Corn and Radish Salsa

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…and some other things, of course! If you just want the “recipe,” it’s something like:

Saute a bag of Trader Joe’s fire-roasted corn kernels in a little bit olive oil and salt. (Or other frozen corn.) Scrape the warm kernels into a bowl and add a pint of quartered cherry tomatoes, one seeded, finely diced jalapeno, 1/4 of a finely chopped red onion, chopped cilantro, a handful of fresh radishes, halved and thinly sliced, juice of one lime (or more to taste) and plenty of kosher salt. Enjoy over roasted meats, in burrito bowls, with chips, over eggs. We’ve had this twice this week thanks to the amazingly beautiful radishes coming in our produce box.

Recently, I listened again to Sylvia Boorstein’s On Being interview which has continued to have a profound impact on me since it aired the first time several years ago. In talking about discovering Buddhist practice, Sylvia says,

“I thought about becoming enlightened and that, if I practice meditation enough, that the challenges of life and the pain and the disappointments of it would just — I would sail over them with great equanimity…But the truth is that we are connected with empathic bonds of tremendous energy. I wouldn’t want it otherwise. I don’t want to sail above my emotional life. I don’t want to complicate my emotions with worse complications by struggling with what I can’t change or by reacting without thinking things through. In the beginning, I think I had a more lofty idea of what would happen if I practiced a lot, become a lot more pedestrian. I’d like to live kindly with a good heart because I’ll be the happiest that way…Spirituality doesn’t look like sitting down and meditating. Spirituality looks like folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in the family even though you’ve had a long day.

I love this so much. Not taking the spiritual bypass, not sitting on our meditation cushions while we manage to avoid the everyday tasks and relationships that need the most attention in our lives.

Last night, by some miracle, I really did make this radish salsa “in a sweet way.” With the dog at my feet (I’m going to trip over him and break my ankle someday), Loretta hovering and asking, “What’s for dinner?”, Wyatt kissing me on his way to basketball practice, Yancey fiddling with his Goodwill stereo in the garage. The okayness of life settled over me and I could say again, with Julian of Norwich, “All is well and shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Summer Salad Series: Steak Salad with Corn Salsa

 

I'm serious. It's a blazing 72 degrees in Bellingham. I always joke that when the sun is out in The Ham, it's like you just handed everyone a $100 bill. People are so stinking happy.

Yancey is home recovering from knee surgery, and we're happy, too. The surgery went without a hitch, it was overdue, and he's mending nicely. And we've had the strangest couple days--just hanging out, doing puzzles (him, not me--I have ZERO attention span for puzzles), lolling about with the kids, family dropping by to bring food or say hello. I can't resist philosophizing here--it's too bad it takes a surgery for an unplanned weekend! We're pretty good about saying "NO!" to things, but still. I resolve to do LESS in the future. It's pretty great. Yancey's sister Kelly is here today kicking #%$ on the puzzle. Look at this sweet photo.

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The biggest news around here might be that Wyatt is now riding around the neighborhood on his bike. Alone. And the shoes I just bought him are a size SIX. Get out. He is suddenly giant, witty, independent, and more engaging than ever. He took his bike out this morning and went garage saleing with his allowance. He bought a puzzle and a foot massager. He would grimace at me calling him cute, but God. He's cute. And mine. That is what's so crazy. He came from me.

I suppose I should get around to the food here. This site was down for a week (please say you noticed!) because of some technical glitches, and I'm all chatty now that it's up again. Sometimes I think, "Maybe In Praise of Leftovers has run its course." Then things happen to change my mind. Like it disappearing and me missing it. Or Jenny and Dusty bringing me cocoa nib shortbread from The Breadfarm and writing me a card about how much iPol has meant to them. Or Janie sending me an email and saying it's made her gluten intolerance so much more bearable. Or Emily saying, "Where did it go? It's a community service!" Ah. Happy to oblige.

Okay. Really getting around to the food now. Our new thing around here is salad bar. I cook, chop, and whisk some things, set them in the middle of the table, and wash a lot of dishes at the end. If you're into One Pot Meals, this probably isn't your thing. My Mom and I have always been into Thousand Pot Meals. Ask our husbands. 

