Friday, August 26, 2016

Dilled, Crunchy Sweet-Corn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Consider this recipe to be your formal acknowledgement of summer's nearing end. Yes, the heat and humidity remain as obscene as ever, forcing me to continue my two-shower-a-day regimen to maintain questionable hygiene, even so.  But as the signs of season's closing continue to creep in—brisk mornings, a rapidly receding dusk—I find myself, like clockwork, in an emotional rollercoaster, the same one year after year. There is the part of me looks forward to Fall: this abbreviated glimpse of sought-after gold and bronze and fire red, the one that makes NYC whole again. As rapidly as we escaped for beach and sun, we come scampering back, rejuvenated as we walk the streets, enveloped in a delicious light breeze that only a few weeks prior had been stagnant and stinky, filled with air conditioner drippings.  School starts, Jewish High Holidays commence...Fall is good. But Fall is so short, and it so quickly divulges into winter, where we will be once again swooning for—

—summer! The other half of me is hysterical at the prospect of leaving you, your carefree swagger and beautiful bounty. That's what I'm going to miss the most, I realize. Not the 9pm sunsets, the summer Fridays, the inherent calm. My copious seasonal produce is going to leave me, and for that, I must mourn.

But as for all types of mournings (even those as trivial as this), one most confront the grief head on, which is why I will acknowledge the end of this beautiful season with a feast of summation. I will send off summer with this Dilled, Crunchy Sweet-Corn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing, boasting an entire ingredient list that can be found at the farmers market, right now. It's the kind of dish that makes summer food so special: clean, light, and easy; pure goodness thanks to ingredients so fresh. It is a salad meant to be devoured; the satisfying crunch of corn, cucumber and pepper against a backdrop of milk and tang. Dill—the freshest tasting of all herbs, I would argue—is paired with ample parsley, and briny feta is the cherry on top. Your past three months are contained inside this salad.

Before buying buttermilk, see if you have the ingredients to make your own: 1 tablespoon of lemon juice stirred into 1 cup regular milk makes a two-second DIY version, complete with the requisite acidity.  This salad will keep for a week; the dressing does get a little runny but it didn't bother me at all, I was ready to drink it. (You can also just keep it separate). I also halved the olive oil, the recipe just needs a touch. After eating a whole batch for a week, I feel ready to say farewell to summer with bittersweet certainty. Catch ya next time!

Dilled, Crunchy Sweet-Corn Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (from Food52)
Serves 4


For the salad:
1 clove shallot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 ears of fresh, uncooked corn*, the kernels scraped from the cobs with a sharp knife (about 2¾ c)
4 Persian or 8 kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and sliced crosswise into ½ inch dice
1 long red sweet pepper, seeded, ribs removed and diced
1 small handfull fresh dill (about 4 smallish sprigs), minced
¼ c minced fresh parsley
Crumbled Feta cheese, as a garnish

For the dressing:
¼ c buttermilk
2/3 c plain European style thin yogurt, stirred (Greek is OK too)
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp minced Vidalia or other sweet onion
1 small clove garlic, minced and mashed with a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

*You can also cook the corn if you prefer.

1. Salt the shallot slices in ½ tsp salt and allow to sit about 20 minutes to draw out any harshness (optional, I did not do this). Rinse well with water and pat dry with a paper towel.
2.  In a large bowl toss the corn kernels lightly to separate them, add the shallot and the remaining salad ingredients and toss again to combine. In a smaller bowl combine the buttermilk, vinegar, onion, yogurt, and garlic and whisk to combine. Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking, until amalgamated.
3.  Season with freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Serve the salad slightly chilled, garnished with the feta cheese. Pass the dressing separately.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Grilled Halibut Tacos with Watermelon Salsa

When I first saw the recipe photos for Grilled Halibut Tacos with Watermelon Salsa, I was overcome with emotion—of raging jealousy. What do we have here...the Michelangelo of tacos? Art that uses food as a medium, eh? How many hours did this blogger spent meticulously food styling the dish, from the garnish of tiny edible flowers (really) to the perfectly crisped, U-shaped tortilla edges (never been able to accomplish that without a finger in the photo) to the rustic, charred-chic (if that could be a thing) backdrop. Uh uh, I decided as I stared, mesmerized, at the salsa's beautiful warm coral, freesia and cantaloupe hues. These tacos are not real. They are meant to be stared at and ruminated over, a Rembrant of aesthetic pleasure and thought.  A work of such caliber of beauty cannot also bring pleasure to the tongue. Then I read the ingredients, and thought: ok, these actually look like they would taste really good.

