Elote Corn Salad

A dish of elote corn salad
I’ve been cleaning house here. Tidying up. I’ve been sharing my thoughts (and baked goods) on this site since May 30, 2008. Twelve years. Twelve. Years. This was my very first post. Two-Bit Tart didn’t start out as a food blog. It didn’t start out as anything more than a place to share the thoughts that cluttered my brain and a safe place to exercise my desire to write. I was still practicing yoga then, still dabbling with Buddhism. I had lost my father, but my mother was still alive, although Alzheimer’s was already robbing her mind. I shared it all here. This blog saw me through culinary school in 2009 and was my therapist in 2011 when a breakup hit me much harder than was warranted. I finally shared my blog’s existence with family and friends in 2016. Before that, it was my secret.

My very personal history is in these posts, but it’s time. It’s time to cull the words that no longer represent me, my pathetic early attempts at food blogging, my poorly written pabulum of self-absorption. Most will stay, but it’s time to allow parts to fly away. It’ll be a process, but most things worth doing usually are.

Someone once asked me why I so enjoy purging my home of the stuff that collects there. Purging allows me to make space, whether it’s a shelf, or a cabinet, or even an entire room – space for hope, for possibilities, for growth. I want this blog to be ready for any and all of those things, too.


Elote Corn Salad

  • Servings: 8-10 Servings
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A creamy salad with all the flavors of Mexican street corn, perfect for BBQs.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. frozen corn
  • ¾ cup crumbled cotija cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Mexican crema
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice, plus zest from one lime
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler. Defrost corn and broil until lightly browned, stirring once, about 8-10 minutes total. Do not roast too much, or corn will become crispy.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add the corn and stir to combine. Serve at room temperature.

Tropical Fruit Salsa

Tropical Salsa
“That one should be disqualified – that’s not salsa. It’s good, but it’s not salsa,” He whispered while pointing to her Tupperware container.

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, her office was holding their annual salsa-making competition. Never one to go the traditional route, she had decided on a Tropical Fruit Salsa – a twist on the same ol’ tomato, onion, and chilies. She knew her flavor combinations weren’t for Everyman – and now there was “controversy” over whether her tropical fruit version was actually even salsa.

She smiled to herself – always seeming to end up in some sort of controversy. She knew it was good, even thrown together in 20 minutes the night before – even if most of them didn’t “get” it. Hers was only Tupperware actually empty at the end.

She couldn’t wait for the annual chili cook-off.


Tropical Fruit Salsa

  • Servings: about 4 cups
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A cooling tropical salsa that pairs well with warm summer days and backyard barbecues. Choose ripe fruit for the best flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups mango, chopped
  • 1 cup kiwi, chopped
  • 1 cup pineapple, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 – 1 ½ fresh serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, slightly crushed
  • ¼ t. salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine mango, kiwi and pineapple.
  2. In a small bowl, combine red onion, cilantro, serrano chile, lime juice, cumin seeds and salt. Pour over tropical fruit.
  3. Let salsa sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Adjust seasoning and serve with tortilla chips or freshly grilled fish.

Crispy Burnt Rice

Crispy Burnt Rice

Dining out at an inspired chef’s restaurant simultaneously motivates and chastens me.  Often, I end the night well satiated yet lamenting, “Why can’t I come up with a meal like that?’  This is one of those dishes.   In the mind and hands of a creative chef, this all-too-common kitchen disaster – burning rice –morphs into a crispy nutty culinary epiphanic filling for lettuce wraps.  After munching down a few wraps, I couldn’t wait to purposefully burn my rice at home.  Why couldn’t I come up with that?


Crispy Burnt Rice

Burning the rice doesn’t have to be a bad thing – this nutty version is the perfect crispy base for Asian lettuce wraps.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Calrose rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Rinse rice with water until it runs clear. Combine rice with 1 cup water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove rice from heat and let steam, with lid on, for another five minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat about 30 seconds until vinegar is hot and sugar has dissolved. Transfer rice to a large greased baking dish and let cool slightly. Drizzle with vinegar and pat rice evenly into dish, about ¼ – ½ inch thick.
  3. Preheat broiler. Broil rice 6-10 minutes, turning baking dish as needed, until rice is golden brown with areas of dark brown on top. The rice should be crispy on top and slightly chewy underneath. Break into pieces.
  4. Serve as a base for lettuce wraps or as a crunchy counterpoint in Asian salads.

