Wednesday, September 1, 2010

...As Corny As Kansas in August...

Wait, it's not August any more! Where did the month go? Where did the summer go?

As usual at this time of the year most of us feel that the summer just gets shorter and shorter though it physically isn't possible. Is it that we're getting older and time is more precious? Or is it that winter is looming and we value the warm days of June, July and August because we get to spend more time outdoors?

In my family, one thing that unofficially marks the end of summer is that we rarely eat corn on the cob after Labor Day. There's no real reason why but maybe like wearing white shoes, corn on the cob just doesn't seem right beyond September. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to try out a couple of corn recipes and I did so this past weekend.

Briermere Farms in Riverhead. Check out the pies too!

My sisters (3 plus me), one of my daughters and two nieces gathered out in my sister's Westhampton home for an unofficial  'cookfest.' Everyone was in town because of the recent passing of my mother  and an upstate family wedding scheduled the weekend after. Taking advantage of the the 'cheap labor' to help me with my blog recipes was a boon for me and I think the gathering, shopping, prep work and cooking of a variety of recipes to the strains of the complete 'Mamma Mia' Broadway CD with a sprinkling of Simon and Garfunkel thrown in for us 'older folks' was a unintentional cathartic exercise for us all that I would recommend to anyone who has experienced a life-changing event. My mother would have loved it. 
Produce at Briermere Farms

We did our fresh ingredient shopping at a couple of farm stands on Long Island's north fork. Arugula, parsley, corn on the cob, berries, potatoes, zucchini and peaches were purchased. A local supermarket filled in the rest of the ingredients we needed. A fish store, butcher and a wine purveyor were our final stops. Most of the recipes tested will be subjects of future posts but I will start as promised with the ear of corn whose days are numbered!

But before I get to that, here's a few corn facts about America's largest crop:

  • An ear of corn averages 800 kernels in 16 rows. 
  • A pound of corn consists of approximately 1,300 kernels.
  • Each year, a single U.S. farmer provides food and fiber for 129 people - 97 in the U.S. and 32 overseas. 
  • In the U.S., corn production measures more than 2 times that of any other crop. 
  • There is one piece of silk for each kernel
  •  Each tassel on a corn plant releases as many as 5 million grains of pollen. 
  • Corn is an ingredient in more than 3,000 grocery products.
  • One bushel of corn can make 33 pounds of sweetener, 32 pounds of starch, or 2 1/2 gallons of ethanol fuel.
  • Corn on the cob has 155 calories.
Corn Fritters
Makes 2 dozen
The batter

This is a recipe from a Martha Stewart Living magazine from couple of years ago. The batter can be prepared ahead and even the frying can be done early in the day because these delicious patties are great hot, warm or cold! MSL suggested these as a brunch sandwich with bacon and cheddar cheese filling but I think that may be too rich for most diets. I think these are great as a side dish for grilled meat, fish or fried chicken ( a recipe that will be posted on Friday). Give it a try this Labor Day weekend.
Frying the fritters

1 and a half cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
2 large eggs
1/2c + 2 tablespoons milk
1/2c finely chopped ham (optional)
1.5c grated zucchini
2c fresh corn kernels (3-4 ears)
kosher salt/fresh ground pepper 
canola oil for frying

The final product!

  • Whisk dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, 2 tsp salt , 1/4 tsp pepper in a large bowl.
  • In smaller bowl, combine butter, eggs and milk
  • Add to flour mixture with electric mixer.
  • Add zucchini, ham (if you choose) and corn. Stir by hand until well blended.
  • Drop 2 tablespoons of batter into hot oil in frying pan. 
  • Turn once when golden brown, about 1-2 minutes each side. 
  • Drain on paper towels.

Basic Corn Chowder
Serves 4-6  

Perfect for summer, make it heartier or the fall. 
One sister is a fan of Mark Bittman from the New York Times. She liked this easy corn chowder recipe and we all agreed because it was light, sweet and easy to make. Strip the corn and get the cobs simmering in water first; then chop the onion while the oil is heating, and peel and chop the potatoes as the onions are cooking. 

4 to 6 ears of corn
1 tablespoon butter or neutral oil, like canola 
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 cup whole or low-fat milk
1/2 cup chopped parsley (optional).

Boiling the bare cobs for flavor. 

  • Shuck corn, and use a paring knife to strip kernels into a bowl. Put cobs in a pot with 4 cups water; bring to a boil, cover and simmer while you continue.
  • Put butter or oil in a saucepan, and turn heat to medium-high. When butter melts or oil is hot, add onion and potatoes, along with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about 5 minutes; add tomatoes and cook, stirring, for another minute or two.
  • After corncobs have cooked at least 10 minutes, strain liquid into onion-potato mixture; bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. When potatoes are tender, add corn kernels and milk, and heat through. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Garnish with the parsley, and serve.
For a richer soup
Corn chowder with bacon and cream: In Step 2, substitute 1/2 cup chopped bacon for butter or oil; cook over medium heat until it renders some of its fat, then add onion. In Step 3, use heavy cream or half-and-half in place of milk.

Bacon Wrapped Grilled Corn on the Cob 
We didn't try this one but anything wrapped in bacon has to be good!

8 ears of corn
8 slices of bacon
salt and pepper

  • Preheat grill to high
  • Pull back husks (do not remove) and remove silk completly.
  • Wrap ears with a strip of bacon
  • Pull husks back up covering corn and bacon completly. Tie tops with kitchen twine.
  • Grill corn (husks will blacken) 15-20 minutes until corn is tender and bacon cooked.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Tomorrow: Enhancing an inexpensive t-shirt with rosettes and petals

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