Sunday, August 24, 2008

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Chipotle Lime Butter

I grew up in the middle of a cornfield in Illinois. Corn everywhere. The unpalatable, 'agricultural-industrial complex' kind of corn that Michael Pollan writes about in The Omnivore's Dilemma, destined to be made into high-fructose corn syrup, packaged foods, and all kinds of bad things. Imagine being surrounded by corn you couldn't eat all summer, like being thirsty in the ocean. I hated that corn.

Sweet corn...well, that's another story. Just-picked sweet corn is the best food on the planet, I think. Sweet and crunchy, it's even good raw, right off the ear. Go ahead, try it! Cut it into a salad and you'll become a convert. Of course growing up we'd do the traditional preparation - throw it in boiling, salted water for a few minutes, then slather it with butter. Perfection.

You could stop reading right there. Boil corn, butter it, eat it, or eat it raw. Blog posting over! But, given that our charge is to update farmhouse classics, I'll tell you how I do corn now: I grill it and brush it with seasoned butter, to raves.

I first read about this approach in Bon Appetit, and have since come up with my own way of making the Chipotle butter that I think works better than the original recipe - I season the butter in a ramekin and brush it on the corn as it grills, then squeeze a lime over the corn once it's done and finish it off with a flick of kosher salt. There's just something so wonderful about the sweet smokiness of the grilled corn that matches well with the bright flavors of the lime and the warmth of the chipotle and butter. Sweet corn is delicious on its own; this preparation takes that base flavor and cranks it up to 11. Enjoy!

4 ears sweet corn, husks and silks removed
1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
Juice and zest 1/2 lime, reserve other 1/2 lime
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 t Chipotle Chile powder

Remove the husks and silks from the corn.

Cube the butter into a ramekin or other heatproof container. Let sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature to soften. Top with the salt, Chipotle, lime zest and lime juice, and mash together with a fork to combine.

Brush one side of the corn with butter and place buttered side down on a medium-hot grill. Brush and turn the corn while it grills, about 3-5 minutes, until the corn is evenly cooked (a little char is perfect - adds to the flavor). Remove from grill, squeeze reserved 1/2 lime over corn and sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve immediately. Pass out toothpicks after dinner. Receive congratulations from your guests.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Reunited and it tastes so good...

Sourdough Bread

Dear Sourdough Starter,

I'm glad I gave you one more chance. This time you gave back!

I'm sorry I doubted you, and that I threatened to throw you out. You know I'd never do that. It was a wake-up call, Sourdough Starter, and I'm glad you've woken up. Can we forget all that ugliness?

Sourdough Bread, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

Love always,

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Homemade Ricotta & Heirloom Cucumber on Crostini

Last night we had Tagert & Mikey and Sharon & Mark over for a quick, throw together meal. It was a lovely time. Today I went scrounging for leftovers and pulled together a delicious lunch from bits of the antipasto platter, with my homemeade ricotta and heirloom cucumbers, and some chimichurri sauce I had served with grilled steak.

To be honest, the ricotta needed something. It was my first batch, so didn't know how much, if any, salt or other seasonings to add. The creamy texture was perfect, but it needed something to punch up the flavor.

So, I added a 3T of chimichurri and about 4T of heavy cream to 1 cup of ricotta and mashed it together with a fork. I let that sit for an hour to let the flavors develop (I bet it will keep getting better the longer it sits), then spread it on crostini & topped with fresh sliced heirloom cucumbers. The bright flavor of the chimichurri really helped bring the ricotta to life and turned it into a delicious spread that I can guarantee I'll make again and again...

This is a fun counterpoint to the radish sandwich I made a while back (and have kept making) , and in fact I think I'll serve them together sometime.

Homemade Ricotta

Making homemade ricotta, originally uploaded by chrisfreeland2002.

As you know I've been having trouble getting a sourdough starter to start. It's been depressing. So, I decided to leave breads behind for a bit and try my hand at another farmhouse staple - homemade cheese.

