Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fresh Corn Pie

 In my never ending search for recipes using fresh corn, I discovered this recipe on a website called Just a Pinch. It's just a simple quiche, perfect for a light meal, and it's easy to throw together in no time at all. Full disclosure, this version isn't exactly the same as the original recipe. I tweaked it ever so slightly to fit the ingredients I had on hand, but it's still basically the same thing. If you don't happen to have fresh corn, you can still make it using frozen corn. But, of course, fresh is always better!
 Serve it with a light salad and a glass of sweet tea and you have a perfectly summery delicious brunch. Definitely add this one to your summer repertoire!

1 9" deep dish pie shell with fluted edges
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large scallion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 425ºF.
Prick crust well on bottom and sides with a fork. Line the crust with parchment paper, fill with pie weights, and par-bake the crust for 5-7 minutes. Remove parchment paper and pie weights.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together remaining ingredients except paprika. Carefully pour into pie shell. Sprinkle paprika over the top. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350ºF and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until center is almost firm. Cool 10 minutes and serve.

Tbh, I debated whether or not the crust needed to be par-baked with weights before adding the filling. It's not my usual method whenever I bake a quiche. But since I happened to have parchment and pie weights, I went with it. Not sure what pie weights are? I just use uncooked navy beans. You crumple up a piece of parchment paper which makes it easier to line the pie crust, then you pour the navy beans on top, filling up the plate. This is so you can bake the crust before adding the filling, which keeps it nice and crisp. (this is called "blind baking", btw). If you were to try this without the beans to weigh the crust down, then the pastry would likely slide down the sides of the pie dish and lose its form. After the crust is baked, then you remove the beans and parchment, let them cool, put them in a container and use them again and again whenever you want to blind bake a crust. I've literally had the same beans for years and years!

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Best Creamed Corn Ever

During the summer months, I am OBSESSED with all the Jersey Fresh produce I can get my hands on. There is just nothing like it. So, basically every Saturday, I take a little drive to my favorite farm stand and I load up with tons of produce, whatever I happen to be in the mood for. Sometimes it'll be summer squash, sometimes it'll be eggplant, often peaches and melons. But EVERY time, no matter what, it will always be about the tomatoes and of course CORN.
 If you've never had fresh Jersey corn, then you are simply not living your best life. So this week, I decided to look into finding the perfect creamed corn recipe. At first, I thought of making a big casserole sort of a dish, maybe with lots of gooey cheese and crumbled bacon. But then I thought, ok, wait, we're getting WAY off track here... The only thing that really matters is the fresh corn.. so lets keep things simple and just make that the star.
 So here we are! This recipe is a slightly tweaked version of The Neely's creamed corn recipe, but it has a slightly different technique and doesn't include any bacon fat.
 If you want a fresh delicious creamed corn recipe, THIS is absolutely the one that you want!!

8 ears fresh corn
4 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
1 tbs sugar
S&P to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk

Using a very sharp knife, cut the kernels of corn from the cobs. Once the corn is removed, using the back of the knife, scrape the cobs to get all of the sweet creamy goodness that is still inside. Add all to a large saute pan with the melted butter. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, making sure not to brown it too much on the bottom. Sprinkle with flour, sugar, salt, and pepper. Continue to stir and saute. Add heavy cream and milk. Stir again and simmer until the cream thickens, about 10 minutes.

If it gets too thick, just ass a little more milk.
If your corn is sweet and fresh, you can omit the sugar altogether.
If corn is not in season, say maybe if you'd like to make this for Thanksgiving, just use a bag of frozen corn! I wouldn't canned corn because it would probably get too mushy.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Joey's Chili Dog Casserole

