Esquites (Mexican Corn on the Cob in a Cup)

It's elote for people who don't like to eat with their hands!

Who doesn’t love elote, that roasted Mexican corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, chili powder, and cheese, spritzed with lime juice, and served on a stick? I’ve come to associate it with summertime, when sweet corn is in season and I have my pick of local food trucks to sit in front of, snacking away.

As much as I love it, I have to admit that the fastidious Virgo in me doesn’t always love how sloppy elote is to eat. I get annoyed with how the grated cheese smears all over my chin, how the corn inevitably sticks in my teeth, and how glops of mayo always end up on my dry clean-only shirts. It’s the kind of annoyance that makes me hang my head in foodie shame as I go back to the truck to ask politely for a steak knife to cut off the kernels so that I can eat them with spoon.

That is why I really love esquites, which are essentially elote in a cup (or, as I prefer, a large bowl or a trough). Here, the messy work is done ahead of time and all you have to do is eat it, calmly and neatly.

Both elote and esquites are essentially street food and like most street food, there isn’t really an official recipe per se. The general consensus seems to be that there must be corn, it can be boiled but it is better roasted, there should be some kind of fat like soft butter, crema Mexicana,  or — even better — mayonnaise (I like my street food a little on the trashy side so it’s mayo for me). There should be some heat, some lime juice, and some salty, crumbly cheese like Cotija, but grated Parmesan or aged feta does the trick too.

Unlike eloteesquites often includes some chopped epazote, a traditional Mexican herb whose flavor is hard to describe. If pressed, I would say it kind of tastes like what would happen if cilantro and tarragon romped in a dusty field and had a herb baby. Epazote is worth seeking out; a little is all you need to add a wonderful earthy dimension to the corn. If you can’t find it, chopped cilantro is a good substitute.

Ingredients:

2 ears of corn

1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Olive oil

Butter

Salt

1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, crema Mexicana, or sour cream

The juice of half a lime

Cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of epazote, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of grates Cotija, Parmesan, or crumbled feta

Tajín Clásico Mexican chili seasoning (or you can experiment with a combination of Ancho chili powder, more lime juice, and salt)

How to prepare:

1. Remove the corn kernels from the cob. To do this with minimal mess, stand each ear of corn in a large shallow dish and slice down the length of each ear with a sharp knife. Keep the knife as close to the cob as possible. Rotate the ear and continue to slice down each exposed side until all the kernels are removed.

2. Sauté the kernels and the chopped serrano chili in a large skillet or cast iron pan with about 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Once the kernels have started to brown, transfer them to a bowl and add the mayonnaise, lime juice, and enough cayenne pepper to suit your taste. Stir in the epazote and the grated cheese. Adjust the seasoning, dust with Tajín, and serve.

Scotch Eggs

Go ahead. Eat like a Welsh rugby player.The first really, truly mind-blowing Scotch egg that I ever had was at The Breslin. The breading was shatteringly crisp, the sausage was moist and savory, and the yolk . . . oh the yolk! Just liquid enough, it oozed and spread over the plate like runny gold. I may have moaned. I most certainly peppered the server with questions: “But HOW???? How do they get the egg so PERFECT????? How do they possibly PEEL it so that the egg stays so intact????? The whites must be barely set! DO THEY HAVE THE DELICATE FINGERS OF ANGELS BACK THERE????” In response, I only got a coy smile.

Sous vide!” my friend Jason hissed, “It must be sous vide!

Possible, but doubtful. It was hard to imagine anyone going through the trouble of sous-videing the quantity of eggs that a restaurant would require every night. As we pondered and chewed, and pondered another round of Scotch eggs because anything good should always be ordered twice, I thought that this would be my deep-frying project. I will make this at home, I thought, and all the Scotch eggs will be mine!

As I must be the world’s worst egg peeler, I let the eggs boil until the yolks were firmer — about 5 minutes. Next time, I’ll let them be a little runnier as I found out that a layer of sausage hides a multitude of fingernail gouges and fingertip-sized divots.  The most important thing is that the oil remains hot — between 350-375° F — and the layer of sausage must remain reasonably thin.

All in all, it’s a pretty decadent affair for such a simple preparation. Deep-frying is messy business, but the final result is unbelievably satisfying.

