There’s something about fresh-picked corn (and tomatoes and peaches) at roadside stands in New Jersey that makes my car immediately pull to the side of the road. Last weekend, on the ride home from the Shore, the signs reading “Fresh Corn - $2.99 a Dozen” forced me to make a bee-line to the roadside produce stand. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Jersey corn is coming into season, and ready for harvest.
Within the span of one month, our neighborhood got two new residents. My family moved in just weeks before my next-door neighbor, Jeannette, did. Besides being a nice neighbor, Jeannette is a wonderful artist who shares her talents with many of us each week at art class. She’s a patient teacher and a gracious lady. I couldn’t have asked for a better neighbor, even if she were Mr. Rogers.
Our neighbors are down the shore.
While the bounty of summer fruits has ended, dried fruits offer a healthy alternative and are a good choice when fresh fruits aren’t available. Dried fruits are devoid of the water content that is so characteristic of fruits. Fruits are dried by drawing out the water content, either by sun-drying or using specialized machines. Once in their dried phase, the fruits can be stored for a longer period of time and continue to provide basic nutrients. Some of the most common dried fruits are apricots, raisins, plums, dates, prunes, cranberries, blueberries and figs.
After years of creating recipes, shopping and cooking, even a Kitchen Diva needs to update her old favorites from time to time. It’s amazing how changing a few ingredients and adding new spices and herbs can revive an old recipe. I’ve decided to update my Chicken and Rice Salad by giving it a Mexican twist. I’m adding flavorful herbs and spices to change the flavor profile of the dish. The black beans and avocados give the salad a creamy, buttery texture and add additional protein and nutrients. Nutrients found in avocados include vitamin E, vitamin C, lutein and the B vitamins folate, B-6, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and niacin — all of which have been shown to be good for hair and skin. Be selective about the avocados you use in this salad. An avocado is ready to serve when the skin turns from dark green to nearly black and yields when pressed gently with a thumb. Firm avocados will ripen in a day or two at room temperature in a brown paper bag on your kitchen counter. Ripe avocados can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. Try this updated Avocado, Chicken and Rice Salad dish, and feel free to think outside of the recipe box the next time you prepare an old family favorite. AVOCADO, CHICKEN AND RICE SALAD 2 cups cooked long-grain white rice 2 ripe avocados 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1 (15 ounce) can black beans 3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces 4 green onions, root ends removed and discarded, white and green parts, chopped 1 teaspoon chili powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 cup Italian dressing 1 cup cherry tomatoes 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional 1. Prepare rice according to package directions. Dice avocados and toss with lemon juice; set aside. Rinse and drain black beans. When the rice is ready, stir in chicken, beans, green onions, chili powder, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Add Italian dressing and toss well to combine. 2. Pour into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Add the avocados and cherry tomatoes, tossing gently to combine. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired. Makes 6 servings. ***