Gammy Salad

Serving of Gammy Salad with tomatoes, avocado and burrata cheeseGam’s Tomato “Salad”
My grandmother was a fool for summer tomatoes. She grew them in her giant garden. And, what she didn’t eat fresh she then canned to have them all throughout the year. I could be wrong, but I think she really grew them so that she could have a sliced tomato sandwich. My mother had the same addiction. The two of them would go bananas over sliced ripe tomatoes on white bread.

I will say that they had it right in one respect. When it comes to fresh homegrown tomatoes, the simpler the better. Why would you hide all that fresh tomato flavor (that you have been craving for the past year) under way too much sauce? Nowhere was this more apparent than when my grandmother would make what my sister and I refer to as Gammy Salad.

To call it a salad would be stretching the truth quite a bit. She would slice fresh tomatoes and layer them on one side of a plate. On the other side, she would slice up avocados and arrange them artfully. She would then sprinkle a little bit of Italian dressing over both sides and finish it all off with a big dollop of mayonnaise in the center and some salt and pepper. I know what you are thinking, “You had me up until the mayonnaise.” The truth is, it’s kinda good.

Better yet…one bite of this and I am immediately transported back to summer Sunday night dinners when I was nine.

For the past week or so I have been making various versions of the Gammy salad because it’s August and my tomatoes are all turning ripe at the same time. The mayonnaise version has definitely made an appearance. But, I think my new favorite version replaces the mayo with some fresh burrata. Sometimes I include some sweet cantaloupe if I am feeling sassy.

Gammy Salad
Yields 4 servings (or more depending on how many tomatoes you use) Read more…

Grilled Corn Salad

Image of Grilled Corn Salad on a plateCorn on the Side
Summer dinners tend to be a lot easier to produce. There is very little in your fridge that can’t go on the grill. Chicken, fish, beef, and veggies can all take a turn over the flames. The same is true when it comes to your side dishes.

Since you are going through the trouble of heating up the grill, might as well get the most out of it. If you’re like me, you have garden zucchini coming out of your ears. It’s easy to toss some with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and throw it on the grill next to your steaks. Corn is another great vegetable to put on the grill. You can leave it in the husk and grill it as is for on-the-cob greatness. Or, you can grill it husk-free for the Grilled Corn Salad recipe below.

Just prep the ingredients before you start grilling and while your meat is resting, throw it all together for a tasty smokey side. Bonus points if you grill the peaches too…

Grilled Corn Salad Recipe
Adapted from Love and Lemons
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Corn Chowder

Image of a bowl of corn chowder garnished with baconSummer In The City
One of the perks of living in the Bay Area is that come the summer months, we get some of the best sweet corn from Brentwood—which is right in our backyard. I wait all year for the arrival of fresh local corn and have a tendency to overdo it in the beginning so I need to pace myself.

There is another truth in the Bay Area. Although the calendar might say June or July, there are days when it feels more like November…in Michigan. Mark Twain nailed it. Summer in the city can mean some chilly and foggy days while at the other end of the bridge the locals are melting in one hundred-degree heat. That being said, there have been plenty of evenings when we have been enjoying a lovely time outdoors when “nature’s air-conditioning” rolls in and you go hypothermic.

What I am trying to say here is that it’s not unreasonable for something like a corn chowder to be the perfect answer for a summer dinner. It combines two very Bay Area things, local corn and chilly nights. Plus it tastes good. Pair it with a lovely green salad and a nice chilled white wine from Napa or Sonoma and you have the quintessential California dinner.

Corn Chowder Recipe
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 4 servings

Our simple Corn Chowder recipe combines pureed sweet corn, sautéed kernels for added crunch, and an infusion of bacon. (If you want to make a vegetarian version of this dish, skip the bacon and use vegetable stock.) Read more…

Chili con Queso

Image of a bowl of Chili con Queso with tortilla chipsSay Cheese
My sister is a foodie just like me. Weekends are planned around baking schedules. Excuses to have a get-together are whipped up so that a certain cookbook can be taken for a test drive. Entire international vacation itineraries revolve around restaurants and the foods of far-off lands. We love good food. It is because of this love of all things culinary that she gets a rather large dose of ridicule for her love of queso.

You can call it queso, cheese sauce, or even cheese dip. But, no matter what you call it if there is a tray of semi-fresh tortilla chips with bright orange cheese sauce you bet my sister is all over them. The more bright orange and weird the queso, the better. So, it should come as no surprise that at a recent get-together there was a small, gently bubbling crockpot of queso.

The good news is that this wasn’t the queso that you pump onto chips at the ballpark. This was a different animal. This was queso that she made. And, fresh queso is a totally different experience. Yes, you might have to get past the fact that it is indeed still made with Velveeta—a product my mother only bought to put in our emergency earthquake kit. But, the results are worth it.

Real queso does not have that plasticky sheen and/or texture. Real queso is actually quite good and I will bet anyone that the loudest naysayers will be the same people who park themselves by the bowl and can’t stop eating it. (Guilty)

This is the recipe she made and it comes adapted from my favorite cookbook and restaurant Tacolicious. It’s one of their most popular items on the menu. Give it a try for Cinco de Mayo and see what you think…

Chili con Queso
Yields 12 servings
Recipe adapted from Tacolicious by Sara Deseran Read more…