The latest issue of Saveur has an article on making ricotta. It sounded amazingly simple. Then, I read this bit in the NY Times which made it sound even easier. I also got some encouragement from Veronica Baetje, of Baetje Farms, who gave me some pointers and a good tip I'll pass on in the next recipe, with thanks. After my *weeks* of failure (sob) with sourdough, the prospect of making something traditional, yet cool, in about an hour sounded like just the thing to bring back my countrypolitan mojo. So I gave it a go.

OMG (as the kids say)! Not only was the ricotta easy to make, but it tasted so incredible - really creamy and fresh. I had folks over for dinner last night and served the cheese as part of an antipasto platter. I think they were suitably impressed and we came up with some suggestions for how to flavor & season the next batches. I can't wait!

1 qt whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
1/8 cup heavy cream

Heat milks and cream in a large pot over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to keep the milk from scorching. Use a candy or instant-read thermometer to heat to 180 degrees. Stir gently as the curds start forming around 175 degrees. Once the mixture reaches 180 degrees use a fine mesh sieve to scoop out the curds. Drop into a ricotta mold or colander lined with cheesecloth. Let drain for a couple of minutes, then gather the edges of the cheesecloth and twist together. Hang over a bowl to let the remaining whey drip from the cheese, about 1 hour. Gently remove the cheese from the cloth and serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Recipe adapted from NY Times & “Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking” (Chronicle, 2002).

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sourdough Starter, we have to talk...

Dear Sourdough Starter,

Where to start? These past few days have been great, but I feel like this is a one-sided relationship. I provide - I give you a warm place to live, food once a day, I check in on you regularly, I even talk to you sometimes - and you never give back. You're a taker, Sourdough Starter, and I've had enough.

I thought you were ready to move on to the next stage in our relationship. Last night you were bubbly and practically frothing at the mouth of the jar. I was so happy.

So, I proofed you and made you into dough. Once again I spent more time than I should have kneading and flouring and shaping you into something you're apparently not. I left you to rise for an hour and came back to check on you (once again, me checking on you!). You were just...lying there. No rising, nothing. Just sitting there, flat and heavy as a doorstop. I waited longer and still nothing! I don't need a doorstop, I need bread!

Sourdough Starter, what happened? We were going great, I thought. Sure, you kinda had a funky smell but I was willing to look past that. I thought that one day you'd grow out of it. That you'd mature. But no. I guess I was just projecting.

I've come to realize that I tried to make you something you're not. You're just not ready to become Sourdough Bread, and I'm going to have to deal with that. I've come to realize that you're just flour and water. Do you know what else is flour and water? Paste! That's right, Sourdough Starter, you're just paste!

Don't worry about me (not that you would). It may take some time, but I'll move on. I may try with another Starter...maybe even one from the internet. I hear you can get them on Craigslist for free.

I just want to say that I've had fun with you. But I can't keep up this charade. You'll never be what I want you to be, and so I'm just going to have to move on. In fact, I already have. I called ahead to Panera and they', how do I say this?....they've set aside a loaf of Sourdough Bread for me. I know it's commercial, but it's better than the nothing you've given me.

So that's it, Sourdough Starter. We're done. It's time for me to move on. I'm going to go console myself with Commercial Bread...

And just to make you feel bad, I'm going to do all things with Commercial Bread that I never could with you, like thump your bottom to see if you're hollow, spread you with butter and jam, and share you with friends. That would have been great, Sourdough Starter, but you ruined down the drain with you!

Love always, but not forever,


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Parsley Potatoes with Lemon

I have a vivid memory of the first time my mom made this dish. Not so much the time (although I was probably around 15 or 16) or place (and therefore living at home), but the mouth-watering reaction I had to the salty, creamy, buttery potatoes mixed with fresh chopped parsley recently cut from our herb garden. It was a revelation in 4 ingredients - potatoes, salt, butter, parsley - that helped form my culinary point of view. I've added a 5th, fresh squeezed lemon juice, to give the potatoes even more zing. Enjoy!

2 lbs small Yukon Gold potatoes, halved or quartered into chunky bites.
3 T butter
3 T fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1 t sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Boil potatoes in salted water for 10-15 minutes until cooked through. Drain, then place in a medium bowl. While warm, add butter, salt, parsley, and lemon juice. Stir gently (try not to mash the potatoes) until the butter is melted and the parsley and salt are evenly distributed throughout.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)