Easiest Ever Creamed Corn (cream of corn)

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Tastes just like it came out of a can!

Contains no cream!

Takes less than 5 minutes to prepare!

If you live in Italy, it is nigh next to impossible to make many iconic American classics without getting a little creative in the kitchen.  They simply don’t have the base ingredients available at the grocery store.

One of those ingredients is creamed corn, or as some people call it, cream of corn.  To make it from fresh sweet corn, right off the cob, you take off the corn kernels, and then scrape the cob to get out all the milky residue.  You add some water and corn starch to the mixture, and heat it in a pan to thicken. The process to get out the milky liquid is why it’s called “creamed” corn, even though it has no actual milk products in it.

You can also make it with a can of sweet corn.  Simple, easy, delicious, and quick.

This recipe uses a can of sweet corn bought at the spesa (grocery store).  It was the largest can they had available when I was there, and the contents are, of course, in grams, not ounces.  But it is just a little over 1 Cup of corn, and about 1/4 Cup of water, and makes 2 small servings.

Easiest Ever Creamed Corn

1 300 g can of corn

1/4 C water

1/2 T corn starch (amido di maize) + 1/2 T cold water to make a slurry

Put 1/2 the can of corn, including water, in a small food processor.  Grind just until it looks like a yellow corn batter.  Add the remaining corn, and pulse a few times until it’s the consistency you want, leaving some kernels whole.

Pour into pan, and add about 1/4 cup water.  Put the heat on medium low, stir in your slurry, and bring up just to a boil.  Make sure to stir so nothing sticks.

Walah!  No sugar, no butter, no added salt, no nothing.  If you DO happen to get a can of corn that is not that sweet naturally, then by all means add a pinch of sugar if you would like – and next time buy a different brand to see if it’s sweeter.

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Farinata (Chickpea flour flatbread)

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Farinata or Italian chickpea cake is a simple and easy to make dish that originated in the region of Liguria along the western Italian coast.  Legend has it, that sailors returning to the maritime city of Genoa after a battle with the city of Pisa (yes, I know…Pisa is part of Italy.  Italian history is full of big battles between cities) had bags of chickpea flour tip over, the flour mixed with sea water, then they baked it into a cake to celebrate their victory.

Today it is a popular street food, and although not as well known outside of Italy as the infinitely more famous pesto, it is definitely worth a try in any kitchen.

Did you see how fancy I made mine?

This is not typical.  I just did that because it was fun, and it looks amazing.  The typical dish uses only black pepper cracked over the top.

Regardless of how you make it – plain or dressed up, this naturally gluten free and vegan dish is high in soluble fiber which aids in digestion as well as keeping your arteries clean and clog free.  It’s crispy exterior and slightly creamy interior hold up well for mopping up sauces, and it’s the perfect foil for a little bit of artistic flair to keep the supper interesting!

I served it alongside chicken breast stuffed with artichoke and sundried tomato in a garlic cream sauce.  Fresh green beans, just lightly steamed provided a bit of crunch and the play on textures meant that we pretty much ate everything.  Only a small bit was saved for lunch tomorrow.

And although farinata is most tasty when just pulled out of the screaming hot oven, that is not by any means the only way that Italians eat it.  Most buy it from the store, and eat it at room temperature.

If you can’t find the flour in your regular flour aisle at the grocery store, try the gluten free section or head to the nearest natural foods store to find it.  Add the flour to your regular pancake recipe or bread recipe to increase the nutrition and lower the blood sugar spikes from regular wheat flour, or even add it to your cake mix to do the same thing.

*note – you have to soak the chickpea flour for at least 2 hours so it cooks evenly.  Don’t have 2 hours to wait?  Mix it in the morning and let it sit all day until supper time.  The soaking is important 🙂

Farinata (Italian chickpea flatbread)

You will need: a cast iron pan, and a bowel and whisk for mixing

1 1/2 cups chickpea flour

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for the pan

Whisk flour and lukewarm water together in a bowl, cover, and let sit for at least 2 hours.  It can become foamy, and legend has it, that those bubbles can also cause bubbles in the digestive system (if you catch my drift.  haha, get it? ), so just use a spoon or ladle to skim off the foam after it soaks.

Preheat oven to about 500 F, and place the rack on the second level down from the top.  Heat the cast iron pan on stovetop over medium heat.

Once the pan is hot, pour in enough olive oil to fully coat the bottom, don’t be stingy.  Swirl the oil around.  It should start to smoke immediately.  Pour in the batter, take off the heat and place in the oven.

Because I put topping on mine, I set the timer for 15 minutes, take it out, and then arrange the toppings.  The pan is so hot that it will continue to cook the bottom even when the cake is out of the oven.  Brush the veggies with oil, and put back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are done and the cake is nicely brown.

