Joel could eat Mexican food, like, always. When he wants to go out to eat, he almost always picks Mexican food (our favorite place in Salem, OR is La Hacienda). But mostly, the Mexican food we eat is the food we make ourselves. Some of our favorites are homemade tortillas, enchiladas, tacos and, of course, margaritas.
Years ago, I started making my own “refried” black beans. I put that word in quotes because these are not fried at all, and especially not refried. But they are the best black beans ever. Joel isn’t normally a huge fan of black beans, but we both agree, these we could eat by the bowl full.
I remember having the job of shucking corn as a kid. It’s a great kid job, right? Well, as an adult, it’s a toss up who cleans the corn now. But my job is to bring the flavor! I like to mix it up and add a little something different to my corn. This time I recalled a guy that I used to work with last summer. He swears this corn is magic (meaning it will get you the attention of the ladies) and everyone will be asking you how you made this amazing corn. This is his recipe, and let me tell you, it IS magic! The corn will disappear before your eyes.
We were talking to our neighbors the other night about gardening, and Joel started dropping some knowledge about corn. Did you know that each of those little strings on a cob of corn is linked to a kernel? Each one has to be pollinated individually! Nature is pretty crazy. Cleaning corn on the cob ever since I heard that makes me day dream… about those little kernels and how they grow. These are the things I think about when I’m doing tasks like shucking corn on a summer day with an iced tea next to me. Do you ever day dream while you’re cooking? I do it all the time.
That’s why it’s great that this recipe is so simple. You could mix up the spices to your liking or even add fresh herbs, but I would recommend leaving the ratio of salt, sugar and pepper the same… they make a good flavor base!
Mix the spices together. Add the lime juice and hot sauce.
Add to the melted butter and garlic and brush all over the corn. Ooooh yeeeeaaaaaaaaa.
Grill it! I like to leave the foil off to get those grill marks, but you could also totally remove the silk and husks and wrap these up in foil too.
One bite, and you’ll be charmed.
James’ Magic Corn
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Juice of 1 lime
A few dashes Taptio hot sauce
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
4-6 ears fresh corn, husks pulled back and cleaned of strings (either fully remove husks or leave pulled back as “handles”
1 stick unsalted butter
In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper, sugar, cayenne, paprika and cumin. Squeeze the lime into the mixture and add in the hot sauce to taste.
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter with the garlic. When the butter is melted, stir in the spices and remove from the heat. Brush all over corn. Barbecue or bake until done, about 10-15 minutes.
If you have extra butter, you can put it in a sandwich bag after it cools and freeze it for next time.
Grocery shopping is something I would consider one of my hobbies. When I have a few extra hours in the day, I usually spend about 10 minutes trying to think of an excuse to go to a grocery store, then I spend the next pocket of time perusing the aisles, smelling produce, and hunting around for something unique to take home. I would also call it a skill. I make mental notes of who has the best herbs that week, what price the potatoes are, and how fresh the meat looks. These pieces of grocer information get stored away until my next pocket of a few hours, where I promptly go to whatever store has won me over with my memory of their selection of exotic cured meats, or their bouquet-worthy tarragon.
My last visit to one of my favorites was a few weeks ago. I had errands to do and a meeting in Portland, so I stopped in to Barbur World Foods. I had eaten a doughnut, but that was hours ago. I’m hungry, which is a dangerous place to be when I walk into a grocery store. When I asked a lady stocking shelves which brand of dolmas was the best she said, “You mean other then the ones in our deli?” Deli!? My mind must have been elsewhere. I retraced my steps. Yep, how did I walk by and not look at that giant glass case?
I ask for eight dolmas, half vegetarian and half meat. While the tall guy behind the counter was getting my order, I spied a rustic looking salad in the case. “Excuse me, what’s in this salad? That spice, I’ve never heard of it. Rahz eel han out?” I stumble through it, suddenly self-conscious. He chuckled and said “Yea, that’s a hard one for me too. (I noticed he avoided repeating it) It’s like a blend of spices, like a curry powder, everyone makes it a little different.” Oooh. I was intrigued. I ordered some of the salad too and went off down the spice aisle looking for this Ras el Hanout.
Later, at home, I dug into the salad. It was a little sweet, with the carrots and the onions, and then a warm spicy heat that slowly built on itself, but wasn’t overpowering. I was addicted! I especially loved the large leaves of flat leaf parsley.
I had to know more about this Ras el Hanout. I guess it is like curry! There’s no definitive recipe for it, and it’s name means “head of the shop” or “top shelf” in Arabic. It’s used in North African and Moroccan dishes, and is often used on meats as a rub, in rice or in couscous. Don’t be too impressed with my knowledge, I learned it all from wikipedia.
This salad is easy, a little spicy, and perfect for a picnic because it’s really delicious at room temperature.
First, make the “rub.” Add the Ras el Hanout, some minced up garlic, ground ginger, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
Add in some olive oil and make a loose paste.
Chop up those veggies! I used a couple carrots, some parsnips, a medium red onion, some baby red potatoes and two small russet potatoes.
Drizzle the rub on the vegetables.
Toss them and rub in the spice mixture. It’s easiest to just get in there with your hands!
