Chickpeas, Feta and Greek Yogurt.

Garlic Love – Skordalia with Parsley Salad

  In my personal desert island larder (you know, What would you take if you had to choose only a dozen or so dishes or ingredients  on a desert island for the rest of your life?) Skordalia with Parsley Salad would surely rate shelf space.*  And not because it includes potatoes.  But because it includes …

Allandale Farm Salad

If you spent this past spring in soggy New England dreaming of warm dry weather while  gazing at the mural in a Greek restaurant then the current heat wave probably finds you in a bit of a stupor, although perhaps not of happiness.  The solution?  Get yourself to a farmers’ market – or an actual …