Sweet Summer Corn Salad

The first corn of the season has hit our local market! Grilled corn is one of my favorites, it’s easy and very versatile. Here’s a great corn salad that’s easy to make and sure to impress your guests!

Layered Corn Salad
8-10 ears of corn
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch radishes
1 container frozen New Mexico green chilies, defrosted
1/2 purple onion
1/2 small sized jicama

Shuck the corn and drizzle olive oil on it, season it with freshly ground black pepper. Repeat this on all sides to get good coverage. Grill the corn over medium high heat, turning it as needed. I stay at the grill with the corn, it cooks quickly. Remove the corn and let it cool while you clean and chop the onion, radishes, and cilantro. When you can handle to corn, cut it off of the ears. Layer your ingredients in a clear serving bowl, or simply toss them together. Don’t drain too much of the liquid from the chilies, it makes a great sauce in the salad. Peel and grate the jicama, toss it with olive oil, black pepper, and ground cumin, then use it to top the salad.

You can easily make this salad into a meal by adding layers of black beans. Other great additions to consider: salsa, tomatoes, green onions, grated cheddar cheese, crumbled feta, quinoa, or farro.

Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!


Muse Style Madras Curry

How do you feel about eggplant? I love it, but I’m starting to think that it’s a a love it or hate type of food. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s baked, grilled, mashed, cubed, sliced, or pureed, I’ll eat and love it. Long ago a vegetarian friend of mine described it as ‘comfort food’. Even if you aren’t as crazy about it as we are, you may still find it enjoyable. This is a simple method for making a spicy dinner of miniature eggplants and tofu. You can easily adjust the recipe to accommodate full size eggplants. If your Madras is hot add a side salad, or sliced cucumbers, to help balance the heat.

Curried Eggplants with Tofu

Slit the ends of mini eggplants, going both directions, up to the stem but leaving the stem in tact, and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle them with Hot Madras Curry Powder (recipe follows). Toss to evenly distribute the spices. As you place them on a baking sheet, or tray to take them to the grill, stuff each one of them with a dried red chili, a cherry tomato, or anything else to help keep them slightly open. If any of them look dry on the inside then drizzle a little more olive oil into the opening. Save the bowl you tossed them in, you’ll use the drippings for the tofu. Smoke, roast, or grill them, at a medium low temperature until they soften to your preference.

For the curried tofu, start with a brick of extra firm tofu. Drain and dry it, and then slice it into 1/2″ slices. Rub each slice around in the bottom of the eggplant tossing bowl until it’s covered on all sides with the olive oil and madras curry powder mixture. Add more of both to the bowl if you need more. At this point you can heat the tofu and serve it, or let it set for a while to incorporate more flavor. Heat the tofu on a grill or bake in in the oven to heat it. If you heat it on the stove in a hot skillet, you would probably end up with a lovely golden crust. I was afraid that the hot chilies would release too much capsicum into the air.

For a smokey version of this dinner, both the eggplant and tofu can be cooked in a smoker. Slice the leftovers for a great addition to garden salads.


Tasteful Muse Madras Curry is a hot curry, cut back on the chilies if you want a milder batch. Make sure you have good ventilation while making this recipe. The spices will become very fragrant as they toast, and the chilies can be very strong. The recipe can be easily doubled, or tripled and it can be stored for a long time.Visit an ethnic market for the best availability and prices on whole spices.

Tasteful Muse Hot Madras Curry Powder

4 tbsp Coriander Seeds
2 tsp Cardamom Seeds
1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
1 tbsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Whole Black Peppercorns
4 inch Cinnamon Stick
6 Dried Red Chilies
10 Fresh or Dried Curry Leaves
1 tsp Ground Ginger
2 tbsp Ground Turmeric

Heat a heavy cast iron pan over medium low heat. Toast everything but the turmeric, ginger and curry leaves, for a few minutes, just until it begins to brown. Add the curry leaves and stir, letting it brown for just a little longer. Remove the spices from the pan to let them cool. After it cools, grind small batches in a a clean coffee grinder to grind everything into a fine mix.  Place the finished batches in a larger mixing bowl. Once everything is finely ground and add the ground turmeric and ginger and stir until it’s well blended. Store the curry in an airtight container in your spice cupboard.



Tropics in the Winter


Passion fruit and habañero marinated mahi-mahi, skewered and grilled with jalapeños, purple onions, and pineapple. A taste of the tropics.

