Field to Feast: Corn

Does anything say “Summer’s here!” better than corn? When I spied it at the Bialas Farms booth a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t believe my eyes — an early harvest! Apologies to the Christmas crowd, but I think this is the most wonderful time of the year, at least in the kitchen. (But if you can’t bear the thought of standing over a pot of water in this heat, please don’t miss Kasha’s brilliant idea to keep cool while cooking fresh corn. I can’t wait to try it.)

I like to get creative later in the season, when seeing corn at the market is hardly novel, but for the first ears of the year, I keep the preparation simple. That meant grilling it (in the husks, of course), heat wave be damned. Grilling in the husks is doubly beneficial: It keeps the kernels from getting too dry and leathery on the grill, plus there’s nothing like that smokey flavor you get from the charred husks to really turn corn into something special. Once it’s grilled, you can dress it any way you like; thankfully, changing the flavor profile is a pretty simple thing to do because it’s such a neutral base, which got me thinking…

Adding an umami flavor to corn is a popular way of dressing it up. Umami’s the savory “fifth primary taste” found in all sorts of foods — mushrooms, meats, anchovies, tomatoes, and aged cheeses, just to name a few. Kasha used this idea to delicious effect in her grilled corn with parsley-garlic butter and Parmesan recipe here, and Mexican grilled corn uses cotija cheese for a similar purpose, but I wanted something a little different. Then I hit upon miso, king of umami, and got to work on a couple of compound butters.

Roasted Garlic | Minimally Invasive

Sticking with the simplicity theme, I didn’t go crazy with ingredients. In fact, all of the ingredients are spelled out in the names: Roasted Garlic-Miso Butter and Gochujang Butter. I thought the corn looked unfinished once it was slathered with the butter, so I sprinkled the ears with toasted nori flakes (another umami-bomb).

Aaaand done. So simple and so rewarding.

Grilled Corn with Gochujang Butter | Minimally Invasive

And if this isn’t enough for you, check out a few of my favorites from previous summers:

Grilled Corn with Harissa & Honey | Minimally Invasive

Grilled corn with Harissa and Honey

Corn Chowder with Crispy Duck Skin | Minimally Invasive

Smoked Corn Chowder with Crispy Duck Skin

Shrimp with Sweet Curry & Coconut Creamed Corn | Minimally Invasive

Shrimp with Sweet Curry & Coconut Creamed Corn

Sweet Corn Frozen Yogurt | Minimally Invasive

And for dessert, how about some Sweet Corn Frozen Yogurt?

Recipes

Grilled Corn in the Husks

Remove the very outer layer of husks from your corn and set them aside, then peel back the remaining husks without breaking them off. Strip silks from the cob. Season corn however you like (with olive oil, salt, a spice rub, etc.) or just leave it plain if you plan to use a compound butter later. Re-cover the corn with the attached husks, then use a strip of one of the detached ones you set aside to tie them off at the top. Roast over a hot charcoal fire for about 20 minutes, turning as the husks start to char. The outer husks will turn black and fall away while infusing the corn with the smokiness of the grill, but the inner ones will still protect the corn from the direct heat, so don’t worry. Once the corn is done, strip the ears bare and rub with compound butter, if using.

Roasted Garlic-Miso Compound Butter makes enough for six ears of corn

1 tablespoon white miso
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 medium head roasted garlic (or more, if you like)
1 sheet nori

Mash miso, butter and garlic together with a fork and slather on freshly grilled corn while it’s still hot. Toast nori briefly over an open flame, then grind in a food processor. Sift, then sprinkle the buttered corn with the sifted flakes to season.

Gochujang Compound Butter makes enough for four ears of corn

To make your own gluten-free gochujang, follow the simple recipe here. If you’re ok with wheat, it’s easily found at any Korean grocery.

1 tablespoon gochujang
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 sheet nori

Mash gochujang and butter together with a fork and slather on freshly grilled corn while it’s still hot. Toast nori briefly over an open flame, then grind in a food processor. Sift, then sprinkle the buttered corn with the sifted flakes to season.

From the Market – Week Whatever

I’ve lost count of the missing weeks by now, but couldn’t let the last vestiges of summer slip by without posting about the latest seasonal finds from our market in Ringwood.

I don’t know about you, but we’ve nearly eaten our weight in corn this summer. Grilled, smoked, raw, creamed, sautéed … it’s all been delicious and now that summer’s winding down, I’m truly savoring fresh corn while it’s still around. But a couple of dishes really stood out from the crowd and I want to make sure I tell you about them, and include links so I can re-create them next year.

This weekend I adapted Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for baked buttered corn (seen above), gilding the lily with burro di parma and wisps of freshly grated locatelli before baking, then finishing with a dab of truffle butter before serving. It sounds excessive, but the extra ingredients were used in moderation for just a touch of earthiness so really, corn was still the star. This dish is a great way to use late-season corn that maybe isn’t quite the revelation it was even a few weeks ago.

