clean as a whistle corn on the cob

I know summer’s right around the corner because I purchased my first ears of corn from the grocery this week, and know that in a couple more months it’ll be available at the farm markets. My favorite way to eat corn is to cream it the way generations of women in my family did it, and still do as far as I know, but Hubby and the rest of our little family here in Utah prefer it on the cob, cooked on the grill or steamed. [Incidentally, my son-in-law who grew up in Germany is appalled that anyone in his right mind would eat it at all (!) because Europeans all know that corn is pig food. To that I say oink, oink, oink. Simply leaves more for me!]

With near perfect timing, a friend recently sent us a link to a video demonstrating a way to prepare it without having the brush the silks out. It combines taking the shuck off and cooking in a couple of easy steps, so naturally Hubby and I could hardly to wait try it ourselves. I’m here to affirm it works beautifully! Comes out clean as a whistle with nary a pesky silk hanging on! All you need to do for perfection is to slather it with a little butter.

Now this may be all old news for you, but if so I won’t apologize. If you knew already, then why didn’t you tell me!?

Credits: video via YouTube, photo of butter/sugar corn licensed under creative commons (catchesthelight/flickr).

colorful, spicy and healthful indian cooking

Over the years I have prepared Indian (or Indian-style) dishes, even developed a few of my own when I used to cook a lot. The past few years, I’ve been very reluctant and usually leave the Indian meals for Hubby to prepare. He does an admirable job, too, but I still have this innate desire to be able to whip up a fantastic Indian meal myself. I have a few good Indian cookbooks, and I’ve turned out some decent meals with the help of some of them, but what I’m missing in (most of) them, is technique. I didn’t grow up in India learning to cook at the knee of an Indian mother, so I’m short on technique as well as imagination.

So whenever a Wintersong reader (and blogger friend) left a comment suggesting some Indian recipes, I remembered a discovery I made months ago that renewed my hope in learning how to cook Indian dishes seat of the pants style, i.e., without recipes. I’m still working on it, and want to share my discovery with my readers. The video below is one of six of a series called Healthful Indian Cooking by Alamelu Vairavan of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In it, Alamelu will show you how to prepare a typical Indian vegetarian meal of Lemon Rice, Eggplant Masala, and Lima Bean Poriyal. She also takes you shopping in an Indian grocery store to explain how different rices taste.

Here’s my tip of the day for you: don’t worry about trying to jot down the ingredients while you watch. At the end of each dish preparation, the ingredients are listed. Just pause the video and copy them down so you’ll be able to actually read it when you’re ready to try them yourself. Also, I’ve made a list of the other five episodes that I consider eye candy for foodies. If you enjoy #101, you’ll probably want to see the others as well. They’re all on YouTube, and each contains nutritional information and tips in choosing ingredients, and runs about 27 minutes.

#102: features a Raita (Cucumber/Tomato/Yogurt Salad), Garlic & Pepper Chicken, a colorful rice dish featuring vegetables.
#103: featuring Cauliflower Masala, Green Beans Poriyal, Black-eyed Peas Kulambu, plus a visit to a farmer’s market to choose vegetables.
#104: featuring Brussels Sprouts Kulambu, Roasted Potatoes, Turkey Podimas cooked with split peas and coconut, plus a tour of an Indian grocery to learn about spices used in Indian cooking.
#105: features Tuna Masala, a Carrot Sambhar, Chickpea & Mango Soondal, and tips of how to select the right kind of lentils at an Indian grocery.

