Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Book Tour Stops Here: We Only Know So Much by Elizabeth Crane with Fresh Blueberry Crisps

You think your family has issues? The multigenerational Copeland family puts the dys in dysfunctional. There's Gordon, a man who cherishes (his own) knowledge but seems to be losing his memories, his wife Jean, shut off and withdrawn from the family and mourning the loss of her artist lover who took his own life. The kids are teenager Priscilla--"an extreme brat" and nine-year-old Otis, "sweet" but a bit strange. They reside in a large colonial house in a Midwestern college town along with Gordon's father Theodore, suffering from Parkinson's disease, and Theodore's mother Vivian, 98, crotchety and hyper-critical.

Together at the table at meals times and weekly game nights, each person is too tied up in their own world and in their own drama to care much about what is going on with the others. A summary at the end of the second chapter says it best: "Review: difficult daughter, know it all dad, son sweet and okay if a little weird, mom delayed potential/having affair, great-grandmother bitchy, grandad losing it."

We Only Know So Much, a novel by Elizabeth Crane (gives a funny, sarcastic, and at times touching portrayal of an "average"--but maybe not so average American family. The story is told through a narrator, observing the family and reporting the details. None of the characters, with the exception of maybe young Otis, is particularly likeable and it is difficult to really feel too involved with any of one them. But, in every family there are typically certain members you don't particularly like or connect with. (If you are reading this and related to me, of course I am in no way speaking of you. You know who I am referring to) ;-) The Copeland family just has an excessive amount of those family members. Still, the humor (I like sass and sarcasm) and Crane's gift for storytelling kept me involved and wanting to know what was going to happen. This book makes a good summer read, providing a chuckle or two and some relief that this (hopefully) isn't your family.

This is Elizabeth Crane's first novel. She is the author of three short story collections; When the Messenger Is Hot, All This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter. Her work has been featured in McSweeney’s The Future Dictionary of America, The Best Underground Fiction, and elsewhere. 

There is food mentioned here and there in the book, although it doesn't play a major role. So, for my dish inspired by it I decided on a good American-style dessert--a fruit crisp. I had a bunch of fresh organic blueberries leftover from loading up at a Whole Foods sale and I baked a double-batch of this Cooking Light Blueberry Crisp for a friend's birthday celebration. (No pictures of that one) It was a huge hit but I just got a small serving and was craving more, so I halved the recipe and made some individual crisps. (Easy portion control.) I made several changes to the recipe--noted in red below, primarily omitting the cornmeal, upping the oats and cinnamon, using a vegan butter substitute and using a white wheat flour.

Blueberry Crisp
(Serves 8)

cooking spray
4 tsp cornstarch, divided
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb fresh or frozen blueberries (fresh)
2 1/4 oz all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup) (I used white wheat flour)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar 
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (I used 1/2 cup)
3 Tbsp chopped walnuts (I used slivered almonds)
2 Tbsp cornmeal (I omitted)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I used 1/2 tsp)
1/4 cup chilled (unsalted) butter, cut into small pieces (I used Earth Balance)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Coat an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cornstarch evenly in dish.

Combine remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, vanilla, and blueberries in a large bowl; toss. Place in prepared baking dish.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through cinnamon) in the bowl of a food processor; pulse twice to combine. Add butter; pulse 5 times or until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Spoon topping evenly over blueberries, packing down lightly.

Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden.

Notes/Results:  You can't beat a warm fruit crisp--and with the fresh, juicy blueberries, this one was particularly good. Sweet, cinnamony, and perfect with a little vanilla bean ice cream. I will make this again.

Note: A review copy of We Only Know So Much was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Salsa Mac-n-Cheese (or in this case Cheeze): Easy, Creamy Vegan Pasta Goodness

Rick Bayless' Salsa Mac and Cheese is a easy way to change up a classic dish. I love macaroni and cheese but since cheese and dairy don't love me back and clog up my breathing, making and eating a batch of it isn't in my best interest. Thus the beauty of the vegan cheeze sauce--it has much of the taste and texture of a dairy-based cheese sauce but I don't find myself regretting it the next day. Plus it has much less fat than the original and no cholesterol--can't beat that.

