Easy Mexican Street Corn, Skillet Style

Easy Mexican Street Corn, Skillet Style

As any visitor to Jorj.com might surmise, summer and its farmer’s markets are a big deal to me. I try to visit one every Saturday – not just for ingredients to use in weekend dinners, but for recipe ideas to take me and my family through the season with full bellies and empty plates. This month, inspiration struck when I passed a vendor making Mexican street corn.

I play with corn in Canvas & Cuisine – fresh, roasted ears get slathered in a savory pesto sauce. I was reminded of those flavors when I tasted corn on a stick at the farmer’s market this weekend.  I could isolate all kinds of yummy flavors – from peppers to lime juice. There was the tang of tomato and cojita cheese, and bright notes of cilantro – and like all good things, the undeniable presence of sour cream.

Determined to go home and duplicate that taste, I hit the various veggie stands and came back with everything I needed to make Mexican Street Corn – only thing is, it rains a lot in the summer, and backyard BBQs aren’t always possible. I transformed the dish into a skillet version that went over really well as a side this Father’s Day.

A popular item, there were requests for more. I’d run out of fresh corn on the cob at that point and discovered that frozen kernels work just as well. The results were super savory and the juiciness at the bottom of the bowl so good, it got my mind on corn chowder recipes for fall – just gotta get through this beastly summer first!

So, here’s my lighting fast recipe for a bright summer side dish – you can make it in the time it takes a thunderstorm to roll past your house, and the sun to start shining again!

Mexican Street Corn Skillet Style

15 minute cuisine

Serves 4

4 cups corn kernels (shucked from fresh ears of corn or frozen)

1 large red tomato, diced

1 bunch chives, washed and chopped, about ½ cup

1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped, about ½ cup

Juice of 1 lime

1/3 cup cojita or feta cheese

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon sour cream

Salt and pepper

Olive oil for sautéing

In a skillet set on high heat, sauté the corn, herbs, lime juice, cheese, and cayenne in 2 tablespoons olive oil for 5 to 8 minutes. Add the sour cream and mix with a spatula, lowering heat. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Not Julia’s Beef Stew

Not Julia’s Beef Stew

I love Julia Child’s boeuf bourguignon – but truly American beef stew is different, and if you’re looking to achieve a real, flavorful meat n’ potatoes kinda night, this is your recipe!

My version comes together quickly, with items you probably have in your pantry and freezer. I throw in an extra step of browning not only the beef, but the potatoes in oil and butter. You might not think it’s worth the effort, but trust me, it is!

Here’s how I do it. I cut about 2 pounds of beef into 1 ½ inch cubes. I had a top round roast in my freezer, so I used that, but you can use any cut of beef that adapts well to stewing or braising – like chuck roast, short ribs and brisket. Stay away from leaner cuts (like steaks) as they will toughen up during the long cooking process.

My friends at brobbq.com have all the meaty details on how to make your meat n’ potatoes night “a cut” above!

I cut baby yellow or red potatoes in half – about a 1 ½ pound bag. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and some dried thyme. I peeled 8 large carrots and cut them into chunks and I diced 1 big onion.

Place about a third of beef cubes into a resealable plastic bag with flour, salt and pepper and shake. I do this in batches so that all the cubes are coated evenly. Heat olive oil and butter (about 2 to 3 tablespoons of each) in a large, deep pot over high heat. Turn on the fan, we want the butter and olive oil smokin’ hot. Place the coated cubes into the pot. Brown on one side, about 1 minute. Flip and brown on the other side, about 1 minute more. Transfer the brown beef to a platter. Repeat this process until all the beef is browned. You can add additional olive oil and butter in between browning. I did!

Remove the pot from the heat for a minute and take a deep breath. That browning goes fast! Add more olive oil and butter to the pot. Place the potatoes, cut side down in the pot (as best you can) and return the pot to the heat. Let the potatoes brown for about 2 minutes. Flip them over when there is a nice golden crust on the cut side. Transfer the potatoes back to the bowl.

Place the carrots into the pot and toss them around until they just begin to brown. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of cumin. Transfer the browned carrots to the same bowl with the potatoes.

