Thursday, July 21, 2011

Corn and Black Bean Salsa with Fiery Pita Chips

Corn and Black Bean Salsa
with Fiery Pita Chips
First off, I need to say that I can hardly believe it but I have officially been keeping this blog for a year! Happy one year anniversary to Cook. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.! Anyway, back to the food. There are four square meals that one must eat during the summer months: brunch, late lunch, happy hour and dinner. A fifth meal of pie should be incorporated as often as possible. My family takes happy hour very seriously, during those evening hours that are the most beautiful of the summer, when the air is cooler and the sky is just a tad dimmer. A cheese plate and bowl of tortilla chips are usually present, sometimes accompanied by olives or the occasional spinach dip. However, I was looking for a little something lighter and more refreshing than slices of brie cheese and chips. Thus, my corn and black bean salsa was born. This salsa contains so many of the ingredients that are perfectly in season in July and a few others to create the perfect, crisp appetizer. The recipe for the fiery pita chips came from my new signed and personally inscribed copy of Savoring the Hamptons by Silvia Lehrer :)

Six pieces of pita bread
Cooking spray
1 teaspoon dried garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cucumber
2 cobs of corn
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 can black beans
1/3 cup minced red onion
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Slice each piece of pita bread into six equal triangles. Lay these all out on a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Evenly sprinkle the dried garlic, dried thyme and cayenne pepper over the pita bread. Place in the oven for eight to ten minutes or until slightly browned and crisp. Allow to cool for thirty minutes.

Put a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Place the two ears of corn in the water and allow the water to come back to a boil. Remove the corn from the pot. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half. Chop half of the cucumber into large pieces and put in a blender. Add the yogurt, garlic clove and mint to the blender as well. Puree until smooth and then taste for seasoning. Add as much salt and pepper as you prefer. Once the dressing is prepared, transfer it to a bowl and allow to chill in the refrigerator.

Halve the tomatoes, mince the red onion, slice the corn off of the cob and drain and rinse the black beans from the can. Put all of these ingredients in a medium bowl and top with the dressing that has chilled. Toss with a spoon until all of the ingredients are evenly coated with the dressing. You may need to add a bit more salt at this point. By blending up the cucumbers in the dressing this salsa is especially refreshing! When you scoop it up with a fiery pita chip you get a delicious flavor profile that can't be beat during those summer happy hours. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer Fruit Pops

Summer Fruit Pops
What better way is there to cool off on a hot summer day than with a frosty, fruity ice pop? None, I don't think. Instead of putting plain fruit juice into these bad boys I mixed up a quick batch of summer fruit salad with a side of fresh lemonade and poured it right into my ice pop molds. Frozen fruit has an icy texture that is just so satisfying, especially when surrounded by sweet lemonade. I love my ice pop molds because when the juice starts melting, you can sip it up through the straw and you don't miss out on one drop of delicious flavor!

Handful of blueberries
Handful of strawberries, hulled and sliced
Handful of raspberries
10 grapes, halved
1 cup water
1 lemon
2 teaspoons sugar

If baking is not your thing but you still really want to impress your summer guests, these pops are the way to go. Not only are they delicious and refreshing, but they're beautiful to look at too! Put the fruit in a bowl and mix lightly with a spoon. In a separate glass, juice the lemon and add the water and sugar. Use the spoon to place the mixed fruit into your ice pop molds, making sure that it is equally distributed. Then, pour the lemonade over the fruit until it reaches a little below the top. Replace the popsicle sticks and place in the freezer for four hours or overnight. I usually run some hot water over the molds before removing the ice pops so that they slide out easier. Enjoy!

I roped my cousin Sam into modeling for me, he's a natural!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Red White and Blue Tart

Red White and Blue Tart
I feel like July 4th is one of those holidays where you can't help but be a little gimmicky. Everyone puts on their red, white and blue outfits and busts out those American flag napkins that have been sitting in the cabinet since last year, and eats some red, white and blue desserts of course. At first I wanted to be creative and make a red, white and blue savory dish, but I simply couldn't resist the beautifully ripe berries at the store today. I've done red, white and blue ice cream cake, I've done red, white and blueberry buckle, I've done red, white and blue fruit skewers. It was time for something new. 

Instead of making a traditional pastry cream as the base for this tart, I strained some vanilla yogurt and flavored it with juice and powdered sugar to make for a lighter base. The fruit could easily be swapped out for any other fruit, but being that Independence Day is tomorrow, I obviously had to go with red and blue berries.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 1/2 cups vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon orange pineapple juice
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Sliced strawberries, raspberries and blueberries for topping
3 tablespoons honey

Place the yogurt in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator to drain for one hour. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 300 degrees fahrenheit. Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork until all of the graham cracker crumbs are coated. Press the mixture into a ten inch pie plate or tart dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for twelve minutes and then leave out to cool on a wire rack.

Prep all of your berries while the yogurt is straining. Slice strawberries, and wash the raspberries and blueberries. In a medium bowl, put the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and juice. Beat together until soft peaks form and then place back in the refrigerator until the yogurt has finished straining.  Once the yogurt is finished, gently fold the whipped cream into the yogurt with a spatula. At this point the tart shell should be at room temperature and ready for filling. Pour the yogurt mixture into the shell and spread evenly with the spatula, place back in the refrigerator for thirty minutes to set. After the base has set, top with berries in whatever pattern is most appealing to you. Place the three tablespoons of honey in a microwave safe bowl and heat for twenty seconds until the honey has thinned out substantially. Using a syringe or pastry brush, squeeze or brush the melted honey over the fruit. Place the tart back in the refrigerator to cool and for the honey to set again. Remove after an hour or so and serve immediately. Enjoy!