Since it's Potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and I have been salivating over this mac-n-cheese mixed with salsa after seeing versions of it on some of my friends' blogs, I thought this would be a great opportunity to make a vegan version. And, why not make it gluten free since I had some GF pasta and chickpea flour in the pantry. My changes are in red below.

Salsa Mac and Cheese (or Cheeze)
Adapted from Rick (Recipe available online here )
(Serves 8--as a side dish)

2 Tbsp butter (I used Earth Balance vegan butter stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used chickpea flour)
2 cups milk (I used hemp milk--it was open) ;-)
1 1/2 to 2 cups of your favorite salsa
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used a vegan cheese sauce--recipe below)
salt, about 1 1/2 tsps
1 pound dried pasta of choice (I used gluten free fusilli)
(2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish)
(2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts to garnish)

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and whisk until the mixture turns a deep golden, about 2 minutes.  Add the milk and continue to whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and comes to a full boil, 4 or 5 minutes.  (Whisk diligently and there will be no lumps.)  Stir in the salsa, remove from the heat, then stir in cheese. 

Continue stirring until all the cheese has melted.  Taste and season generously with salt, usually 1 1/2 teaspoons. Cover to keep warm until the pasta is done. (Or make the vegan cheeze sauce recipe below and add to pasta)

Add the pasta and 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro to the sauce and stir until all the pasta is covered in the salsa cheese sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro and toasted pine nuts and enjoy.


Vegan Cheeze Sauce
Adapted from Chloe's Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli

 2 Tbsp vegan margarine
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 cups soy, almond, or rice milk
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp agave
In a medium saucepan, whisking margarine and flour over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes to make a roux. Add the nondairy milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt, smoked paprika and garlic powder to the pan and whisking briskly, bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and agave and adjust salt and seasonings to taste.

Notes/Results: Quick, easy and delicious. Since the cheese sauce (vegan or not) is whipped up while the pasta cooks, you can have this dish on the table in about 20 minutes--longer if you make your own salsa of course. I just used the remains of a jar of Rick's Frontera Roasted Tomato Salsa. I garnished my dish with some chopped cilantro and sprinkled on toasted pine nuts for texture. This mac-n-cheese was creamy, a little spicy and zippy from the salsa, and a great comfort food dish that I will make again.

You can check out the Potluck creations from the other IHCC participants by going to the post and following the links.

I am also sending this dish to Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by my friend Heather of girlichef. She'll be rounding up a bevy of pasta dishes on her blog Friday--so stop by and check it out.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rajma (North Indian Vegetarian Chili) Spiked with Cumin for Food 'N Flix: The Mistress of Spices and Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

In her San Francisco shop, Spice Bazaar, Tilo finds the perfect spices to help her customers--not just to create the perfect dish, but to help them achieve their desires. Tilo is a Mistress of Spices, one of several trained as a young girl and spread throughout the world. Tilo must devote herself to the spices, giving up her life for them and never loving anyone but the spices. She must follow three rules; never using the power of the spices for herself--only for others, never leaving her shop so she will not stray from the spices, and finally, never touch another's skin. If she breaks these rules she will fail in her duties and face the consequences. Things are going smoothly until Doug, an American architect, crashes his motorcycle in front of her shop, and Tilo begins to fall in love, much to the ire of the spices.

I first encountered The Mistress of Spices, in its written form, the novel by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. I liked the lyrical writing and magical realism of the book and bought a copy of the movie when it came out several years later. The movie stars the beautiful Aishwarya Rai and (the beautiful) Dylan McDermott. It's funny--in the book Tilo, although young, appears to most of the world as a gnarled old woman--not quite as glamorous as exotic Aishwarya. ;-)

It's not fine cinema, as pretty as they are, there isn't a whole lot of chemistry between the two stars. Still, it's a visually sumptuous foodie film that I pull out every so often when I need a little escape and I was happy to watch it again when Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla selected it as the Food 'N Flix film for June. 