Ingredients:

6 eggs + 2 eggs, beaten

1 pound of breakfast sausage

2 cups of panko bread crumbs

Vegetable oil (for frying)

To prepare:

1. Place 6 eggs in the bottom of a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover them. Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil. When the water begins to boil, cover the pan, remove it from the burner, and let it stand for 3.5-5 minutes, depending on how set you like to have your yolks (3.5 minutes for runny yolks, 4 minutes for just set yolks, 5 for perfectly set yolks) .

2. While the eggs are cooking, prepare an ice water bath. Carefully drain the water and gently roll the eggs around in the pan to crack the shells. Plunge the eggs into the ice water bath and let them sit there until they are cool enough to handle and peel. Once peeled, very gently pat them dry with paper towels.

3. Divide the sausage into six equal portions. Flatten and shape each portion into a thin disc about 1/4 of an inch thick.  Lay the patty in the palm of your hand and gently rest a soft-boiled egg in the center of it. Wrap and mold the sausage around the egg, pinching and sealing the seams shut as you go. Make sure that the sausage layer is no thicker than 1/4 of an inch, otherwise the sausage will not cook through before the outside of the Scotch egg begins to burn. Repeat with the remaining sausage and eggs.

4. In a large, heavy pot, pour in enough oil so that you have a depth of about 2-2.5 inches. Insert the deep-fry thermometer and bring the oil up to 375°. While the oil is heating up, whisk the remaining 2 eggs in a shallow bowl. Keep the panko crumbs another shallow bowl.

5. Right before the oil reaches the right temperature, work quickly and dip each sausage ball in the beaten egg and roll it in the panko crumbs. While keeping an eye on the temperature, carefully place each Scotch egg in the hot oil. You will need to work in batches and the temperature should never drop below 350° F.

6. Turn the Scotch eggs occasionally so that they cook evenly. When they are golden and crisp — about 5-6 minutes — use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil. Let them drain on a paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately.

The Classic BLT and Where Has Daisy Been?

Bacon makes everything better.
No new post in ages! Where has Daisy been?!

This post was inspired by a recent one by the Perfumed Dandy in which he addressed his own hiatus/absence from the blogosphere.

Never fear, dear Readers! Like the Dandy, I am still here 🙂

However, I did have to put some things on the back burner for a bit. You see, after sweatily fretting that I would have no employment this fall, I seem to have found myself in a situation where I have more teaching than I can shake a stick it. And I can shake a stick at a lot of teaching 🙂

I have classes scheduled every night of the week, except for Monday. Instead of being on one campus, I am divided between two this semester. This means that after teaching one class, I have to run and hop on the train to get to my other one at the other school. Most of my classes finish after 8pm and two finish at 10pm. One of those 10pm classes is on a Friday night 😦

As you can imagine, when I get home, the last thing I feel like doing is cooking. One of the perks of living in Manhattan is that I have an embarrassment of places that will deliver just about anything I want, whenever I want, and at a relatively reasonable price. Pizza Napoletana? Tibetan tsampa? Spicy Szechuan lamb with cumin? Georgian khinkali and lobio? Korean tofu stew? Lobster rolls and shoestring fries? Cuban sandwiches? Isreali hummus? Shio ramen? Coconut curry chicken? Souvlaki? Indian dosas with mango chutney? Yes, please!

Best of all? I can order everything online to be delivered ASAP to Ms. Spoiled-New-Yorker on the fourth floor 😉

But how about the weekend, Daisy? You must have time to cook on the weekend!

In theory, yes. In practice? Well, let’s be honest. On the weekends, most of my meals have been liquid alcoholic insubstantial, augmented by the latest nibble at the next it-restaurant.

All of this might sound exciting, but it gets old really fast. After a few weeks, it’s probably the least satisfying way that I can imagine eating. When things get busy, it’s not that I don’t cook at all. It’s rather that my meals become simpler and generally not anything interesting enough to blog about.

This is where the classic BLT comes in. When I get busy, I look for meals that I can put together quickly with stuff that is already in the fridge. In this case, beautiful bacon from my CSA that I cooked ahead of time, a loaf of bread, some nice lettuce, a good tomato (take advantage of them while you still can), and some mayonnaise. If the bacon and tomato are good, the lettuce is crisp, the bread nicely toasted, and the mayo (it must be Hellman’s) is slathered thickly, you really can’t go wrong.

