Stick To Your Ribs

For years, I’ve resisted the lure of corn ribs. Despite the fact that they were everywhere I turned, plastered over Instagram and Pinterest, playing on an endless loop in TikTok videos, it wasn’t hard. The whole concept was a turn off. Who really wants corn that eats like ribs, with all that sticky, messy sauce coating your fingers as much as the food? In age and wisdom, I’ve come to realize two simple truths:

  1. I need to take myself less seriously.
  2. Being messy and playful is the whole point.

The reason why it took off as a food trend is exactly why I couldn’t stand the idea to begin with, which is more of a personal failing than a dig on the social media complex. Yes, some of the appeal is novelty, like most “stunt food,” but it goes deeper than aesthetics. If you let yourself get dirty, digging in with both hands and throwing caution to the wind, you might just enjoy it.

Besides that, the technique yields effortlessly tender-crisp fresh corn with beautifully charred, lightly caramelized edges.

If BBQ isn’t your bag, there are plenty of alternative seasonings to consider for corn ribs:

To be honest, no further garnishes need apply. A touch of green scallion is nice for color and a gentle hint of allium flavor, but you can happily take those corn ribs from the kitchen to the table as is. When you want to pull out all the stops, that’s far from the only choice. Dipping sauce on the side is always welcome for a cooling contrast too.

More tasty toppings for your corn ribs includes:

An air fryer makes easy work of this recipe without heating up the whole house, but it’s a snap to toss into a conventional oven as well. Double, triple, or quadruple as needed to feed a crowd; the formula is flexible and infinitely scalable like that.

If you’re going to serve corn this summer, you might as well have fun with it. Stop worrying and learn to love the mess.

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Frying Off the Shelves

Hang on to your stockings and buckle in for a wild ride. There’s hardly time to breathe between holidays this year, coming in rapid succession one after the other. Before we can even fully digest the big Thanksgiving feast, it’s time to dive head-first into Hanukkah, looming just three days away.

Don’t panic. We can do this. I have the secret that will solve your Black Friday shopping crisis, furtive menu planning, and straining elastic waist pants all at once.

Get an air fryer.

Still the hot gift that everyone wants this season, you have no shortage of promising choices with competitive prices right now. It’s easy to understand the craze; it’s healthier than deep frying, easier to make small batches for smaller celebrations, and both quicker and crispier than conventional baking.

Once you’ve checked those presents off your list, don’t forget to save one for yourself. You’ll need it for making the best latkes ever.

Made with some smart shortcuts, prepared shredded hash browns and dried onion flakes allow almost instant gratification. These Hanukkah staples are no longer a celebration of oil, but a miracle of light; lighter choices, that is. Still, no concessions are made for flavor or texture, which remain as satisfyingly savory and crunchy as ever.

If that’s not fancy enough for you, go all out with luscious cashew creme and lentil caviar to seal the deal. No one will believe that such a luxurious take on the classic potato pancake could be so healthy. The good news is that they don’t have to; everyone will eat them up, no questions asked.

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Uncanny Casserole

Thanksgiving as we know it is an entirely modern phenomenon. Nearly every element is so far removed from the original harvest, the original pilgrims and native Americans would find the spread entirely unrecognizable. The “classic” dinner menu is more of a marketing ploy than historical homage, after all. The indispensable green bean casserole is the best example on the table.

Invented by none other than the crafty Campbell Soup Company, it hit the holiday scene in 1955 as a thrifty way to utilize canned goods. As canning technology picked up following WWII and the end of rationing, hapless housewives needed guidance on how best to work with these novel tin cans. The green bean casserole called for just six ingredients, minimal prep, and a short cook time; perfect for a party.

Quite frankly, I never saw the appeal. Mushy green beans with mushy mushrooms baked until they’re mushier? Yum…! Despite that, I’m in clearly in the minority, as the infamous casserole graces the table for over 20 millions Americans every Thanksgiving. This year, I was determined to take back the green bean casserole on my own terms.

For starters, let’s lose the cans. Modern innovations mean that fresh fruits and vegetables are no longer out of reach, no matter the season. Crisp, snappy green beans retain their crunch through a flash fry without oil, but the favorite kitchen toy of our generation: The air fryer.

Freed from their tomb of mushroom goop, the beans get a light coating of crushed fried onions in this festive twist on green bean fries. Better than breading, it infuses savory flavor into every crunchy bite, while providing a naturally gluten-free alternative to bland old breadcrumbs.

