Friday, July 29, 2011

Cool and Crisp Corn Salad

Tomatoes, sweet corn, and basil are featured in this fresh and easy side dish which literally bursts with summer flavor.

Summer Corn Salad
(click here to print)

4 ears of fresh corn on the cob, husked and cleaned
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fill a large kettle halfway with water and bring to a boil.  Boil the corn for 7 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare a large bowl of ice water.  When the corn is done, immediately plunge the cobs into the ice water to stop the cooking and set the color.

Drain the corn, then cut it off of the cobs with a serrated knife.  I use a bundt cake pan to hold the cob; then the kernels fall right into the pan!  No muss, no fuss.

Combine the corn kernels, tomatoes, onions, and basil.  Whisk the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper together and pour over the veggie mixture.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or so.  Use a slotted spoon to drain the mixture when serving.

This is great with any grilled meat you can think of!  It's sweet, savory, and crunchy all in one!
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Picnic Perfect Sandwich

It's been steamy all over the good ol' USA the past few weeks, so I thought I would share a favorite, easy sandwich that's great for a picnic.  No cooking required = Cool!

The Muffaletta

The muffaletta hails from New Orleans' famous Central Grocery on Decatur Street in the French Quarter (just down the street from St. Louis Cathedral).

The key components of a traditional muffaletta are sliced cold cuts (typically smoked ham, genoa salami, and capicola) and provolone cheese on a round, sesame-encrusted Italian loaf smothered with an exceptionally tasty olive salad.   YUM!

Here in Texas, it's a little difficult to find the special bread for a muffaletta, so I had to improvise.  I decided on these La Brea Bakery mini-loaves from Costco because they have the requisite chewy, dense texture.

I layered on deli smoked ham, turkey (not traditional, but I like it), salami, and provolone.

Then comes the piece de resistance: olive salad.  I used this one from a jar.

Olive salad can be found in the condiment or pickle and olive section of many grocery stores or can be ordered here.  It is a mixture of olives, vinegar, olive oil, veggies, and seasonings.

I have made olive salad from scratch before when I lived outside of Louisiana and couldn't find it anywhere.  Here's the recipe I used, straight from the pages of New Orleans' Times-Picayune if you would like to try it yourself.

Homemade Olive Salad for Muffalettas
(click here to print)

1 cup EACH celery, carrots, and cauliflower, coarsely chopped
2 cups high-quality salad olives (green olives w/pimento), drained and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan.  Add celery, carrots, and cauliflower and blanch until crisp-tender, about 1 or 2 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon and immediately plunge into ice water to retain the color.  Drain vegetables and combine with the olives.  Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and pepper together and pour over the olive mixture.  Cover and let marinate overnight.  This will keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

NOTE:  You can use a mixture of olives that you like for olive salad.  I sometimes throw in some Kalamata olives for variety.

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Cast Party Wednesday

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vintage Goodies from Home

We are selling my mom's house, and last week I went home to help clear things out.  I purposely didn't drive the 1,000 plus miles so that I wouldn't load up on a bunch of stuff I don't really need.  But I did decide to ship a few vintage goodies home, much to the dismay of my ever-patient husband.  Here are a few of them:

Awesome green glass cookie jar with original label
Enamelware from my mom

and maternal grandmother
Metal basket
Two rag rugs made by my maternal grandmother over 60+ years ago
The colors are still vibrant!

Old coal scuttle and shovel from my paternal grandmother's house

Love the blue paint on the handle
Wavy glass bottle from my uncle's wine-making ventures...
which coordinates with this huge (1969!) bottle I scored for free earlier this year

Two vases: White hobnail milk glass...

and cream art pottery from the 1940's--LOVE!

Original oil painting by my aunt (8x10 inches)
And a piece of copper from the Copper Country in its heyday

I'll miss my old home, but having these reminders of people I loved and days gone by cushions the blow a little.  I love using things that my ancestors cherished.  I hope that future generations feel the same way about some of my earthly treasures.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hot, Hot, Hot!

As I mentioned in this post, My Man grows both tomatoes and jalapenos in our garden. The tomatoes have been done for a few weeks now, but the peppers are still thriving, probably due to 17 consecutive days of triple-digit heat here in Texas.  It's hot, Hot, HOT!

So I decided to carry that HOT theme into my cooking this weekend by using some of the jalapenos (which have now ripened to a beautiful red color) in homemade jalapeno pepper jelly.

I have never made jam or jelly before, but my mother and sister are experts at it.  I figure it runs in the family.  It's really not difficult if you are a person who is somewhat methodical, but I'm no expert and welcome any comments on canning methods and safety.

Red Hot Jalapeno Pepper Jelly
Original recipe from
Yield:  About 8 half-pint jars
(click here to print)

2 large green bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
24 whole jalapeno peppers (I used 12 because mine were huge)
3 cups apple cider vinegar
8 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
8 oz. liquid pectin
8 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely minced (optional--gives a little more texture and heat to the jelly)

Sterilize 8 or 9 half-pint jars and rings by covering them with water in a large canning pot or deep stock pot and simmering for 5 or 10 minutes.  The water level should be about 2 inches above the jars.  You can also sterilize the jars in the dishwasher.

Wash the lids with hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.  Keep the jars, rings, and lids in hot (but not boiling) water while you prepare the jelly.

Place the green bell pepper and whole jalapenos into the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Pulse until finely minced.  Place in a large saucepan, pour the vinegar over, and stir to combine.  Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, line a sieve or colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and place the colander over a deep bowl.  Strain the liquid from the cooked peppers by pressing on them.  You should have about 2 cups of liquid.

Return the strained liquid to the saucepan and add the sugar and salt.  Stir to combine.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a rolling boil.  Cook for one minute; mixture will be foamy.

Remove from heat and add the pectin and minced peppers.  Stir well for about 5 minutes, skimming off the foam as needed.  This may help to keep the minced peppers from floating to the top of the finished jelly.

Remove the hot jars, rings and lids from the water (with tongs) and invert the jars briefly to dry.  Then pour or ladle jelly mixture into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space for expansion.  Wipe the jar lip clean, top with the lids and rings, and tighten gently (not too tight).  Process in a simmering water bath for 5 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the jars sit in the water for an additional 5 minutes.  Carefully use tongs to remove jars from the water bath to a clean towel or cooling rack.

Leave at least an inch of space between each jar.  Let cool without disturbing until jars seal.  (You should hear a "pop" noise.)  Let cool for 8-12 hours, then test the seal.  If any jars didn't seal, you will have to refrigerate or freeze the jelly for it to keep long-term.

This recipe can easily be halved if you want to make a smaller amount.

I plan on using my pepper jelly over cream cheese as an hor d'oeuvre with crackers, for spinach salad with pepper jelly vinaigrette, and as a spicy counterpoint to my cheesy biscuits.  Do you have a favorite way to use pepper jelly?  Please share!

Linking to:

Lark's Country Heart

Cast Party Wednesday

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

It's a Keeper