Burnt Rice

Burning rice on purpose

Pickled Carrots

Homemade Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Like a tennis player that’s been training all year for their first match, I walk into the kitchen, full of bravado, throw the culinary ball into the air, serve it across the net and hear the words “FAULT,” followed by the words, “DOUBLE FAULT,” soon after.

Two cookie recipes in as many days – two epic fails.

Disappointment. It’s officially six days into Cookie Baking Season and I feel like a big o’ Failure. I’m a baker above anything else and this should be my time to SHINE, rather than falter. Blame the recipe. Blame the quality of the ingredients. Blame my mindset. I sound like John McEnroe.

My first attempt, an anise-scented honey cookie lightly glazed and decorated with candied orange peel, was an unmitigated disaster. The texture was all wrong – too dense – and the anise too strong, resulting in a cookie reminiscent of those hard Scandinavian licorice lozenges.

The second recipe, baked yesterday, was supposed to be delicate sandwich cookies filled with mint and dipped in milk chocolate. I was hoping for an elevated version of Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (an addiction of mine) crossed with a Girl Scout Thin Mint. What I actually created were misshapen oval disks sandwiching a dollop of minty goo similar to Crest toothpaste. I didn’t even bother with the chocolate dip – in to the trash they went as well.

Rather than squander another pound of butter, I thought I would take a break today, step away from the cookies, and try something else entirely – something that didn’t require baking. I settled on these spice-laden pickled carrots – a better late-night snacking option to a plate of cookies anyway. An array of colorful pickled veggies like these, using a variety of spice combinations, would make a great alternative to the standard holiday crudité platter – no baking required.


Pickled Carrots

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
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This pickling recipe would work with whatever fresh veggies you happened to have on hand – cauliflower, onions, beans, or beets – to name just a few.

Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6-8 carrots, peeled, cut into sticks and lightly blanched
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon salt
  • Hot water

Directions

  1. Divide garlic, thyme, mustard seeds, allspice berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks,peppercorns and cloves between two quart jars. Pack blanched carrot sticks tightly into jars.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt and heat until boiling. Pour hot liquid into jars filling ¼” from top. If there isn’t enough vinegar mixture, fill remaining space in jars with hot water.
  3. Close jars and refrigerate at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

Summer Lentil Salad

A spoonful of Summer Lentil Salad
Lentils, with a shape somewhat resembling coins, are symbols of riches and prosperity in Italy. After eight long years, we have finally sold my childhood home this week. What better way to celebrate this little boon than with these symbols of financial good fortune?

Rather than the golden-egg-laying goose the house was expected to be, it morphed into an albatross that created unanticipated familial stress over the last eight years. My oldest sibling wanted to sell immediately, during the real estate collapse, while another mentioned keeping it for 45 years. I managed, surprisingly, to remain neutral over most of the years (caught up in my own personal turmoil, I suppose) until last year – then my exasperation bubbled up, boiled over. Get me out of here – I want to take my share and run! Trouble with the tenants, damage to the property, lawsuits and disagreements between us brought me to the verge of walking away. This house and all its complications was my last fetter to my siblings. Now, no longer financially shackled, I can, should I chose to, slip away never to be found again. Not that I want to, but there’s something liberating in realizing that I could.

Tonight, before I celebrate with my lentil salad, I say thank you to my mom and dad for making this financial provision. I am grateful for this good fortune and I hope to use my portion in a manner that will make them proud.


Lentil Salad

This salad is best served at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • ⅓ cup red pepper, chopped
  • 1 large or two small carrots, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • ⅓ cup onion, chopped
  • ¼ head cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • ½ cup Feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, thyme, garlic, sugar and Dijon. Add olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Set dressing aside.
  2. Cook lentils according to package directions.
  3. While lentils are cooking, in a medium size skillet over high heat, sauté corn, red pepper, carrot and onion until softened and onions are translucent. Do not brown.
  4. Place cabbage in a large bowl.  Drain lentils.  Cover cabbage with warm lentils and sautéed vegetables to help soften cabbage. While salad is still warm, fold in dressing and feta cheese. Cover salad and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavors to meld. Before serving, season with salt and pepper.