The BLT is such a standby that sometimes I forget about it in my repertoire of meals. When I went up to visit my CSA farm back in July, I was reminded how good they are. I won’t even tell you how many of these I have had since then because a lady never reveals how much bacon she actually eats. I will say that it beats ordering in any day 🙂

French Breakfast Radishes Sautéed in Butter


The idea for this side dish came from Susan over at Susan eats London. It’s hardly a recipe, just French breakfast radishes split in half and sautéed in butter and olive oil.

French breakfast radishes are elongated, rosy-colored radishes tipped with white at the root end. The French adore them. You see them everywhere, but I can’t recall ever hearing them called breakfast radishes in France. No “radis petit-déjeuner.” No “bweakfast wadeeesh” either.

The exact reason for why they are called French breakfast radishes is unclear. From what I can find out, their name has nothing to do with the French having them for breakfast. Instead, it comes from the Victorians who liked to eat them for breakfast or afternoon tea. “French breakfast radish” is the blanket term for any small, oblong, pink and white-tipped radish. These kinds of radishes were considered French because of their association to the French from the English perspective (the English observed that the French liked to eat a lot of them). They became known as those French radishes that you had while sipping your English breakfast tea.

French breakfast radishes are the quintessential radish for slathering with good soft butter and dunking in flaky sea salt. They are also delicious sautéed in butter. Cooked, the radishes lose their bitter bite and they turn into succulent butter bombs. During cooking, the radishes give up some of their essence and make the most beautiful pink-hued sauce. They are impossible to resist.

Susan calls them food crack, and who can resist food crack? Not me!

Ingredients:

Butter

Olive oil

1 bunch of French breakfast radishes, trimmed and halved lengthwise

Salt

Chives

How to prepare:

1. In a skillet large enough to accommodate all the radishes, melt a big knob of butter with a little bit of olive oil. When the butter begins to foam, add the radishes. Season them with salt and sauté them until the radishes lose their opacity and they all begin to turn translucent. Transfer the radishes to a serving dish and snip fresh chives over them before serving.

Asparagus with Fried Egg and Parmesan


It’s asparagus season! Which means it’s time for my favorite fast lunch: sweet local asparagus topped with a fried egg and sprinkled with Parmesan. To anyone who thinks that making yourself lunch takes too much time, I challenge them to find something quicker than this meal.

But, Daisy, don’t you have to steam asparagus? Or boil it? That takes time!

Oh no no, young Padawan. You can . . . microwave it!

This idea comes from Andrew Carmellini‘s Urban Italian. In the book, he recommends microwaving asparagus as a quick and terrific way to perfectly cook it without sullying up another pot. I just have to quote him on this:

“Asparagus in the microwave is awesome. Yup. You read that right. I’m sure some food snob somewhere is recoiling in horror and throwing this book across the room, but I don’t care.”

I don’t care either. I love Carmellini’s food. He’s got a Michelin star and two James Beard Awards. If microwaving asparagus is good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

This is one of those no recipe-recipes that can be multiplied by as much as you need. I give you the recipe for one but obviously, if you are cooking for more people, you will need to punch an extra minute or two into the microwave.

Ingredients:

6-7 asparagus spears, rinsed clean and trimmed of their woody ends

Olive oil

1 egg

Butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese

How to prepare:

1. Spread out the asparagus in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Season the asparagus with salt and sprinkle on a little bit of water. Drizzle it with some olive oil. Cover the plate tightly with plastic wrap and nuke it for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

2. In the meanwhile, fry up an egg in butter.

3. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the plate and arrange the asparagus spears on a clean plate. Top the asparagus with the fried egg. Season everything with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle on as much grated Parmesan as you like.

Serve with a good, crusty bread.

Fried Egg with Sautéed Ramps and Garlic-Rubbed Toast


Ramps. Just the thought of them at the Greenmarket makes me really excited. Ramps taste like the essence of spring given that they are the first greens to come up after a long winter of tubers and root vegetables.

I’m not the only one with ramp-mania either. Unfortunately, the dramatic rise in their popularity over the past few years has been raising concerns that foragers are over-harvesting to meet demand.

Ramps are notoriously difficult to cultivate. For the most part, they are a foraged food that is found and plucked in the wild. To ensure that the plant keeps growing requires foragers to leave their bulbs intact — problematic since most ramps are sold with their bulbs and roots attached.

