Grilled Corn with Avocado Cilantro Sauce

When summer heats up, the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven. So let’s not. There’s plenty of delicious food to make without ever going near the oven.

This avocado cilantro sauce is my new go-to dressing for everything. And when I say everything, I really mean everything. I use it to make pasta salad with fresh corn, peppers, onions and feta cheese. We use it as a marinade and then later drizzle it on grilled chicken and flank steak, I even used it as a dip for quesadillas for my kids.

The sauce is an easy salad dressing and a little extra olive oil thins it into a nice vinaigrette. Just load up a bowl with some rotisserie chicken, greens, veggies, a hard-boiled egg, sliced avocado and a hearty drizzle of this dressing and you have an awesome cobb salad. Bright and fresh with a touch of heat and acidity; this avocado cilantro sauce is exactly what you need to make it through the dog days of summer.

I typically make a big batch of sauce at the beginning of the week and store it in my fridge in an air-tight container for at least a couple of days. I use it as needed and try and always make sure to have the ingredients on hand to make more when I run out.

Avocado Cilantro Sauce

• 1 small walla walla sweet onion

• 2 cups tightly packed cilantro leaves (about two bunches)

• 2 cloves garlic, peeled

• 1 jalapeno, seeded

• ½ cup olive oil

• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

• 1 avocado

• Juice of 2 limes

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

Give the onion, garlic and jalapeno a rough chop. In a food processor, combine the onion, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno and avocado. Pulse the ingredients a few times so they begin to break down. Add the red wine vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Turn the food processor back on and while it runs, slowly pour the olive oil in until the ingredients are well-combined, and you get to your desired consistency. I like my sauce on the thinner side, so I use the full half cup of oil but if you like a thicker sauce you can use less.

I’ve tried to grow corn in my garden for years now but somehow every year the bugs win and I am left with a couple ears of sad half-eaten corn. This year, I threw in the towel, corn is four for a dollar at my favorite fruit stand and I’ve never once found a bug. Problem solved.

I needed an easy side dish to go with grilled burgers and this recipe for a riff on street corn ended up being a family favorite. If you don’t feel like grilling your corn on the barbecue, you can always boil the corn cobs in a big pot of salted water for a couple minutes.

Grilled Corn with Avocado Cilantro Sauce

• 6 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned

• 2 tablespoons butter, melted

• Avocado cilantro sauce

• 2 tablespoons Cotija cheese, crumbled

• Cilantro leaves

• Salt and pepper

Lightly brush corn with melted butter. Over medium heat, grill corn on the barbecue until the corn is lightly charred on all sides. Remove from heat immediately.

On a tray lined with parchment paper, drizzle or generously brush corn with avocado cilantro sauce. Sprinkle the corn with cotija cheese, cilantro leaves and a dash of salt and pepper.

The Best Summer Salads

It’s hot this week. And I don’t know about you but when it gets hot like this, the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven or even the barbecue. I want meals to be simple and fresh. And as much as I would like to eat ice cream for every meal, I grudgingly accept that’s probably not the healthiest choice, even on the hottest days.

This week I’ve got three salads to share with you. These are my go-to summer salads. Chances are if you invite me to a barbecue at your house I’ll show up with one of these recipes. All three salads are light and delicious. They use the best of the produce that’s available locally right now and chances are, you probably have almost all the ingredients at your house right now.

The fresh corn salad is a crunchy, slightly sweet salad that just gets better and better the longer it sits. Use this recipe as a guide but make it your own. The watermelon feta salad is one of my favorites. I make a riff on this recipe probably once a week and even my kids have started eating it. I love to swap the fresh red onion for pickled red onions if I happen to have a batch in my refrigerator. And finally, the cucumber salad is one of my husband’s favorites. I keep a batch in the fridge for him and he snacks on it all week. It’s cold and refreshing and easy to throw together in just a couple minutes.

