Warmed Fresh Corn with Cilantro

I’m staring out my window at the pouring late June rain (an entirely bizarre weather pattern for San Francisco) and can’t believe that just two days ago I was enjoying this very summery side dish.

The girls and I had arrived home from warm and sunny Southern California on Sunday evening. The plane landed early, with what felt like plenty of time to whip up a quick dinner (due in large part to the well-stocked fridge my awesome husband left behind). We decided on cheese and mushroom pizza as the main course. One look at the bursting crisper drawers made me want to scrap veggies altogether, until the two beautiful ears of corn caught my eye.

Rather than boil or grill (no time for either), I decided to make a pared down version of a classic summer combo in our house, chopped zucchini, corn, onions and herbs. It was a lovely way to welcome our first summer 2011 corn.

As an aside, I heard an NPR interview over the weekend with star London chef Yotam Ottolenghi, speaking about his new vegetable-oriented cookbook “Plenty.” He totally won me over with his simple yet sophisticated approach to vegetables (not to mention his sexy voice!). Apparently, his secret to home cooking is the liberal use of herbs, which have the magic ability to make even the most humble foods shine. The cookbook is in the mail!


Serves 4

With a sharp knife, cut kernels from two corn cobs. This is best done over a bowl since the corn tends to fly in every direction.

Finely chop several handfuls of cilantro (or another fresh herb of choice). You want to end up with 2-3 tablespoons of herbs.

Melt butter (to taste) over medium heat in a pan. Add corn, chopped cilantro, several pinches of salt and a few dashes of pepper to the mixture. Sauté for about 5 minutes, depending on how crunchy or soft you prefer the corn.

Turkish Dinner Part 1: Summer Lentil Soup with Lemon

I woke up the other morning feeling like soup. A light, summery soup, but not a cold one. Not yet. Temperatures were barely grazing 70  so I decided to wait for a real heat wave before bringing out the gazpachos and cold yogurt soups.

Jonah and I honeymooned in Turkey this time of year about ten years ago, and absolutely fell in love with their classic red lentil soup, known as Mercimek Çorbasi. It is beyond humble in terms of ingredients yet the squeeze of lemon and dash of sumac and cilantro at the finish results in something delicious and satisfying either as a light meal or a first course.

Soup preparation also sparked some last-minute inspiration, which I always appreciate, especially on a Wednesday. I spied a pound of ground lamb hanging around the freezer, and turned the simple soup dinner into “Turkish Night.” The ground meat became lamb burger sliders, which we served in toasted pita, drizzled with yogurt sauce. I’ll share those recipes in a separate post – they were amazing. According to Ava, so amazing that the dinner “could be served in a buffet.” There is no higher form of compliment.

PS I just realized I’ve been on a lentils kick. This will pass soon. I promise.


Adapted from the New York Times

Serves 4-6

Prep time: 5-10 minutes; total time: 40 minutes

In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add 1 large chopped onion and 3-4 minced garlic cloves, and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes.

Stir in 1 tbsp. tomato paste, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper and a pinch of chili powder or cayenne (yes – even for a family meal. It won’t be spicy, I promise!). Sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add 1 quart of chicken/vegetable broth and 2 cups water (or 6 cups of water) to onion-spice mixture along with 1 cup of red lentils and 2 diced carrots. Bring to a gentle boil, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Cool soup a bit, then purée half the soup using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor. Add pureed soup back to pot. The soup should have some texture.

Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in juice from 1/2 to one lemon (to taste). Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, a sprinkle of sumac if you have it on hand and a drizzle of olive oil.  You can also dust it lightly with chili powder if desired.

Baked Eggs with Spring Vegetables

Father’s Day is around the corner, and perhaps like many of you, I’m mulling over special Dad’s Day breakfast menu options. Which got me thinking about the awesome brunch my crew made for me a month ago, in honor of Mother’s Day, featuring Baked Eggs with Vegetables. All you need to pull off this gorgeous and delicious dish is spring/summer produce (asparagus, fava beans, tomatoes and green beans are excellent options) and about 15 minutes of your time. Plus a large skillet (or two, depending on how many you are making). Throw in some good bread or roasted potatoes plus the requisite Bloody Mary/mimosa/fancy cocktail, and you are on your way.

I also happen to appreciate that this dish satisfies anyone who is fussy about their eggs (namely, my children). You have total control over cooking time and thus how “done” the whites and yolks become. It’s fairly easy to end up with perfectly cooked whites and gorgeous runny yolks, which is my personal preference.


Inspired by Esperanza Pallana of Pluckandfeather.com

4 servings per 12″ (oven-proof) skillet

Preheat broiler

Rough chop a combination of spring/summer vegetables – green beans, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes, summer squash, any mix you have on hand. Finely chop 1-2 cloves of garlic.

Heat olive oil in pan and gently saute garlic. Turn heat to medium-high, add vegetables and cook for 2-4 minutes, until they soften and brighten in color. Clear open a few spaces for eggs and break in the pan (you should have room for 3-4 eggs in a 12-inch skillet). Fry them sunny side up for a few minutes until the bottoms set. Place the pan under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the whites firmed on top, but the yolk is still runny (or leave them in a bit longer if you prefer hard yolks). Season with salt and pepper and serve.

This is for all the amazing Dad’s out there, including my own!

