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Summer Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Basil

5 Sep


I found this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine in June and immediately knew I would be making it with my summer cooking class students. Since we were in a classroom and not outside, we skipped the original instruction to char the corn on a charcoal grill and gave the corn a quick saute in a cast iron pan instead. This took a long time and since there was such a large amount of corn, it didn’t really brown unless cooked in very small batches. This recipe doesn’t feature anything revolutionary or complex, but we all loved it, many of us eating it by the spoonfuls. It’s just simple summer flavors coming together to create something refreshing, tart and sweet. I loved it so much I made it from every batch of farmers market corn I bought, but as summer laziness kicked in, I began slacking on the recipe steps. I began leaving out the thyme, which I didn’t grow in my garden this year, and just microwaved the corn in the husk for 5 minutes before shucking it. That was all the cooking it really needed, although it was equally delicious completely raw on days where there wasn’t even time for that. The key to this recipe for me is the lime rather than lemon, it makes for an interesting pairing with the basil. I know that I am posting this a day after labor day, the unofficial end to summer, but technically the summer solstice isn’t over until Sept 21st. As long as my garden keeps pumping out September tomatoes and basil and the farmer’s market continues to give me corn, this recipe will continue another month longer.

Summer Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Basil – barely adapted from Bon Appétit’s Charred Corn Salad| July 2012

  • 6 ears of corn
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup  fresh basil leaves, ripped into small pieces
  • 2-3 limes, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme – optional
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Microwave corn in the husk for 5 minutes and let cool. Remove husks and  silk and shuck corn from the cob. Place onion in a strainer and rinse with cold water to reduce it’s pungency; drain. Mix onions, oil, tomatoes, basil, lime juice, and thyme together with corn in a bowl. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lime juice, if desired. Serve room temperature.

Sugar Snap Pea and Red Bean Salad

30 Jun

What you call a food often determines whether a child will eat it. Kids love sugar snap peas, my little cousins eat them right off my vines and the older kids seem to like them as well. I think it’s partly because sugar and snap sounds fun and delicious. The addition of sugar to this dressing doesn’t hurt either!

Sugar Snap Pea and Red Bean Salad

  • 2 cups Sugar Snap Peas or String Beans
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup red onion, fine dice
  • 2 TBL parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

Place chopped onion in an ice bath for 10 minutes to remove any overly pungent flavors and then drain. Blanch snap peas and place in an ice bath to set the color. Rinse the kidney beans well. Simmer vinegar, oil and sugar in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Combine beans and onions in a bowl and pour warm ( but not hot) dressing over it. Let cool and toss in snap peas and parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Let marinate for 20 minutes before serving for best flavor.

Ina Garten’s Panko Crusted Salmon

17 May


I have trouble making decisions.

The evidence: 

1.  I have been blacklisted from Express and their affiliate stores due to “excessive returning”. I am not joking, they took my driver’s license information in front of a long line of people, I felt like a criminal.

2. I can’t handle diners. The lengthy menus with too many options have been known to make me break a sweat.

3. When I find a favorite song on the radio I instantly have to check every other pre-set station to make sure there isn’t a BETTER favorite song on. If there is a tie, I have to switch back and forth to catch the best parts of each song.

As a culinary teacher, it is my job to stay aware of new trends and recipe ideas. My bedroom floor is covered in recipe clippings patiently awaiting their protective sheet covers, my biggest line of credit is to and if the world was coming to an end and they didn’t announce it on Food Network, I wouldn’t know. So you would think I would know what to make for dinner without a problem. But, as noted above, my indecisiveness makes it quite the opposite. Maybe for other people they have their staple, go to recipes they make on certain days of the week. I on the other hand, can spend so much time in front of the meat case pondering endless possibilities, that I give up and take the walk of shame to the pizza place  to get take-out instead.  Sometimes dinner doesn’t need to be a masterpiece or a culinary revelation, sometimes it just needs to be simple, easy and delicious. Ina Garten’s new book, How easy is that? , is just that. I didn’t get paid to say this but it’s really a great cookbook full of simple, beautiful food at it’s best.

This simple recipe for salmon comes together quick , for nights when your brain cannot handle much more. 

  For the salmon: Adapted from:  How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl combine 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, 2 TBL  minced fresh parsley, 1 tsp. lemon zest, 2 Tbl olive oil , ½ tsp. kosher salt and ½ tsp. ground black pepper.

Spread 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard over the top of  4 (6-8 oz.) salmon fillets.  Press the panko mix on top of the mustard on each fillet .

Heat 2 TBSP of olive oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch oven-safe saute pan for 2 minutes.  Add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and sear for 3-4 minutes.