Fresh Corn Salad

• 6 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob

• 1 red pepper, diced

• ½ walla walla onion, diced

• ¼ cup fresh basil, minced

• ¼ cup olive oil

• 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

• Salt and pepper to taste

Shuck the corn and using a sharp knife, cut the corn from the cob. No need to cook the corn, if you buy it at the farm stand it’s so fresh and sweet, it doesn’t need to be cooked. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients, stirring well. Leave on the counter or cover and put in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to intensify. This salad tastes best when made a few hours ahead of time. Cherry tomatoes are an easy swap for the red pepper and a sprinkle of feta cheese is delicious with this salad.

Watermelon Feta Salad

• 3 cups seedless watermelon, diced into bite size pieces

• 8 cups spring greens or arugula

• ½ cup crumbled feta

• ¼ red onion, sliced thinly

• 2 tablespoons fresh mint

• Juice and zest of two limes

• ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar

• ½ cup olive oil

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl layer the watermelon, feta and red onion over the greens. In a separate bowl combine the lime juice, zest, vinegar and olive oil. Dress the salad, sprinkle with fresh mint and salt and pepper. Serve immediately. I’ve made this salad many many times and sometimes I add avocado and crumbled bacon as well. Adding fresh basil along with the mint and swapping the feta for goat cheese is lovely too.

Quick Cucumber Salad

• 2 english cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

• ½ yellow bell pepper, diced

• ½ red onion, diced

• ½ cup rice wine vinegar

• 1-2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

• Dash of red pepper flakes

• Salt and pepper

In a bowl toss the cucumbers, bell pepper and red onion together. Pour the vinegar over the vegetables, sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add the toasted sesame oil and gently mix the vegetables with a spoon. The oil has a very strong flavor and can quickly overpower the dish. Consider adding the oil a teaspoon to get the flavor just right for your taste buds.

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

Summertime in Yakima is easily my favorite time of year; between weekly trips to the Farmers Market to outdoor concerts at Gilbert Cellar’s Hackett Ranch, hiking in White Pass under crystal blue skies and the many impromptu dinners with friends; summer is all of my favorite things: food, friends, sunshine, and fun.

My husband built a huge farm table for our back-patio years ago. These days it’s getting little rickety but nothing makes me happier than to see family and friends gathered around it. Summer just makes it all a bit sweeter, the days stretching out long, making it possible to linger around the table.

Flank steak marinated in soy sauce, lemon juice and fresh herbs grilled on the barbecue to medium rare and sliced over a bed of crunchy greens is probably my favorite go-to summer dinner party meal. It’s easy and fast and doesn’t break the budget. Marinate the steak for a few hours or up to a full day before grilling it for the most flavor.

Inspired by my favorite salad at Cowiche Canyon Kitchen restaurant, I played around with a chimichurri dressing. Full of fresh parsley and oregano with a hint of heat from a splash of hot sauce, it makes the perfect steak sauce or salad dressing.

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri

• 2-pound flank steak

• ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

• ½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

• 4 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 sprigs fresh rosemary

• Juice of a lemon

• 1 tablespoon Worchester sauce

• 1 tablespoon kosher salt

• 1 tablespoon black pepper

In a large baking dish combine all the ingredients except the flank steak, salt and pepper. Mix until combined and then place steak into mixture, turning several times to coat the entire piece of meat. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper making sure both sides are covered. Cover dish in foil and set aside for several hours or even overnight. The longer the meat marinates, the better it will taste.

Heat the barbecue to medium heat and grill each side for about 8 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly to serve.

Chimichurri Dressing

• 1 large bunch flat leaf Italian parsley

• 2 tablespoons fresh oregano

• 3 garlic cloves, peeled

• ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

• ¼ cup red wine vinegar

• 1 teaspoon hot sauce

• Juice of one lemon

• Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse the ingredients together until smooth. Taste and salt and pepper if necessary. To thin the sauce to make salad dressing, add additional olive oil.

To make the steak salad combine organic greens, cucumber, red bell pepper, mango slices, crumbled goat cheese and pickled onions.

For pickled onions slice a red onion thinly. In a bowl combine ½ cup apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 ½ teaspoons salt with 1 cup water. Pour mixture over onions and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Top the salad with slices of flank steak and drizzle the entire dish in chimichurri sauce.

