On Saturday we had a going away party for our German au pair whose one year stint is over and heads home this coming Sunday. We had her invite her best au pair friends over and had a traditional all-american bbq with burgers and brats, a few bottles of napa wine, some american beer, corn hole and boy bands on the sonos. Knowing that Anne is one the no-carb bandwagon with us, we also wanted to add in some yummy and healthy sides.
The first dish was a good ol’ plain salad: spring lettuce mix, chopped carrots, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes with M’s favorite homemade dressing (olive oil, balsamic, mustard, plain yogurt, salt/pepper and a squeeze of lemon).
I then grilled up some sliced cremini mushrooms on our indoor grill pan. I used the indoor grill pan as opposed to the grill outside that we would be using later because mushrooms are small, yo. I wanted the grill marks but not for them to be inside the grill. I heated up the grill pan, placed the mushrooms flat on the pan without overlapping, drizzled some good olive oil over the top and some salt and pepper and let them brown. Once they started to get grill marks, I flipped them over and let them cook for a bit more. Once they were softening, I put them into a pile in the middle and squeezed on some of my favorite reduced balsamic glaze and then coated them evenly. I kept on repeating this process, transferring the cooked mushrooms into a bowl, until I had cooked enough for 15 people (which ended up being about 25 mushrooms).
My favorite dish of the bunch, though, was my corn salad. I made a variation of this for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. And it is SOOOO easy. Once again I used my favorite roasted TJ’s frozen corn. Poured a bag of it into a deep saute pan and let it defrost for a bit. While that was cooking down a bit, I ran down to my herb garden and grabbed a bunch of basil and oregano. I cleaned those bad boys up, dried them a bit and chopped them finely (a basic chiffonade is fine for both). The corn was getting warm so I added some salt and pepper, threw in a pint of cherry tomatoes, 3/4 cup of feta (reserving the last 1/4 cup until serving), a dash of red pepper flakes and the chopped herbs and cooked them down, stirring frequently as the feta can melt and burn if it isn’t being watched/stirred. At the very end, just before serving, add the rest of the feta.
A variation on this that is a bit more indulgent and that I will be making next week for a Cinco De Mayo party is what I call Mexi-corn. I use queso fresca in addition to the feta, a sh*t ton of cilantro, a bit of cumin (maybe a teaspoon), 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt and I up the red pepper flakes a teeny bit.
I’ve also make it in a savory version as well that has browned yellow onions, is cooked in a half cup of white wine, uses marjoram and thyme and cuts the tomatoes so that the juices meld into the flavor of the mash.
Overall, the sides were well received and the night was a success! I recommend a rose to go with the summery corn dish, too. Holy yum.
Not all of the salad was eaten that night…and as I had people dress their salads on their plates, I was able to save what was left for lunch for the next day. To give the greens and veggies some heft, I heated up some delicious chicken sausage, cut into disks, and cooked them with sliced red onion.
I topped the lettuce and random veg with this tasty concoction and sprinkled them with hulled sunflower seeds. I didn’t cook the sausage or onion with any oil so I used the fond on the bottom of the pan to make a fantastic dressing. I tossed some of that leftover rose into the pan, loosened up the fond, added a splash of olive oil, a splash of regular balsamic, a bit of salt and pepper, a tablespoon of plain yogurt and a tablespoon of spicy, horseradish mustard. Mixed it all up with a whisk and spooned it over the salad. It was awesome.