So what do you do if you love them like I do? Should you stop eating them all together?

You don’t have to give up ramps as long as you stay committed to being a responsible consumer. If you forage for them, take no more than you can reasonably eat. If you can, just take the leaves and leave the bulbs in the ground. If you buy them, try to buy them from a farmer you trust. Talk to your farmer and make sure that their ramps are coming to you in a sensible and sustainable way. The Greenmarket NYC closely monitors and regulates foraged food to ensure that things like ramps will continue to be around in the future.

Celebrate their scarcity because that is what makes them special!

Once you get your hands on some sensibly-foraged ramps, this is a great way to prepare them for lunch or for a light supper. I hesitate to even call this a recipe since it is such a simple way to prepare them, but simple preparations are oftentimes the best way to showcase especially great ingredients.

Ingredients:

Thickly-sliced bread, as many pieces per person as you like

1 garlic clove

4 ramps per person, cleaned and bulbs split in half if they are on the large side

1 egg per person

Olive oil

Butter

Salt and black pepper

How to prepare:

1. Generously brush both sides of your bread with olive oil. Broil the pieces until they are golden brown. Rub a garlic clove on both sides of the bread, including the edges.

2. In a large skillet, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add the ramps to the pan when the oil begins to shimmer. When the leaves have wilted and the bulbs have begun to turn translucent, shape the ramps into a circle and crack an egg into the center. Add a knob of butter to the pan. When the butter has melted, begin spooning the hot fat over the egg yolk as it cooks. When the whites have set, use a spatula to gently remove the egg and the ramps from the pan to a plate. Season the egg and ramps with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with the garlic-rubbed toast.

Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Italian Sausage (Orecchiette con cime di rapa e salsiccia)


Have you ever had one of those weeks where you were amazed at how busy your schedule was, yet surprised at how little you seemed to get done?

That was last week for me and the blitz of activity left me little time to cook, let alone eat something good for me. Lunch was reduced to a handful of jalapeño-flavored potato chips and half a curried tofu sandwich. Dinner was an even more embarrassing affair consisting of leftover boiled potatoes drizzled with olive oil and followed by gelato straight out of its paper container.

I was starting to feel like a human garbage disposal, and was yearning for a real meal, meaning something satisfying that was also quick and easy to put together.

Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe fit the bill perfectly as simple, rustic Italian seems to be my go-to cuisine when my belly is rumbling and my eyes are blinkered from low blood sugar.

One of the emblematic pastas of Puglia, orecchiette are thus named because they are supposed to resemble little ears. I don’t know about that, since they only look like ears to me if we’re talking (nerd alert!!!!) Ferengi ears. I do know that they are delicious and are perfectly shaped to cup little bits and pieces of chopped vegetables. The bitterness of broccoli rabe always goes well with savory sausage, garlic and red chili pepper flakes. To make this dish vegetarian, simply omit the sausage. It is very tasty that way as well.

As this is a very simple dish, I have given you proportions for two, even though I ate the two for one.

Yep, that’s how I roll in Hungry Town 😉

Ingredients:

1/3 of a pound of orrechiette

1/2 pound of pork Italian sausage, casings removed

Olive oil

1/3 of a bunch of broccoli rabe, roughly chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

Red chili pepper flakes

Salt and pepper

How to prepare:

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until it is al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a little bit of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, pinch off one-inch pieces of sausage and brown them in a single layer in the pan. When the sausage pieces are browned on all sides and cooked through, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate or bowl.

3. Drain the pasta, reserving about a 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of the pasta water. Wipe out the skillet and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Set the pan over medium heat and sauté the garlic slices until they are fragrant, about a minute or two. Add as many chili pepper flakes as you like and continue to sauté for about 30 more seconds. Be careful that the chili pepper flakes don’t burn. Add the chopped broccoli rabe and a little bit of the pasta water (you can always add more water later if the dish starts to look a little dry) to the pan. Cook the rabe until it begins to wilt. Add the sausage and the pasta, along with another splash or two of pasta water if needed. Toss and let everything cook together for another minute or two. The pasta should begin to absorb some of the sauce. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

Serve in large warmed bowls with an additional drizzle of olive oil.

Penne al Pomodoro Crudo (Penne with Raw Tomato Sauce)


Indian summer, that strange spike in temperature and humidity that occurs following the first frost. Okay, so maybe we haven’t had a first frost yet, but the weather in the Mid-Atlantic has been so screwy lately that it makes me feel like anything goes.

