Off The Shelf: New Flavors For Vegetables

New Flavors for Vegetables put out by Williams-Sonoma is a beautiful book filled with fresh, seasonal ideas for vegetables. Arranged by season, you will find inspiration for even the commonest vegetable. Admittedly, some of the recipes may seem a bit too gourmet for regular cooking, but not all are complicated. Have a look at some of the recipe titles:

SPRING: snow pea and radish salad, sautéed english peas with garlic and sesame, steamed new potatoes with chive oil, quick two-pea saute with basil and pecorino, roasted asparagus with fried eggs and parmesan.

SUMMER: green beans with creamy tarragon dipping sauce, spicy okra stew, sautéed yellow pear tomatoes with arugula pesto and feta, spicy cucumber salad with roasted peanuts, marinated summer vegetables grilled on rosemary skewers, creamed corn with chipotle chiles.

FALL: stir-fried broccoli with cashews and dark soy sauce, roasted beets with orange and herbed goat cheese, roasted acorn squash with chipotle and cilantro, caramelized cauliflower with honey and smoked paprika, glazed carrots with coriander, roasted root vegetables with indian curry and cilantro.

WINTER: spicy roasted potatoes with cool yogurt dipping sauce, gingered winter squash with pear puree, braised mustard greens with pancetta and lemon, braised winter vegetables with coconut and red curry, individual swiss chard gratins.

We tried the Sautéed Baby Spinach with Lemon Zest and Cream. This was beyond my expectations. It was so good. I’ve never had such mild, sweet (as in naturally sweet), delicious creamed spinach before. I would love to make this again. (Yes, I know fresh spinach is not cheap. Save this recipe for when you find some on sale.)

(New Flavors for Vegetables)

1 cup heavy cream
1 lemon
2 pounds baby spinach
1 tsp. sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour the cream into a saucepan. Using a vegetable peeler, peel 2 stripes of lemon zest, each 2 inches long from the lemon. Set the lemon aside. Add the zest strips to the cream and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the cream, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 8 minutes; watch that the cream does not boil too vigorously. Remove the zest strips and discard.

Remove any tought stems from the spinach leaves and rinse them well in a colander. heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the spinach, with the rinsing water still clinging to the leaves. Sprinkle with the sugar and toss well. Cover the pan and cook the spinach for 3 minutes. Uncover and toss the leaves well. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the spinach is wilted and tender, 1-2 minutes.

Place the spinach in a colander and, using a wooden spoon, press on it firmly to remove all the excess liquid. Chop the drained spinach coarsely and add it to the pan with the reduced cream. Finely grate the remaining lemon zest and add to the spinach (reserve the fruit for another use). Season the spinach with a pinch of salt and about 1/2 tsp. pepper and stir well to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just heated through, 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the spinach to a warmed serving bowl and serve right away.

Serves 4.

Market Fresh: Sweet Corn

Ah, corn. Doesn’t it make you think of summer?!! My parents always thought it was the sweet corn on Long Island that was the best. No matter where we got it, it certainly seemed better when bought from a stand by the side of a hot, dusty road.

My favorite corn memories are from my teenage years when an older friend would invite me to lunch with him and his wife. His first question always was, “How many ears can you eat today?” I think my record was five. We always ate the corn with plenty of salt, pepper and butter (which this friend mixed together on the side of his plate first) and accompanied by a huge cantaloupe, a plate of sliced tomatoes, and another plate of sliced cucumbers soaked in vinegar. It couldn’t have been more simple, nor more delicious.

This recipe for Mexican-Style Corn on the Cob is bursting with summer flavor. It is super easy and looks beautiful.

(William-Sonoma Comfort Food)
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1/2 cup butter at room temperature
2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
zest of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

6 ears fresh corn

pure ancho chile powder or other chile powder for serving (optional)

kosher salt

Using a rubber spatula, in a small bowl, mash together the butter, cilantro, lime zest and juice. (Note: I could not get the lime juice to incorporate into the butter so would leave it out next time.) Cover butter and let stand while you prepare the corn. (The butter can be prepared, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Remove the husks and silk from the ears of corn. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the corn and cook until the kernels are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a serving platter.

Serve the corn piping hot, with the cilantro-lime butter, chile powder, and salt on the side for diners to add as they like.

Serve 6.

Creamed corn is absolutely delicious made from fresh corn. A friend made some for us after the birth of one of our children and I couldn’t believe she had gone through the trouble of making it from fresh corn. But, after tasting it, I also couldn’t believe how good the corn was and decided any effort was worth the results.

This dish would be better made with fresh corn that has very tiny kernels. The corn I used had large, salt and pepper-type, kernels and I felt it was just a bit tougher than it should have been.

(adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Vegetables)
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6 ears fresh sweet corn
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced plus 1 tsp. adobo sauce (optional)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. sugar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream

Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Using a large, sharp knife, carefully cut the ear in half crosswise. One at a time, stand the halves, flat end down, on a cutting board and cut the kernels from the cob. Transfer the kernels to a bowl. Using the dull edge of a knife, carefully scrape the wet pulp from the corn cobs into the bowl.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the chipotle chiles, adobo sauce, corn kernels with pulp, oregano, and sugar. Pour in 1/2 cup water and add a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender but still has a bit of crunch, 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until the water evaporates, 2-3 minutes.

Add the cream to the pan, raise the heat to medium-low, and cook until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2-3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Transfer the corn to a warmed serving bowl and serve right away.

Serves 4.