There are going to be so many salads this summer that I can't see myself recording every single "recipe" or proportion. (Okay. I can see it. I just don't want to.) The great thing about salads is they're pretty hard to screw up. So I've decided to give myself a break and just post the ingredients, and by the end of the summer, you'll have lots of good ideas and you'll be proud of yourself for winging it.

For this salad, assemble something like this:

  1. Salsa of cooked corn kernels (fresh or frozen roasted corn from TJ's), tomatoes, cilantro, basil, salt, olive oil, and lime juice
  2. Avocado
  3. Pickled or fresh red onions
  4. Crumbled feta, cojita, or queso fresco cheese
  5. Roasted or fresh poblano chiles
  6. Greens (romaine, kale, beet greens, arugula, etc.)
  7. Thinly sliced grilled steak or chicken (or leave meat out alltogether)
  8. Dressing of lime juice, cumin, garlic, olive oil, and salt

Set everything out and let the fam or guests assemble their own. Mysteriously diappear when it's time to clean all the bowls. How I adore my home office.

Happy Summer, friends. I like being here with you.

Mexican Corn and Bean Soup

Mexican Corn and Bean Soup
Nothing new over here in the Leftoverist household. How can it be? That nothing changes in my life, but I am so full of things to say? And soup again? That's really nothing new. If I were to document all the soups produced in this kitchen, you'd really grasp the full meaning of "leftovers." And you might not keep reading.

But stay tuned for this one. My mother-in-law has been making this for a long time, and it easily wins the prize for easy, fast, nutritious, and mass appeal. Chalk another one up for beans.

P.S. I follow a lot of food blogs. One thing I notice (and participate in) is lots of sweets and side dishes. Or main dishes with too many steps (or too many expensive ingredients in "30-minute meals"). When I find something like this soup, I hang onto it. With everything I know about food, I'm still desperate to answer that perennial question--What to have for dinner tonight?!

P.S.S. I'm thrilled to announce that I am now regularly featured on The Christian Science Monitor's food and culture page, Stir it Up! I'm honored to be part of this venerable news source and spreading the Way of Leftovers even further.

Mexican Corn and Bean Soup
Another plug for Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn. Delicious! Cheap! Regular frozen corn will do just fine, though. And if you've cooked up some beans yourself, you can, of course, use those instead of canned ones.


2 Tb. olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. chili powder (ancho is my favorite)
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tb. sugar
coarse salt
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14 oz. can kidney beans
1 14 oz. can pinto beans
2 cups frozen corn
water
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
sour cream, diced avocado, crushed tortilla chips, and more cilantro for garnish

In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Mix chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and sugar with a couple tablespoons of water to form a paste. Add paste to onions along with tomatoes, beans, and corn. Add enough water to cover by 1", bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 20 minutes, until flavors meld. Taste and add more salt if you want.  Add chopped cilantro at the end and serve with garnishes.

Firsts and Lasts and Rice and Bean Salad

rice and bean salad

Two events this week--one that feels major for our little family, and one that's devastating for lots of people in my community.

First, Wyatt and I are separated for five days. He's staying with my parents and going to camp. He's having the time of his life, calling every night with reports of going pedal-boating, eating ring pops from the camp candy store, and being spoiled by his grandparents. I opened my Mom's fridge to find a cup of blackberries with this note sticking out the top. I've never been away from him this long, and it's made harder by the fact that I'm especially infatuated with him right now.  I miss his helpfulness, his little routines around the house, standing over his bed and watching him sleep. This is ridiculous. He'll be home Friday night.

do-not-eat

And my dear friend and colleague Bud passed away on Sunday night. I can't really get my head around it yet. My heart aches for his wife and my friend Kathy, for all of us that loved and knew him. I'm so grateful for his life, for the love and generosity he showed to me, and that his community will be together soon to celebrate him.

Bud's death has made these last few days seem especially poignant and fragile. I haven't wanted to let Loretta out of my sight, and dragged myself to my meetings today. What is this life, if not precious? We are all born to die, but I manage to skirt that reality quite a bit most the time. Right before I got the dark news, Loretta asked, "Mom, how do persons die?" And tonight she said, "Well, that's okay if you and me die. We just won't have bodies anymore." But right now, we have these bodies, and the only thing to do with them is love. I plan to do it more fiercely than ever.