 I recently cooked dinner for my gang of friends, which I LOVE to do. It gives me a chance to have everyone over to my place for a nice visit, and I get to try out a few new food ideas. Most times, there's a theme, and this time was no different. Our theme was your basic summer type foods, with an emphasis on Jersey Fresh produce (of which I simply cannot possibly get enough). We had the best corn on the cob in the world, we had a lovely salad of roasted summer squash with tomatoes and a basil vinaigrette, and of course I made my Mom's famous potato salad. My main dishes were BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches and this fabulous chili dog casserole. TBH, I can even remember where I got the idea for it. I think I was just trying to think of different cookout foods. For me, that would normally mean hamburgers and hot dogs, but I live on a 3rd floor apt, so there's no way to grill anything. Then I thought, well, what about a casserole???? A quick google search and there it was. Clearly I was not the first person to think of making chili dogs into a casserole! Some recipes used cut up bread in the bottom of the dish with a very thin chili and hot dogs on top. Some used canned chili with hot dogs and biscuits on top. So I gave the latter a try, since I liked the biscuit idea. Omg it was absolutely terrible. I barely added any seasoning to it at all, and it was so salty, I couldn't even eat it! Crazy, right? I literally threw the entire thing away! But I knew that this idea was worth a second go. Of course I yelled at myself for being lazy the first time around. I should've known better than to use canned chili, which was just not gonna cut it in this particular dish.
 So then I started looking up recipes for "hot dog" chili. I saw a few that looked pretty good, but then I thought "Wait, what am I doing? Do I really need a recipe to make chili?" Absolutely not.  I mean, yes, there are a million different ways of making chili, but I knew I would wind up changing the recipe to make it that way I like it anyway, so I might as well, just do it the way I like it in the first place!
 My first thought was "beans or no beans?" And my friend Jerry said it ever so eloquently: "chili has beans. MEAT is the thing that is optional." So I said well ok then!
To quote Stephen Sondheim: "If the end is right, it justifies the beans!"
 Luckily I remembered to write everything down as I was cooking, and this was absolutely the recipe I had been looking for. THIS is the reason why I always make something home made instead of using canned. THIS is the reason why people always say "of course you did" when I say that I made something from scratch. And THIS is the reason why I always say "It's better when YOU make it." There's just no comparison! Not only does it feed a big crowd but it also clicks a lot of other boxes as well. It's easy to make, can be made in advance, and it's just as perfect for your summer barbecue as it is for when you have everyone over to watch your big game.
 So I hope you'll give this one a try. I'm really REALLY pleased with how it turned out. If you like chili dogs, you will definitely love it!

For the chili:
2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup ketchup
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
2 (4.5 oz) cans chopped chilis
1 (15oz) can red beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbs chili powder
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
Few dashes Tabasco
Salt and pepper to taste

1 pkg 8 hot dogs
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 can Pillsbury Grands biscuits

Heat oven to 350ºF.
In a large deep skillet, brown ground beef. Be sure to break up any large clumps. Add onions. Saute for a few more minutes. Add remaining chili ingredients and give it a good stir. Reduce heat to low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Slice hot dogs into bite sized pieces. Add to chili.
 Pour hot dogs and chili into a 9x13 casserole dish. Place in oven, and bake, (uncovered) for about 30 minutes until bubbly. Sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese. Open the can of biscuit dough. Cut each biscuit in half, and then cut each half into thirds. Place biscuit pieces all over the top of the casserole. Place the casserole back in the oven and bake unto biscuits are lightly golden and cooked through.

The key to this recipe is You do you! Add the Tabasco to your own taste. (How much heat would you like?) If you like more cheese, go for it! Also feel free to add a different kind of beans or omit them if they're not your thing. Don't like hot dogs? Just make it a chili casserole with biscuits on top! That would still be delish!
If you want to stretch this meal even further, go ahead and add a few more hot dogs to the casserole. I used the 8 that were in the package, but you can easily add as many as 12 if you have more mouths to feed.
Btw, the reason I heat the casserole first without cheese or biscuits is just to make sure it's hot and bubbly before the biscuits are put on top. This serves two purposes: it makes sure your biscuits and cheese don't get too brown before the casserole is cooked through, and it also makes sure that the underside of the biscuits will cook properly. No one likes soggy biscuits!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Blueberry Blondies

