September 25, 2007

Recaculating route...

Every once in a while, it occurs to me how much I've grown in the year and a half since I set up camp in my little corner of the Internets. I've joined a formidable group of men and women from around the world drawn together by our obsession with passion for goodies constructed of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. I've made some wonderful friends near and far in the process. I've honed existing skills and developed new ones, sometimes formally and others more casually. And I've had a blast along the way.

One of the surprise benefits are the various monthly events, and their ability to stretch my creativity and widen my comfort zone. Because by nature I tend to be a recipe follower. In the kitchen (as on the road) I have the confidence to create anything your heart desires (or take you anywhere you want to go)... as long as you provide a detailed, end-to-end, step-by-step set of instructions. Which before blog I would adhere to with almost a religious vigilance.

Put me behind the wheel of a car in unfamiliar territory and I still lean on "Vera" my trusty Verizon-provided GPS virtual goddess to get me there, patiently 'recalculating route' if I make a wrong turn. But in the kitchen the Sugar High Fridays, the Donna Days, the Presto Pasta Nights and even the whole Daring Baker experience have pushed my limits, helping me to spread my wings and look at a recipe as a set of guidelines rather than a rigid rule book, resulting in some creations that -- while they might not have been the vision of the recipe author -- are an interesting combination of the best of both of us.

Take this Cooking Light recipe for Fresh Corn Tart with Chipotle Cream for example. Pre-blog I would have followed the recipe literally, and probably come out with something pretty good. But a carbon copy of the magazine version. Instead, I evaluated the published ingredient list and improvised a bit:

For the Cream:
1-8 oz. container sour cream
juice of half a lime
3 chipotle chiles, minced, plus a tablespoon of adobo sauce (we like our food a little spicier than Cooking Light generally instructs)

Yes, there's more cream than we'll need for the tart. But it will taste great with a bit of cheddar atop a baked potato...

For the Tart I decided not to dirty a dozen measuring cups:
1 whole medium onion, chopped
2 whole seeded poblano chiles, chopped
half a package of leftover pork chiorizo
6 ears of corn
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of water (give or take)
salt (eyeballed at about 1/2 teaspoon)
3/4 cup dry polenta (this I DID measure)
a chunk of leftover chipotle cheddar cheese, grated
Liberal amounts of Penzeys Salsa Salad Seasoning and Ground Chipotle Pepper

I added the ingredients for the cream directly into the sour cream container, stirred well with a fork, tasted, mixed a little Salsa Salad seasoning in, tasted again, declared victory and stashed the cream in the fridge while I tackled the tart.

The biggest chore there was preparing the corn; it took about 20 minutes to clean the cobs to my satisfaction. I'm not sure how much waste the Cooking Light version would have generated; my cobs were clean and the result was probably twice "3 1/2 cups". Good think my cast iron skillet's industrial size...

From there I chopped onion and peppers, again producing a greater volume than strict adherence to the recipe would have allowed.

I spread a couple of drops of olive oil across the bottom of my heated skillet and got to work cooking the onions to a nice golden color. Added the chiles and continued to saute until they browned a bit and released a soul-satisfying fragrance.

I had pre-cooked my sausage while I was shucking corn, and I added it at this point. Added the garlic and the corn and because of the volume, I probably cooked it another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure a nice, even light-brownage. After transferring the mix to a big bowl, I mixed in the Penzeys seasonings, tasting occasionally until I was happy with the balance.

I followed the polenta instructions as published (without realizing it) -- I've been making polenta since I was about 6 years old so there's no lack of confidence there. I tossed a handful of the grated chipotle cheddar and sprinkled some of the Penzeys seasonings into the polenta before lining the skillet with it to create the tart "shell". Layered on the cheese and the corn mixture and baked at 450 for 35 minutes (cheese melted, edges crispy but not blackened).

I served this over a bed of lettuce dressed lightly with a chipotle vinaigrette. Yum.

Because this creation was loosely inspired by "Donna Day" and her sister events, I've chosen it as my contribution to Hay Hay, it's Donna Day - Equal Opportunity Tarts, hosted this month by the dynamic Sarina Nicole of TriniGourmet.

Resources used:
Organic corn and poblanos, chipotles and cheese from Whole Foods
Garlic & onion from my CSA
Clover-Stornetta organic sour cream
Penzeys Salsa Seasoning and Ground Chipotles

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KJ said...

Oh I'm just the same. My inclination is to cling to the recipe for dear life. But I've gradually become a bit more spontaneous. My amibition is to be able to just see what ingredients I've got and then create something delicious from them off the top of my head. Maybe I will get there one day.

Thistlemoon said...

Thanks for the heads up on the tart event! I agree if it wasn't for these foodie comunity events I would not have improved in my cooking and creativity the way I have! Yay for internet foodies!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for taking part in this month's round of Hay Hay it's Donna Day :) The roundup should be posted later today or tomorrow :D Stay Tuned!

Barbara said...

Dolores your tart sounds delicious. Thanks for joining HHDD.

Mansi said...

Chipotle sauce and corns sounds like a delicious combo! nice entry Dolores:)