Postscript: Here's a salad I've made twice this week. Once for Jordan's homecoming picnic, and today to drop off for Kathy. Comings and goings, firsts and lasts. Chalk another one up for the comfort of the kitchen. At the very least, it's something to do with our hands when nothing else makes sense.

grilled zucchini

Rice and Bean Salad
This salad is great to take to potlucks or to grieving households. It's vegan (though you could add some crumbled feta or queso fresco), gluten-free, and quite sturdy. It can sit in the fridge and be picked at for lunch or dinner, or can be piled on top of greens with some grilled chicken for a main dish. Or you could deliver it with some torillas, shredded romaine, and chipotle crema to make roll-ups. It might not garner a bunch of oohs and ahs at first glance, but the garlicky cumin dressing will hook people. This makes a very large bowlful. Halve it if your life is slightly less full of potlucks than mine has been.

2 1/2 c. brown basmati rice
2 15 oz. cans black beans
4 small zucchini
2 c. fresh corn kernels or Trader Joe's roasted corn, (sold frozen)
couple big handfuls chopped Italian parsley or cilantro
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. raw pumpkin sides for garnish

For dressing:
1 Tb. coarse salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
Fresh ground pepper
Juice of two limes
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Cook your rice. I do mine in a rice cooker, then let the whole batch cool in the fridge overnight, breaking up clumps when I dump it into the bowl. However you do it (lots and lots of water on the stove would be another way), your grains should emerge separate, not all stuck together, and you'll want the rice down to cool down a bit before proceeding.

Grill the zucchini (I used my grill pan). Cut each zucchini in half crosswise, then cut each half lengthwise into four 1/4" flat strips. Toss the strips with a bit of olive oil and salt, and grill for about 2 minutes/side. Cool a bit, then dice.

If you're not using Trader Joe's amazing frozen roasted corn kernels (my new favorite thing), you can just use raw corn if it's really sweet and fresh. If it doesn't fit that description, toast it in a skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt for a few minutes just to take the raw edge off.

Gently toss rice, zucchini, corn, and all other ingredients together.

To make dressing, combine first four ingredients, then whisk olive in to emulsify. Gently toss salad with dressing, and top salad with pumpkin seeds.

Plain Jane

corn

This is for you, Emily. Emily is the Plain Jane in my life--she likes her food unadorned (for the most part) and is minimalist in just about everything except for how much mail she likes to receive. Love you, sister.

The kids and I have been having a lot of fun eating this week. Wyatt has been picking raspberries from our bushes every morning. He brings them inside, pulls down a piece of parchment paper, lines a cookie sheet, and freezes them to enjoy in the afternoon. Is he precious or what?

corn-bliss

We made popsicles this morning, have been chewing on raw mint from the garden, and whooping it up at the Georgetown Farmers Market. We got a bouquet of fresh garbanzo bean stalks, and Wyatt helped shell them today, eating one every once in awhile. Still don't know what I'm going to do with them--probably saute in olive oil, garlic, and cumin, then a squeeze of lime. I've never seen them before.

more-corn

And the kids and I have eaten two huge bunches of rainbow carrots since yesterday morning. The carrots right now taste like candy, and they can't get enough of them. Today, at snacktime, Wyatt asked for two carrots, two pickles, and two baby cucumbers. Plain Jane.

corn-heaven

As promised, dinner tonight was just corn on the cob. Six beautiful ears from Alvarez Farms. I had one, Wyatt had three, and Loretta had two. They turned into neanderthals, munching the kernels off the cob like it was their last meal. Finally, all of us in stitches, I got out the camera, which prompted even more performance. Plain Jane, Ridiculously Delicious.

race-to-the-finishcorn-carnage

Plain Jane Corn
So silly I'm telling you this, but somewhere along the line, I learned to cook corn this way, and nothing beats it. Put big old pot of water on the stove. Shuck your ears (or have your seven-year-old do it). Cut them in half if they won't fit in the pot. Drop them in, and get the water to a boil. As soon as it boils, turn the water off, cover your pot, and let the corn sit for 10 minutes. Now it's ready to eat, and not even a tad overcooked. Nothing worse than mushy corn. And if you have a grill going, you can throw it on there for a quick second for some smoke and grill marks. Oh--one more thing. Let your children completely annihilate whatever cube of butter happens to be in the butter dish. No sense trying to protect it. Slathering corn is its highest use, anyway.