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I never much liked corn. It smells funny when it comes out of can, or did to my younger nose, so I was never inclined to taste it fresh off the cob. It was just one of the many things I decided that I didn’t like on sight. Because of this, I’ve really only had corn on the cob the way my boyfriend prepares it. I don’t know if there are other ways, but I recently had a friend over for dinner, at which corn on the cob was served. My friend remarked that she had never had corn on the cob prepared this way, and found it superior to other methods. With that in mind, here is my boyfriend’s method for selecting and preparing corn on the cob for the grill.

He’s a meticulous shopper for corn. He will only buy it in season (and it’s still technically a little early, but we’re right on the cusp now), in the husk. In the grocery store, he has no shame about peeling back the husk to taste a kernel. It should be sweet and tender right off the cob, he says. Once he’s decided that the corn passes muster, we take it home.

The husk gets washed, but (and this is important), the husk stays on the corn. He fills a bowl or the sink with cold water and soaks the husked ears for at least two hours. Once they have sufficiently soaked, they are taken to the grill. He grills them over a medium flame (or on the second shelf of the grill, if there is one) for what seems to me like a long time. It’s apparently more an art than a science; he burns his fingers peeling back the husk to test kernels for doneness. When the kernels are quite tender, he serves the ears, still in their husks, to guests alongside melted butter. Guests peel back the husk to reveal steamy, tender, bright yellow kernels of corn.

It’s a messy process. The husk is frequently dotted with charred spots that flake off when it’s pulled back, and the steam turns to liquid on your hands (which makes the charred bits of husk stick). Still, it’s the only way I know, and this method made me actually enjoy corn.

What are your corn secrets? Share your tips and flavorings in the comments!

I picked up the plastic tub of strawberries because their dark red plumpness called to me. I imagined myself and my friend lounging on the sofa, eating strawberries and talking about our love lives, gin and tonics in hand. We were grocery shopping in preparation for an impromptu three-person dinner of hamburgers, corn on the cob, and roasted potatoes, and I thought the strawberries would be a light palate-cleanser as we all prepared the meal. Something sweet, unassuming, and healthy to get us ready for a meal of juicy grease and starch.

The ice cream was an afterthought, I swear.

The gin and tonics made it into the picture, but the next thing I knew, it was barbecue chips and work gossip. The strawberries languished in the fridge until after burgers at the pool, and weren’t remembered until we were well into our first episode of the sitcom I just had to make sure my friend fell in love with. (She did.) I, in turn, fell in love with this utterly simple way to “fancy up” some vanilla ice cream.

Fresh Strawberry Glaze
Serves 4, over ice cream
Note:  You could use frozen berries, or any other sort of berry, for this topping. I suspect it would also be quite delicious blended, though I served it as-is.

You will need:
1/2 lb. strawberries, hulled and quartered (see note)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until strawberries have released their juices and the glaze is thick and shiny. Serve immediately, spooned over ice cream.

I love watching old Julia Child tv. One of the many reasons I don’t have cable is because between digital rabbit ears, streaming Netflix, and Redbox, I seldom want for things to watch. My digital antenna offers me three local PBS stations, one of which is all Create, all the time, so I have plenty of opportunities to watch Julia work her magic.

One of the things about her that has inspired me the most, especially in this blog, is how she approached kitchen mishaps. I’ve seen her turn out an apple tarte tatin, only to find that some of the apples stuck to the skillet. She plucks them from the pan not at all gingerly, arranges them on the cake about where they should go, and serves the dessert with a flourish. When she trusses a chicken, she messily manhandles that poor bird until it submits to her will. There is no “action cam” to distract from the cooking in her shows, unlike in so many others. She demonstrates that real cooking is messy and will get your hands dirty, and can be fraught with peril, but shows how rewarding it is when the roasted chicken comes out just right, when the tarte tatin is sliced and served.

With only two people in my house, serving a whole roast chicken on a regular basis is just not going to happen. I could use the leftovers to make stock, but I won’t. I could slice leftover breast meat to put on nachos or in risotto, but I seldom do. Instead of “saving” (read: wasting) leftovers, I adapted the method she uses to sauté the pieces of a whole fryer chicken to work with a meal for two, and the results never fail to astonish me. Served alongside roasted potatoes and some sort of green, it’s a simple, no-fuss weeknight meal with a touch of fancy to it.

Incidentally, if you’ve never watched Julia cook, I highly recommend it. She’s dry and hilarious, messy as can be, and a real pleasure to watch. And you just might learn something.

Julia Child’s Sautéed Chicken
Adapted from the insert to The Way to Cook DVD
Serves 2, but is easily expanded to serve more
Seasoning suggestions: I’ve had a lot of success with a basic herbs de provence mix. An Italian seasoning mix is also nice, as is chicken fajita seasoning if you’d like a South of the border taste. Salt and pepper alone work wonders and keep it simple, but feel free to experiment and see what you like.

You will need:
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
2-3 chicken thighs, depending on the appetites in your house
Salt and pepper
Your choice of seasoning

Heat the oil and butter in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat until the oil shimmers and the butter is completely melted.

Wash and dry the chicken thighs, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the thighs, skin side down, in the skillet and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, about 5 minutes. (The pan-shaking keeps the chicken from sticking.) Flip the chicken and cook, shaking again, another 5 minutes. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more.