Hummus with Jalapeño Pesto and Marinated Olive And Feta Salad

Almost like clockwork, every spring, I forget we ever had winter at all and decide with unrelenting enthusiasm that the only things I want to eat are fresh vegetables and berries, preferably grown in my own garden or picked up at the farmer’s market during one of our leisurely Sunday strolls. I look forward to the farmer’s market (and my favorite fruit stand) opening all year long. In the 13 years I’ve called Yakima home, it’s been a regular weekend tradition and somehow signifies to my brain ‘summer is just around the bend.’

This idea, of course, is ridiculously preposterous for multiple reasons, the main one being my garden is hit and miss on its very best year, not to mention not too much is harvest-worthy in May and June. But never mind that. My point is that my adoration for our wonderful agriculturally rich Valley goes into overdrive and only ramps up each month as the sun stays out a little longer, growing and ripening all my favorite things that grow in the dirt.

And while I wait for lovely produce to become readily available, I’ll make batch after batch of easy and delicious hummus. This hummus is smooth and hearty all on its own, perfect for dipping vegetables or pita. Typically made with garbanzo beans, hummus is a versatile Middle Eastern dip and a wonderful canvas to add additional flavors. The cilantro jalapeno pesto I’ve included here is bright and flavorful without being overly spicy. You can add as little or as much of the pesto to the hummus and save the rest for another time. Paired with the smokey, salty and rich olive and feta salad, these dishes can be served together as a hearty appetizer or separately.

One of my favorite ways to serve hummus is to spread it evenly in a shallow dish. I pile toppings high and make sure to have lots of bread for dipping. Last year I was on a cucumber and tomato salad kick but this year my go-to is this olive and feta salad.

Sometimes I’ll toss salad greens like peppery arugula and spinach with a little olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. I garnish the entire dish with the salad greens and call it dinner. With a bottle of crisp buttery chardonnay and a loaf of crusty bread, this dinner is the perfect late spring, eat on the patio, watch the sun set behind Mt. Adams meal I can think of.

Hummus

• 2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans

• ½ cup fresh lemon juice

• ½ cup tahini

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 3 cloves garlic

• Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper

Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving half a cup of the liquid. In a food processor, combine the garbanzo beans, reserved liquid, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix for a minimum of 2-3 minutes. Add an extra splash of water or lemon juice if the hummus is too thick. When the mixture is very smooth, turn the food processor off and scoop hummus into a bowl. Taste and add an additional pinch of salt if needed.

Cilantro Jalapeno Pesto

• 1 bunch cilantro

• ½ bunch parsley

• 2 green onions, trimmed into 1-inch pieces

• 1 jalapeno chili, stem and seeds removed

• 1/3 cup olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic

• Juice of 1 lime

• Salt

Combine the cilantro, parsley, green onions, jalapeno, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to break the herbs and vegetables down. With the processor running, pour in the olive oil and lime juice. When the mixture is well-combined, using a rubber spatula, transfer to a small bowl. Taste and add additional salt if needed.

To serve the hummus and pesto, make an indentation in the center of the hummus. Spoon the pesto into the indentation and swirl gently. Serve with toasted baguette, pita bread or tortilla chips.

Marinated Olive and Feta Salad

• 1 tablespoon cumin seeds

• 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 2 teaspoons lemon zest

• 1 ½ cups olive oil

• 2 cups mixed Greek olives (drained and pitted)

• 8 ounces feta cheese, cut into ½ inch cubes

• 1/3 cup minced parsley, basil and cilantro (you can use any fresh herbs you prefer)

Place the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes in a small skillet. Heat gently over medium heat for a minute or two, stirring once until the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Add the garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Stir to combine. Add the olives and feta to the bowl and gently stir. Add the fresh herbs and gently stir one more time. Cover with plastic wrap and store up to three days in the refrigerator.

Spring Salad Flatbread

As the weather begins to shift, my taste buds seem to be doing the same. I don’t want the soups and roasts that sustained us through the winter. I’m ready for fresh, light and bright flavor.