Tilo says that every person has a special spice and I declare cumin as mine. As I am no Mistress of Spices, this is mostly based on how much I love it. After black pepper, it is the most common spice used in the world by many different countries, cultures and cuisines. I adore the warm, earthy taste that it adds to dishes--so perfect with beans or in soups, stews and curries. I knew I wanted to make something with cumin for my dish inspired by the film. Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi has a small role in the film as a Geeta--modern girl whose grandfather seeks Tilo's help to keep her from straying from tradition and away from her non-Indian boyfriend. Lakshmi's first cookbook, Easy Exotic, had a recipe for Rajma, a North Indian vegetarian curry that she says is like a chili and (my) spice cumin, was one of the ingredients.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe--noted in red below. In addition to the cumin seed in the recipe, I added ground cumin, and I increased the garlic and beans.

Padma says, "Originally from North India, this dish could be called vegetarian chili. You may serve it in a bowl over rice or with warmed tortillas like the Chole. In North India, flatbreads such as nan or chapati are eaten with curries. In South India, rice is more common a an accompaniment, although we also eat crepes made of rice flour, called dosai."

Rajma (North Indian Vegetarian Chili) Spiked with Cumin
Adapted from Easy Exotic by Padma Lakshmi
(Serves 4)
Prep Time: 10 Minutes / Cook Time: 25 Minutes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup minced onions
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 3)
4 firm, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp minced gingerroot, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Garam Masala
(1 tsp ground cumin) 
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
2 cups drained kidney beans (I used 2 15-oz cans)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced, or to taste
3 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro

In a large saucepan set over moderate heat, warm the oil until hot, add the onions and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, gingerroot, cumin seeds, Garam Masala, lemon pepper, and dried red pepper flakes, if desired, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the beans and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro.

Notes/Results: Nourishing and satisfying, this is a simple and tasty chili that goes together quickly. The fact that it is meat-free and the fresh tomatoes and lemon give it a lighter feel, making a good warmer weather chili. I found that with the extra cumin and garlic I added to the recipe that it was spiced just enough for me making me think that as written, the recipe was slightly under-spiced. The other thing that I would (should have) changed would be to blanch the fresh tomatoes and remove the skin before dicing. I am not a big fan of tomato skin bits in my soups. Otherwise, served with some pieces of grilled nan bread, it was a great dinner. I would make it again with my adjustments.

If you want to join in the Food 'N Flix fun, the deadline is June 28th for Mistress of Spices, or join us in July for Because I Said So, hosted by girlichef.

This soup is also being linked up at Cookbook Sundays, hosted by my friend Sue at Couscous and Consciousness.

Now let's head to the Souper Sunday kitchen and see who is here.

First up, Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made this flavorful Homemade Tomato Soup Using Slow Roasted Tomatoes. She says, "What better dish to highlight now than one from Gwyneth Paltrow's book My Father's Daughter. ... I happened to have made a loaf of buttery white bread that morning so what a perfect companion to this soup."

Heather of girlichef shares this hearty Salpicon de Res al Chipotle or Beef and Potato Salad with Chipotle and says, "I've always loved potato salads dressed with vinegar the best.  I love the way it seeps into the warm potatoes and flavors them so seductively. This is one of those potato salads.  And it deserves top honors.  Why?  Because not only are there warm, vinegar-soaked potatoes...there is also tender, shredded beef.  And smoky chipotles.  And if that's not enough for you, there's also avocado.

Janet of The Taste Space offers up Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Whole Foods Detox Salad) and says, "...broccoli and and cauliflower form the vegetable base that is pulsed into small pieces. Grated carrots add more vegetables and a lovely orange! Currants confer sweetness, sunflower seeds supply crunch and protein and while the original salad uses a lemon-parsley dressing, I went with a cilantro-lime route instead. This salad needs to be marinated for best flavours, and keeps really well as leftovers.

Pam of Sidewalk Shoes sent in this summery Corn and Radish Salad and says, "I had radishes and though I didn’t have fresh corn, I had a bag of frozen corn in the freezer.  This salad was a revelation.  It was so good and so incredibly easy.  The sweet corn combined with the peppery bite of the relish was perfect.  The jalapeño added just the right amount of heat and the lime juice balanced the sweetness of the corn. I highly recommend that you add this your summer salads!"  

