No salmon to smoke? Try steelhead or other trout

Some were sweet, some salty. Some had a hint of citrus and spices, some a bitter, woody aftertaste. Some smelled of campfires, still others of stagnant water.

Fourteen samples of smoked salmon challenged judges to choose a favorite Saturday at the second-annual Southern Oregon Smoked Salmon Festival. After three hours of tasting, considering and discussing the fish, nine judges — six restaurateurs and myself included — declared a winner. Hometown favorite Paul Tipton of Jacksonville took home the $1,000 prize and bragging rights for a year. Check out photos of the entries on my Facebook page.

The event’s repeat judges agreed that the caliber of fish had risen over last year’s competition. And unlike the inaugural year’s lineup, no salmon imitator was detected and disqualified.

Steelhead, in case there’s any confusion among the general public, is not a type of salmon. The sea-going trout behaves like salmon, though, running up rivers in summer and winter to spawn.

Lacking salmon’s rich, distinctive flavor, steelhead still is popular for smoking, along with smaller specimens of lake trout. The following process, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times, takes a couple of days, although the actual preparation isn’t difficult.

Los Angeles Times photo

Smoked Trout

1 cup kosher salt

1/3 cup sugar

2 shallots, thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Zest of 2 lemons

1 large (or 2 small) bay leaf, crushed

6 (1/2- to 3/4-pound) whole trout, cleaned

Wood shavings for smoking, preferably alder or applewood

In a large nonreactive container, combine 2 quarts water with the salt, sugar, shallots, garlic, lemon zest and bay leaf, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve to create a brine.

Add the trout to container, using a plate or weight to keep trout submerged. Place container in refrigerator for 6 hours.

Remove trout from brine and discard brine. Rinse and dry trout and place them on a rack over a rimmed sheet pan. Refrigerate trout, uncovered, overnight to dry surface.

The next day, prepare a hot smoker. Smoke trout over low heat (about 225 F) until firm and fully cooked, for about 1 hour. Trout will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days.

Makes 6 to 12 servings.

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Contestants put their smokin’ spin on salmon

Competitors from as far away as Alaska will descend on Jacksonville Saturday for the second-annual Southern Oregon Smoked Salmon Festival.

After writing last September’s newspaper story about the inaugural event, I’m serving on the judging panel this year. Get a glimpse of the action on my Facebook page or by following @thewholedish on Twitter. Festival proceeds benefit Maslow Project.

Vying for the honor of head judge, several local chefs offered up samples of their smoked salmon for critiques Wednesday evening at Frau Kemmling Schoolhaus Brewhaus. Feeling poorly prepared to play culinary professionals at their own game, I bowed out of the contest. But I did taste some delicious fish, agreeing with another judge that I prefer the texture of my smoked salmon similar to jerky.

There’s no need to smoke my own salmon when my dad does his so well and stocks my family’s freezer with more than we could eat in a year. We like it lots of ways, including as a pizza topping, recommended in this recipe.

Sarah Lemon photo

Smoked-Salmon ‘Pizza’ Two Ways

1 (9- by 12-inch) flatbread

Olive oil, for brushing

2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese

2 tablespoons Sriracha, chili-garlic sauce or Korean hot-pepper paste, at room temperature

1 teaspoon fresh dill, removed from stems

1 tomato, sliced

4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon

1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

Small handful of dill leaves, on stems

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For fully cooked version: Preheat oven to 375 F. Brush the flatbread with some of the olive oil on both sides. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, pepper sauce and dill. Spread cheese mixture on top of flatbread. Layer the tomato, smoked salmon, onion and dill stems on top.

Bake in preheated oven for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until sides of flatbread start to turn golden. Don’t bake too long, or crust will become too brittle.

Season to taste with the pepper.

For fresh version: Preheat oven to 375 F. Heat the flatbread in oven for 3 to 4 minutes, until sides of flatbread start to turn golden. In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, pepper sauce and dill. Set aside.

