sweet summer corn and black bean salad

Summer may not officially start until June, but our local markets are filling up with traditional summer fruits and vegetables. Bins of grass green watermelons are slowly appearing in the produce section. The vendors at our farmers’ market are selling zucchini and yellow crookneck squash. My own little garden is producing its first cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, and summer squash. And, maybe best of all, fresh sweet corn is making its arrival.

About a week ago, I sent my husband to the grocery to pick up some fresh summer corn. We had decided to grill steaks on the gas grill for dinner, and when I think of grilling, I almost automatically think of corn on the cob. Wanting to mix things up a bit – because I’m wild and crazy like that – I did something a little different with the corn.

I sauteed the kernels just for a few minutes, added some black beans, a handful of cherry tomatoes, and some torn romaine lettuce. The salad was colorful, with a lovely sweetness from the corn and tomatoes. The beans provided a savory element in the salad, and all-in-all, the salad was light and refreshing.

It was a perfect summer, or almost summer, salad.

Yield: Serves 6.

Corn and Black Bean Salad

You can vary the amount of lettuce and tomatoes depending on your taste. Also, you can vary the salad dressing. I didn't bother making my own dressing this time but instead used a good bottle of light ranch dressing.

Ingredients:

2-3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears corn)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 head of romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 to 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 to 1/2 cup ranch dressing, or other salad dressing of your choice

Directions:

Preheat large sauté pan on medium high heat, 2-3 minutes. Sauté corn kernels in the olive oil until tender, about 2-4 minutes. Transfer corn to large bowl.

Combine remaining ingredients - black beans, lettuce, tomatoes - and toss with salad dressing, adding more if needed. Serve.

    the pamplemousse cocktail

    My husband and I are having a party soon — all part of my commitment to myself to entertain more. One thing I realized during the planning process, though, is that if you call a party a cocktail party, you should probably serve a cocktail. And, let me preface this post by saying that I am much more of a wine person than a cocktail person. In fact, I’ve never made what could be considered a cocktail. I mean, mixing up some rum and Coke doesn’t really count, does it?

    So, the pressure is on to find a cocktail recipe that I can’t screw up.

    My husband has agreed to help me with the taste-testing — tough job, I know. So, last weekend I set out on a mission to find a cocktail recipe that didn’t have a ton of steps, used alcohol that we had on hand or could easily find, could be made in advance, and could  triple or quadruple for a crowd. And it had to taste fabulous, too. Can’t forget that.

    In my search for the perfect cocktail, I found a few candidates on Epicurious. One potential was the Pamplemousse Cocktail, from Bon Appétit. Since I’m really not comfortable with messing up expensive alcoholic beverages, I followed the recipe pretty much to the tee. The cocktail got great reviews online, so I decided not to mess with a good thing. A handful of weeks ago, the great folks at Pom Wonderful sent me some of their pomegranate juice to try, so I was able put it to excellent use in this cocktail.

    And, folks. We may have a winner.

    Yield: Serves 6.

    The Pamplemousse Cocktail

    Ingredients:

    7 tablespoons water
    5 tablespoons Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice
    1/4 cup sugar
    4 teaspoons honey
    1 1/2 cups vodka
    3/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice
    1/4 cup fresh lime juice
    18 fresh mint leaves, plus 6 sprigs for garnish
    ice cubes

    Directions:

    Make pomegranate simple syrup by bringing the first 4 ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cool. This step can be done one day ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

    Combine pomegranate simple syrup, vodka, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and mint leaves together in a large pitcher. Fill pitcher with ice cubes and stir vigorously. Strain drink into martini glasses. Garnish each glass with mint sprig and serve.

      meyer lemon and lime cookies

      After lots of procrastination, I finally finished a stressful project at work at the end of last week. To reward myself, I decided to bake up some cookies. It’s not so much the cookies that are my reward but the baking of them. The simple acts of baking – gathering ingredients, measuring flour and sugar, mixing the dough, and watching it all come together like magic in the oven – are therapeutic for me.

      Our markets are always overrun with citrus, so I knew I wanted to make something with lemons. When I stopped in Publix on my way home from work on Friday, I happened upon some Meyer lemons. I’ve never used Meyers in my cooking or baking, so I picked up a couple, along with some regular lemons and some limes. I didn’t necessarily know what I was going to do with them, but I just can’t resist citrus, so the fruit sometimes just ends up displayed in a bowl on my breakfast nook table.

      The cookies I made are based on a recipe for Lemon Icebox Cookies from Everyday Food. I made a few changes to the original recipe, partly because I wanted to and partly out of necessity. I used the Meyer lemons for lemon zest and lemon juice, and because I wanted a bit more citrus kick, I added some lime zest and lime juice. The original recipe calls for rolling the dough into a log, freezing it for a couple of hours, then slicing it into 1/4 inch slices. My dough was too sticky to form into the log shape, and I didn’t have the patience to work with it. Instead, I refrigerated the dough overnight (because I got distracted with other things), then made drop cookies.

      The cookies turned out great. They had great citrus flavor and I could taste both the lemon and the lime. I could also taste the saltiness from the kosher salt, and it balanced out the citrus flavor nicely. The texture was light and almost like a shortbread – crumbly and sandy. They were a hit with my husband and daughter, too. Both kept trying to sneak extras – always a sure sign of a successful recipe.

      Yield: approx 24 cookies

      Meyer Lemon and Lime Cookies

      Ingredients:

      2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
      1 cup confectioners' sugar
      1 teaspoon kosher salt
      1 tablespoon lemon zest (I used a Meyer lemon)
      1 teaspoon lime zest
      1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (again, I used Meyer)
      1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
      1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
      2 large egg yolks

      Directions:

      In a food processor, pulse flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, lemon zest, and lime zest until combined. Add butter and process until sandy. Add egg yolks and lemon and lime juices; pulse until dough comes together. Place dough in a bowl and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours (or overnight).

      Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls (roll the dough into balls with your hands if the dough is too firm) onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.

      Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges, about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool. (To store, cover and keep at room temperature, up to 5 days.)