Still grumbling, I set out to make them, waiting for my watermelon to dissolve from flawless cubes into pulpy mush, dampening my not-so-perfectly charred tortillas into flaccid rounds. As I sliced and diced, preoccupied with figuring out how I would explain why my tacos bore so little resemblance to the ravishing originals, I hardly had time to notice the end result. My tacos were beautiful! They were Rembrant tacos, Michelangelo tacos, a visual rainbow of color—and they were tasty AF.

The watermelon was the perfect conduit to temper the bite of the chili, onion, cilantro and chives, and its inherent sweetness soaked up the tangy lime and salt effortlessly. The fish, mild but firm, ensured texture variety within each corn tortilla. Cilantro, radishes, and avocado line the serving platter not only for aesthetics—it also allows guests to pick and choose their garnishes as they please.

As quickly as it had come upon me, my jealousy washed away—jealousy is a wasted emotion, after all. I ate the tacos on my roof, watching the sunset fade into the Hudson, with an easy salad of greens, corn, avocado, and cucumber tossed in nothing more than a little lemon juice and olive oil. As dusk settled and the sun was no more than a sliver of pink behind the clouds, I took a moment to reflect on the intense satisfaction of both my eyes and appetite. Once more, I changed my tune: food doesn't have to be beautiful, but when it pleases more than one of the senses, it feels almost indulgent; a rare, secret treat.  If only I had known earlier that the secret to happiness lies in watermelon tacos!

I want to take a second to talk about feedfeed, the site where this recipe hails from. Simply put, feedfeed is a network that connects people who love to cook. The content on their site, organized into various "feeds"such as recipes, community, and videos, is designed to fuel conversation and inspiration amongst likeminded foodies from around the globe. The founders are wholehearted supporters of local and sustainable eating. My favorite part? Their commitment to GrowNYC: feedfeed has a special feed just for meals cooked with NYC greenmarket ingredients.

Grilled Halibut Tacos with Watermelon Salsa (from Heather Christo)
Serves 3-4


1 pound halibut (any white, firm, not-too-fishy fish will do)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lime, zest and juice
1 serrano/jalapeno chili (halve or omit if you are sensitive to heat)
kosher salt

Watermelon Salsa
2 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ white onion, small diced
1 serrano/ jalapeno chili, finely diced
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chives (optional)
juice of 1 lime
kosher salt
9 to 12 corn tortillas, or 3 per person (Trader Joe's 100% corn tortillas are my favorite)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Avocado slices, radish slices, cilantro sprigs, queso fresco/crumbed feta cheese

  1. Place the fish in a dish. In a small bowl, combine the oil, lime zest and juice and then grate the chili into the bowl. Mix well and then spoon over the fish. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt and let sit in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.
  2. While the fish is marinating, make the watermelon salsa. In a medium bowl, combine the watermelon, cherry tomatoes, onion, chili, and fresh cilantro and chives. Squeeze the lime over the salsa and gently toss. Season to taste with kosher salt.
  3. Preheat the grill to medium heat. Place the fish on a piece of foil and place onto the BBQ. Cook 3 -5 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish. You want it to be just cooked through. When you are done set the fish aside and turn the grill to low heat. (Alternatively, you can cook fish on a stove top for the same amount of time, or in the oven at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes).
  4. Let the fish rest for a minute while you spread the vegetable oil over the tortillas evenly and grill each one briefly over low heat until it is barely charred at the edges and hot, soft and pliable. (Or, use my foolproof stovetop tortilla-warming method). 
  5. Season the fish with a little extra kosher salt. Divide the fish between the tortillas and top each generously with the watermelon salsa and garnishes of your choice.