My Tabouleh

My Tabouleh

On a recent lazy Sunday, fired up by a surprising desire to eat healthy, my thoughts wandered to Tabouleh, that Middle Eastern salad of whole grain bulgur wheat, cucumber, tomato, red onion, copious quantities of fresh parsley and mint, and a lemony vinaigrette.

The Inestimable Vegetable Rice Tian

Fennel, Bell Pepper & Summer Squash Creamy Rice Tian

A “tian” refers to a large number of French layered vegetable dishes, some of which include rice and a binder of some sort (as typified by Julia Child’s Tian de Courgettes au Riz, featured in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2).

I enjoy both styles but admit a particular fondness for the rich creaminess of the latter. It’s simple home cooking at its delicious best, and it lends itself to endless seasonal variation.

Red & Orange Bell Pepper Salad with Mint, Parsley & Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette

Red & Orange Bell Pepper Salad with Mint, Parsley & Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette with Seeded Bread Crisps

Every year about this time, I start craving salads. And by craving, I mean intense, must have it, primal longing. It’s as if my body, as well as my mind, knows that fresh local produce will soon be a fading memory. I find myself at the farmers markets overloading my trusty, ever ready Metro Kart with bell peppers, celery, sweet onions, corn, lettuce, fennel, chiles, and tomatoes. Plus whatever else looks amazing that day.

Sweet Corn Grilled in the Husk

Northwest Corn Fresh from the Market

I read about this method of cooking fresh corn some time ago, but the idea really took hold when one of my personal culinary goddesses, Cindy Pawlcyn, of Mustard’s Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen fame (both in Napa, California), described the process in her truly wonderful book, Big Small Plates.

Cindy’s version of this dish is called Grilled Street Corn. She brushes the hot grilled corn (the husk pulled back and corn silk removed) with a garlic mayonnaise, dusts with cayenne, rolls in parmesan cheese, and serves with lime wedges. Wow!

Risotto of Sweet Corn with Corn Coulis, Zucchini, Chevre & Green Chile Oil

Risotto of Sweet Corn with Corn Coulis, Zucchini, Chevre & Green Chile Oil

If there is an easier, quicker, more elegant, more economical, more versatile, more satisfying dish in the world than risotto, I can’t think of what it might be.

As long as you keep a premium-quality risotto rice on hand, you will almost certainly have something in the frig to complete the dish. That something can be any thoughtful combination of fresh or cooked vegetables, meats, seafood, fresh herbs, and cheese.

Sweet Corn & Poblano Chile Chowder

Sweet Corn & Poblano Chile Chowder

What I love most about this chowder is its golden yellow hue and full sweet taste of fresh corn just of the cob. Over many summers of fresh corn bounty, I have explored every way imaginable to obtain a more pronounced corn taste in my corn soups, and the method presented here is “numero uno” thus far.

It is also perhaps the easiest method, as it involves pureeing the corn kernels with stock before the cooking begins. Thus, there is no scalding, dripping soup to ladle into a processor. In addition, this method allows for both a puree of corn, corn kernels, and a variety of colorful, perfectly cooked diced vegetables, which really enliven the whole effect.