Ana of Sweet Almond Tree is getting healthy with this Tuna and Bean Salad and says, "Canned beans can be found in just about everyone's pantry.  Canned tuna fish is a pantry staple as well.  So when time is short or when the weather is hot, here is a delicious and nutritious salad that can be prepared in a jiffy.  It's an easy, light meal that can be prepared for lunch or dinner without any cooking involved."

Sue of Couscous and Consciousness enjoyed Lentils with Cherries, Sausage & Gorgonzola this week and says, "Now this may sound like a really odd combination of ingredients, and it's probably not going to win any prizes in the looks department either, but somehow it really works.  The musky, earthiness of the lentils makes a great "backdrop" to the little "hits" of the tangy cherries, the porcine deliciousness of the sausage or bacon, and the salty Gorgonzola - for a vegetarian option, I think mushrooms would make a great alternative to the sausage."

Debbie of Easy Natural Food tried this satisfying Ginger and Lime Chicken Salad and says, "This is a delicious salad that I made the other night when we had company for dinner. I served it as a side, but I could easily eat this as my main course if it was double the size  I used a ginger and lime dressing on this salad. It was very light, bright and refreshing, and oh so tasty. I definitely plan to make this salad again….very soon!"

I don't often send a salad to my own Souper Sundays round up, but this wonderful Arugula-Romaine Salad with Avocado, Blueberries and Goat Cheese using a scrumptious Lime-Cilantro Dressing from Rick Bayless' ranks as one of the best green salads that I have ever made. Such great flavors, colors and textures. It deserves a second mention at Kahakai Kitchen this week. It was summer in a bowl!

And there you have it--some fabulous dishes to inspire. Thanks to all who joined in. If you have a soup, salad, or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on my sidebar for all of the details of how to join in.

Have a happy, healthy week!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Book Tour Stops Here: "Passing Love" by Jacquline E. Luckett with Blueberry & Elderflower Clafoutis

"She'd waited all her life to go to Paris. As for the reasons why the dream of speaking French in France, of standing beneath the Eiffel Tower at the stroke of midnight, of lingering in sidewalk cafes..." 

Nicole has dreamed of France since she was a child and she found a small blue French dictionary in the trunk at the foot of her parents bed. Before passing away from cancer, Nicole's best friend makes her promise to take the trip the two planned together, and at 56, she finds herself alone in Paris for a month. When she unexpectedly stumbles across an old photo of her soldier father inscribed to a woman she doesn't know, Nicole goes looking for answers. This is one half of the storyline in Passing Love, a novel by Jacqueline E. Luckett. (Grand Central Publishing, 2012, Paperback, 320 pages) Set primarily in Paris in both current day and in the 1940's and 1950's, the story moves back and forth between Nicole and Ruby Mae, a young Mississippi girl who finds herself in the post WWII smoky, jazz club scene in the City of Light.

This is author Jacqueline Luckett's second book since she quit corporate life after taking a creative writing class and started to write short stories and poetry. Luckett fills it with fascinating details about the black experience in Paris, where many ex-pats settled to escape the oppression of discrimination in America and especially the Deep South. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of Paris in the two different eras and the feelings that her words evoked and I found the last half of the book engrossing. I did struggle in the beginning of the book to be able connect with and relate to any of the characters and their personalities, but eventually it clicked into place and I found myself turning the pages to see what would happen.

Overall, I enjoyed this book for its ability to transport me to France and for the glimpse it gave me into a different time and way of life. To me it is not a summer beach read, but rather the book that you take into a quaint little neighborhood coffee shop and linger with over a cappuccino when you want to get out of the sun.

As you might know from visiting here, I just can't bring myself to review a book without making a dish inspired by it. Although food was not a key theme in the book, it was represented both in French dishes as well as Southern cooking. I wanted something that felt French and I had mass quantities of fresh organic blueberries purchased on sale last week for $1.99 a pint at Whole Foods. I decided on a clafoutis, that classic French baked dessert with an eggy batter over cherries--or in this case blueberries. Supposedly, if you use another kind of fruit it is technically a flaugnarde, but I like saying clafoutis much better. ;-) In addition to the juicy blueberries, I added floral notes with some decidedly French St. Germain Elderflower Cordial

(I adapted this recipe from the wonderful Cherry Clafoutis recipe in Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories From the Orchid by Romney Steele--a gorgeous and wonderful fruit cookbook. Follow the link for the original Cherry Clafoutis recipe as I have my adapted recipe below.)