Transfer the pan to the preheated oven  and bake for  5-7 minutes until the crumbs have browned.   Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest 5-10 minutes.  Serve with fresh lemon wedges.

For the vegetables: From

Wash and trim 1 bunch of asparagus and slice into bite size pieces, quarter 5 medium red potatoes and peel and slice diagonally 2 large carrots.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive to a large non-stick saute pan and saute the carrots and potato over medium heat until tender when pierced with a fork.  Season with freshly ground salt and pepper. Add asparagus and saute until tender but still crisp. Add the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Re-season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat and toss with 2 tablespoons of butter.

Fried Eggs with Wilted Spinach over a Toasted Knish

28 Apr

Sometimes life gets hectic and you need emergency, super fast food. Like 15 minutes between work and an appointment but you can’t possibily eat another granola bar as a meal emergency food. That’s where this meal stems from. I had a package of knishes in the house but the nutrition teacher in me wanted something green and some protein with it so I didn’t feel too guilty. Just because this is an emergency meal does not mean this is not delicious. Actually, it happens to be one of my favorite mixtures on the planet. Crispy potato knish and soft, wilted spinach mixing together with the oozing warm yolk. Trust me, you need to try this, emergency or not.

Fried Eggs with Wilted Spinach over a Toasted Knish original recipe

  • 1 potato knish
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1 egg
  • 1 -2 tsp olive oil olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Split and toast the knish in the oven or the toaster until really crispy on the edges. In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil and add the spinach until just wilted. Top the knish with the spinach. Add remaining oil to the pan and fry the egg over easy so the yolk is still runny. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Top knish and spinach with egg.

No – you cannot eat this in the car. Sit down, use a fork and knife. If you want car food, stick with granola bars.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon and Cilantro

25 Jan

My Mom loves me. She tells me I’m pretty without make-up. I know she thinks this because she’s my Mom. When other people see me without make-up for the first time, they usually ask if I have the flu. I’m okay with this. I’m thankful for make-up and the color it adds to my pale face.

Lentils are kind of ugly. People who do not grow up eating lentils need to be coaxed into eating them,  especially in their pale brown watery soup state.

Enter the red lentil. It’s like a lentil with lipstick on. People will like it better because its prettier and that’s okay. If it’s needed to bring them into the wonderful world of lentils, than so be it. After a few years together, when the relationship gets to that comfortable stage, the paler lentil can show it’s face again and start wearing ugly pajamas to bed.

This recipe is slightly adapted from the New York Times column A  Good Appetite ,written by Melissa Clark. ( Wednesday January 9, 2008)

olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup carrot, diced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

3 TBL tomato paste

1 TBL cumin

2 QT free-range organic chicken broth

1 1/2 cups red lentils

salt and pepper to taste

cayenne pepper to taste

1 lemon

1/4 cup cilantro –  minced

In a large pot saute onions,carrots and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add tomato paste and cumin, cook 1 minute. Deglaze with chicken broth. Taste and season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Add in lentils and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and reseason. With an immersion blender, puree about half the soup making sure to leave the rest of the soup chunky. Take the soup off the heat and add a few squeezes of the lemon and stir in cilantro. Taste and adjust to taste. Serve with grated pecorino cheese and crusty bread.

The most important part of this soup is to add the lemon juice and cilantro off the heat. When this soup was re-heated you could not taste the lemon or cilantro anymore.


Shrimp and Asparagus Penne with Concentrated Tomatoes, White Wine and Lemon

11 Jan

We just moved out of our apartment into our first house. During Christmas. During presents. During parties.  During a major blizzard that paralyzed the city that never sleeps and slushed and iced its way in with the movers unto freshly stained wood floors.  As you can imagine, there has not been any cooking, a lot of take-out but no cooking.  Tonight I came home ready to cook and the realities of home ownership smacked me right in the face with a sobering 45 degree reading on the thermostat. The burner was down and I was confined to the bedroom with an electric heater. It wasn’t awful, I had nothing else to do but watch a few hours of the new Cooking Channel in bed. (BTW – isn’t this new station AMAZING??) Since the kitchen was too cold to cook in for too long, I resorted to the emergency pantry. Here comes the confession. I love the flavor of cheap, bright yellow, processed mac and cheese from the box. There is something about the flavor that I can’t figure out but secretly crave. So that was lunch, along with the remainder of a package of Sunkist fruit gems. All the good flavors were gone, the fresh and tart grapefruit ones are the first to go, and all that was left was the nasty red ones. Turning over the package to see what flavor the red one was supposed to be, I discovered in disgust that it’s raspberry! How could they have possibly misinterpreted the delicious and complex flavor that is raspberry?? And of course this got my little foodie brain thinking…

What is flavor? How do we achieve it?