Until next time… release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Eggplant Hummus

egg hummus_6363

I love eggplant, and I love hummus. So why not combine them? For this quick flavorful dip use a food processor. Drain and rinse one can of garbanzo beans, place them in the food processor. Add a dash of salt, some fresh cracked black pepper, a spoonful of tahini (optional) and a garlic clove if you like. Begin processing, you want to get this mixture smooth, add a combination of olive oil, water, and lemon juice to suit your palate. When the mixture is smooth add slices of grilled eggplant and process to your desired consistency. To grill eggplant slice them crosswise and place them in a large bowl, toss them with olive oil and a spice mix you like (curry, tandoori, mustard mix, etc.). Grill them, turning at least once, until they are soft.

Serve the eggplant hummus with vegetables, carrot stick and cucumbers, and pita bread or crackers. Just before serving drizzle the serving bowl with olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flake.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Grilled Boudins


Yesterday I received the gift of a hand delivered loaf of Boudin Sourdough, YUM!!!! You know I think this San Francisco sourdough is the best. A fresh loaf of Boudin is always a reason to celebrate, because I had guests for lunch I wanted to do sandwiches. But I wanted the sandwiches to gourmet, something worthy of a Boudin loaf.

Preheat your grill to about 300 degrees, slice your your bread to the desired thickness. Lightly brush each side with olive oil. Place the slices on the grill. When they are lightly grilled flip them, and layer roast beef or pastrami on one side and cheese on the other. Blue cheese is highly recommended. After about two minutes place the meat side on top of the cheese side, or vice versa, whichever side is easier to lift. Let them cook for a few minutes, flip them and grill to the desired level of toasting.

Remove them from the grill and serve with fresh, homemade mustard. I went with black pepper mustard, and cherry cognac mustard. These very easy grilled sandwiches are versatile, you could go with all cheese, or substitute sliced turkey or ham, any of which would be worthy of a Boudin!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!


Black Bean Polenta Stack


Here’s a dish that you can make entirely from scratch or that you can whip up quickly using packaged products – Black Beans Stacked in Browned Polenta. I served it with a halved tomato and cilantro cumin sour cream.

Slice some cooled and firm polenta, brown it on both sides in a non-stick pan. Set them aside. Heat your favorite beans. To make an nice presentation plate a slice of polenta, top it with beans and repeat. My black beans were flavored with the traditional New Mexican flavors of cumin an jalapeño. And my polenta was flavored with garlic and cilantro. You can easily alter these flavors to suit your tastes. Lima beans with ham and tomatoes pair well with cheese polenta. Red beans with a cajun seasoning pair well with chive polenta. Navy or white beans seasoned with oregano and chopped prosciutto or pancetta pair well with garlic basil polenta.  The themes are endless.

If you want to prepare the entire thing from scratch prepare your beans like your normally would. Sort, clean, and soak them overnight. Then simmer them with your desired seasonings until they are tender.

For the polenta try to find a polenta grade corn. If you can’t then you can substitute cornmeal. Polenta is actually a dish in Italy, not really a type of corn. But the corn that is used tends to be much courser than our traditional cornmeal. Follow the instructions on your polenta package, but if there aren’t any try simmering 1 cup of polenta/cornmeal in 4 cups of water for 30-40 minutes. You need to stir it almost continuously. Add seasonings toward the end, if your adding cheese add it at the very end. When all of the water is absorbed and the corn is soft you’ll have a creamy polenta. By the way, you can also replace some of the water with milk for a really creamy polenta.

The polenta is great served just like this with a variety of toppings. To me it resembles grits. But when it cools, it will become firm. Prepare a pan with the desired shape by spraying it with non-stick pray and spoon the polenta in, pressing it down and smoothing the top. Let it cool completely and then refrigerate. I used a small bread pan. Once it’s cold you’ll be able to slice it. Use a butter knife to loosen the polenta from the sides and carefully remove it from the pan. You can use a muffin pan to get perfect little polenta rounds, fill the cups half way. However you decide to shape it, there are endless options for what to do with it next. Try grilling slices of polenta topped with a meat based pasta sauce!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!


New Mexico Quinoa


Here’s another summer dish that uses those delicious New Mexico Chiles.

Cook quinoa according to the package directions (or substitute rice, pasta, or potatoes). After it’s cooked and cooled toss it with chopped tomatoes, grilled corn that’s been cut off the cob, and of course chopped New Mexico Chiles. Whisk together some olive oil, vinegar (I used a jalapeño kumquat vinegar today), and ground cumin. Drizzle this over the salad and toss until everything is evenly incorporated.