Blueberry Clafoutis
Adapted From Plum Gorgeous by Romney Steele
(Serves 6-8)

4 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Elderflower Cordial
6 eggs
1 cup non-dairy milk
2/3 cup non-dairy creamer

1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
6 Tbsps flour

a small pinch of salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Wash blueberries and pat dry. In a large bowl, toss the blueberries with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the elderflower cordial, to taste. Set bowl aside at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Generously butter earthenware dish or skillets using (one large or a few smaller). Generously scatter the blueberries in the bottom of the dish.

Combine the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar, eggs, milk, cream, vanilla and almond extract, flour, and salt in a blender. Blend to combine thoroughly; straining if needed to remove any lumps of flour, then whisk the lumps back in by hand.

Pour the custard mixture over the blueberries. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (less if using smaller pans), or until the clafoutis is puffy, golden brown and just set in the middle. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you like, before serving.

Notes/Results: Wonderful flavor--so sweet and creamy. I have a tendency to "over blueberry," (mainly because I hate blueberry baked goods with only a few blueberries in them so I over compensate), but I like the ratio of the extra fruit and the cake. You have to love how easy clafoutis are to make--everything gets dumped in the blender, blended and then poured over the fruit. Easy peasy. I actually made half the recipe which filled my small casserole dish perfectly. I would make this again. 

 Note: A review copy of Passing Love was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lime-Cilantro Dressing from Rick Bayless (on One of the Best Green Salads I Have Ever Made)

You might look at this plate of salad and think "Hmm.. Deb, there's a whole lot going on in there"... and you'd be right. I pretty much tossed together all of the best contents of my fridge and my weekend farmers market trip. But... besides being colorful and pretty, it all works so well together.

 A bed of baby romaine and baby arugula with thinly-sliced pink radishes, creamy avocado, tangy goat cheese, sweet, ripe blueberries and toasted pine nuts. Heaven itself. It is even better dressed with the Lime-Cilantro Dressing that I have been somewhat fixated on since we started cooking along with Rick Bayless at I Heart Cooking Clubs. Lime, cilantro, chile and olive oil--so simple and so good. Since our theme this week is Summer Salads, I knew I needed to break it out and create a salad worthy of it.

This one is definitely worthy of the dressing--one of the best green salads I have ever made. 

Lime-Cilantro Dressing (Aderezo de Limon y Cilantro)
Recipe from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless
(Makes 1 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup vegetable oil, olive oil or a mixture of the two 
1/3 cup fresh lime juice 
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest (colored rind only
1/2 cup packed cilantro, thick lower stems broken off 
fresh hot green chile to taste, stemmed and roughly chopped (optional
1 scant teaspoon salt 

 Combine all ingredients in a blender jar and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt if you think it needs it - keeping in mind that dressings should be highly seasoned. Pour into a jar, secure the lid and refrigerate until ready to use. Shake well immediately before use. 

 Notes/Results: The dressing is tangy and herby and quite wonderful. The flavors say summer to me and I love the hit of chile that lingers at the end of each bite. (BTW: I used one small green Hawaiian pepper sans the seeds. These peppers look similar to a serrano but I find them to be much spicier.) I do pity those who don't like the taste of cilantro--it really makes the dressing and it pairs so well with the lime. The dressing was perfect on this salad and I think it would be wonderful with fish or seafood too. I will certainly make it again. This salad was amazing--each ingredient brought something different to the flavor and texture party. My only change would be swapping out the pine nuts for toasted pumpkin seeds. I just like them better and I thought that I had some in the pantry, but I have a tendency to snack on them so they don't last long. ;-) Lucky for me, I have enough ingredients leftover to repeat this salad--I am already craving more.

You can check out the salad creations the other IHCC participants created by going to the post and following the links.

