A Maize of Sweet Corn Salad

It’s just about that time of the year when American-grown corn has begun to appear in our markets, and, from tortillas to polenta a more versatile veggie is hard to imagine.  White corn is the sweetest, but it sacrifices some flavor in order to achieve that sweetness.  Yellow corn is the most flavorful, but it sacrifices some sweetness in order to achieve that flavor.  So … choose the obvious compromise: bi-colored corn, which is a tad more expensive but entirely worth the few extra cents.  Whether you’re just eating the cooked corn straight off the cob, or making something far more elaborate, bi-colored is the way to go.  By far the best price, as is often the case, can be found at Costco, where a pack of eight ears costs less than six bucks.  You can find packs of four ears at Vons, but they charge five bucks for those four.  In any case, try the following:

Always use fresh summer corn!

Always use fresh summer corn!

Husk, if necessary, and completely remove the silk from five to six ears of corn.  Put the corn in a glass dish, add a bit of water, cover with plastic wrap and cook the corn in a microwave until just al dente.  Do not overcook; you want the kernels crunchy.  When the corn has cooled, put the cobs in the fridge for a hour or so.  Then, strip the kernels from the cob, using a sharp knife or one of those very cool cob strippers that Oxo makes.  When you stand the cob you’re stripping on end on a spread-out clean piece of cloth or dishtowel, the falling kernels won’t bounce all over the place, and, when the cobs have all been stripped, you can just wrap the kernels in the cloth to be easily moved to the salad bowl.  Place those kernels in that medium-large salad bowl and add to them the following in any quantity you wish:

Diced sweet peppers, preferably the smaller ones of various colors sold in most supermarkets in plastic bags.

Chopped shallots or purple onion that have been soaked for ca. one hour in cold water and patted dry.

Halved and quartered grape tomatoes preferably of several colors.  Try those “heirloom” baby tomatoes from Mexico sold at Trader Joe’s.  They’re especially sweet.

1 large avocado, diced.

Toss gently all of the above with a vinaigrette made of EVOO, kosher salt, Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar which has been whisked together with a generous dollop of finely chopped cilantro.  Fresh ground pepper is optional.

It's a truly beautiful dish!

It’s a truly beautiful dish!

Look, the star of this dish is the corn and there are any number of variations to this recipe that one can make as long as the corn continues to be honored.  Suppose you wanted a more Tex-Mex flavor.  Instead of the peppers, try dicing a large roasted and peeled Anaheim (Poblano) cnile.  Don’t know how to roast and peel a pepper?  It’s a valuable technique to acquire, but meanwhile you can use canned diced peppers.  Try adding some roasted and peeled jalapeños to the mix if you’re into some heat.  Then, put a generous pinch or two of powdered cumin in the dressing before whisking it.

It’s all amaizing!

Power Shake Makings

Power Shake!

After graduating from UC Santa Barbara last spring, I started my work as a Teach For America Corps member. It’s an organization that takes bright, college grads and trains them as educators for work in inner-city schools. More than that, it’s a movement fighting for equal access to education for ALL students in the USA. Sound daunting? Perhaps a little overwhelming? That’s because it truly is! Particularly for a naive, privileged, 23 year old who didn’t have the slightest idea what real work was.

Well, gratifying though it may be, I can assure you that life as a first-year, middle school educator does not come without its difficulties, blunders, and student body odors. Yes, life at UC Santa Barbara–studying literature, shot-gunning Keystone Light, and pretending to be an adult–was certainly more entertaining. However, my true education began the moment I moved to San Diego and started teaching 12 year olds.  Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is the true importance of TIME.

I know you’re wondering what Teach For America and TIME have to do with food. Don’t worry. Here comes the point! It’s no secret that, for many of us, preparing and enjoying food becomes a burden when caught in the tangle of our professional lives. As stated above, this is a relatively new (and terrifying) concept for me. I’ve had to balance a full-time, scary-as-hell teaching job, graduate classes, and power lifting. Still, I couldn’t expect to survive on ramen and Jack in the Box like I did while living in Isla Vista. Convenient. Yes. Healthy and sustainable. No.

The question became: how can I enjoy food and still have time for work, school, and fitness? The answer: be willing to experiment.

Enter, Dustin Glass’ “Power Shake.”

I never really liked the idea of smoothies, or protein shakes, growing up. But, trust me. As a recent convert, I can tell you that in a rush, shakes are a nutrition-filled, blessing.

When the opportunity next presents itself, go to year nearest grocer (my personal favorite being Costco), grab some Whey protein, banana, and whole milk. If you’re not a fitness buff, or have heard negative conjecture, know that Whey Protein powder (in my experience) is an efficient, healthy, and tasty way to supplement your daily protein intake. Most folks suggest at least 1 gram per pound of body weight to maintain one’s muscle composition and health–especially consequential for those of us lifting heavy things for exercise. I would also add, that the powder is NON-ADDICTIVE. Of course, I’m positive I will hear dissenting arguments. To them, I say: Get thee gone, blasphemers! Just kidding, you’re entitled to your opinion (albeit wrong).  Similarly, new research is also dispelling the myths surrounding the adverse health effects of whole milk, and instead, reminding us that good Fats  are necessary for a healthy body. Of course, taking it to excess is never good.

yes, the one from TV!  It really works.

yes, the one from TV! It really works.

So, I take my vanilla protein powder, my rich whole milk, my necessary, Carb-filled banana, and a couple tablespoons of creamy peanut butter, and drop them into my Magic Bullet. Voila! I get to enjoy my breakfast as a high-calorie, time-efficient shakes, filled to the brim with nutritional staples the body and mind crave and need. I’m powered-up for a busy morning of grammar lessons, teenage hormones, and adulthood demands, without sacrificing that extra shut-eye I get to enjoy as a result of the “Power Shake”!

Considering your valuable time, and the amount you’ve already spent reading my somewhat narcissistic prologue, let’s just stick with this one discovery for now. More to come later!

As always, keep calm and eat on, friends!