USE GOOD OVEN MITTS – IT’S REALLY HOT!

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Warm Beet and Tomato Salad

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Cold and flu season have arrived once again…and I’m craving beets.  Not chicken soup, but beets.

This recipe is a simple adaption from an old time home remedy for flu.  Instead of juicing and steeping the raw ingredients into a tonic that is drunk several times a day, they are assembled into a very tasty salad that can be eaten hot, at room temperature, as a main dish or as a side salad.

It cookes up in only 15 minutes, and preparation time is quick and easy if you purchase pre-cooked organic beets from the natural foods section.

Warm Beet and Tomato Salad

Preheat oven to 375 F

2 large pre-cooked beets cut in 1 inch cubes

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/2 lb small tomatoes, cut in 1/2 or thick sliced

1/2 t pink salt

1/2 t sugar

1/4 t ground black pepper

1/2 t dried mint

sunflower oil

fresh squeezed lemon juice for finishing

 

Combine all ingredients except lemon juice, and cook in a glass dish for 12-15 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down.  Remove from heat, squeeze the lemon over the top and stir.  Top with a little more dried mint and serve!

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Caponata en Croute

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Caponata is a well known and much loved Italian antipasto that originated in Sicily.  A savory mix of vegetables and fried eggplant is perked up with sweetened vinegar and left to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

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Tonight we ate it “en croute”, wrapped in puff pastry, as the main dish.  It was served with a fresh salad and a little bit of fish.

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It’s incredibly versatile, and can be used as a side with Mahi-Mahi or roasted meats, as a main course, or as an appetizer that is served either on it’s own or with toast points.  Some versions even include pine nuts, almonds, or pumpkin seeds, and a bit of cocoa powder.  Like an Italian version of mole.  Feel free to add those if you are so inclined!

Caponata en Croute

Serves 4

Caponata the night before…

2 small eggplants, sliced in 1/2 inch strips (see instructions)

2 small red onions, cut in half, and then cut in 1/4 inch slices

1 celery stick, cut in 1/4 inch slices, and boiled for 4 minutes

1 large sweet red pepper, cut in 1/2 inch strips

1 T capers (if packed in salt, rinse and soak for at least an hour, changing water at least once to purge the salt.  If packed in vinegar, just rinse)

12 green olives, thinly sliced

6 fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded

1.5 T raw sugar mixed with 2 T red wine vinegar

about 2 C olive oil (give or take) for frying eggplant

black pepper and salt

Sprinkle eggplant strips with salt and let sit in a colander for at least an hour.  Rinse thoroughly, and press between dishtowels to dry.

Saute pepper and onion slices in olive oil with a pinch of salt.  Use a pan or pot with a cover – this will help the vegetables to retain moisture, and get a great texture.  I start with the peppers, and then add the onions once the peppers are about 1/2 way done.  Once the onions are nice and soft and translucent, add the tomato puree and cook for about 15 minutes with the cover on, stirring occasionally.  Take pan off heat and set aside.

Add olive oil to fry pan and heat to med/med low.  Whatever fry temperature is for your particular stovetop.  Fry the eggplant in batches, removing from the oil when they are golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Add the eggplant, capers, olives, and basil to the pepper and onion mixture.  Return the pan to the stove top and heat to medium.  Once it’s nice and hot, stir in the sugar vinegar mixture, cook for an additional 10 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool down.  Transfer to a container and let sit overnight and up to 3 days.

En Croute the night of…

1 rectangular sheet store bought puff pastry dough (use one made with oil if you prefer a vegan version)

1 beaten egg for brushing top of pastry (use oil if you don’t want to use egg)

dried oregano and Maldon or other flaky salt for sprinkling on top of pastry

Let caponata come to room temperature. Spread in center of pastry dough, and fold over edges.  Brush top with beaten egg or oil, and sprinkle with herbs and salt.  Cook according to package instructions.  The caponata is already cooked and does not need to be hot, so really you’re just cooking the pastry.

Enjoy!

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

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That nice little bit of caramelization on the cauliflower comes from agave syrup.  You can get the same color by using a natural, unrefined sugar.  The agave was used in this recipe so there would be a bit of “sticky” to the cauliflower.

Agave syrup is not necessarily healthier for you – it’s quite processed and pretty high in calories.  It does however, handle the heat of a sear quite well without turning black and bitter like a sugar sometimes can.  It’s more similar to a corn syrup than a sugar when you add it to a sauce.

What is my favorite way to steam vegetables?  Well…this handy bamboo steamer is my absolute favorite way.  The taste is so clean and fresh.  Each compartment can hold a different vegetable, and even if you’re using them them together in a recipe, they retain their own unique flavor profile.