I will also be linking this salad up to Summer Salad Sundays, hosted by Debbie at Easy Natural Food every Sunday throughout the summer season.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Early Corn Soup and a Book Review of I Love Corn by Lisa Skye for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I love corn. So does Lisa Skye, who loves it enough to write a cookbook about this sweet and sunny vegetable. In her new cookbook, I Love Corn (Andrews McMeel Publishing LLC, June 2012, Hardcover 7 1/2" x 7 1/2", 160 pages), Skye has collected fifty corn recipes from around the world and included recipes from renowned chefs and food personalities such as Michelle Bernstein, Daniel Boulud, Pichet Ong, Claudia Roden, and Martha Stewart. 

The book is arranged by type--Breakfast, Soups, Starters, Mains, Sides and Desserts. In addition there is a section on buying, storing, preparing and cooking corn. There are color photos throughout the book, (although not for every recipe) and the bright primary colors used, make this compact book bright and appealing. Each recipe is introduced by the chef with a personal anecdote. In fact, this cookbook is a personal labor of love for the author who started it in 2007 as a leadership program project and who is donating a portion of the proceeds to the Dougy Center in Portland, Oregon, a national grieving center for children and families, to give back some of the support she received when she lost her father unexpectedly several years ago.

I tagged quite a few recipes to try, including Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese Quiche with Brown Rice Crust, Chilaquiles Divorciados, Fresh Corn Gazpacho, Corn "Ceviche" in Corn Water, Serenade Vegetable Tacos, Liquid "Gold" Corn Ravioli, Warm Jersey Corn Salads, Corn Poached Halibut with Tomato and Charred Jalapeno Chutney, Warm Polenta Stew, Caramelized Corn with Shallots, Yankee Corn Bread, Chocolate Pudding with Caramel Peanut Popcorn and Fresh Corn Sorbet, Fresh Corn Ice Cream, and Popcorn Pudding with Salted Caramel Corn and Butterscotch Sauce.

Ultimately, I ended up "road testing" this book with the Hugh Acheson recipe for Early Corn Soup. I may have to declare this my "Spring/Summer of Corn Soup" since I have made one a month for the past three months. I love nothing better than a big bowl of corn soup as regardless of the weather, its delicate sweetness keeps it light enough to enjoy all year round. Plus, when the corn lady parks her truck near my house, it is hard to resist buying bags of sweet local corn when I drive by. I was intrigued by the vanilla in this soup and since my last two corn soups have been on the savory and lightly-spicy side, this sweeter version seemed like a contrast I made a couple of minor changes to make it vegan, noted below, and although the recipe calls for the soup to be pureed and passed through a sieve, I pureed about half of mine and went "sieve-less." ;-)

Hugh Acheson says, "When I was young and spending summers at our cottage an hour north of Toronto, Canada, corn season was a revered stretch of late summer. "Peaches and cream" was what we called the sweet, rich, bicolored corn from the local farms. It required about thirty seconds of cooking and was then slathered with fresh butter and a sprinkling of salt. That was it, for lunch and dinner, most everyday. Wonderful. This recipe encapsulates the same freshness but has exotic overtones from the coconut milk and vanilla. It's a simple soup that works well with lobster, crab, or shrimp, if you want to make it more of a meal."

Early Corn Soup
By Hugh Acheson from I Love Corn by Lisa Skye
(Serves 6)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 leek, white part only, cleaned and diced finely (about 1/2 cup)
1 rib celery, minced finely (about 1/4 cup)
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 medium-sized ears)
1 medium-size bouquet garni of fresh thyme and fresh or dried bay leaf (see note)
1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scrape
1 cup peeled and cubed russet potato (1-inch cubes)
4 cups water
1/4 cup heavy cream (I used non-dairy creamer)
1 cup coconut milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the leek and celery until soft but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the corn, bouquet garni, vanilla bean pod and seeds, and potato. Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the water and cover. Continue cooking over medium heat, not boiling. Cook for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more, until the potatoes are soft.

Add the cream and coconut milk and return to medium heat. Continue cooking covered for about 5 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and the vanilla bean pod, and carefully puree the hot soup in the blender, working in batches. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. 

