August for dinner

calabacitas con elote y chorizo

I’m finding my eating habits to be more and more in tune with the seasons as I grow older. Except for chocolate, which will always be in season to me.

Growing up in a rural area and seeing everything around me blossom, fruit and die in cycles with the seasons has certainly made me aware, as has working on an organic farm, having local food so easily available, and tasting the difference between sweet corn grown 2 miles away versus sweet corn from the opposite coast in the dead of winter. Although it’s been hard to learn that I can’t have it all whenever I want it, anticipating the summer months and watching my edible garden grow makes in-season produce that much more special. It’s like my mom used to say when I asked why she couldn’t make her amazing Christmas cookies all year long — “because then they wouldn’t be so good!”

Now it allll makes sense.

The good things are certainly worth waiting for, especially when it comes to juicy sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini in the summer. I enjoy this dish as soon as the first sweet corn arrives at the market and for as long as the season lasts. It was one of my blog’s early recipes: Calabacitas con elote, or Mexican Zucchini with Corn. The past few summers we had enjoyed it as a side dish, but this year I’ve decided to take advantage of its versatility. The sautéed squash, corn and tomatoes are such a simple combination, but something about them simmering together in their ripe juices with a little fresh oregano gives the dish a rich flavor I can only describe as purely summer.

calabacitas con elote y chorizo

Lately we tried adding local pork chorizo from our neighbors at the farmer’s market, which was a delicious way to make a one-pot meal — and quite the rich & hearty one. For a lighter option you could add pulled chicken, taco-seasoned ground turkey or tofu, or black beans to the mix for a filling and nutritious entree. Another thing I want to try is using the veggie dish as a taco or enchilada filling or adding a little broth to make a summery soup. So many possibilities for this simple dish! Continue reading

Colombian eats: la costa caribe

fruit cart in Cartagena
The Caribbean coast of Colombia – a place where the buildings are as colorful and varied as the tropical fruits, and the comida típica (typical food) is, well… starchy and fried.

Colombians sure do love their sugary fruit and jugos naturales (fresh fruit juice blended with water or milk and sugar) and I can see why. Living in the relentless heat of the coast – Cartagena especially – I found myself craving nothing but the hydrating juice and sweet flesh of a peeled-to-order mango on the street for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But when you’re eventually craving something savory and substantial and want to stay on cheap backpacker budget, your options turn to fried street food (tasty, but not sustaining) or the comida típica. This varies by region of course, but generally means ‘el menu del día’ (whatever the day’s menu happens to be), consisting of soup and juice with a plate of rice, french fries or patacones (fried plantains), “salad” (a few pieces of lettuce, maybe a slice of tomato if you’re lucky), sometimes beans, and your choice of chicken, beef, or fish. I surely like to try the typical food everywhere I go, but not many meals go by here before I feel my body thirsting for something green and not simmered in a pot of oil.

Even so, I continue to be in love with Latin American flavors — queso fresco, avocado, plantains, fresh salsas, beans, citrusy ceviche, arepas, tamales and everything else made with corn. Remember the pan de yuca I was so excited to discover the recipe for after I travelled to Ecuador? Yep, found them made fresh every morning in the supermarket I am currently staying 2 blocks from. And these guys are macho-sized – more like croissants – but just as tasty as I remember :)

Cartagena eats

Continue reading

juicy, crisp & super sweet raw corn salad.

Sweet summer corn in its raw state is totally under-appreciated.

Chomping down on a freshly husked ear from the field across the street; your teeth bursting a mouthful of crispy kernels into sweet, milky juice that runs down your chin….

There’s something so rich and pure and earthy that I feel is lost when the ears are cooked.

SO. If you have not experienced the sensation that is sweet summer corn, fresh from the field and raw, try out this easy recipe for corn bhel, a sweet and tangy Indian street snack. Give your traditional boiled/baked/grilled corn-on-the-cob a break, and enjoy all the extra nutrients from the raw stuff!

I first had corn bhel at Chai Pani, an amaazing Indian street food-inspired restaurant in Asheville, NC (highly recommend it if you’re in the area!). It was love at first taste… love that quickly turned into addiction. How could such simple ingredients combine to create something so brightly flavorful and complex?

As expected, I’m pretty sure the flavor owes much to the “corn milk,” as I like to call it, which is plentiful and so rich and pure on an uncooked ear. Be sure to slice the kernels off as close to the cob as it allows, and then scrape again and again til you’ve milked the cob for all it’s worth.

MMM mmmm. Then spoon it onto a green salad, grilled fish or chicken, scoop it like salsa onto corn chips, serve it over a fried egg with salsa and black beans, provide as a healthy side dish, or eat it straight out of the serving bowl when you want to snack on something awesome. Did I mention it’s incredibly addicting……

Corn Bhel (sweet raw corn salad), inspired by Chai Pani’s dish

  • 2 ears sweet corn, raw + kernels sliced fresh off the cob
  • ‘corn milk’  (the juices from the cob, every last drop scraped off :)
  • 1  red or white onion, diced
  • 4 small-medium tomatoes, diced (this is just an estimate – I used what we had from the garden)
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 t roasted coriander powder
  • 1/2 t cumin powder
  • salt + pepper to taste

Hold each ear of corn on its end and slice the kernels off with a knife. Then continue scraping the cob ’til you get every last drop of juice. Combine all ingredients together in a pretty bowl and let sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld into deliciousness. Eat.

enjoy :) –mich

This post is linked to Wellness Weekends and Healthy Vegan Fridays :)