Place the onions into the pot. Season the onions with salt and pepper. When the onions are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes, pour in about half of a bottle of red wine. Reduce the heat to medium. Simmer the wine until it reduces by about half. Pour in about 3 cups of beef stock. Stir in about 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. Place the meat back into the pot. Reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the stew for at least 90 minutes. After ninety minutes, add in the potatoes and carrots. Continue simmering the stew until the meat is very tender, about 3 hours total cooking time.

There you have it. An all-American beef stew with a bit of a fried potato twist. I promise, you’re gonna love it – it’s one of the defining recipes in my book, SUNDAY BEST DISHES: a cookbook for Passionate Cooks!

Halloween Treats for the Big Night

Halloween Treats for the Big Night

Tomorrow, I’ll share advice on a death by chocolate adult party plan — BUT THIS BLOG goes out to the parents who stay home on Halloween night to dole out the candy. Having been that parent many moons ago, I remember what made the night special and delicious. Buckle up, these recipes come with a story!

For twenty-five years, we lived in a small neighborhood across from the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was filled with families and over-run with children. I dare say that the biggest community event held each year was the Halloween party. We gathered together in costumes, dispatching pizza and Gatorade into tiny mouths so that candy would be absorbed before bedtime.

We trudged through the neighborhood, hauling kids in wagons and greeting neighbors. It didn’t take me too long to figure out why I chose to be the designated stay-at-home parent on October 31. Well, someone has to hand out the candy! But no judgment, I refined my Halloween style in those years, and came up with these two tasty standbys – the ultimate in Halloween treats!

The process:

I filled a large tub with ice and submerged bottles of water to hand out to tired parents. Trick-or-treating is hard work! Then I started adding warm soup to the mix.

I kept the soup warm in my slow cooker, placed on a table by the front door. I ladled the soup into disposable coffee cups, and my fellow parents sipped and smiled. But it’s these sweet treats that really got the kiddos smiling!

Pumpkin brownies with cream cheese frosting are the bomb! The recipe is in my first book At Home in the Kitchen. You can still find a copy or two on-line or you can just email me for the recipe! This year I elevated those brownies to a whole new level by using Hocus Pocus sugar by Fancy Sprinkles. If you love to bake, check out these fancier than fancy sprinkles for your next holiday treat.

The combination of warm soup and sweet (and fancy) brownies lives on! Now I prepare them for my grandchildren and their parents (not yet for the whole neighborhood!). Here is my recipe for a tummy-warming, simple soup that will put a smile on your family faces – if you can see them from underneath their masks!

Butternut Squash Bisque

serves 6 to 8

40 minute cuisine

¼ cup olive oil

4 tablespoons butter, ½ stick

1 leek, tender part sliced

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped

4 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 (2 pound) butternut squash, peeled and chopped, about 5 to 6 cups

1 tablespoon Autumn Harvest spice blend (substitute with pumpkin pie spice)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

⅓ cup sherry

1 quart homemade chicken stock, or prepared low sodium broth

¾ cup heavy whipping cream

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the leek, onion and garlic to the pan and cook until the veggies are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the butternut squash. Season with spice blend, chili powder, some of the salt and pepper. Pour in the sherry and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed into the veggies. Pour in the stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until all of the veggies are very soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot form the heat. Use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to emulsify the soup. If you are using a blender or food processor, allow the soup to cool before pulsing… just to be safe! Return the pureed soup to the pot over low heat. Stir in the cream. Taste and season salt and pepper if needed.




My Taste of Italy!

My Taste of Italy!

I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy. We visited Sorento and the Amalfi coast and then motored our way north to the region of Tuscany. Most of us on the trip took in the sights and attractions, but I focused on the food and wine.

We interspersed multi-course meals in Michelin star restaurants with neighborhood trattoria’s (many of which offered menus featuring pages of pizza and pasta choices). I came away with three favorite dishes.

At the Don Alfonso 1890 Ristorante in Sorrento you can choose from several pre-set menus, starting with three courses and adding up to an astounding seven! My favorite course was dessert, a large platter filled with bite size pastries from truffles to cookies to nut-coated cake sticks, all set atop a smoke filled background. It was something! I’m posting a video to my social media on this one!