While the vegetables roast, get your parsley ready. You’ll need about a cup. I just pricked them off the stems and left a couple whole attached in small sprigs.
When the vegetables come out of the oven, they might need just a little more olive oil on them. Add in the parsley leaves and gently toss together.
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
I hope you take a trip to Barbur Foods if you are in the Portland area, or try your own version of Ras el Hanout! Either way, enjoy your grocery shopping and try something new. Now I’m off to make a big bowl of popcorn with coconut oil and Ras el Hanout…
A couple of notes for success: The key to nicely roasted vegetables is threefold (I’ve made a lot of bad roasted vegetables, so I learned these the hard way):
Give them a good coating of oil, and if you are worried about them sticking you might as well oil the pan too. This is different for squash, which fairs better if you only oil the pan and not the squash itself (I find it gets too slimy if also coasted in oil, but that’s another blog post.)
Allow for plenty of space on the sheet pan. Crowding too many vegetables onto one sheet pan is my downfall; don’t fall prey to this mistake.
Do not try to stir them too soon before they’ve browned a bit on the bottom. Usually this is after 20 minutes of undisturbed roasting time.
I use sheet pans that have a 1″ side on all sides. I use them for just about everything, even cookies. I don’t see the point of side-less sheet pans (well, okay, maybe that’s an overstatement.) My favorite ones are made by Chicago Metallic and you can buy them at kitchen supply stores or here. They are technically called jelly roll pans.
Moroccan Roasted Root Vegetable Salad
Recipe Type: Salad, Side Dish
Serves: 6 servings
1 medium red onion, peeled and each end trimmed off
3 very small russet potatoes (or 1 large)
8 small red potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional if needed for tossing
1 cup flat leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 with the racks placed in the middle and lower third positions.
In a small bowl, mix together the minced garlic, Ras el Hanout, ginger, salt and pepper. Add in the olive oil, mixing to make a paste. Set aside.
Wash all the vegetables well. Chop them into large chunks; the carrots and parsnips into 2” long spears, sliced in half lengthwise if they are thick, the onion into 1” wedges, the red potatoes cut in half and the russets cut into long, lengthwise 1” wedges. Divide the vegetables between two large sheet pans that have a 1” side on all sides.
Drizzle the spice paste over the vegetables, dividing evenly between the two trays. With your hands, mix up each tray of vegetables with the paste well, literally rubbing the olive oil all over the surfaces of the vegetables, especially the potatoes. This will help them from sticking and loosing those delicious brown bits to the bottom of the sheet pan.
Roast for 25 minutes, gently toss and rotate the sheet pans, top to bottom and front to back, then roast for another 10 minutes.
Remove the pans of vegetables from the oven and let cool until warm or right around room temperature. Combine the vegetables onto one sheet pan, and sprinkle the parsley leaves over them. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil and toss.
There are things in life that are so perfect together, it’s like they were made for each other. Strawberry and rhubarb, peanut butter and chocolate, pepper and bacon. Potatoes and beer!
This is a great switch up from the normal potato casserole. The beer cooked in this gets so sweet and almost wine like. With cream, not cheese, it’s not overly rich but super satisfying this time of year.
Simple as can be, just layer potatoes and onions and pour 12oz of beer over it. Lager works well, it’s light and smooth. I used a home brew lager that Joel made, but any lager beer will work.
Ready for the oven: I have to tell you something though. The first time I made this it was so not good. It was bitter! We couldn’t figure out why. I used yukon gold potatoes, but they had been in the cellar for a little while. I didn’t know potatoes could get bitter. We didn’t get sick or anything, but we couldn’t eat it. So this is casserole #2. Lesson learned: yukon golds are best fresh. I’m so glad I tried again, I knew that potatoes and beer couldn’t be bad together! Sometimes when you make a dish that fails, it’s not you. It’s your ingredients. Comforting in a funny way, yes?
So one other thing about these potatoes: sometimes during this time of year, they are not always dry enough to soak up all the liquid. So if it looks like there is a lot of liquid left in the dish before you add the cream, just spoon some of it out.
This dish is also best if you let it sit for about 10 minutes, which I prefer anyways. I find it less stressful to get the rest of dinner on the table if I know the casserole can just wait a hot minute and it will be even better. Whenever I hear “let this sit 10 minutes” I just think, thank God, I don’t have to try to serve this boiling hot and it won’t collapse or something! I mean, cooking dinner is hard enough sometimes. Plus it’s a minute to pour a glass of wine (or beer)!
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
coarse salt and pepper
1 (12 oz) bottle lager beer
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.
Layer a few onion slices in the bottom of the baking dish, and then alternate layers of potato and onion, seasoning with salt and pepper on each layer, ending with a layer of potatoes. Pour the beer over the top and dot the surface with butter.
Put the dish in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven to 375 and bake for 40 minutes more, or until the potatoes are tender and the surface has begun to brown. Pour the cream over the surface and bake for another 10 minutes. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes. It’s best served warm, not hot.
Note: Late season (March through June) potatoes are often not dry or “thirsty” enough to soak up all the beer. If it looks like the gratin is still very liquid, spoon out some of the beer before adding the cream, or the final result will be too soupy (though still thoroughly delicious).