2011 Organic Produce Shopper’s Guide Released

Environmental Working Group released their 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides yesterday. Each year, they review pesticide use data and compile two lists : the “Dirty Dozen” features items highest in residues that you should buy organic if possible (apples, celery, strawberries). Those that land on the “Clean 15” turn out to have very low pesticide residues (onions, sweet corn, avocado) and are not as important to go organic. Click here for the complete list.

Integrating information about sustainable food into this blog was always part of my master plan and this news item was the perfect place to start. Be on the lookout for a new page called “Sustainable Ingredients” where over time I will compile  content related to sustainable food. We are living in a time of profound awakening to all food-related matters, and there is no better place to contemplate these issues than in your own kitchen and at the family dinner table. My goal is to share useful information about food labels, how to stretch your food dollar when it comes to organic/sustainable purchases, where to find your nearest farmers’ market, and much more.

Don’t forget to post questions/requests you may have on this topic in the comments section!

Lentil Salad with Spring Vegetables and Goat Cheese

I’m addicted to grain/legume salads these days (see here, plus there will be more to come). Easy to whip up, a great way to use miscellaneous vegetables languishing and neglected in the crisper drawer, perfect for warm summer weather (which will come to SF at some point, right?). What’s not to like? In terms of a family dinner, this falls into the questionable category – dishes that I offer many times before they become a hit.  I’ll ask the girls to try a few bites of the regular version, but likely keep on hand the various ingredients in their separated form in case the “yuck” factor strikes. Aim for color with the vegetable mix and also crunch. Eventually they’ll come around. I hope!


Serves 4-6

Mix 2-2.5 cups of cooked lentils*** (french or beluga lentils would be best here, or a mix) with 1-2 cups of mixed chopped vegetables. In my version, I used cooked fava beans, sliced cheery tomatoes, chopped hearts of palm for a tangy contrast, radishes, carrots, a few turnips. English or sugar snap peas would also be perfect additions, as would fresh corn, cucumber, bell peppers, etc. Add a combination of chopped herbs you have some on hand: parsley, cilantro, mint and tarragon would be great choices.s Toss with lemon juice or your favorite vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. If desired, add crumbled goat cheese, feta or Mexican cotija cheese.

Dressing please!

Version without cheese ready to serve

*** I tend to rely on Trader Joe’s prepared lentils to make this salad extra easy. If you don’t have access to this product, make your own:

Cooked Lentils

Place about 1 pound of french lentils to a large pot of water. Pierce a small onion with a few whole cloves (optional) and add it to the lentils, along with 3 dried bay leaves, and one large diced carrot. Cover by at least 2 inches of water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until lentil are soft but intact. Add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper and drain.

Birthday Request: Spaghetti and Meatballs

It all seemed very reasonable. Spaghetti and meatballs for a Tuesday night birthday dinner.  One hour is all it takes to whip up the tastiest version of this dish and yet this hour was not to be had on May 31st when Talia turned 4. Facing a choice between a birthday meltdown over the cancellation of expected plans, or alternatively, serving dinner an hour late to a “hangry” preschooler, I opted for the latter. The risk was well worth it! Meatballs couldn’t be served fast enough. Spaghetti was slithering all over the table, the floor, the shirt, on its way to the mouth. But the entire affair was sufficiently celebratory despite the inauspicious start to the afternoon.


Adapted from Chez Panisse Café Cookbook

Serves 6

Cooking time: 1 hour

(The sauce with cooked meatballs freezes nicely – double the recipe and have some on hand for a quick evening meal).

1. Take 1/4 cup of milk and add 1/4 cup of soft bread crumbs (I used half a slice of whole wheat bread and run it quickly through a small food processor) and mix gently. Soak until bread has softened, the drain through fine sieve, squeezing out most of the milk.

2. Sauteé 1 finely diced small yellow onion in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes, in large pan (which you will also use to cook meatballs). Season with a bit of salt and set aside to cool.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine: 1 pound of fresh ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, 3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese,1 beaten egg, 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley, 1 tsp finely chopped thyme, 1/8 tsp cayenne (the mild heat from the cayenne won’t be an issue for kids but adds great flavor), black pepper to taste, and 1 tsp salt (use a bit more if working with kosher salt).

4. Sauteé 1 thinly sliced red onion in large pan until soft, about 5 minutes.

5. Boil water for spaghetti. Don’t forget to add a generous helping of salt to water once it comes to a boil.

4. Mix ingredients gently but thoroughly until beef reaches an even consistency. Shape mixture into walnut sized balls with wet hands – this is a great kid task! If cooking meatballs immediately, add to pan with onions over medium heat. The uncooked meatballs can also be placed on a plate or baking sheet and refrigerated for a few hours before cooking.

5. Add spaghetti to boiling, salted water. It is should cook in 8-10 minutes, about the time it takes for the meatballs to finish cooking.

6. Cook meatballs with the red onion, over medium heat, shaking the pan to prevent sticking. Gently turn and toss the onions and meatballs so they brown slightly. Add 2-3 cloves chopped garlic and cook for a few seconds, making sure it doesn’t burn.

7. Add 2 cups simple tomato sauce (look for one in a glass jar with few ingredients – tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, basil perhaps), 1/2 tsp fresh (1 tsp dried) chopped oregano, 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley to sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Simmer gently, uncovered, occasionally stirring the meatballs to coat them with sauce. Check for doneness in about 8-10 minutes.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and hot chili flakes if desired (and don’t forget the birthday cake!).