Born, Bred and Valley Fed: Charred romaine and corn salad

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They say that home is where the heart is, and Colorado is officially 100 percent my home now — at least on paper. Although I pay taxes here, own a home here, and have a Colorado driver’s license, there is still a part of my heart that will always be in California and more specifically, the Imperial Valley.

It’s where I grew up. It’s where my parents still reside, and it’s where my love for food first began. From cooking with my mom in the kitchen, going to dinners at the Stockmen’s Club, and the abundance of fresh produce they Valley offers, some of my favorite food moments are definitely attributed to the Valley.

This week, I wanted to share two recipes that highlight some of those fond memories. The first one showcases some of the fantastic produce grown in the Valley: corn and romaine lettuce. I cannot take full credit for this recipe since it was inspired by a salad in the current Cooking Light magazine, however, I did put a few tweaks on it that I think you will enjoy.

The recipe is for a charred salad with a corn salsa on top. It is the perfect salad to mix things up this summer and since it is cooked on the grill, it will help keep the house cool in the summer heat.

Charred Romaine and Corn Salad

Ingredients:

2 ears of sweet corn, shucked

1/2 tsp. black pepper

6-7 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1/4 cup canola oil

6 romaine lettuce hearts, halved lengthwise

1 cup mashed avocado

2 cups halved cherry tomatoes

2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Directions:

1) Heat a grill to medium-high heat and cook the corn for 12-15 minutes. You want it charred on all sides. Remove from grill and let cool for 5 minutes. Cut off kernels and place in a bowl.

2) Brush oil over the cut sides of the romaine and place cut side down over medium heat.  Leave on the grill until it gets a light char, about 1-2 minutes.

3) While the romaine is charring, mix the avocado with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Add tomatoes to the bowl with the corn.

4). Arrange the romaine on a plate and spoon over the avocado and corn/tomato mixture.  Enjoy!

I could not get enough of this salad when we made it Father’s Day weekend. It was so light and refreshing and a nice change from a basic salad. You’ll have to give it a try on your next BBQ.

The next recipe is my take on one of my favorite desserts growing up: Strawberry Shortcake. Now this is not your regular kind of shortcake, this is a special recipe, it is served on a soda cracker crust! You’re probably wondering why I’d mess with such a classic dessert and change that delicious piece of cake or biscuit to something like a soda cracker crust, right?

Two words: Spaghetti Dinner. That’s right, I have vivid memories of every year going down to the Stockmen’s club in Brawley for El Toro’s sponsored spaghetti dinner, and every year the dessert was strawberry shortcake on a soda cracker crust. It seriously is one of my favorite desserts and for years, I tried to replicate the sweet taste, but could never get it quite right. I’m happy to say that finally this year I feel as though I have succeeded. The following is the recipe I used to recreate this special memory and awesome dessert.

Strawberry Shortcake with Soda Cracker Crust

Ingredients:

1 container strawberries, washed and sliced

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar

2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 egg whites

1 cup pecans, chopped

18 soda crackers

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9-inch pie pan.

2) In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. In a food processor, combine the pecans, sugar, baking powder, and soda crackers. Chop until well-combined. I am convinced that this is the key to making this recipe work – using the food processor to get everything finely chopped and mixed well.

3) Gently fold cracker/pecan mixture into the egg whites until combined. Add vanilla extract and stir.

4) Pour batter into pan and bake 20-30 minutes until set. While the batter bakes, slice strawberries and let chill in the fridge. Then pour the heavy cream, remaining vanilla and sugar in a bowl and whip on high until medium peaks form.

5) Serve strawberries on top of slices of crust.

I promise, if you give this recipe a shot, you will not be disappointed. There was not a leftover piece at the dinner table. It brings back great memories and tastes so good!

I hope you get a chance to take a break from the heat and try at least one of these recipes. Give them a try and let me know what you think.

Enjoy!