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Marinated Cauliflower with Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and steamed

1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated

1 inch piece fresh turmeric, grated

3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground mustard (why mustard?  Because cooking cauliflower and broccoli can unfortunately make some of their strongest nutritional benefits less available to your body.  Adding mustard or radish to the cooked vegetables will then provide the nutrients necessary to ‘unlock’ their potential.  If you eat these vegetables raw, then you get the full benefits)

1 dried hot Chinese or Thai pepper (whole)

1/2 C Braggs Amino Acids or Soy Sauce

2 T Agave Syrup

Quick and Easy Miso Peanut Sauce

1 C peanut butter (I did not use a “peanuts only” brand, because it doesn’t melt as well for this quick and easy version).  

1 t garlic powder

1 t dried minced onion

1/4 t powdered dried ginger

1 C miso broth (I used a very yummy natto miso brand, but you can use other types of miso broth as well. )

*optional* honey to taste

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together and pour over the steamed cauliflower.  Massage the marinade into the cauliflower and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  To serve, heat a pan to medium and add a bit of oil so the cauliflower doesn’t stick.  Remove cauliflower from marinade and sear both sides.

For the peanut sauce, briefly heat the spices in the bottom of a pot, and then pour your water in.  Follow your miso directions.

Whisk the miso broth bit by bit into the peanut butter until the peanut butter is melted and it’s at the consistency you want.

I like this marinated cauliflower and peanut sauce best when served over mung bean noodles and a bunch of steamed vegetables like carrots and zucchini!

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Cauliflower and Chickpea Falafel Stacks

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These wonderful stacks taste great with a cucumber dressing, a hummus dressing, or even just lightly topped with olive oil and vinegar.  I’ve even eaten them with ketchup, and they taste fine with the ketchup as well!

The dried chickpeas need to be soaked at least overnight, and once the dough is made you’ll want to have it rest for a couple of hours.  This way the falafel patties will stay together once you start cooking them.

It’s not a traditional falafel recipe, but it’s a nice way to get even more vegetables into your diet.

Makes 6 hamburger sized patties

Cauliflower and Chickpea Falafel Stacks

About 1/2 a small head of cauliflower, which will give you about 2 cups ground cauliflower

1 cup fresh chickpeas that have been soaked overnight

About 1 cup green onion, white and green parts

3 cloves roasted garlic

Small bunch fresh parsley

1 t coriander

1 t cumin

1 T baking powder

1 t salt

About 1/2 cup chickpea flour (you may need more, depending on how much moisture the cauliflower has.

1 C Sunflower oil (or other oil of your choosing)

Roasted red pepper slices

Roasted sweet potato slices

Drain the chickpeas and let them sit in the colander while you begin preparing the dough.

Add cauliflower to a food processor, and pulse until the cauliflower is fine.

Add the vegetables, spices,  baking powder and salt.  Pulse until fully combined.

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Add the chickpeas and chickpea flour, pulsing until everything is incorporated, and the chickpeas have a crumb texture.  You don’t want to overmix it, or it will start turning into a hummus.

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Put the dough into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.  Form into 1/2 inch thick patties. If the patties aren’t holding together well, add some more chickpea flour to the mixture.

Add the sunflower oil to a frying pan and heat to med/lo.  The oil should come up to almost 1/2 the side of the patty.  You’ll want to make sure that the oil is deeper, rather than shallow because it will help the patties to stay together.  Fry about 4 minutes on each side, drain on paper towels, and then top with the potato, pepper, and salad mix.  You can also put it in a pita for a sandwich!

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Oyster Mushrooms in Ginger Turmeric Broth

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Who knew that Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), contained something called “Ubiquitin” which stops influenza A viruses in their tracks?  Flu viruses from that strain simply can’t replicate themselves in your cells if “ubiquitin” is present.

All I know, is that I have been craving vegetables, and soup.  Yes, I’ve been eating other things, but mainly I crave vegetables and soup.

This easy soup comes together in less than 1/2 an hour, and serves 2 people with small appetites.

*Edited to add 1/2 t maitake mushroom powder, stirred in at the end.  The maitake mushroom is another strong immune system builder*

Oyster Mushrooms in Ginger Turmeric Broth

1 litre – 4 cups vegetable broth

1 t grated ginger

1 t grated turmeric

1/2 t ground pepper

1 t dried lemongrass

1 t minced garlic

Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Then add next ingredients.  Reduce to simmer and add next ingredients.

1 large piece coste or bok choy, sliced thin

1/2 t fresh hot pepper,minced (or more depending on heat)

Simmer for 5 minutes or so.

80 grams fresh oyster mushrooms, whole, woody bottom removed

Simmer for another 5 minutes or so.  Remove from heat.

1/2 t coconut oil

1/2 t maitake mushroom powder

minced chives

Stir in oil and mushroom powder.  Top with chives, ladle into dishes, and serve.

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