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For a couple of weeks in August, I was obsessed with cooking variations of Shrimp with Sweet Curry and Coconut Creamed Corn. We had it 3 times in the span of two weeks and I could still go for more, which will probably happen next weekend, now that I think about it. The only reason for adapting the recipe at all was because I didn’t have the specific spice blends called for, but after working around that problem, I’ve discovered that there isn’t a way to mess this up. The first time around, I left the curry out of the corn mixture and coated the shrimp with it instead (using Singapore curry from World Spice Merchants). The curry blend was light and paired perfectly with the shrimp; it accentuated the shrimp’s natural sweetness and, with a dash of cayenne pepper, added a touch of heat which cut through the richness of the coconut corn.

Nina found herself up to her ears in callaloo this summer, after deciding to grow it on a whim. Since I’m a sucker for any new (to me) ingredient, I made a beeline for the strange-looking vines when they appeared at her booth and managed to work it into a couple of other iterations of the shrimp and coconut corn recipe. If you’ve never had callaloo, it’s similar to water spinach or chard, but cooks down to something that seems much less virtuous, with a thick, silky, rich mouthfeel. I used madras curry in the corn base this time and simmered the shrimp along with it, so the dish was more of a stew than it was the first go-around. (No picture of what was an otherwise delicious dish because the callaloo turned the whole mixture a thoroughly unappealing-looking shade of bile green. And because I cobbled together a few recipes without writing down any of the steps/measurements, there’s no real recipe for you. But I’ll try to re-create it this weekend and let you know how it turns out.)

continued after the jump

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From the Market: Weeks 9 & 10

peach ice cream

The word of the week was peaches. They’re my favorite fruit-as-fruit (with tomatoes as my favorite fruit-as-vegetable), so I’ve been heading to the farmers’ market even more eagerly on Saturday mornings than usual. The peaches have been spilling over, so apart from being eaten out of hand, mixed with yogurt for breakfast, atop salads and in salsas, they made a command performance in the quintessential summer dessert — peach ice cream (using my Aunt’s recipe for the custard base).

And because I love nothing more than gilding the lily, raspberry-blueberry coulis really set this off, providing a tart counterpoint to the smooth sweetness of the ice cream. It’s really simple to make, too. Just throw 2-3 handfuls of berries into a small saucepan, add a little sugar (I used about a tablespoon of vanilla sugar) and some lemon juice. Cook it over medium heat until the berries break down and the sauce starts to thicken. Cool, and use it to top whatever comes to mind.

Peaches from Treelicious Orchards and Orchards of Conklin and berries from the latter.

We’ve been eating out a bit lately, discovering new dishes and supporting new restaurants, which resulted in haunted dreams of Picnic‘s truffled corn chowder and the urge to create my own summer dish. Since buying a truffle is hard to justify as part of an experimental dish for only Gil and myself, I went in a completely different (read: cheaper) direction while still keeping it in the chowder family. What I came up with was nothing like Picnic’s masterpiece, but it was a worthy addition to my repertoire. Here’s what I did to make Smoked Corn Chowder.

It started with meat, as you probably knew it would. I scored the skin of two duck breast halves, gave them a good all-over coating of my beef rub, then left them uncovered in the fridge for a few hours before firing up the smoker. To keep the corn from overcooking (and to take advantage of the delicious duck fat that would be rendering from the breasts), I placed two shucked ears of corn on the lower level of my Weber Smokey Mountain (just above the water pan) and the duck breasts in the center of the top rack.

Before I go any farther, you should know that Gil takes whatever’s put in front of him with equanimity, typically. He keeps his head down and eats whatever I make without much censure or praise, no matter the how I feel about what’s on the plate. But these duck breasts earned the title The Best Thing Ever from him. (Take that as you will.) And they were awfully good, even if the skin didn’t get entirely crispy, which turned out to be a good thing for the chowder.

To take advantage of that extra fat on the smoked breasts, I devised a workable solution: I’d chop the seasoned fat from 1/2 of a duck breast and render it in place of bacon in the chowder. When the skin had crisped and given up as much fat as possible, I set it aside to use as garnish for the finished soup. The rest of the chowder was a pretty standard affair, but the smoked corn and slight hint of duck really added something special to it.

with crispy duck skin

I liked the proportion of smoked corn to fresh — the smoke wasn’t overwhelming, but gave the silky chowder a depth it doesn’t usually have. Feel free to play with amounts for more or less of the smoky goodness.

I assume Gil agreed, because we ate it all in one sitting. Nom, indeed.

recipe after the jump

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From the Market: Week 8

Or, corn week

And we’re back with another weekend of cooking, fresh from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market. Despite temperatures that reached the triple digits a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t really feel like summer to me until this weekend, when I first spied corn at several booths at the market. And because corn heralds the arrival of tomatoes (thus my favorite food weeks of the year), I’m a happy, happy girl.