Remove flatbread from oven and brush top with olive oil. Spread cheese mixture on top. Layer the tomato, smoked salmon, onion and dill stems on top. Sprinkle the fresh pepper on top.

Makes 2 appetizer servings.

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Move over kale, collard greens go new-school

“Collards are the new kale” proclaims the headline on Wednesday’s A la Carte section.

Truth is, I’ve always preferred collards to kale, finding the former velvety rather than coarse, even before long cooking in the Southern tradition. Recipes with the food-section story put a trendy twist on collards in pesto, kimchi and a blue-cheese dip perfect for fall tailgating.

This blog has sung the praises of collard greens in everything from soups and salads to pasta and pizza. Enter “collard” in the search field to turn up 15 past posts featuring collards.

I’ve also grown collard greens in place of the more pedestrian kale and chard with some success. Gorgeous greens can be purchased at local farmers markets. Even the run-of-the-mill ones at local grocers are appealing.

If purchasing collards prechoppped and packaged, toss out as many woody stems as possible. If starting with whole leaves, trim stems to the point they become easily flexible.

Remember that like any green, collards will shrink incredibly during cooking. What might seem like a sinkful when washed will wilt quickly when heated. The best way to cook greens is by the handful. Use a wide pan to accommodate as many as possible, and add another handful only after the first has reduced.

Tribune News Service photo

In that vein, here are some more ideas courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.

With roasted peanuts and crushed red peppers: Add peanuts you’ve toasted in oil to blanched greens flavored with lots of garlic and chili.

With crisped breadcrumbs: Toast breadcrumbs in olive oil to add crunch to blanched greens.

With golden raisins and lemon breadcrumbs: Toast the breadcrumbs with lemon zest, and add them and soaked raisins to greens you’ve braised to sweet silkiness.

With spicy lemon-cumin oil: Make an aromatic oil by warming olive oil with cumin seeds, red pepper and lemon zest. Add this a teaspoon or so at a time to braising greens so they absorb the flavor slowly.

Stuffed into quesadillas with feta: Fry corn tortillas stuffed with braised greens and feta or goat and mozzarella cheeses.

Pot herb soup: Simmer with potatoes until tender, then finish with tender greens, such as spinach or arugula.

Southern comfort soup: A go-to when the flu calls. Simmer shredded greens and lots of garlic, then stir in cooked rice. A bit of sherry vinegar and a happy grating of Parmesan at the end makes all the difference. A slightly more involved recipe enriches the soup with egg for the Greek classic, Avgolemeno.

And although kale is no longer such a darling, it and other greens can be used virtually interchangeably, imparting slight variations to a dish’s character. Consider chard, mustard, dandelion, turnip and beet greens, too.

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Chili-roasting a farmers market spectacle for fall

The smell of roasting chilies is wafting north from roots in New Mexico and, more recently Southern California.

Green chilies, which range in temperature from spicy to incendiary, are to New Mexican food what tomatoes are to Italian cooking. They are ubiquitous in sauces and are delicious when stuffed and fried for chilies rellenos. New Mexico’s treasured variety, Hatch, is produced in a small, hot, dry valley in the state’s out-of-the-way southwestern corner,

Because of the chilies’ popularity, Hatch growers are threatened by unscrupulous sellers who use that name to sell peppers grown in other areas. So Hatch chili growers have banded together to ask the government to recognize their crop, similar to what has been done by Vidalia onion growers and Napa Valley winemakers, according to a recent story in the Los Angeles Times.

In Southern Oregon, growers are capitalizing on the Southwest tradition of roasting chilies, even if varieties are more humble. Anaheim, ancho, jalapeno, sweet Italian and cherry peppers grown by Fry Family Farm all get a turn in a custom-fabricated roaster patterned after one that farmer Suzy Fry saw in Portland.

“It just smelled so good, and it just seemed like it could be a fun thing to do,” said Fry, who has been roasting chilies at local farmers markets for the past three years.

After the chilies have tumbled in the roaster to char the skin — just a few minutes — customers can take them home by the pound. Chilies prepared this way can be frozen as-is to be pulled out and used later. They must be peeled before using.