There is a reason for every step within a recipe. Each part is essential, or should be, to flavor development or the cooking process.


The oil man came and fixed the heat and I was able to prepare a more proper meal for dinner. Here is a recipe that is full of flavor and important steps to achieve those flavors.

Shrimp and Asparagus Penne with Concentrated Tomatoes, White Wine and Lemon original recipe

  • 1 lb penne pasta (The shape of the penne is similar in size to the asparagus and pairs nicely)
  • 6 cloves of garlic , thinly sliced ( The larger the pieces of garlic the more subtle and sweet the flavor becomes )
  • 1 lb shrimp, cleaned and deveined ( For protein, color, texture and a briny sweetness)
  • 1 large bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces  ( For nutrients, freshness, color, texture)
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained  ( For sweetness, acidity, moisture and color)
  • 1 cup white wine ( For acidity and brightness, complements the shrimp)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or tarragon ( For freshness and color )
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and Pepper

Begin to prepare the pasta according to the package directions. In the meantime, begin browning about a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet. This brings out a nuttiness and depth of flavor to the butter. Just as the milk solids begin to brown, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to extend the butter and raise the smoke point of the mixture so it does not burn. Add the sliced garlic and watch carefully as it begins to turn lightly golden.

Pat the clean shrimp dry so it can sear up in the pan and achieve a crust rather than steam and become mushy. Over medium high heat, saute the shrimp. Flip to the other side once the first side becomes opaque and pink. Once the shrimp has been seared, remove from the pan and place on a plate. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes and remove from the pan. It is important not to over cook the asparagus because it will be put back into the pan later. Add the white wine and lemon juice to the pan along with the drained diced tomatoes. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, this will bring more flavor to the sauce. As the pasta boils, continue to cook the tomatoes over high heat until all the liquid is absorbed and the pan becomes dry, at least 10 minutes. This will concentrate the flavor as the liquid evaporates and the mixture reduces. Flavor = reduction. Taste the concentrated tomato mixture and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, the flavor will be tart from the acidic wine and lemon. The most important thing you can do to improve flavor in a dish is to taste often and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Kosher salt has a cleaner less chemical flavor and is larger and more jagged, so it seasons more evenly. Freshly ground pepper, especially the tri-color kind, blows the pre-ground stuff away with fruitiness and bite. Remove the cooked pasta directly from the water and place into the pan with the concentrated tomato mixture. Add olive oil and some of the starchy salted pasta water to moisten the sauce if needed. Add back in the shrimp and asparagus and fresh herbs of your choice. Toss together and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh lemon and freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese for a salty finish.

Enjoy a flavorful dish!

The Cooking Teacher

Peach Linda Tea Cakes

19 Aug

Peach Linda Tea Cakes

Some girls have a thing for designer bags, for others its shoes. My addiction is to produce, particularly the farmers market kind or even more inviting is the “U-pick” kind, which I must admit is an ingenious marketing scheme. Produce doesn’t seem like a bad vice to have right? Well, when you come home with 13 pounds of peaches only to return restlessly the next day to the orchard which is 2 hours away to pick another 21 pounds then yes, you have a problem.  The next several posts will be about peaches and all the things I am going to try to do with them because I am a binge “U-picker”. These cakes are partly to blame. I remember having a dessert like this about 15 years ago at my Aunt Linda’s house, who shares my obsession for peaches, and have been craving it ever since. This new recipe comes very close to the way I remember the original recipe made by Linda and therefore is named after her. Why not? Escoffier named Peach Melba after Australian opera star Dame Nellie Melba, anyway – Linda means pretty and that’s just what these are.


Peach Linda Tea Cakes original recipe

Cake Batter

  • 1/2 cup earth balance butter spread ( for lactose intolerant or high cholesterol people)  
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh peach puree ( from 3 peeled ripe peaches )
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 ts salt

Caramel Glaze with Peaches:

  • 3 TBL earth balance butter spread
  • 3 TBL brown sugar
  • 3 ripe peaches – sliced thinly

Heat brown sugar and butter for the caramel glaze on high for 1 minute in the microwave. 

Pour into the bottom of 18 cupcake molds.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare sliced peaches and place 2 peach slices on top of the glaze in each of the cupcake molds.

Peel 3 peaches, dice them and puree them in a food processor. You should have 1 cup of puree, if you don’t have enough, add water to make 1 cup.

Cream the butter, sugar and brown sugar together. Add in vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in 1 egg at a time. Beat in peach puree.


Combine all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Slowly mix dry ingredients in until thoroughly combined.


Pour batter over glaze and peaches and bake about 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely and invert onto a cutting board so peaches are on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Top with whipped topping or cream or even better – vanilla ice cream!