So with a full bag of corn and some adorable baby eggplants, I set my sights on grilling this weekend. The only question was what slant to give the meal, and after some consideration (Mexican — lime & cotija? Italian — balsamic vinaigrette? Cajun — loads of paprika, oregano & pepper?), I decided to go for Middle Eastern with a harissa rub/dressing since the cumin, coriander and paprika would play so well with the flavors of the grill.

There are lots of ways to grill corn and I’ve tried most of them. Rolling the shucked ears in foil with a little butter and spice is where I started years ago, but that only takes advantage of the grill’s heat and doesn’t capture its essence. Grilling already-shucked ears bare on the grate is a little more satisfying, but the kernels tend to dry out and turn rubbery, no matter how attentive you are. So I’ve turned into an unshucked griller. I remove some of the outer husks, peel back the rest and keep them attached at the base, then strip the silk from the cob. At that point, it’s really simple to season the corn however you like, re-cover the ear with the husks and tie them at the top with one of the detached husks. Some people like to soak the cobs, but I prefer not to so the outer husks burn and char, and infuse the kernels with the smokiness of the grill.

For this weekend’s meal, I brushed the kernels with olive oil, then sprinkled them with dry harissa. I like to keep the dry rub around because I’m never quite sure how long the paste will keep with fresh garlic in it. Using powdered garlic and leaving out the water solves that problem, and it’s easy enough to turn it into a paste later. The corn roasted over a hot fire for about 20 minutes while I turned the ears frequently. The outer husks charred to black and began to crumble away after a time, but we were left with smoky, tender corn cooked through perfectly. Just before we dug in, I drizzled it with some harissa sauce (more on which later):

SUMMER'S HERE!

Although I’d be perfectly happy making an entire meal of grilled corn, Gil probably wouldn’t be, so I threw together a quick salad as well. While the corn was grilling, I placed the baby eggplants in the in-between spaces and let them cook until they were charred and had just enough form to escape going all Bruce Davison in X-Men. Once off the grill, I sliced them in half lengthwise, slathered them in harissa sauce mixed with lemon juice and honey and let them marinate till they’d cooled down and were shot through with spicy-sweet-tart flavor. They were perfect over a simple salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette, and damn if this isn’t going to be a go-to recipe for me this summer. The flavors just marry so well.

a fine side dish

Last weekend, I was fooling around with some basil and decided to use it in a green apple sorbet, but never got around to posting it here because the recipe isn’t quite where I want it to be yet. It’s awfully refreshing on a hot summer day, but is just a little too reminiscent of frozen applesauce for my liking. Once I find the appropriate level of tartness I’ll share, but for now, here’s a picture to serve as a placeholder.

refreshing!

Hope you all had a great weekend and managed to stay somewhat cool.

recipes after the jump

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Don’t leave meeeee!

corn

Summer’s almost over before it really started and I’m missing it in advance — fresh corn and herbs in just about everything, sun tea, baby radishes with anchovy butter, blueberries and peaches, grilling… Aaaahh, soak it up while you can.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend, everyone! I plan to relax and work on getting my mojo back. Oh, and geaux Tigers!

Ice cream!

090726_cornbasesm

We’ve had a weird spring-into-summer around here. It’s easier to appreciate freakishly cool days now that we’re nearing the end of July, but it was tough going for a couple of months, when the sun kept to itself and seasonal cooking seemed like a faintly-remembered dream. The dreary weather even convinced me that this drink would be a perfectly refreshing and appropriate summer quaff, but when corn debuted at the farmers’ market two weeks ago, warmer weather did too, and any desire to sip on a hot beverage went right out the window.

Despite the thermometer’s reluctance to get with the game, I’ve been experimenting with different ice creams this “summer,” and mostly successfully. (We won’t discuss last weekend’s vegan debacle — it never happened, you hear me?) My latest version was an attempt to 1) rejigger the sweet corn and milk drink into a frozen dessert, and 2) use ingredients already in my house (goat’s milk yogurt) instead of going to the store (for the standard stuff). By combining recipes, I ended up with a frozen yogurt I’ll quite happily nom on all week. The best part is that it’s so well-balanced — not too sweet, not too goaty, not too corny — that each ingredient complements the others without overpowering them.

090726_cornicecreamclosesm

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My earlier attempts at ice cream-making actually involved ice cream, not frozen yogurt. Imagine!

My favorite ice cream since I was a little girl has been my godmother’s cherry vanilla (though her banana version was a very close second). K&B had excellent cherry vanilla as well, but they’re gone, pecan, so I kept it in the family and asked my dad to get my aunt’s recipe the next time he saw her. After making both cherry vanilla and banana versions, I’m really happy to say it wasn’t just an exalted memory, but that this ice cream really is that good … so good that peach probably isn’t too far away. I just need to make sure the weather holds up.

Better get to it before an early autumn arrives.

090705_cherryvan

recipes after the jump

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