Jalapeño-Cheddar Skillet Cornbread

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

I love Bread. I love Corn. But I’ve never really LOVED cornbread.

Odd, I know.

I think it’s because most of the cornbreads I’ve sampled always had some major flaws…..either too dry, too sweet—or, just lacked flavor.

But there have been some times that I’ve tasted different versions and I’ve thought—-huh, that’s not bad at all. When it comes down to it, I prefer the ones that aren’t overly sweet but have a lot of good corn flavor. I also like the ones that have nice crispy edges.

Turkey and Bean Chili

So when I made a big ol’ pot of chili for some friends the other weekend for the big game, it just seemed right to serve it with cornbread. They go hand in hand, right?

My take below is still a work in progress but I think it’s almost there. The key components are lots of Jalapeños , whole corn kernels, cheese—and of course, the crispy edges from the cast iron skillet. Yummers.

There’s definitely still room to tweak this cornbread to make it the ultimate real deal but I barely had enough time to snap a few pictures of it before my friends inhaled it. And I mean all of it! :)

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Jalapeño-Cheddar Skillet Cornbread

Ingredients:

1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Yellow Cornmeal
1½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
4 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled, divided
3-4 Jalapeño Peppers, seeded and minced
¼ Cup Scallions, chopped
1 Cup Corn Kernels

Place a 9 inch cast iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the cheese and gently toss.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and 4 tablespoons of butter.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until all items are well incorporated. Fold in the jalapeños , scallions, and corn.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Pour the remaining butter into the bottom of the skillet and swirl around to cover the pan. Be careful as butter may splatter. Pour the batter into the skillet. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the center is firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema

Grilled Shrimp Tacos


San Diego is the land of fish and seafood tacos.

And since moving here, I’ve had my fair share of them. Deliciously fresh seafood combined with bright salsas and spice—- all wrapped up in flour or corn tortillas.

Perfection.

So it was high time that I share with you one my favorite (and easy) seafood tacos that I love to make—Grilled Shrimp Tacos.

Grilled Shrimp Tacos

To add even more oompf to these tacos, I made a Spicy Avocado Crema using Mexican Crema. Mexican Crema–or Crema Espesa is similar in flavor and consistency to Crème fraîche. Its natural cooling effect works wonders to balance spicy tones and is even more fantastic with the addition of the creamy avocados, cilantro, and jalapeno.

Fish would be just as fantastic in these tacos using the same marinade and method—however, if you do go this route, be sure to use a firmer fish that would hold up in the taco. I personally like the “bite” of texture that the shrimp give in these tacos but to each their own!

And in case you’re wondering, my suggested cocktail pairing for these killer tacos would be a Cadillac Margarita or an icy cold Mexican Beer with Lime & Salt. :)

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Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Avocado Crema  

Ingredients:

Spicy Avocado Crema:
1½ Cups Ripe Avocado, diced
½ Cup Mexican Crema (or Crème fraîche )
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 Teaspoon Jalapeno Pepper, finely diced and seeded
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

Shrimp:
1 Pound Large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 Teaspoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
¼ Teaspoon Red Chili Flake
2 Pinches Cayenne Pepper
2 Pinches Ground Cumin
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
Kosher Salt

Serve with:
Tortillas
Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo
Fresh Cilantro Leaves
Lime Wedges

Prepare the Spicy Avocado Crema by combining all the ingredients in a food processor. Puree until thoroughly combined. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prepare shrimp by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl and marinate for 10 minutes. If using an outdoor grill, skewer the shrimp on soaked bamboo sticks.  If using an indoor grill pan, heat over a medium-high flame. Grill shrimp for 1-2 minutes on each side until opaque. Remove from grill and place on a large platter.

Warm tortillas in a skillet. Assemble tacos by placing a layer of the Corn Pico de Gallo in a tortilla and top with the grilled shrimp. Drizzle the Spicy Avocado Crema over the top and sprinkle with cilantro. Enjoy!

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

I love Condiments.

Hot sauces, dips, salsas, flavored ketchup, sauces…… I’m completely obsessed. No salsa bar is safe from me and I am without a doubt the reason why many food spots charge extra for sauces these days.

But when condiments can also be considered a “dip” or even a side dish—-well then it’s brilliant! And my Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo does just that!

Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Traditional Pico de Gallo is known for its bright flavors from the citrus and cilantro. These components play so well with the slight heat from the chilies and coolness of tomatoes. To add a different flair, I threw in fresh corn for a bit of sweetness and crunch. The whole combination married so well together and for me, depicted summer at its best.

This Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo is extremely versatile as well. Serve it as a dip with chips or veggies. Layer it in tacos or over freshly grilled meat or fish. You can even serve it as a side dish!

But one thing is for sure, be sure you make A LOT of it because you will definitely gobble it all up!

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Fresh Corn Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:

2 Cups Fresh Tomatoes, diced and seeded
1 Cup Whole Corn Kernels
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
¼ Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
½ Tablespoon Serrano Chili, finely diced and seeded
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lime Zest
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
1-2 Pinches Ground Cumin
Kosher Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Corn Chowder and a Photo Quandry

In the age of Digital Cameras, photography novices (and I mean ME!) rely on taking hundreds of shots in hopes of getting 1 or 2 photos we like. It’s so easy to snap a photo, take a quick peak, delete, re-shoot….repeat.

Sure, I play around with aperture settings, ISO, composition, blah-blah-blah. But most of it’s trial and error. This especially occurs when I shoot food photos. I often torture loved ones by making them wait until I’ve snapped the thousandth photo before they can dig into their plates. It’s a sad thing.

So I decided to challenge myself the other day……. take only ONE shot of a dish. One quick click without any do overs.

The subject of the photo—a Corn Chowder to take the chill off the cold days we’ve been having.

Sadly, it definitely wasn’t a great photo.  But alas, I had to stick to my guns—- though I had a quandary on my hands. Even though the photo was BLEH the Corn Chowder turned out so darn tasty and tummy warming. If I scrapped the photo, I would have nothing to show you Friends.

Alas….here it is….

 

Corn Chowder

 

Meh……

Not my best work but I’m a work in progress. And although I’m glad to have challenged myself, next time I will continue to click away. Let’s face it….that’s why I bought a digital camera in the first place :)

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Corn Chowder
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Cups Russett Potatoes, diced
1 Cup Corn Kernels
½ Cup Carrots, finely diced
½ Cup Celery, finely diced
½ Cup White Onion, finely diced
2 Whole Garlic Cloves, finely diced
3 Strips Bacon, finely diced
2 Dried Bay Leaves
1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme Leaves
1 Quart Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3/4 Cup Heavy Cream
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a heavy bottom pot, cook the bacon slowly until crisp and the fat has rendered out—about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate covered with a paper towel.

In the same pot with the bacon grease, add carrots, celery, and onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, potatoes and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring liquid to a boil and then cover and lower heat to a steady simmer.

Continue to simmer until the potatoes become tender—about 15-20 minutes. Once this has been achieved, use a wooden spoon to smash some of the potatoes against the sides of the pot to release some of the starch into the liquid. Stir in the corn and cream and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and discard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle the tops with the crisped bacon.

Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad

Roasted Corn & Avocado Salad

 

I’m always trying to incorporate a new side dish when making old favorite entrees—especially if that new side dish can offer a lighter alternative to the usual. So when the bf decided to fire up the BBQ to make his delicious Grilled Skirt Steak with a Chimichurri Sauce, I wanted to find a pairing that wasn’t heavy to accompany this delish entrée.

 

Roasted Corn & Avocado Salad

Sweet White Corn was in abundance at our local grocery store, so I picked up a couple ears and a few Haas Avocados in hopes of pulling together a bright salad to accent the Chimichurri. By grilling the corn, it gave a wonderful smoky flavor that paired so nicely with the smooth texture of the avocados and the bright vinaigrette. I also do a short cut when cooking the corn—by wrapping it in damp paper towels and throwing it in the microwave for a few minutes, you can cut down cook time on the grill. And let’s be honest, short cuts are blessings in the kitchen sometimes.

And how did it turn out? Instant, easy hit.

 

Roasted Corn & Avocado Salad

 

Next time you’re looking for a simple side dish to pair with some grilled goodness, give this Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad a try—it may just make you forget about coleslaw and potato salad.

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Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad
Serves approximately 3

Ingredients:

vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon lime juice
zest of ½ a lime
½ tablespoon finely minced shallots
1 finely minced garlic clove
1 tablespoon minced cilantro leaves
½ teaspoon honey or agave
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

kosher salt
ground pepper
3 ears sweet corn, grilled and removed from the cob
1 cup ripe avocado, diced
fresh cilantro leaves
lime wedges

In a small bowl, combine vinaigrette ingredients and whisk together until  emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a large bowl, carefully fold the corn and avocados together.  Add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the salad. Check seasonings, add additional salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with cilantro leaves and lime wedges. Serve at room temperature.

**Photos updated May 2014