Ok, ok, before I say a word about this recipe, I should tell you that the original recipe is NOT called Blueberry Blondies. It was given to me by my friend, Gina, who found it on a blog called Averie Cooks, and it's really called Crustless Blueberry Pie. But here's the thing... As delicious as it is, in my humble opinion, it's not a pie! I mean, the only thing that made it a pie was the fact that it was originally baked in a pie dish. But even the blog called it "somewhere between cake and a blondie." And, since I was making it in squares, I decided to just name them blondies and call it a day. Oh, and since one pie plate's worth of batter wouldn't be enough for a 9x13 pan, I simply doubled the recipe and added a little sprinkling of coarse sugar over the top for a little crunch. So there you have it. Full disclosure!
 Actually, at first I wasn't going to share the recipe, considering that I had just repurposed it a little, and I thought maybe Averie would be a little offended. But then I decided to ponder what it would be like if someone had reworked one of MY recipes, and I thought "Well GOOD!" That's what cooking is supposed to be! That's how new recipes are born! You see what someone else has done, you tweak it here and there, you keep what you like, and change what you don't like, and then PRESTO we have something new! Sometimes it turns out to be completely different, and other times it turns out to be a blondie instead of a pie. The important thing is that YOU made it homemade for your family and friends, and everyone loved it. And that's a pretty awesome thing, I must say.
 So, Averie, if you're reading, please feel free to browse any of my recipes and repurpose them as much as you like! I would love to see what changes you make!

2 cups white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
4 cups plus 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/3 cup turbinado sugar (coarse sugar, or sugar in the raw)

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9x13 pan with baking spray or line with parchment paper; set aside. To a large bowl, add white sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and whisk to combine; set aside. To a medium bowl, add the slightly cooled melted butter, eggs, extracts, and whisk to combine. Pour the wet mixture over the dry and stir to combine; don’t overmix. Add 4 cups blueberries and gently stir to combine; batter is very thick. Turn mixture out into prepared baking dish, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Evenly sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup blueberries over the top. Evenly sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until edges are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs but no batter. Cool completely or chill before cutting into squares.

The almond extract is quite a strong flavor. It definitely comes through. If you're not a fan, just leave it out!
I listed the recipe with the amounts I used for the 9x13 pan, but if you'd prefer to bake it in a 9" pie dish, just cut everything in half!
For a variation, try any other kinds berries or a combination there of!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Eggplant Burgers

Whenever I get a food idea or see an interesting food something on TV, I immediately make a note of it in my phone. It's just an ongoing list of all different kinds of foods, and usually an extra note saying where I saw it, etc. Well, this is one of the ideas from my list, but when I added it to my notes, I neglected to say where I saw it. It was from quite a while ago, and my note was just a list of ingredients. My guess is that I saw someone making it on tv and then jotted down what they were adding.
Anyway, I've FINALLY gotten around to trying it! OMG they were delicious!! Really easy, and so tasty! So, to the person who gave me this idea, whoever you are, thanx a bunch! This is now one of my new faves!
Now, as you're reading it, keep in mind that a lot of the amounts aren't written in stone. Actually, some of the amounts aren't even written at all. As my Mom used to say, you just have to add it "til it's enough." That's the best kind of cooking, dotcha think?? Enjoy!

1 large eggplant
kosher salt
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
handful of bread crumbs
1 large egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, chopped
black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Peel and slice eggplant into thick slices. (it doesn't matter if you slice it longways or crossways). Place a wire rack on a baking sheet, then place the eggplant slices on the rack in one layer. Sprinkle a couple big pinches of salt over the eggplant slices. Let them sit for at least a half hour. I usually let them sit for a good hour to an hour and a half. The salt will draw out all of the bitter liquid. Remove the eggplant from the rack and give it a super quick rinse under running water to remove the salt. Immediately pat dry with a paper towel.
Cut the eggplant into large chunks. Toss with oil and salt and pepper. Place in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast in a 400ºF oven for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool, slightly. Place in a food processor.  Pulse a few times until the eggplant is the consistency of ground meat.
 Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well using your impeccably clean hands. If the mixture is too wet, add a little more bread crumbs. Form into patties. Pan fry the patties in a bit of hot oil, just until browned on both sides. Serve on buns with lettuce and tomato, or your choice of burger toppings.

OK, technically, you don't have to do the salting step, but I always do, literally every time I cook eggplant. It makes all the difference! And your eggplant dish won't taste bitter!
Btw, one large eggplant makes two large thick burgers. So keep that in mind when you're deciding how many burgers you want to make.
I like to use a micro plane to mince my cloves of garlic. It makes a fine paste that mixes evenly into whatever you're making and you won't get a big honkin' piece of garlic in your burger!