Finally, I thought you might find this little-known fact–about me–a little interesting. It’s my Indian name. An Indian friend of ours since more than 40 years ago, Gangs, an Indian friend of ours at the time, decided I should have an Indian name. Since my real name was and is considered “old-fashioned” in the U.S., Gangs reasoned that I needed an “old-fashioned Indian” and came up with Alamelu. He claimed it was very old-fashioned. Years later, when Hubby and his three brothers were performing a ceremony of homage at the one-year anniversary of their father’s death, the Brahman priest asked for the names of the son’s wives. When it came time to provide mine, they were at a loss as how to translate Alice into Tamil, so Alamelu was substituted. Thus, my (unofficial) Indian name has been Alamelu for about 45 years. Now you understand how I was attracted to this video when it first came to my attention. Since the video Alamelu is actually younger than me, I surmise the name has enjoyed a resurgence as India, just as mine has (in various spellings) in this country.

Thinking and Cooking and Smelling . . . Garlic

Do you ever get sick and tired of thinking about, preparing and cooking meals either for yourself or your family? What kind of tricks do you have for keeping things fun and interesting in the kitchen? If you have any tips that work for you, please take the time to comment. As a not-so-interested in cooking anymore woman, I can use all the help I can get.

I’ve recently set myself a new goal in an effort to get re-acquainted with the act of not just cooking, but enjoying the production of a simple meal at home. So I’ve set out to find interesting new recipes and methods for cooking, all with the main focus for such meals to fall under one main heading: S I M P L E. These recipes should also be geared to two or less people who don’t eat as much as they did when they were in their thirties, because while Hubby loves to eat the same leftovers days on end, I cannot stomach the same dish more than two times in a row before I’m ready to dump it in favor of something new and fresh. And in our kitchen the rule is and always has been, if Mama ain’t happy with it, then ain’t nobody happy with it. I hope that doesn’t sound self-centered, just that the cook–whoever that may be–has to like it first.

One of my more interesting finds was the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Garlic Lovers’ Greatest Hits, which is a collection of 20 years of prize-winning recipes collected from the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, and you can get your own copy here (used) for as little as $1.99. For those who may not be familiar with this festival, it’s a yearly tradition started in 1979 as a fund raiser for local charities. Usually held the last weekend of July, the festival is sometimes referred to as the “festival of the stinking rose,” and if you’re driving in from points east (or any other way for that matter), you can tell when you’re getting close by the smell penetrating your car which gets even more pungent when you stop and open the door. Everything offered in the food booths there (for 2008 at least) must have at least six cloves of garlic in it to fit the recipe competition rules. You can buy anything from dried garlic & floral head garlands to garlic ice-cream, and eat so much garlic-laced food you’ll have garlic oozing from the pores of your skin. While I’m one who actually enjoys the smell of garlic, whether in a dish or on my hands after chopping or mincing it, from the pores of my skin–not so much!–ever since I ate dinner at The Stinking Rose in San Francisco and literally got sick after a garlic overload. So if you decide to go, be forewarned.

As to the subject at hand, relearning to enjoy cooking, on a recent chilly spring day that lent itself to cooking in the oven, I decided to try a slightly revised version of Jo’s Baked Garlic Soup from the aforementioned cookbook. She made it with heavy cream or whipping cream; I toned down the fat content a bit by using non-fat half-n-half instead. I call my version Baked Garlic/Vegetable Soup, and while I’m sure the real cream version would be stupendous, the half-n-half was pretty damn good, too. Paired with a salad and a loaf of hard bread, this one fits my criteria very well, while using all fresh ingredients. Also, soup lends itself to leftovers that can be safely refrigerated a few days.

Baked Garlic/Vegetable Soup

2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1 can (~15 oz) garbanzo beans, undrained
4 or 5 summer squash, sliced
2 large onions, sliced
½ green pepper, diced
1 ½ cups dry white wine
4 or 5 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon paprika
1 ¼ cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1 ¼ cups non-fat half-n-half (or as Jo did, heavy cream or whipping cream)

Generously butter the inside of a 3-quart baking dish (I used a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven since the smaller baking dish was difficult to stir without slopping over). Combine all ingredients, except for the cheese and cream, in dish.

Cover and bake for an hour and a half at 375 degrees. Stir in cheeses and cream, lower heat to 325 and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer.

Serves 4-6.