I just know that it has been pretty warm out, warm enough to make me still crave food that minimally requires use of my stove.

Pomodoro crudo is the simplest of sauces, and an excellent way to savor the very last of this season’s tomatoes. I used a big, fat heirloom tomato, the jolie-laide of summer fruit. A little gnarly, very misshapen, but incredibly full, flavorful, and delicious.

And it goes without saying that the better your core ingredients, the better the sauce will be.

Ingredients:

About 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of very good, very ripe tomatoes

1 clove of garlic, lightly crushed

About 2 tablespoons of excellent extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh basil

About 1/3 pound of dried penne

How to prepare:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. Set up a large ice water bath.

3. When the water begins to boil, score an X on the bottom of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes gently into the boiling water and leave them in for about 20-30 seconds, depending on how big your tomatoes are. Remove them carefully from the boiling water, and slip them into the ice water bath. You should now be able to easily remove the skin of each tomato.

4. Once all the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in half and remove the seeds. Chop each tomato, and transfer everything to a medium-sized bowl. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper to taste (you can salt liberally). Add the olive oil and the crushed clove of garlic. Stir everything together, and let the sauce sit covered and undisturbed on the counter for about 30 minutes.

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the penne and cook it until it is just slightly under-al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce. Toss everything together, and remove the garlic clove.

The pasta should begin to absorb some of the excess liquid in the sauce.

Hand-tear a handful of basil and add it to pasta. Toss again, and serve.

Insalata Caprese (Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil)

 
The whole summer has been building up to this moment.

Tomatoes.

Shiver.

It’s true that tomatoes, thanks to globalization and hothouse farming, are available year-round. But those tomatoes are wan in comparison to real, ripe field tomatoes. I’m talking about local tomatoes. Tomatoes that are juicy and complex, almost ambrosial. Not thin and mealy tomatoes.

With tomatoes this good, only the simplest preparation will do them justice.

Slice them into rounds. Top them with thick slices of mozzarella di bufala, if you can. Sprinkle them with flaky Maldon salt. Hand-tear heady leaves of basil, and scatter them over the top. Dribble the best extra-virgin olive oil that you have over everything. Have some good crusty bread ready to sop up the juices left on the plate in after the tomatoes are gone. A pleasant wake.

Balsamic vinegar, though trendy, does not belong in insalata caprese; it’s strong flavor overwhelms the delicate acidity of good, late summer tomatoes.

Prosciutto e melone (Prosciutto and Melon)


One of my favorite things to eat in late summer is prosciutto e melone.

The silky saltiness of the paper-thin ham delicately draped over sweet, heady melon is truly irresistible this time of year.

How’s that for a extra-hefty dose of hyperbole?

But seriously, it’s hard not to wax poetically about it. If the melons are ripe and fragrant (melons have been in the market for a few weeks now), and the prosciutto is the finest San Daniele you can get your hands on, you should.

There is no recipe for prosciutto and melon, because it is exactly just that: prosciutto and melon.

I feel very strongly, though, that as there are only 2 ingredients, there should be some clear guidelines:

1. If you do not have ripe melons, do not make prosciutto e melone.

2. Some people think honeydew is an acceptable melon. It is not.

Cantaloupe or nothing, people.

3. Do not use domestic prosciutto, which is fine for cooking, but it too salty for salad. You want the good stuff: the golden pinky-hued San Daniele. The best you can buy. You don’t need too much of it. About a quarter pound is more than enough for two people.

Buy the best. It is worth it.

4. Just slice your melon. You can do wedges or melon balls, however you want it. Drape the ham seductively across it. You want sexy ham folds, ribbons of air-dried pork tufted like satin pig-sheets over your musky melon. That’s what you want.

Do not:

1. . . . wrap your prosciutto around your melon like this.

2. . . . wrap your prosciutto around your melon, and impale it on a skewer with a freakin’ cherry tomato like this.

3.  . . . drizzle it with olive oil. Do not add pepper. It does not need salt. It doesn’t.

4.  . . . add a ball of mozzarella cheese, a glop of pesto, a shred of basil, dusting of dried herbs, or a bed of greens. Don’t sauce it. Don’t even have a sauce near it. Just don’t.

It is truly best as it is!