Now these slender green dippers can take center stage as an appetizer before the main event, or stand up to competition on the dinner plate as a truly stellar side. Don’t forget to whip up an extra batch of rich gravy for dunking to your heart’s content.

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Nuts About Summer Snacks

I received free samples of California Walnuts mentioned in this post. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by California Walnuts and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

Snacks make the world go ’round. On the go or at home, it’s easier to eat lots of small bites to keep hunger at bay, rather than two or three big meals. No matter whatโ€™s on the agenda, smart snacks are necessary to power through the day. Few foods come close to the powerful nutrition contained within the humble walnut. Research suggests walnut consumption may be associated with improved cognitive function thanks to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

That doesn’t mean that trail mix or raw nuts are the only options. This incredibly versatile nut is ideal for mixing seamlessly into all sorts of sweet and savory applications, or in this case, thoroughly coating some of summer’s best produce.

Unripe green tomatoes, firmer and tangier than their juicy red brethren, were born to be batter-fried. Fried green tomatoes are a time-honored southern staple that look like crispy gold coins and taste like a million bucks, too. Some use cornmeal, finely ground crackers, or breadcrumb for that gilded crunchy exterior, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to go a little bit nuts.

Pulverized walnuts create a completely gluten-free crust, further enhanced by aromatic herbs and spices. Though flavorful enough to satisfy cravings all by themselves, a dip into spicy remoulade sauce can really take these savory slices to the next level. That, too, is made from a creamy walnut base, demonstrating the full range of culinary potential locked inside each unassuming shell. Punchy paprika, horseradish, and hot sauce add flavor with firepower for a truly mouth-watering flavor sensation.

If a more substantial snack is called for, consider this the base for the most epic BLT ever. Replacing raw red tomatoes with fried green tomatoes adds heat and texture to this foolproof sandwich, and you can even use the remoulade instead of plain mayo. Piled high on soft slices of bread with crisp lettuce and umami meatless bacon, each bite is pure summertime brilliance. Now that’s a real snack with both brains and beauty.

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Finger Licking Good

Growing up, my family was never much for fast food. My parents weren’t food snobs or health nuts, they just saw the value in a sit-down meal at a casual restaurant if we were going to eat out. There were certainly sporadic trips to golden arches on occasion, especially during road trips where alternative options were few and far between. There were no forbidden foods, no deprivation, no unmet cravings; I just never really developed a taste for it.

Only later as an adult did I really come to appreciate the art of fried chicken. Of course, I was already vegan by then, having never sampled the original animal. Though it wasn’t a rule, the only thing that my mom could not abide was a trip to KFC. Emotionally scarred by a hot, greasy summer flipping the bird back as one of her first part-time jobs in her youth, we never paid Colonel Sanders a visit. The details she shared were few and far between, but it’s not hard to imagine how that kind of gig could turn someone against such deep fried delicacies.

I’m still leery of it, not so much for the health aspect, but for the heat, mess, and waste. It’s already sweltering here in central Texas, and it will only get worse. The last thing I need is to steam up the kitchen while redecorating the walls with oily splatter. No thanks! This sounds like a job for the air fryer.

Taking everyone’s favorite, most versatile vegetable, cauliflower stars in this classic comfort food. Coated in a light, crisp batter infused with eleven herbs and spices, the secret formula is one I’m quite happy to divulge. Instead of buttermilk, I use yogurt to add tangy flavor and tenderness, amplified by a splash of lemon juice and balanced by the sweet kiss of maple syrup. It’s a delicate harmony in every bite.

If you’re craving something a bit more meaty, never fear. You can use the same batter to blanket tempeh, tofu, rehydrated soy curls, or any of your favorite chicken alternatives. I can’t lie, I really love using cauliflower because that way, I can still call it “KFC” – Kentucky Fried Cauliflower.

This fresher, lighter, easier rendition won’t leave grease on your hands, but it’s still finger licking good!

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A Serious Queso the Munchies

February is upon us. Are you ready for some football?!

Okay, me neither. I am, however, ready for an afternoon of entertaining commercials paired with some winning snacks. Who could pass up the opportunity to make a meal of chips, dips, and various fried delights?

Combining those cravings into one compact comfort food canapรฉ, I was inspired by the Twin Dragon Asian Wrapper Recipe Challenge to transform classic queso into easy, cheesy rangoons.

Chips are merely crunchy vehicles for loading up on dip, so let’s cut straight to the good stuff and double down on the filling instead. Score big points by baking or air frying these savory morsels for an equally crispy finish, without all the grease.

Whether you’re watching the game or happily grazing through the event, these spicy little pouches will be the MVPs of the day.

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