Use Julia’s method to check for doneness: When you press the thickest part of the thigh with your finger, it should be tender. Also, if you prick the thigh with a fork, the juices should run clear.

Plate and serve immediately.

Image via Amazon.

When we were 21 (or thereabouts. Ahem.), my college roommate and I discovered the wonders of Hypnotinis. If memory serves, the Hypnotini was a drink made from Hypnotic, that always classy electric blue liqueur, mixed with pineapple juice and vodka. We generally kept the Smurf-like bottle in the house at all times, and were known to mix quick drinks before going out, tote the bottle and the other ingredients to parties, or just wind down with one at the end of a long week.

We were so cool.

One of the local martini bars made their version, as well as a lip-smacking, jolly rancher-esque Appletini. I never was able to get on board with the Chocolatini, which somehow tasted too strong. But the citrus-based ‘tinis did it for me every time. This bar, which opened during our senior year, became the new “the” place to go on a Thursday night to feel sophisticated and special. You sat at the bar, a cute bartender flirted with you, and then you sipped your drink out of a tall, shapely glass while you contemplated your next order, each possibility sounding more adventurous than the next. I think we imagined ourselves as if we were being photographed for a teen magazine, or were playing at what adulthood cocktail hours would be like. At the very least, we pretended to be our very own Sex and the City (or rather, Sex and the Small College Town).

In my old age (ha), I tend to keep things more simple. I’m more likely to have a Hefeweizen than a cocktail, and when I do have a mixed drink, nine times out of ten it’s a margarita. But in the summer, few beverages are more refreshing and invigorating to me than a gin and tonic. Served in a shatterproof glass by the pool, on a wrought-iron patio table while someone grills steaks, or in my scratched, cloudy tumblers, it’s a breeze to make and it cools me down. Put away the Hypnotiq, grab a bottle of good gin and some limes, and try it.

Gin and Tonic
Serves 1

1 oz. gin
Tonic water
Juice of 1 lime, plus a wedge for garnish

Fill a tumbler with ice. Pour in gin, top with tonic water, and squeeze in lime juice. Swizzle, garnish, serve.

These cookies are like crack.

These cookies, once baked, are impossible to eat individually. You can try, and I’m sure it would be a valiant effort, but you will fail. You will go back for “just one more” so many times, you’ll lose count. I love a good chocolate chip cookie as much as the next girl, but this butterscotch… I may never make regular chocolate chip cookies again. I’ve seen the light; I’ve converted; I’ve been shown the way. The yellow brick road is actually made of butterscotch.

I can think of a million reasons to make these cookies. I made them to thank someone who watched my cats when I was out of town. I took a dozen or so with me that weekend, and my mother, sister, and I demolished them in an evening of homemade pizza, cupcakes, and queso. I still had some left when I got home, so I finished the rest with as much self-control as I could muster while I hosted my own one-woman Sex and the City marathon. You can make them for an office party, a picnic, a birthday gift, a night in with the girls, or when you’re feeling the teeniest bit gluttonous.

Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes bout 4 dozen cookies; serves 1-48.

You will need:
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. (2 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar (Martha uses dark, all I had was light. Use what you have.)
2 eggs
1 c. butterscotch chips
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream butter with both sugars until pale yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla, beating well after each addition.  Add the flour mixture and beat until combined.

Stir in chips. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 2″ apart. Bake in batches until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Watch carefully, and remove from oven just before they look done. Let them set for a minute on the cookie sheet, then remove to cool on a wire rack. In my experience, they keep for five days in an airtight container.

Asparagus and I are on a roll lately. Every time I head into the grocery store, bundles of asparagus are neatly tied up in ice baths, on sale, waiting to be taken home. They’re like small green stalk-y puppies, begging me to cook them. I can’t help but oblige.

I’ve put asparagus in risotto, served it over pasta, and alongside roast chicken. I wanted to do something nontraditional with my new love, though, so I channeled my favorite pizza parlor and thought outside the box. Asparagus on pizza? Who’d have thought. (Mom, you can stop reading now.)

I once had a pizza topped with bacon, jalapenos, and asparagus, and it was maybe the best and most interesting pizza I’ve ever tasted. That and a crispy crust and simple sauce, and lots of parmesan cheese, made me a happy pizza camper. Pioneer Woman’s trusty pizza crust recipe at my side, and I set out to replicate this tiny piece of asparagus heaven. Trust me, be adventurous and enjoy. (Also, Eric? You were totally right about the perfect pizza sauce: crushed tomatoes only.)

Italian Meat and Asparagus Pizza
Serves 2

You will need:
1/2 recipe Pioneer Woman’s pizza crust
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
4 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
Various italian meats (I used deli pepperoni, a spicy salami, and some leftover prosciutto. Use enough to make one layer on top of the cheese.)
8 spears asparagus, roasted and cut into 2″ lengths
Sliced fresh jalapeño (optional)

Prepare pizza crust according to directions.

Preheat oven to 450. Using half the dough, spread evenly onto a 15 x 10 baking sheet. Spread olive oil over crust; top with crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper.

Top with cheese, in an even layer. Lay sliced meats over mozzarella, in an even layer. Top meats with asparagus and jalapeño slices.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden brown, cheese is melted, and jalapeños are cooked through. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.

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