Although Fry Family’s roaster will be absent from Saturday’s first Salsa Festival and Showdown in downtown Medford, the Talent farm will be stocking its booth with preroasted chilies. They’re sure to be popular with contestants in the salsa competition, which I’ll be judging. Follow the event on my Twitter and Facebook profiles.

To claim chilies fresh from the roaster, head to Ashland Food Co-op from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, when Fry Family will be promoting the store’s Love Local Week.

Or find the Frys’ chilies through the end of October at Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters markets. Roasted chilies cost about $5 per pound.

If, like me, you have chilies growing in your garden, it’s easy to roast them under your oven broiler. See this 2010 post for tips. After meals of tortilla soup, turkey chili and nachos, this macaroni and cheese, courtesy of the Times, is up next.

Tribune News Service photo

Green Chili Mac and Cheese

1 pound whole-wheat macaroni, penne or other dried pasta shape

Salt, as needed

1/4 cup butter, plus 2 tablespoons, divided

1/2 onion, peeled and minced

1/4 cup flour

2 1/2 cups milk

4 ounces fresh goat cheese

5 cups grated sharp cheddar, divided (about 1 pound)

1/2 to 3/4 cup peeled, seeded, chopped fresh or frozen green chili

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Heat oven to 350 F, and butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cook pasta, then drain and rinse briefly under cold running water. Set aside.

Melt the 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced onion and cook until soft, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour to make a paste cook for 2 minutes to remove raw flour taste. Add the milk, a bit at a time, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens.

Stir in the goat cheese until thoroughly blended. Stir in 4 cups of the cheddar and cook until melted and smooth. Stir in the green chili, adding more to taste. Season to taste with about 1 teaspoon salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.

In a small saucepan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir in the panko breadcrumbs. Remove from heat and stir in remaining cheddar cheese.

Stir cooked pasta into sauce mixture and spoon it into prepared baking dish, evening top with back of a spoon. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over top. Bake in preheated oven until mixture is beginning to brown and bubble, for about 40 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Leftover slow-cooker meat makes quick tacos

Salsas of several varieties anchored this week’s A la Carte for the first Salsa Festival and Showdown.

Chips will be the vehicle for tasting contestants’ salsas, the headlining fete for Eat Local Week, explained in Wednesday’s food-section story. See which salsas stood out at the Saturday event in downtown Medford by following me on Twitter or liking my Facebook page.

Judging duties are sure to incite a craving for tacos. Cooler weather is the perfect opportunity to simmer a hunk of meat in the slow cooker and set some aside for a quick taco filling later in the week.

The following recipe suggests just that. Any of the salsas, from a blended green salsa to classic, chunky pico de gallo would be delicious on these. I particularly like pork with fruit and would welcome the chance to make a fresh salsa with the season’s final peaches or even berries.

Tribune News Service photo

Pork Tacos

2 teaspoons canola oil

2 1/2 cups cooked, plain or lightly seasoned, pork loin roast or chicken, shredded or cubed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon Ancho chili powder or more to taste

8 corn or flour tortillas

Salsa of choice, for serving

1 cup shredded cabbage, for serving

Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving (optional)

Avocado slices, for serving (optional)

Shredded or crumbled Mexican-style cheese, for serving (optional)

Lime wedges, for garnish

In a medium skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Season the shredded, leftover pork (or chicken) lightly with salt, pepper and chili powder.

Add pork to skillet, sauté to heat through.

To heat the tortillas, wrap them in slightly damp paper towels and place on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 30 to 45 seconds. Alternatively, fry corn tortillas by heating 1 1/2 cups of oil in a heavy skillet to 350 F. When hot, add a tortilla and fry for about 15 seconds per side. Using tongs, fold tortilla in half — it should still be pliable — pressing it to bottom of skillet, and fry for 25 to 30 seconds. Turn over and repeat on other side.

