A few weeks ago we had our parent’s group over to the house for a barbecue and potluck in the backyard. We all have babies around the same age and they all go to bed around 7 pm which, frankly, makes for a very early barbecue, so we met in the late afternoon; Sam and I picked up sausages, beer and all the fixings and asked everyone else to bring a dish to share. The following day I started cooking from Kristin Donnelly’s new book, The Modern Potluck, and wished I’d started sooner as this corn salad would’ve been perfect to share: it’s got late summer, sweet August corn, effortless cooking written all over it. It’s smoky and a little bit creamy with a splash of lime and nice pops of color from the radishes and cilantro. Apparently Kristin was inspired here by the Mexican street snack elote, corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise and cheese. And while I have to admit that I’ve never tried elote, if it’s anything like this salad, I’m 100% on board.
I met Kristin for the first time last week when she was in town promoting her book, but I feel like I’ve known her forever. You may be familiar with her name from her long stint at Food and Wine — or perhaps you know her luscious lip balms. I think we first started chatting when she mentioned my granola in Food and Wine, and then we talked periodically about small business things and cookbook writing. When we met for pizza last week, conversation meandered over to motherhood as it tends to these days with my mama friends, and in many ways it was fitting as the impetus behind Kristin’s book really came to her after she had her daughter. In her introduction, she talks about it, and about lamenting the loss of big dinner parties: “After I had my daughter, Elsa, those types of dinner parties seemed not just daunting but also impossible. Because I couldn’t eat at restaurants as much as I used to, I felt that my social life was starting to fall apart. That’s when I remembered potlucks. What a brilliant idea! I could focus my energy on one dish and get a full meal in return, all the while hanging out with my friends or meeting my neighbors.”
But that of course makes it sound so simple, right? Later Kristin recognizes this, noting how we live in tough times of diet restrictions and hashtagged food — there’s even that pressure to make a memorable dish maybe you’ll become known for. Something seasonal, something beautiful. And that’s where her book comes in: with some reassurance that simple potluck food can be inspiring, too. And in typical potluck fashion, she asked some friends and writers to contribute recipes to the book (my Chocolate Cherry Millet cookies are representing in the Sweets section!) I have to say that many of the recipes are also great new parent meals or simple ‘stock the fridge’ dinners that you can easily freeze and thaw when things get hectic, as they’re bound to do. In fact, there’s a whole chapter devoted to the 9×13 pan: pure genius.
Giveaway: Clarkson Potter/Random House & Corningware have teamed up to do a giveaway on the site today. One A Sweet Spoonful reader will win a copy of Modern Potluck plus a special delivery from Corningware. To enter: Leave a comment below telling me your go-to potluck or picnic dish. Giveaway ends August 30, 2016 at 9 am PST and is open to US readers only.
Grilling corn for this salad is really easy, but if you don’t have a grill (or grill pan), it’s not a problem: simply boil the ears of corn. Kristin advises not to use frozen kernels though, which tend to be less milky than corn freshly cut from the cob. I ended up halving this recipe as it makes quite a lot, and it worked beautifully, so if you have a smaller family or crowd you could go that route. And we found that while it’s certainly best eaten the day it’s made, the salad keeps just fine in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Recipe from: The Modern Potluck
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Pull back the corn husks but leave them attached; remove and discard all of the silks. Fold the husks back up over the corn. Grill the corn over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until the husks are well browned and black in spots and the corn is very hot, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let cool.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the shallot with the lime juice and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in the mayonnaise and paprika.
Using a serrated knife, cut the corn from the cobs (you should have about 8 cups of kernels). Add the corn and the cheese to the dressing and toss. Within 1 hour of serving, add the radishes and cilantro, season with salt, and serve.
POTLUCK PREP. The salad without the radishes and cilantro can be made earlier in the day and refrigerated. It can stand at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
Winter Comfort Food
I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead.
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype.
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
We recently had our favorite day of married life yet. When I tell you what it consisted of, you may worry or chuckle. Sundays used to be sacred in our house in the sense that it was our one day off together. We'd often read the paper, get a slice of quiche at Cafe Besalu, or take walks around Greenlake or Discovery Park. But now Sundays are generally when I work the farmers market for Marge Granola, and Sam helps me set up and take down each week, so they've taken on a very different feel, one more of work than leisure. So a few months ago, after mildly panicking that we no longer had any routines or days off, we reclaimed Saturdays as 'the new Sunday' and last weekend set the bar pretty high. The day began really cold: in the high 20's and graduated, eventually, to the 30's. We decided it'd be nice to just stay inside; Sam had a little work to do and some letters to write. He had a few articles he'd been wanting to read. And I'd been thinking about this lasagna recipe, so I puttered around the kitchen roasting squash and slicing garlic. The afternoon ticked on slowly. Sam made us baked eggs for a late lunch and I tried unsuccessfully to nap. I think it was the calmest we'd both felt in a long time. I'm lucky to have found a man who loves spending time at home as much as I do. While we both love going out to see friends, traveling, and having people over to our place, we also gain the most, I'd say, by doing simple things around the house -- straightening up, making a meal. organizing records or books or photos. Especially in this season of cold temperatures and early-darkening skies, it's what I crave the most. And last Saturday closed in the best of ways: we opened a bottle of "wedding wine" (thanks to my neurosis and fear we'd run out, we over-ordered wine when planning for our wedding) and dug into generous slices of this very special vegetarian lasagna, a hearty layered affair with caramelized onions, a sage-flecked tofu ricotta and a simple, savory butternut squash purée.