(Author's Note: To make your own bouquet garni, simply tie together 3 long sprigs of thyme and 1 bay leaf with string or butcher's twine.)

Notes/Results: Very sweet, but in a good way, this soup really brings out the flavor of the young corn. You don't taste the vanilla, it just enhances the sweet taste of the corn, leeks, and coconut milk. I am glad I didn't puree the entire batch, as having the chunks of potato and niblets of corn in the creamy base make it very satisfying. Although I prefer it warm, this soup also works chilled. I will make this again.

I Love Corn is a fun and useful cookbook that celebrates how delicious and diverse corn can be and is an excellent partner for summer vegetable stands and farmers markets. It would be a great hostess gift, shower present or a take-along to a beach house or cabin. For me, it's good incentive to keeping stopping whenever I see the corn lady.

Note: I received a copy of I Love Corn from the publisher (Andrews McMeel), however I received no monetary compensation to review it. As always, my thoughts, feedback and experiences cooking from it are entirely my own.

I'm am sending this soup over to Cookbook Sundays hosted by my friend Sue at Couscous and Consciousness.

Now let's see who is in the Souper Sundays kitchen.

Janet of The Taste Space is joining me in my summer soup love with this Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Caramelized Onions (aka Dal Bhat Meets Mujaddara). She says, "This comforting dish comes from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Cook This Now. Savoury spices like cinnamon, cumin, allspice and ginger are combined with creamy red lentils and brown rice (aka dal bhat). Since the spices are aromatized at the beginning of the soup, they don’t pop with as much oomph as dal  bhat, instead they are more mellow. This is a thick soup, with both lentils and rice simmered together, creating an utterly creamy consistency."

Janet also has this Thai Kelp Noodle Salad with Mango and Lima Beans to share and says, "Thai-inspired, the star of this dish is the creamy coconut-based dressing infused with lemongrass, Keffir lime leaves, ginger and shallots, balanced with a touch of tamarind, fresh lime juice, toasted sesame oil and soy sauce. All of the flavours are enhanced through the reduction of the coconut milk. It is probably one of the more elaborate and lengthy dressings to make, but easy none-the-less, and can be made in advance."

Sue of Couscous and Consciousness made a colorful Chargrilled Cauliflower, Tomato & Fennel Salad and says, " is a real favourite - and as (despite the price), I seem to be absolutely mad for cauliflower right now, I thought it was high time I dragged this one out, dusted it off and shared it with you.  This is great eaten slightly warm or at room temperature - that said, it's not half bad the next day as well, should you be lucky enough to have any leftovers. This makes a great starter or side, but I am more than happy to just tuck into a huge bowl of this as a meal."

Debbie of Easy Natural Food has two salads to share this week. First up this hearty Quinoa Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing. She says, "A tasty quinoa salad is always a good thing to be able to whip up for any occasion – picnic, BBQ, potluck or simply dinner at home. I made this salad to take to a birthday party recently, and much to my relief everyone really enjoyed it. The sweet cranberries, tangy tomatoes, crunchy cucumber and red bell pepper, and the bite from the scallions made for a great combo in this salad!"

Debbie's second salad is a healthy Crunchy Munchy Vegetable Salad. Debbie says, "It has been hot here lately….hot, no breeze, no air conditioning. So all that I’ve been feeling like is a big bowl of crunchy munchy salad! Something cool, crisp and refreshing is what I’m after, and this salad fits the bill perfectly."

Kim from Stirring the Pot has a sandwich to share this week and says, "This Black Bean Chorizo Sub has been calling my name ever since I spied it in my copy of Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday.  There is no denying the deliciousness of chorizo and when mixed with black beans, avocado, tangy feta and placed between two layers of crusty bread....well, you really should find out for yourself. My husband and I really enjoyed these subs.  You get a little crunch and crispness from the bread, but the filling is nice and soft and really flavorful, especially when you load up on the hot sauce.

Some wonderful dishes this week--thanks to everyone who joined in. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, just click on the Souper Sundays logo on the sidebar for all of the details.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

Have a happy, healthy week!