Wednesday, August 18, 2010

1-2 Challenge: Corn

When I saw the giant barrel full of corn at the Northcenter Farmer's Market on Saturday, I knew this was my ingredient for this week's 1-2 Challenge - my weekly effort to make one item two ways.

I typically eat corn on the cob with just a swipe of butter. So sweet and easy. Just shuck, boil, eat, and floss.

I scooped up six ears, wondering what else I could make while staying true to my mantra: keep it simple, especially in the summer when fresh picked produce tastes so good.

At home more than dozen tomatoes dangled off the Topsy Turvy, ready for picking. Whatever recipe I would make had to include those. That's why this simple fresh corn salad recipe was simple and perfect.

I had all the ingredients on hand. Corn, boiled and cut off the cob, mixed with halved tomatoes, fresh basil, chopped red onion, and a blend of red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and evoo.

For the second recipe, I wanted to put a twist on the traditional corn on the cob with butter. Lucky for me, another Chicagoan over at The Kitchen Sink Recipes blog had the same idea. I followed her directions for smoked paprika butter, a simple recipe that calls for paprika, minced garlic, and salt mixed into a stick of butter.

The scent of smoky garlicky butter filled my kitchen. But before I tried this new concoction, I took a moment to admire the colors. I love the rainbow of summer fruits and vegetables almost as much as I love the flavors.

The corn looked like gold.

Then the butter, a pale coral with flecks of red.

All in all, an easy way to spice up an old favorite, even though I still had to floss afterwards!

Fresh Corn Salad (adapted from Cora's recipe at The Tasty Kitchen)

2 ears of corn
12 grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 of a red onion, chopped
7 leaves of fresh basil
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T strawberry vinegar (all we had)
5 T evoo
salt and pepper to taste

Boil corn for 5-7 minutes, then soak in cold water. Cut corn off the cob and mix tomatoes, onion, basil. Mix vinegars and evoo separately, then add to mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

+ When I make this again, and I will make this again, I will cut the vinegars and olive oil in half. The salad only needed a light coating. +

Smoked Paprika Butter (adapted from The Kitchen Sink Recipes)

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 t papricka
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt, to taste

Just mix! Then, I scooped the mixture back into the wax paper from the butter, rolled it up, and put back in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 9, 2010

1-2 Challenge: Golden Zucchini

My friend Rachel, a Seattlite with the most gorgeous backyard garden, once joked that you can't drive around with your windows open during the summer or someone will throw a zucchini through it.

There's no doubt that zucchini gets a bad rap, both for its prolific nature and lack of flavor. But I have a soft spot for the squash.

When I was breaking out of the carrots-and-apples-only era of my childhood, zucchini was among the first veggies that I embraced--typically sauteed in olive oil and garlic with red peppers and a splash of balsamic vinegar over pasta. The blandness attracted me, and I have since come to appreciate zucchini's versatility whether on the grill, in a saute pan, or in the oven.

As an homage to this longtime staple of my diet and because I thought these yellow beauties popped at the farmer's market on Saturday, I selected golden zucchini for my first test in the 1-2 Challenge (which, you may recall, is a personal challenge that I created for myself to pick one item from a farmer's market each week and prepare it two ways).

The other reason is that I have been craving zucchini bread since Ryan bought a loaf of fresh banana bread during a recent long weekend trip. Since we had a slight break in the weather over the weekend, I ventured to bake in the oven, which has gone untouched during this hot and sticky summer.

Zucchini bread calls for a counter full of ingredients and makes a bit of a mess (although it was totally worth it - moist with a little crunch from the walnuts). So for my second recipe, I was looking for something more low-maintenance. I found this easy side dish from Good Housekeeping. Zucchini ribbons with mint works well as a side to pasta, chicken, or fish.

In all my years of making zucchini, I have never peeled lengthwise with a vegetable peeler. I have always either grated or sliced into thin discs or half moons. But I found this method showcases the color, and the mint brought out a nice, subtle flavor.

I feel like I rediscovered zucchini this week, but in the interest of bringing more vegetables back into my diet, I am keeping my windows closed.

Zucchini Bread (adapted from

3 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup applesauce
+the original recipe called for 1 cup of oil, but I subbed most for applesauce+
2 cups white sugar
2 grated zucchinis
2 t vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 t ground cinnamon
1 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 8X4 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, beat eggs, mix in oil and sugar, stir in zucchini and vanilla extract. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nuts, and stir into egg mixture. Divide batter into loaf pans and bake 60-70 minutes or until done
+my first loaf took 60 minutes; the second loaf, which had about 1/4 less batter, took only 53 minutes and it was perfect+

Zucchini Ribbons with Mint (adapted from Good Housekeeping)

2 medium zucchini
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 t salt
2 T chopped fresh mint

Trim ends of zucchini and peel lengthwise into ribbons. In a skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic. Cook until golden and then discard from the pan. Add zucchini and salt and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint.
+If I make this recipe again, I will either mince the garlic and cook with the zucchini or use garlic-infused olive oil. The flavor of the garlic didn't come through.+

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Announcing the 1-2 Challenge

Last week, I mentioned that I would tell you about a new blog project. I'm happy to report that it is now underway!

It's called the 1-2 Challenge, and here's why:

What is the 1-2 Challenge?

It's simple: 1 ingredient, 2 ways.

This is a personal challenge that I have created to get myself to the farmer's market on a regular basis and back in my kitchen making food with locally grown produce. I will feature one item from the farmer's market each week and make two recipes out of it.

That doesn't sound very hard. Why are you doing this?

After two years of subscribing to a CSA, I decided not to sign up for one this summer expecting to buy most of my produce at local farmer's markets. But without the bi-weekly ritual of picking up my box of produce and deciding what to make or risk food rotting before my eyes, my plan hasn't gone as well as hoped. My excuses are just that: the heat, wedding planning, some late nights at work, and a little laziness to boot. Like many of you out there probably experience too, life gets in the way of cooking sometimes.

Plus, there is only so much I can say about my Topsy Turvy tomato plant, which I have posted about half a dozen times this summer.

It's doing well. The end.

Are you only going to buy one thing at the farmer's market each week?

No way, and I might incorporate other farmer's market items in the recipes too. But for now, I am only going to commit to blogging about one ingredient a week.

If I find that I am more than up to the challenge, I might adjust the formula to 1-3, 2-2, or 2-3. Really, the possibilities are endless.

How will I know if you follow through?

Check my progress right here or follow me on Twitter @woodentableblog!

Are the white peaches pictured above your first ingredient?


I bought these peaches at the farmer's market yesterday, and they are sweet and mild. I loved their fuzzy texture, and the small donut shape makes eating a cinch. I can actually bite into them without peach juice dribbling down my chin. I wanted to give a shout out with a photo, but I selected a different item to feature this week, and my kitchen is a lovely mess from cooking today!

So check back Wednesday to find out what it is and what I made.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I realize that I have obsessively posted about my tomato plant all summer long.

It has done better than I expected, but really, we've probably popped less than 10 of these in our mouths. And they've ripened just one or two at a time. Tonight, we finally had the harvest we've been waiting for (pictured here, before they went into the blender and became gazpacho).

In honor of our tomato bounty, I am going to lay this obsession to rest and start anew. Be sure to check back in a few days for an announcement about my next project!


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