Just a quick nine minute helicopter ride from Sorrento you are transported to cliff side gardens and vast views of the Amalfi coast in the quaint city of Ravello. The Belmond restaurant in the Hotel Caruso sits at the top of the village and offers an outstanding dining experience. The menu features fresh Mediterranean cuisine, starring seafood from the coastal waters.

My favorite dish was an elegantly presented tuna tartar infused with fresh peaches. It was almost too gorgeous to eat, but I took one for our team and devoured every bite.

My final meal was a delicious lunch at Osteria di Passigno in Tuscany. The restaurant sits next to an ancient abbey house where a few monks still reside. The fields are filled with grape vines. A few varieties of wine are grown here, but the pride and joy is the Chianti Classico, a designation of wine that is solely made in this area.

After a quick tour of the winery and gardens, we were treated to a multi course meal that started with an extra virgin olive oil tasting and finished with pear-filled puff pastry drizzled with locally grown honey.
My favorite dish was a brothy fish stew accented with shaved vegetables that rose like stalagmites from the center of the dish.

I arrived home after a lengthy day (I mean 24 hours) of traveling. After a day of emptying suitcases, petting the parent-deprived dog and checking in with pals, I found myself in the kitchen. Inspired as I was, my first dish was neither pasta nor pizza. Instead, it was the delicious Mediterranean inspired fish dishes that won me over.

It took only a quick trip to the market to come up with the ingredients for one of my favorite dishes from SUNDAY BEST DISHES, Puttanesca Poached Cod. I share it with you, not only because it is a simple, yummy dish, but also, because it might inspire you to make Italy a destination in your travel plans.


Puttanesca Poached Cod


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 (7-ounce) tin flat fillets of anchovies packed in oil

1 (14-ounce) can marinated artichoke hearts, about 8 to 10 medium size, sliced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced, about 2 tablespoons

2 tablespoons capers, drained

1 cup red wine

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

4 (4 to 6-ounce) fillets of cod

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Lemon wedges

Place the olive oil and anchovies (with oil) in a skillet over low heat. Cook until the anchovies begin to melt. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, garlic and capers. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the wine. Cook until most of the liquid disappears, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the sauce reduces by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Place the cod into the sauce. Cover the skillet with a lid. Cook until the cod just begins to flake, about 5 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets.

Season the top of the fillets with salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of lemon juice. Serve the cod surrounded by the sauce and lemon wedges.



Chilled Strawberry Soup for Hot Days

Chilled Strawberry Soup for Hot Days

I got the idea for this recipe on a trip to Spain, and think of it a lot in the dog days of summer. For something so easy to make, the result is an extremely nuanced bowl of flavor, good to the last slurp. I mean who’d have thought strawberries, tomatoes, basil and fresh garlic would be so happy in a blender together?

Prepare to be surprised!

This savory-sweet gazpacho is ideal for using up farmer’s market finds before it’s too late. I want to make this soup every time I pass big mounds of fragrant strawberries at the Watauga here in North Carolina. Though strawberry season in the southeast runs from December through March, they still taste wonderful and overflow at famer’s markets this time of year.

It surprises me how versatile strawberries are. I’ve found they taste excellent with a little pepper sprinkled on them, and in this treatment they get blended into a classic savory gazpacho. The recipe is so refreshing (emphasis on the word fresh) that it made it into my upcoming cookbook CANVAS & CUISINE – a travel diary of food and art. This cookbook loves to linger in the cobblestone streets of old Europe, and features many a Mediterranean and Spanish dish – so if you like tapas, I hope you’ll sign up for my newsletter to learn more about my new cookbook’s release later this year.

This chilled soup comes from the heart of Madrid. I was on a Tapas Pub Crawl, visiting local taverns and sampling their bar cuisine. One item that appeared time and again on those menus were chilled shot glasses full of spicy vegetable soup called Gazpacho. My home version adds farm-fresh sweet strawberries to the mix. The flavor combo is so good, you might just break into a flamenco dance!