A friend of mine visited a few weeks ago and as our kids ran through the house laughing and playing, we decided we should probably feed them (and ourselves) at some point. I started rummaging through my fridge looking for things the kids would want to eat. I pulled some naan bread from the freezer and we made the kids easy cheese pizzas. Naan bread, if you aren’t familiar, is a Middle Eastern flatbread similar to a pita bread. It is soft and chewy and makes an excellent pizza crust stand-in. You can certainly make it at home but you can also buy it at your local grocery store in the bakery section. I typically keep a package in my freezer for quick meals when we need them.

We eat a lot of pizza at my house. It seems to be our go-to meal. I’m sure it has something to do with having three young kids in the house but I also like experimenting with flavors and ingredients. I’ve been dreaming about an wood fire pizza oven. We’re planning on updating our patio space a little but my husband wants a Traeger. Which, in all fairness, I could probably make some mean pizza on that too. We’ll see. It’s fun to dream about summer nights spent outside. Pizza oven or not.

I decided to take a stab at an artichoke and lemon flatbread recipe I had bookmarked as a light dinner for my friend and I. We devoured our dinner, loving the bright lemon finish with the tangy artichokes and creamy mozzarella. I set out to tweak the recipe until I got it ‘just right.’

As much as I love to make my own pizza crust when I have the time, for this recipe, the naan bread works beautifully. Artichokes marinated in olive oil (store bought in a jar), goat cheese, mozzarella and a heavy sprinkle of lemon zest create the foundation for the flatbread. When it comes out of the oven bubbly and cheesy, you pile an arugula salad tossed in lemon juice and lots of black pepper high on the pizza. The combination of the lemony greens with the artichokes and tangy goat cheese is essentially spring in a bite. Even better, if you have the ingredients on hand, this quick meal comes together in 15-20 minutes including prep and cooking.

Spring Salad Flatbread

  • 1 Naan flatbread
  • 4-6 artichoke pieces, slightly drained, rough chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lemon (you will need the juice and zest)
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the naan bread on a baking sheet or metal pizza pan. Spread the artichokes evenly across the flatbread. Sprinkle the cheeses, basil and red pepper flakes evenly over the flatbread. Zest half the lemon and sprinkle lemon zest on flatbread. Set lemon aside. Cook the flatbread for 10-12 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheeses are bubbly and melted. While the flatbread cooks, make the arugula salad. In a small bowl toss two cups of greens with lemon juice (squeeze the lemon over the greens) and a generous sprinkle of coarse salt and pepper.

When the flatbread comes out of the oven, pile as much (or little) of the salad onto the warm pizza. Slice and enjoy.

Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad

It’s official. I’m ready for spring. I’ve got patches of green grass in my yard and tulips sticking an inch or two out of the ground in my flower beds. There’s a seed catalog on the table next to my bed and I’ve started making notes on what I want to grow this year.

I’m thinking lots of tomatoes and basil, zucchini, bell peppers of every color, lots of herbs and my favorite: giant sunflowers, dozens of them if possible.

I think all this dreaming of spring got started when we ate dinner at my sister-in-law’s house over the weekend, she made the most quintessential spring meal. We had barbecued salmon and a shaved Brussel sprout salad with the biggest fruit salad I’ve ever seen. For dessert she made a lemon tart that just screamed summer days and warm evenings on the patio. We savored that lovely meal and talked about summer plans. We dreamed about hot summer days spent at the pool and fun hikes to take the kids on.

I know I’m jumping the gun a little, but a girl can dream…right? With all that talk of spring, I was in the mood for something light and refreshing. I am always looking for way to convince (trick?) my kids into eating more greens and this salad did just that.

Mixed greens and spinach are dotted with homemade sourdough croutons and a dash of grated parmesan cheese. The Caesar dressing is quick and easy to put together. It’s just tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, fresh lemon juice, a little Dijon mustard and a hint of garlic. The dressing is fresh, light and full of bright lemon flavor.

