Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Corn Salad

This weekend, I ventured to a wondrous farmer's market in Clintonville.  Carts upon stalls upon tents of plump, fresh produce glistened in the morning sun.  Large slabs of local meats and bratwurst contrasted against colorful, country bouquets of wildflowers, sunflowers and poppies, all of which were proudly presented by friendly farmers, eager to share their wares.  I sampled my way through in the true O'Gara way, trying cheeses and dips and even a raspberry dragonfruit soda (a must at my next dinner party).  Christian and I allotted ourselves a whopping $20 and filled our sack with all kinds of goodies, including cherry tomatoes, heirlooms, blackberries and whiskey peppercorn sausages.  With our last $1.50, we even bought a few flowers that are sitting happily on our bar.  We've already decided we're going back again on Saturday.

With our finds at the market, a few stragglers in the fridge and some herbs from our balcony, I made a simple summer salad of corn, tomato, onion, mint & feta.  This summer salad is fresh and bright, healthy and local.  Make this your side dish the next time your grill this season for a delicious, seasonal treat.

Summer Corn Salad

2 Ears of Corn, shucked
1/2 Pint of Cherry Tomatoes, preferably the multicolored kind
1/4 of a Red Onion
1/3 C. Feta Cheese, crumbled
10 Mint Leaves
Olive Oil
Apple Cider Vinegar

Turn on the grill to medium high heat.  

Generously drizzle the corn with olive oil, salt & pepper.  Grill over medium high heat until many of the kernels have turned golden.  Carefully slice the kernels off the cob and into a large bowl, making sure to collect any milk from the cob.  *SEE TIP BELOW.

Halve your cherry tomatoes and toss them in with the corn.  Thinly slice the red onion and add to the tomatoes and corn.  

Add the feta, a drizzle of olive oil and a tiny splash of vinegar.  Quickly toss the veggies and feta in the oil and vinegar, so they are evenly coated.  

Holding the mint leaves in the palm of your hand, clap your other hand on top, smashing the mint leaves between your palms.  This will release their oils and add fragrance to your salad.  Sprinkle the leaves on top of the salad.  


To slice the kernels off the corn cob, place a small bowl upside down in a large bowl.  Stand the corn vertically on the base of the small bowl.  Carefully, slice down the side of the cob, letting the kernels cascade into the bowl.  Then, take the back of your knife and scrape the cob in a downward motion, to collect all of the milk left in the cob.  Remove the small bowl and voila!  You've got a bunch of fresh corn in your bowl and a clean station.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Breakfast Tacos

Despite it being the most important meal of the day, I rarely get hungry early enough to enjoy breakfast.  Except, that is, on the weekends.  I love waking up lazily, when my body has rested of its own accord.  I'll boil some water on the stove (we don't have a microwave in the new apartment), grind some coffee beans and brew a cup of joe before heading out to our balcony.  It's truly the perfect way to greet the day.

In contrast to my tardy appetite, moments after Christian wakes up, he's ready for breakfast.  So, once that coffee has trickled through my veins, we pillage the fridge for eggs, breakfast meat and whatever else we can whip into a worthy meal.  Breakfast tacos have been a recent favorite.  Quick, versatile and flavorful, these breakfast tacos are a great way to transform those last bits of ingredients in the fridge into a simple, delicious meal.

Breakfast Tacos

The Tacos:
4 Small, White Corn Tortillas
1/4 lb. Spicy Breakfast Sausage
4 Eggs
1/4 C. Chihuahua or Feta Cheese
Crema (Recipe Follows)
The Green (Parsley or Cilantro)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Cook the breakfast sausage, breaking it into small crumbles until it's brown and crispy and cooked through.  Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel.

Over an open flame, carefully heat your tortillas to give them that authentic char.  Flip with tongs so both sides brown.  If you don't have a gas range, just warm them up so they're pliable and don't crack when you fold them.

Cook your eggs any way you like.  I like mine over-medium.

To assemble your tacos, place an egg on each tortilla.  Sprinkle with the crumbled sausage.  Spoon the crema over each taco.  Top with cheese and the green.  Serve with rice.

The Crema:
1/4 C. Sour Cream
1/4 C. Tomatillo Salsa
The Green (Parsley or Cilantro)

For the crema, blend together the sour cream, salsa and the green.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Modern Speakeasy & The Wasabi Deviled Egg

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of working with the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation to produce a fundraiser that raised money for pediatric cancer research.  It was a whirlwind project that we completed in January and it was a TOTAL success!  The event raised more than $600k to help kiddos with cancer.  In addition to giving back, this event was a grand party to celebrate the NHL team, the city of Columbus and to blow people away.  And it did.

It all took place at the Columbus Athenaeum where we created a pop-up speakeasy called The Crease, where Being Bad Does Good.  Guests entered a dark, empty lobby and gave a password to a stoic bouncer, who surreptitiously ushered them in.  Guests navigated through the backstage entrance where performers readied themselves in front of giant mirrors, vocalists warmed up, dancers practiced their moves.  There were even a few sharks playing cards before their debut on stage.  This greeting was definitely not what guests expected.  It set the perfect stage for a night of wonder, disbelief and whimsy.

Guests were invited into the actual party by none other than Johnny DiLoretto, The Crease's proprietor for the evening.  The lights were low, the music was loud and guests were immediately catapulted into full swing party mode.  The decor was a purposeful hodgepodge of glitz and glamor and rustic, comfy chairs.  A golden dance floor reflected the moody lights and a giant bar flooded guests with unique and old-fashioned libations inspired by Columbus' own Logan Demmy.

Creative talent sang and danced the night away.  From Maiya Sykes, to dance performances choreographed by Leigh Lotocki, to... wait for it...yes, even a fire eater, this event had it all.   Oh, and Sara Bareilles showed up for a surprise concert at the end of the night.  All in all, this event was a huge success.  It unveiled the creative side of Columbus' philanthropy that I think has set a new bar for future fundraisers and good-doers.

Now, no party that I've ever been to is complete without food.  This was no exception.  I had the pleasurable task of working with the chef at the Athenaeum to create the menu at The Crease.  Inspired by the 1920's, Moulin Rouge and a little bit of Circus, the food at The Crease was marvelously fitting.  We opted to go with heavy appetizers and finger foods, much like you would have seen at cocktail parties back in the day.  Deviled eggs and artisan toasts were given a modern twist.  Exotic curries and Peking wanton cups brought intrigue. Even London broil lollipops made a whimsical appearance.  This party had so much to offer.  The food was the cherry on top.

Wasabi Deviled Eggs

All of the food at The Crease was top notch, but I thought it only fitting to share the recipe for our client's favorite dish:  the Wasabi Deviled Egg.  Who would have thought that wasabi would taste good in an egg?  Well, trust me.  It does.  These deviled eggs are easy, impressive and over the top, with a modern, spicy punch.  Bon App├ętit.  

6 Eggs
1/4 C. Mayonnaise
1 t. Wasabi Paste
Pickled Ginger (like you'd find at a sushi restaurant)
Toasted Panko, for garnish
Parsley, for garnish

Place 6 eggs in a pot and cover them with water.  Turn on the heat to high and bring the water to a rapid boil.  Boil for 15 minutes and remove the pot from the heat.  Let it cool for 5 minutes.  Run the eggs under cool water until they can be handled.  Crack and remove the shells and slice the eggs in half.

Pop out the yolks into a medium bowl. Add the mayo and wasabi. Season to taste with more mayo and wasabi.

Fill each egg white with a tablespoon of the wasabi mixture. Top with a piece of ginger and sprinkle with panko and parsley.