Thursday, June 21, 2012

Grilled Corn and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad

This is a pretty, delicious and healthy side for cookouts and potlucks. Make it now because it's really the best with fresh, sweet summer corn. I grilled the corn to give it smoky flavor, but sometimes corn is so tasty this time of year that you don't need to cook it at all (I guess it's technically "raw," but that's not a problem in this case!). Just cut it off the cob and add it to anything.

I created this recipe for a blogger recipe contest sponsored by Hodgson Mill. They make whole grain flours (really good ones), and also pasta. The very first homemade southern cornbread I ever baked was from a recipe on one of their bags of cornmeal, so they have a special place in my little cooking heart. They sent me a few boxes of their whole wheat pastas to try and use for developing a nutritious summer salad to share with friends and family.

I almost never accept products from companies because I'm rarely offered things I would actually buy or eat. However, I love whole wheat pasta, and using it in a healthy, summery side is nothing out of the ordinary around here. I can happily say I liked the Hodgson Mill pasta equally as much as my usual favorite brand

All whole wheat pasta is not created equal, by the way. The cheap ones are usually awful, and I like when I can actually taste wheaty flavor. It's perfect with the veggie-packed pasta dishes I tend to make. 

Just don't forget to cook it al dente. If you're not sure your pasta is al dente is probably isn't. Always test at least 1 minute before the shortest cooking time. If it's cooked just long enough so you can chew it, it's right. Grab your colander and drain. 

Wow, that sounded bossy. Sorry, but I feel very strongly about pasta cookery.

So. if you're still reading and you think my grilled corn pasta salad looks fabulously tempting, you can enter to win $25 worth of whole wheat pasta from Hodgson Mill. They can only ship to residents of the continental U.S. so my apologies to anyone beyond those borders. Here's how:

1) "Like" my pasta recipe on the Hodgson Mill "Summer Pastabilities" Pinterest board. I'm not sure if you can do this without a Pinterest account. If you don't have one, don't worry, and read on...

2) Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite summer side is.

3) I have no way of knowing if you "liked" my recipe on Pinterest, so we're using the honor system. If you have no desire to join Pinterest, just leave your comment and we'll call it good.

4) Comment by July 6, and I'll let you know if you won!

Grilled Corn and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
Cumin and tangy lime vinaigrette pair perfectly with smoky summer corn fresh from the grill. You can make this dish in advance through step two and refrigerate up to four hours. Bring to room temperature before serving, then toss with the lime vinaigrette, cilantro and feta as instructed in step three.

Serves 6 to 8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

3 large fresh ears of corn, shucked
Cooking spray
1 (10-ounce) package Hodgson Mills whole wheat bowtie pasta
1/2 cup drained sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Few dashes cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 limes)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. Coat corn with cooking spray and grill over direct or high heat until lightly browned in spots, turning occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, hold one ear upright in a wide bowl or baking dish and carefully cut the kernels from the cob. Repeat with remaining ears of corn. Discard cobs and set kernels aside.

2. Cook bowties to al dente according to package directions. Add sun-dried tomatoes to a large bowl, then top with the onion. When pasta is done cooking, drain and add to bowl (the onions will lose their raw edge when topped with the hot pasta). Add corn, cumin and cayenne and stir to combine.

3. Add lime juice and canola oil to a small jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously until emulsified (if you don’t have a jar, whisk together in a small bowl). Add to bowtie mixture and stir to combine. Stir in cilantro and feta. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken-Chickpea Curry, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free

I've been loving my slow cooker lately. The ability to cook once and have more than 3 meals worth of food (for 2 people) is incredibly alluring. A lot of slow cooker recipes involve some extra steps like browning meat, sauteeing vegetables or heating up the liquid, but not this one. When I came up with this recipe, I was in the process of moving (I have a  huge kitchen now--cooking is so much more exercise!), so I wanted to pile everything in the slow cooker as is and pretty much forget it. You do have to remember to add the beans and coconut milk towards the end, but I am okay with that.

For all the simplicity of preparation, I couldn't get over how much I liked this dish. I ate it three nights in a row with complete happiness. One last thing: You're probably used to seeing slow cooker recipes in the fall and winter, but I'm making a case for them in the summer: you do minimal work, you won't heat up your kitchen, and you can create leftovers for subsequent meals. Unless you're grilling, what else could be better when you want to get out and enjoy the glorious weather?

Slow Cooker Chicken-Chickpea Curry, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free
Use the spice quantities as guidelines since brands and tastes vary, however, you will need quite a lot of seasoning to flavor this big batch. I happen to like the flavor of commercial curry powders (I've been using McCormick), and I recommend using one in this dish. If you don't have garam masala, however, you can always toss in some combination of cumin, coriander, cardamom (it's strong, so use sparingly, maybe 1/8 tsp), ginger and cloves to get somewhere in the same neighborhood. Idli are soft, savory “cakes” made with rice flour and lentil flour. I buy frozen ones at the Indian grocery store, and they’re great for soaking up the juices from thick soups (like sambar) and curries like this. Any kind of rice, or even quinoa, would be great too.

Serves 6 (generously) to 8

2 2/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2-inch piece fresh ginger, chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3/4 cup water
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes (not unsalted)
2 red bell peppers, sliced
1 white or yellow onion, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained if canned
Lime wedges
Rice or idli

In a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker, combine chicken, ginger, garlic, curry powder, garam masala, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Stir to combine. Add water and tomatoes and their juice, breaking up the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Stir gently to evenly distribute tomatoes. Layer the red bell peppers on top, followed by the onion (do not stir).

Cook on HIGH for 3 hours. Gently stir. If mixture is too watery, ladle out some of the liquid to reach desired consistency (mixture should be like a thick stew). Stir in coconut milk; add chickpeas on top of the other ingredients without stirring. Continue cooking until chicken is very tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Stir mixture and check seasoning. Serve with plenty of lime wedges and rice or idli.