Lemon Tahini Caesar Salad with Sourdough Croutons

Croutons

  • 2-3 cups cubed sourdough bread (cut 4-5 slices of bread into 1-inch cubes)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher sea salt

Salad

  • 5 ounces mixed salad greens (spinach, kale, romaine…whatever you like)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Lemon Tahini Dressing

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Fresh ground black pepper

To make the croutons, preheat oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the cubed bread evenly in one layer on the tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sea salt and toss well to combine. Put the tray in the oven and toast the bread until golden brown on all sides, stirring the bread at least once so that the croutons cook evenly. This is a fast process, don’t walk away from your oven or the croutons will burn. About 2 minutes on each side.

For the dressing, mix the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Dijon mustard and salt in a jar. Stir until well-combined. Slowly add the water until you get your desired texture. I like a thinner dressing so I add the full 2 tablespoons of water. Stir in black pepper to taste.

To assemble your salad, combine the salad green, parmesan cheese and croutons in a large bowl. Drizzle the salad with dressing. I used about half the dressing and saved the rest in the refrigerator for another day. Toss gently. Garnish with a lemon wedge (squeeze lemon juice over individual salads). Salad serves 4-5 side salads or two generous dinner salads. A piece of grilled chicken or salmon on top the salad would make a complete and delicious meal.

Grilled Corn and Jalapeño Salad


To try and beat the smoke and heat we’ve all been enduring the last couple weeks, I’ve been loading up my kids and heading out on adventures in Chinook and White Pass. As someone who has always loved the outdoors, these last few weeks of exploring and playing with my kids has been the highlight of our summer.

I stopped in at the Naches Ranger Station on Highway 12 last week and found the staff helpful and enthusiastic. I haven’t hiked much with young kids and had no idea the access and availability to hiking and walking trails all around our region. The station has a plethora of maps, guide books, activities for kids and lots of other resources.

Our first hike was up to Boulder Cave in Chinook Pass. An easy hike for all ages, my kids had so much fun exploring the cave and nearby waterfall. A friend recommended we hike down the river where we could find a small natural waterslide. We spent hours sliding down the rock slide and splashing through the river. We ate lunch on a big rock while our shoes dried in the sun and finally drove home hours later, tired and happy from such a fun day together.

It was the simplest day but one I think we will remember for years. The adage of less is more proves true over and over again in life and certainly in cooking, especially when the ingredients are local and in peak season. My local fruit stand has corn on the cob, four for a dollar, and my family can’t get enough of the crunchy sweet vegetable.

We grill it on the barbecue and slather it in butter, or use it to make a variety of salads. A family favorite is corn, red bell pepper, fresh basil and a simple vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and a dash of sugar and olive oil. To me nothing says summer like fresh corn.

My absolute favorite flavor profile is sweet and savory together (I will always always say yes to fruit on pizza) so when I started thinking about a corn salad recipe I knew it needed to have a little heat to compliment the sweetness of the corn. After perusing lots of corn salad recipes and thinking about some incredible street corn I had last summer, this salad is what I came up with. Crunchy sweet corn gets a little heat from jalapeno but stays cool with avocados and a creamy lime dressing. Serve alongside whatever you’re grilling and everyone will be thrilled.


Grilled Corn and Jalapeno Salad

• 6 ears of corn, grilled

• 1 jalapeno, finely diced

• 2 medium avocados, diced

• 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

• 3 ounces crumbled goat cheese (cojita or feta work great too)

• ½ cup plain greek yogurt

• The juice of 2 limes

• ½ teaspoon cumin

• ¼ teaspoon chili powder

• Dash of cayenne

• Dash of smoked paprika

• 1 teaspoon kosher salt

• ½ teaspoon black pepper

Start by peeling the husk off the corn. Over medium heat, grill the corn on each side for about 2 minutes until the corn turns deep yellow and grill marks begin to appear. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When the corn is cool enough to handle, use a knife to shave the kernals off the cob into a large bowl. Gently stir in jalapeno, goat cheese, avacados and cilantro.

In a small bowl mix together lime juice, yogurt, chili powder and cumin. Pour over the corn mixture and stir until well-combined. Salt and pepper the salad, tasting to make sure the proportions are right. Add more salt or an extra spoonful of yogurt if needed. Lightly sprinkle cayenne and smoked paprika over the salad before serving.