To make a salad that is hearty enough to be a meal, add cooked pinto or black beans to the mix. You’ll have a one dish meal that didn’t heat the house!

To prepare the chiles I prefer an outdoor grill. Roast them over medium high heat, turning constantly. The skins will begin to blister as they heat. Take care not to burn them all the way through, your goal is to char the outside only. As you pull them from the grill, place them in a large lidded container. Let them steam in the container until they cool. This step is critical for easy skin removal. Once the chiles are cool, peel the skin, and remove the stems and seeds. Chop them into chunks and use them in salads, eggs, sauces, etc. Once the chiles are peeled they can also be frozen in zip top bags, freeze them whole or chopped.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

Rellenos Stuffed with Beans

It’s chile season in New Mexico. Lucky for me Arizona is close enough to benefit from the abundance of fresh chiles. I recently stuffed some with left over pinto beans. Here’s how I did it:


When using New Mexico chiles you need to peel them. I like to grill them to char the outside, flip them as often as needed. You’ll notice that the skin begins to bubble. But if you just let them cool they will still be difficult to peel. So first put them in a large plastic container and seal the lid. Let them sit until they cool. Then peel the skin from them, taking care to keep them whole and not puncture the flesh. At this point you can also freeze them, whole or chopped.

Make a small slit in the side of each chile, not all the way down, just an inch or so at the top. If heat is an issue for you then you can remove the seeds but you’re more likely to damage the chile and create holes. Besides, where’s the fun in mild chiles?

Hold them up and using a small (cocktail) spoon, slowly fill them with mashed beans. Some will fill easily and some will require a little manipulation to get the beans to the end or just about to the end. Keep filling until you reach the top. Lay the chile in a baking pan and place the last spoonful of bean mixture in the opening. Don’t panic if you accidentally split one. Just keep the beans in place and gently arrange it in the pan. If that doesn’t work then grab a flour tortilla, sprinkle it with cheese, place the chile in the center, roll it, heat it, and enjoy!

Top the entire pan with a little grated cheese and bake at 350 degrees until it is hot and sizzling.


Serve the rellenos as a side dish or main course. In fact you could make a meal of these by stuffing half of then with beans and half of them with a (cooked) meat mixture! I served mine for breakfast with scrambled eggs and salsa.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have real New Mexico chile available you can substitute Anaheim peppers or Poblanos, but they just aren’t as good. Diaz Farms will ship their chiles (in my opinion some of the best in New Mexico) in 35 lb bags so if you’re serious about chile check out their on-line store. They also have pinto beans and many other regional foods, all grown in New Mexico.

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!

It’s All About the Sauce


In The Tasteful Muse, Volume Two (available soon) you’ll find a recipe for Strawberry Ketchup. Earlier this week I used this ketchup to make a barbecue sauce, you’ll have to wait for Volume Two to get that ketchup recipe but until then you can use any ketchup you enjoy to make barbecue sauce.

I covered a small pork roast with the barbecue sauce and baked it in the oven. Of course there were leftovers, hence the open top pork sandwich above.

Homemade Barbecue Sauce
In a medium sauce pan combine the following:
2 cups ketchup (preferably homemade)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons of chili powder

Let this mixture simmer for 15 to 20 minutes and then use as you would any other barbecue sauce. Adjust the spices (and heat) to please your palate by adding herbs or perhaps cayenne. You can also easily alter the flavor by using a different vinegar (try red wine or balsamic) or using honey in place of the molasses.

Summer’s almost over, make sure you barbecue while you can!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!


A Highly Educated Dog


I recently learned about a unique venture happening here in Tucson. The University of Arizona with the  Collegiate Cattle Growers Association sells beef, pork, and lamb to the public. This is a phenomenal opportunity to support the University of Arizona, purchase high quality meats, and speak directly to those that raise and process the meats. They are open on Fridays from 8AM to 6PM. There is no guarantee of any one cut being available so do yourself a favor and go early!

This week I purchased some beef brats. I’ve never had a beef brat, usually pork or a combination. They were excellent, I would prefer more heat/spice, but that can always be added with condiments. The brat held together while it was cooking and there was not an excessive amount of fat. I opted for cherry cognac mustard (recipe in The Tasteful Muse, Volume Two), purple onion and sweet relish on a piece of baguette.

Stay tuned, later this week I’ll be using the HOT Italian Sausage in… something!

Until next time… Release YOUR Bon Vivant and Savor Your Life!