The Lactose Challenge: Cousins/Chefs take on Homemade Ricotta Ravioli

18 Aug

Food should be about fun, pleasure and simplicity but for many people, enjoying their favorite foods is an everyday hassle because of food allergies.  There are so many to talk about and I would like to eventually get to all of them. As a cheese loving individual who wants to bring dairy back to the suffering, cheese deprived people of the world, we will talk about lactose intolerance.  Although there are some great lactose free products out there, they are very limited and I can’t understand why.  Besides lactose free products,  aged cheeses, which have little to no lactose sugars left in them, are usually okay for most lactose intolerant people. Some people can even tolerate yogurt because the active live cultures may help with digestion.  It is the soft cheeses, such as ricotta or mozzarella that pose a real challenge. Recently, my cousin, ( ) fellow food blogger and professional chef and I decided we would like to take on this dairy challenge and make our own ricotta from Lactose free milk and use it to fill homemade ravioli.  My cousin and I have been cooking and creating disasters and masterpieces alike in the kitchen since we were little kids. Our unsuspecting parents were subject to many “concoctions” as my mother refers to them, such as pancake fritters, which is code for two eight year olds got tired of waiting for pancakes and threw all the batter in and scrambled them like eggs. Or the classic time we decided to make lemon tart and did not understand blind baking and cooked raw beans straight into the pie crust.  These crazy adventures were the beginning of our food careers and looking back on these times I see a common theme. We were never afraid of food or making mistakes and that’s probably why we grew into grown-up chefs that actually know what they are doing in the kitchen.  Although we took different paths in the food world, Paul a professional Chef working and managing many highly acclaimed establishments, and I a teacher of kids, teenagers and adults, we both still love food in the same way and look forward to a crazy day in the kitchen together. Let the mess begin!  

The first thing you need to make ricotta cheese is acid. We chose lemon, 3/4 cup to be exact. Combine with 1 gallon of lactose free milk and bring up to 180 degrees.

Shut the heat and let the curdling begin! It will be soupy, you will become worried, but worry not – cheese it will be! Strain through cheese cloth or in a mess strainer.

Let it drain over a bowl for an hour.

Somebody call little miss Muffet – that’s curds and whey I see! (C’mon – you didn’t see that bad joke coming?)


Wow! Look! cheese! You just made cheese! That is awesome!

Okay pasta time…

The professional Chef said to weigh it… so I did… 1 pound of flour…

Now dump it out onto a large, spacious, clean surface. This is gonna get messy.

Make a well in the center,

You will need 4 beaten eggs, 2 TBL olive oil and 2 TBL of water and 1 tsp of salt.

Ok ready? Add them into the center of the well…

This is getting crazy… slowly mix the edges of the well into the eggs…don’t break the walls and let the eggs run out!!!

How are you doing? Good? Good… okay now bring it all together…

 and knead the dough…like this…

Let the cooking teacher take and break and make the professional chef finish kneading…

How is it? Is it dry? You need some olive oil? Discuss…talk amongst yourselves…

Ok let the pasta take a nap in a plastic wrap blanket in the refrigerator for an hour.

In the meantime start the sauce… “What should we make?” “Braised Pork Neckbone and Tomato Ragu?” “Awesome idea professional chef!” Now the cooking teacher will dice some mirepoix ( carrots, celery, onion ). See I just taught you something.

Chop some beautiful little plum tomatoes…

Dredge a package of neck bones in seasoned flour and sear in a heavy bottom pan with canola oil. Did you know that grape seed oil and avocado oil have extremely high smoking points? The professional chef taught that to the cooking teacher.

Add mirepoix and sweat until softened. Add chopped tomatoes, a large can of tomato juice, salt, pepper and love. Let simmer uncovered for about 2 hours.

Pasta rolling time!!

Roll dough out into long wide strips according to the directions on your pasta machine.

Make sure you have a long table to lay strips out onto.

Now you are ready to fill the sheets. We filled it with a mixture of sautéed swiss chard and shallots, the lemon ricotta we made, parmesan cheese, fresh basil and salt and pepper.

We filled these a few different ways, using round cutters, a rolling wheel cutter and a ravioli press brought to me from my sister on her recent trip to Italy. For all of them we used the same basic method. Lay one sheet down, position a spoonful of filling on top, brush with egg wash, lay another sheet on top and seal/cut.

If you have leftover sheets make them into fettucine!

Boil A LOT of salted water and cook fresh pasta briefly, only about 4-5 minutes.

Serve with the braised pork and tomato ragu and top with fresh basil. Treat the dairy deprived. Feed to those you love.


Photography Copyright © Loretta Miles Forever Young Photography. All rights reserved.