Gazpacho with Strawberries and Basil

Serves 4 to 6

20 Minute Cuisine plus chilling 

2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, about 6

½ English cucumber, diced, about 1 cup

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced, about 1 cup

1 small red onion, peeled and finely diced, about ½ cup

1 pint fresh strawberries, stems removed and halved, about 2 cups

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 slice white bread, soaked in water

1 cup homemade vegetable broth, or prepared low sodium vegetable broth

½ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 to 4 drops hot pepper sauce

Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove top. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cut an “x” with a sharp knife at one end of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water until the skin begins to wrinkle and split at the “x”, about 45 to 50 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the pot and place into the ice water. Peel the skin from the tomatoes. Cut each tomato in half and squeeze gently to remove most of the seeds. Place the tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor. Add the cucumber, red pepper and onion. Pulse to combine. Pour the veggies into a bowl.

Place the strawberries into the food processor and pulse until chopped. Stir the strawberries into the veggies. Reserve 1 cup of the strawberries and veggies. Pour the rest back into the bowl of the food processor. Add the garlic and basil. Squeeze the excess water from the bread and add to the bowl. Pulse until the mixture is pureed.

Pour back into the bowl. Stir in the stock, olive oil and vinegar. Stir in the reserved 1 cup strawberries and veggies. Season with salt and hot pepper sauce. Place the soup into the fridge and chill for several hours. Serve the soup with a garnish of fresh basil and a slice of strawberry.

Cook’s Tip

I’ve made this gazpacho both ways – sometimes I de-seed the tomatoes and sometimes I don’t. If you want to skip that step and let the ingredients marry in a pot first, then simply blend them together, you’ll still have a great batch of gazpacho!

Cookin’ with Love for Boone, NC!

Cookin’ with Love for Boone, NC!

I’m front row, left: this is at Linville Ridge Country Club where we cook for Hospitality House.

Twice this summer, residents of Linville Ridge will invade our Chef’s kitchen and cook dinner for over 100 clients of Hospitality House. This past class, we had over twenty-five participants (including a much loved, precocious 9-year old), and man did we do it up!

The menu included dense cornbread smothered in a cinnamon and honey-butter glaze, a tortellini pasta salad that has been my summer picnic go-to for decades, my (award-winning) chunky pork and butternut squash chili, and a nutty, chocolatey biscotti cookie for dessert! You can find all of these recipes in Sunday Best Dishes and at Jorj.com.

Here it is plated:

This is how we do it. First, I organize the cooking into stations; one station for each dish. Because we’re feeding so many, it’s easy to find enough chores per dish to include five or six people at each station. My secret is to take everyone out of their comfort zones. I find out who loves to bake, and scoot them over to the salad station. Those who love to sauté move right over to that bad-ass mixer. The idea is that everyone learns a little something new to play around with at home. Everyone samples the meal and takes home the recipes. There are aprons and cookbooks as party favors. I am always overwhelmed by the generous donations.

They are necessary! We’re about to embark on a new project: helping Hospitality House upgrade their kitchen into one that is not only functional, but that can support teaching culinary skills and perhaps even help feed others in our community. It’s ambitious…. so, I’ll keep you posted!

Here is the tortellini recipe I made with my class. Enjoy as a light supper, or as a satisfying side dish. Easy preparation allows for all of the ingredients to be tossed with the vinaigrette and chilled until you are ready to serve.

Pasta Salad with Southwestern Vinaigrette
serves 6 to 8
45 minute cuisine

For pasta:
1 pound cheese tortellini
½ pound hard salami, cut into ½-inch chunks
½ pound sharp white American cheddar cheese, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 (7-ounce jar) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
For vinaigrette:
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 medium lime (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ small red onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh spinach leaves
¼ to ½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Cook the tortellini according to the package directions. Rinse in cold water and place into a large bowl. Add the chunks of salami and cheese, and the roasted pepper and tomato halves.

Place the red wine vinegar, lime juice, red onion, garlic, honey, cilantro and spinach leaves into the bowl of a food processor and blender. Pulse to combine. Add the olive oil through the feed tube, a little at a time. The vinaigrette should be thick and completely emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour ¾ of the dressing over the pasta and toss to combine. Chill the salad until you are ready to serve.

Bring to room temperature, and toss with the remaining salad dressing for maximum flavor explosion!!!