Divide pork among tortillas and serve topped with the salsa, shredded cabbage and cilantro, avocado and cheese, if desired. Garnish with the lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

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Simple sandwich is superior with this cheese

The way Tom Van Voorhees tells it, grilled cheese was something of a light-bulb moment at Rogue Creamery.

“We’ve been making cheese for 80 years, and we just finally figured out we could put it on bread,” quipped the manager of Rogue Creamery’s Central Point cheese shop.

And when the Creamery geared up to start making sandwiches, reviewed for a recent Tempo dining column, Van Voorhees and company tested the gamut of companions for cheese, from roasted peppers to fig jam. Even tuna melts were considered, he said, but the verdict was clear.

“ ‘Just put cheese on it,’ ” the recipes testers said.

Nearly two years later, the Creamery is approaching the 9,000-sandwich mark. If demand keeps pace, customers may have to place their order at a food truck outside the cheese shop, said Van Voorhees. The sandwiches also are available at the Creamery’s new farm stand at its Grants Pass dairy.

If all this enthusiasm seems overstated, consider a March Los Angeles Times story that sang the praises of a mere grilled-cheese sandwich to complement a full roster of wines: sauvignon blanc to syrah. Vintner Brandon Sparks-Gills of California’s Dragonette Cellars also keeps grilled cheese simple. To impress the Times’ wine writer, S. Irene Virbila, he put aged Tillamook cheddar and mustard on pain au levain, then cave-aged Gruyere on rye.

“It’s just bread, cheese and butter, but better than many a restaurant meal,” writes Virbila.


So when you have the best of both bread and cheese, don’t be afraid to keep it simple. Here’s how to do it flawlessly.

Tribune News Service photo

Classic Grilled Cheese

Best-quality cheddar cheese, sliced

2 slices pain au levain, or rustic country bread

About 2 tablespoons butter

Place the sliced cheddar between the bread slices.

Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of the butter in a nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat until melted. Place sandwich in pan and cook until 1 side is toasted to a rich, golden color, then lift sandwich out of pan. Add additional butter to pan, if needed, and when it is melted, place sandwich back in pan, untoasted side down. Cook until toasted and a rich, golden color, then remove, slice and serve.

Makes 1 serving.

VARIATIONS: Substitute cave-aged Gruyere or Comte cheese for the cheddar, and rye bread for the pain au levain. Serve sandwich with garlic pickles and French mustard.

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Cucumbers pair with tomatoes in winning pasta

It’s time once again for Eat Local Week, 10 days of special events that kick off Friday.

A sneak preview was held last week at the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters markets. Shoppers got to taste all manner of tomatoes, an activity that used to anchor Eat Local Week and feted the tastiest locally grown fruits. The earlier tasting hopefully will garner interest in the first Salsa Festival and Showdown, which caps off Eat Local Week next Saturday, Sept. 19.

Until then, there are plenty of tomatoes to be picked, purchased, cooked and consumed. See this week’s story in A la Carte for recipe ideas. Search the paper’s online recipe box for more from previous years’ coverage of Eat Local Week.

The season’s abundance of tomatoes also inspires an annual recipe contest hosted by the Washington Post. The paper recently published its Top Tomato recipes, including this finalist by Washington resident Tom Natan, who said he’s made it since college, more recently adapting it for the addition of cucumbers.

That unusual twist on tomato-sauced pasta could be perfect for my family, ambivalent to cucumbers but blessed with more garden-fresh specimens than we can eat.

“The little bit of extra liquid they add really gets soaked up by the pasta,” said Natan. The balsamic vinegar was a “1990s” addition to compensate for less-than-stellar tomatoes, he said, but he opted to keep it for a flavor boost.

This recipe calls for tomatoes that are very ripe; otherwise, you might need to let the no-cook sauce sit for more than an hour. Don’t be tempted to use an equivalent weight of plum or cherry tomatoes, which are harder and won’t soften as well.

Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post

Spaghetti With Fresh Tomatoes and Cucumbers

5 or 6 large, ripe tomatoes, cored (3 to 3 1/2 pounds total)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or more as needed

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 medium red onion, peeled and minced

1 teaspoon minced, fresh oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

1 large cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise in quarters and seeded

1 pound dried thin spaghetti

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

About 12 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Cut the cored tomatoes in half horizontally. Gently squeeze halves over a large bowl to release their liquid and seeds, then use a spoon to scrape out insides to remove soft parts and leave a firm tomato “shell.” Add the oil, 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, the garlic, red onion, oregano, the 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper to bowl, stirring to incorporate.

Cut hollowed-out tomato halves into 1/2-inch dice, adding them to bowl. Cut the cucumbers into 1/4-inch slices, adding them to bowl. Toss to combine; let mixture sit for 1 hour at room temperature. Taste it while pasta is cooking (next step) and add more salt or pepper and/or balsamic vinegar; mixture should be well-seasoned.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve, cook the pasta: Bring a pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon salt, then pasta; cook according to package directions. Use a heatproof, liquid measuring cup to scoop out and reserve about 1 cup pasta-cooking water. Drain pasta, then add it to tomato mixture along with the cheese and basil. Toss together, let it sit for 1 minute, then add some pasta-cooking water if mixture seems at all dry.

Serve right away. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Tapioca skins make smart back-to-school wraps

Kid-friendly breakfasts, lunches and snacks usually boil down to a few basic ideas.

Smoothies, breakfast bars, wraps, and spreads for dipping fruits and veggies all meet the back-to-school demand for portable, healthful meals. Recipes for this simple fare have appeared in the newspaper’s food section.

Paring wraps into “pinwheels” was the subject of a 2013 post to this blog. Smaller rounds of flatbread and filling, rather than a single wrap, are more appealing to kids and adults alike.

Here’s another spin on the wrap idea, all too familiar to Asian families and fans of that genre of cuisine. Tapioca skins, used for Thai and Vietnamese summer rolls, are not only a textural change of pace but gluten-free for kids and adults with that dietary restriction. Tapioca skins can be found on Asian aisles of most supermarkets.

The following recipe comes from Pittsburgh chef Ling Robinson, owner of Asiatique Thai Bistro, who calls well-prepared school lunches “a gift from childhood that creates special memories of how much their mother or father loved them.”

Robinson says she always packs “fresh, healthy, non-processed food.” That means a protein, fruit and vegetable. She says she may grill chicken or beef or salmon, steam vegetables, thinly slice apples, cut up some carrots and then put it all together in one container with a light dressing using olive oil. It’s not far off from her own school lunch of rice with mixed vegetables and seafood, along with “all kinds of fruits” while growing up in Thailand.

Tribune News Service photo

Chicken Summer Roll

1 to 2 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast

1/2 ounce olive oil

1 tapioca skin

1 ounce baby spinach

1 ounce brown rice

2 sprigs cilantro

1 ounce shredded carrots

2 slices of cucumber

Thinly slice the meat. Wash in salt water; thoroughly rinse.

Pour the olive oil into a nonstick pan and sauté chicken on both sides until done. Let cool; slice meat crosswise and keep ready for use in summer roll.

Wet the tapioca skin and lay flat onto a clean surface.

Spread the spinach on top of tapioca skin. Then top with the brown rice, cilantro, carrots, cucumber and sliced chicken.

Tightly roll up tapioca skin. Slice roll to desired thickness.

Makes approximately 5 pieces.

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Coleslaw mix gets play in nearly no-cook noodles

Coleslaws, without the cabbage, landed in this week’s food section just in time for Labor Day picnics, potlucks and cookouts.

While I usually favor cabbage for slaw, I occasionally carve up a fennel bulb, celery root, parsnips and turnips for the dish, sometimes with an apple or pear thrown in.

I’m purist enough, however, to avoid those preshredded coleslaw blends sold near bagged salad greens. Vegetables meant to be eaten fresh, in my opinion, should be cut immediately before consumption, not consigned for weeks to plastic packages.

