Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Important Questions in Life

Never fails, each year at about the same time, I ask myself, "What have I done with my life in all these years?" This annual taking stock, of course, happens around birthday time. But, I had little time for self-analysis that we Virgos are prone to. We had dinner for 14 to prepare.

Which brought me to the even more pressing question in my life:

What the hell are we going to do with all these cucumbers?

Usually, it's zucchini that multiply like kudzu vines this time of season. But the CSA bag yielded like a dozen cucurbits and a huge melon. My spouse suggested "lovely parting gifts" for our dinner guests. My plan was a cucumber salad. We also served up a fresh corn and green chile dish that went over well.

Cucumber and Red Onion Salad
4-5 medium cucumbers, sliced very thin, using a mandoline or v-slice
2 medium red onions, peeled and also sliced very thin
1 bunch dill, chopped
3/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbs. sugar
salt and pepper to taste

The key is the very thin slices, made possible by a kitchen tool called the mandoline. If you don’t have one, just slice as thin as you can with a good knife. Mandolines are handy, but dangerous. After losing a side of my thumb, I keep a steel mesh glove handy anytime I use it. Seriously.

Mix the onion and cucumbers in a large bowl. In a small bowl add the dill and the sugar and vinegar. Mix to dissolve the sugar. Add the oil, salt and pepper and whisk to emulsify. Toss with the cucumbers and onions. Allow the flavor to marry for an hour or two in the fridge before serving.

Fresh Corn, Queso and Green Chile
12 ears corn, shucked
1 4 oz. can roasted green chiles (or one fresh green chile roasted, peeled and chopped)
8 oz. Queso Fresco or Cotija cheese, crumbled
6 tbs. butter, melted
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Blanch the corn in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. You may have to do this in batches. Cut the corn from the cob, discarding cobs. Place corn, green chiles, melted butter, salt and pepper in 9x13 baking dish. Bake, covered, for 20 minutes until heated through. Mix in the cilantro and queso fresco. Serve warm.

Other dishes on the menu:
Guinness, Cheddar and Caramelized Onion Burgers
Arugula and Tomato Salad
Carrot Cake (a favorite) courtesy of my spouse. Homemade!

Our friends also brought food, lots of it. Everything from an Asian slaw, a spinach dip, to a fantastic potato salad with artichoke hearts and "Minnesota Mac and Cheese." I was told in no uncertain terms by my child that she wanted "Jerry's Mac and Cheese" not mine in her lunch box. Ouch, but I can concede defeat on that one. I've seen how much butter goes in his. It's so wrong and so damn good all at once.

All in all a great dinner, great company makes it. But still, with 10 more cukes in the fridge, I have yet to answer all my questions. Deep contemplation on life is just going to have to wait. I can just ignore that whole upcoming getting older thing. The kitchen is busy.


Anonymous said...

Fresh Corn, Queso and Green Chile... I immediately copied this recipe down when I saw it on your blog. They serve this at a Mexican resturant called Bonita ( here in Brooklyn, and I love it. I always thought crack was in it though.

Anonymous said...

I don't do measuring, but you should try this:

Thinly slice the cukes - I like to make them see-through. Put them in a strainer/colander with a shake or two of salt and put a bowl or plate weighted with something on top to express their water. Let them sit for about an hour to drain. Then toss them with rice-wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar), and toasted (the BROWN stuff) sesame oil. Taste it and add salt or sugar if you want. Sometimes I add toasted sesame seeds and chili flakes or Sirach (rooster) chili sauce on top. It keeps pretty well. Also, have you considered making fridge-pickles?

ExpatChef said...

That sounds lovely! Somewhere in the site is a recipe for mint, cucumbers, rice wine vinegar and sugar with red chili flakes ... that is good. I love Siracha sauce, tho!