Roasted Corn Salad with Basil and Tomatoes

img_42782

The July issue of St. Louis At Home magazine features some of my summer-inspired recipes in a cover story about celebrating the Fourth of July at an old family farm in nearby Illinois. It was shot by the talented  St. Louis photographer Steve Adams and the expert styling was by Julia Usher, a St. Louis food writer and pastry chef. I loved how it turned out – it was actually produced a few months ago, but Julie did such a great job with the props that it really felt like an old fashioned Midwestern Independence Day party.

img_4280

This is a perfect potluck dish for summer entertaining – the recipe is  simple to make and it’s a crowd pleaser – who doesn’t love fresh sweet corn?

farm-84-2

Me and my corn - photo by Steve Adams Studio

Roasted Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Basil

1 pound fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup prepared basil pesto
2 pints sliced cherry tomatoes
½ cup small fresh basil leaves

Combine corn, oil, salt, black pepper and cayenne on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast in a 425 degree oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
Stir in pesto and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper if desired.
Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with fresh basil.
Yield: about 10 side dish servings.

Toffee Oatmeal Chip Cookies

img_4227

I don’t know why I don’t bake cookies more often – they are such an excellent tool for bribing the kids to do the small, important jobs that happen to appear on their weekly chore lists, but for some reason don’t actually get done.  Like walking the dog.

We adopted Poppy, our little Jack Russell-mixed mutt, almost a year ago and since then she’s been keeping our family busy, taking us for walks and arranging playdates. So very busy.

How was I to know that the same dog who greeted us for the first time by docilely flopping down at our feet, presenting us with her soft, pink underbelly would turn out to rival Perez Hilton in her intense need to meet, greet and butt-sniff every dog in the neighborhood?

I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy the walking – it’s great exercise and all, but after a few trips around the block in a day I prefer to delegate the job.

I pulled a few pans of these Toffee Oatmeal Chip cookies from the oven and set them on the counter to cool, and like magic my children began to float around me like happy, dizzy dust motes. It occurred to me that I was in the position of ultimate power: Alpha Mom with Treats. Oh, you’d like a cookie? Walk the dog first.

Bingo! The lead was on Poppy’s collar and she was flying out the door with a child attached in two seconds flat.   A win-win for all parties. I love that!

Heidi Swanson was the inspiration for this particular cookie recipe. Her healthy cooking blog 101 Cookbooks is one of my favorite sites, and my copy of her cookbook Super Natural Cooking has pages falling out from over-use. One recipe I’d flagged and have been meaning to try is Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was intrigued by the recipe because it calls for an ingredient that I’d never heard of or seen before (gasp!) – mesquite flour.

It turns out that mesquite flour can be difficult to track down. Commonly used as a staple among Native Americans of the Southwest,  mesquite flour (also labeled mesquite powder or meal) is made from the ground fruit pods from mesquite trees and is said to be super-nutritious.  What got me interested is Heidi’s description of its flavor; smoky, malty, sweet and chocolate-like.

I didn’t get my hands on some until just recently; my friend L brought some back after scouting it out at the super-duper Whole Foods flagsip store in Austin. (An online source for mesquite meal is the Raw Guru site.)

I made a batch of the cookies, and really liked the toffee-like quality the mesquite flour added. Since Heidi recommends substituting an equal amount of flour in place of the mesquite,  I tweaked her recipe a bit to make it a bit more accessible – I realize that most (sane) people don’t go to such lengths to find an unfamiliar ingredient.

These cookies have a similar texture and taste, perfectly good bait for anyone you need to gently influence – wink.

img_4231

Toffee Oatmeal Chip Cookies

Adapted from Heidi Swanson

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour

1/2 cup malted milk powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 sticks butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 cup chopped toffee (I used Heath brand)

1 cup chocolate chips (I like dark but use whatever you like)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees for at least 30 minutes before baking. Line 2 or 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment or reusable non-stick sheet like Silpat.

Combine the flours, malt powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy. Gradually add the sugars, starting with the granulated sugar, beating until incorporated before adding the brown sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a thick dough forms.

Lower mixer speed to “stir” and add the oats, toffee and chocolate chips until evenly mixed. The dough should be dense and moist.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared sheets, about 2 inches apart to allow cookies to spread. Bake one sheet at a time for about 13 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Cool on the pan 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely, or until it’s time to walk the dog.

Yield: 3 – 4  dozen cookies

img_3885

Slow-Cooked Pork with White Beans and Rosemary

img_4174

I hauled my Crock-Pot out of the basement the other day. It’s been so cold outside the skin on my fingers has cracked open and now my thumbs have raw, gaping fissures just like you’d see if you were a crazed person hiking in the Mojave desert, only mine are painful and bloody.

The little pot of fancy skin butter I bought – which for some reason I hoped could transform even leathery old crocodile hide into something supple and glistening  – wasn’t getting the job done.

I figured I must need a little more pork fat in my diet.

As luck would have it, I saw a recipe for Slow-Cooker Cassoulet on the Williams-Sonoma website contributed by chef Thomas Keller. It made me and my dry skin salivate for some tender, braised pork.

I dusted off the old cooker and got to work adapting the recipe, going for a kind of Tuscan-style pork and beans with the addition of fresh rosemary and pancetta.

This recipe makes enough pork and beans for even-more-delicious-next-day leftovers.

Slow-Cooked Pork with White Beans and Rosemary

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
1 large onion, chopped
2 leeks , white and light greens parts washed and chopped
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
4 14-ounce cans Great Northern or cannellini beans, drained
2 ounces chorizo or other spicy sausage, sliced in half
1 garlic head, trimmed of excess papery skin and halved crosswise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Cut the pork into 4-inch chunks and season all over with the salt and pepper.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pan and brown the pork in batches. Remove the pork and place in a 6-quart slow-cooker insert.
Add the pancetta to the pan and cook until crisp on both sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Reserve the fat in the pan.
Add the onion and leek to the pan along with a ½ teaspoon salt and cook until softened. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Scrape the onion mixture into the insert.
Add all remaining ingredients to the cooker insert, stirring gently. Cook on medium for 6 hours, or until pork is very tender and easily shreds with a fork; stir in the reserved pancetta.

Serves 6 generously.

Inspired by Thomas Keller