I would make an exception, though, for a dish that cooks precut vegetables, even slightly. These noodles with flavors of Asian cuisines also would be great with baby kale and chard or other greens often marketed for braising. This recipe also would highlight the basil overrunning my garden, soon to be followed by cilantro.

Using the larger amount of linguine listed in the ingredients yields some leftovers. Just add a few more fresh, crunchy vegetables for the next day’s lunch.

Photo for The Washington Post by Scott Suchman

Basil-Cilantro Noodles

Kosher salt, as needed

8 to 12 ounces dried whole-grain linguine

1/2 medium onion, peeled

1 large garlic clove, peeled

One 1-inch piece fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes

2 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 limes

Small handful cilantro, plus a few leaves for optional garnish

Small handful basil, plus a few leaves for optional garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a generous pinch of the salt and the pasta (amount depends on whether you’d like leftovers); stir, and cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, cut the onion into very thin slices. Mince the garlic. Peel the ginger and mince or finely grate enough to yield 1 generous teaspoon.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. As soon as oil is fragrant, stir in onion, garlic, ginger and crushed red-pepper flakes; cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Add the cabbage or coleslaw mix, stirring to coat; cover and cook for 3 minutes or until it just starts to wilt.

Drain linguine, reserving 1/3 cup pasta-cooking water. Return linguine to its (now empty) pot, then transfer contents of skillet to pot (off the heat). Add the soy sauce and toss to incorporate.

Use a Microplane zester to grate about 2 teaspoons of lime zest over pasta and vegetables. Cut limes in half, then squeeze their juice over mixture in pot; toss to incorporate. If mixture seems dry, add some reserved pasta-cooking water.

Coarsely chop the cilantro, including some tender stems, if you like, and the basil. Add to pot and toss gently to incorporate.

Divide among wide, shallow bowls, reserving some for leftovers; garnish with a few basil and/or cilantro leaves, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings, plus leftovers.

Recipe adapted by the Washington Post from “Good Cheap Eats: Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!),” by Jessica Fisher (Harvard Common Press, 2015).

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Abundant tomatoes accent cold-weather staple

Invite a group of gardeners for a late-August potluck, and the meal will almost certainly be heavy on zucchini, eggplant, beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, particularly in pasta-salad form.

Admittedly, pasta is the go-to starch with vegetables that tend to populate the landscape of Italian cuisine. But what about that northern Italian staple, polenta? Now that the weather’s cooled a bit, I can’t wait to simmer up a big pot of coarse cornmeal, more commonly known as grits throughout much of the United States.

While polenta is one of my go-to cold-weather meals with braised meat and winter greens, there’s really no reason to wait when ripe tomatoes would be the perfect accent. Kernels of fresh sweet corn lighten the reliably hearty cornmeal mixture.

Served from a slow cooker, this dish, adapted by Tribune News Service from Sameh Wadi’s “The New Mediterranean Table,” would mix up the potluck spread. Chill, slice, then fry leftover polenta to enjoy with yet more tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

Be sure to add the polenta slowly, whisking continuously to prevent lumps. It’s done when the mixture bubbles and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan as you stir. You want it to be smooth and spoonable.

Tribune News Service photo

Smoky Corn Polenta With Tomato Salad

1 pound heirloom tomatoes of assorted sizes and colors, cut into wedges

1 small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

Sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup vegetable stock

1 cup whole milk

5 tablespoons polenta (cornmeal)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

2 cups sweet corn kernels

1/2 cup grated smoked cheddar cheese

Handful small basil leaves, for garnish

In a medium bowl, gently toss the tomatoes and shallot with the olive oil and vinegar. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the stock and milk. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring from time to time and being careful not to scorch milk. Lower heat to medium, slowly mix in the cornmeal and stir continuously. Continue to cook until polenta thickens and large bubbles appear on surface, for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, corn kernels and cheese; season with salt.

Spoon polenta into a serving bowl, top with tomato salad and garnish with a few of the basil leaves and some more freshly ground black pepper.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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