Lend me your ears
Guilt set in last week. It was almost reluctantly that I wrote a column about Palisade peaches, as local peaches seem to steal all the attention from the other amazing crops grown here in the Grand Valley. The quality of the produce we farm here is phenomenal, and each delicious ingredient is deserving of equal attention.
We could argue all day long about our favorites, but the truth is they all play different roles in our diet and there is really no comparison needed. One of the things I truly love about this valley is that we are proud — very proud — of our cultivating successes.
This past week, Paul, a friend of my husband’s, generously gave us some hand-picked corn off of his family’s farm in Pea Green. This corn was exceptional. My husband actually cooked it up for the kids for dinner while I was at a cooking class. I came home with a full belly and was in no mood for more food, but my husband went on and on about how great this particular corn was. Yeah, yeah, I have had my share of sweet corn. I get it. I got the “look” and I conceded.
I grabbed an ear and bit in to it. Oh no, here we go. He was right (this only happens a few times a year) — this was exceptional corn. The two-tone colored kernels were crisp and shiny, just waiting to burst open with sweet tenderness. I devoured the entire thing. My husband laughed, saying he didn’t think I was hungry. Why is this corn so good? Do we have more? The wheels were turning. What can I do with this all this scrumptious corn?
Corn, sweet corn in particular, is a delightfully universal ingredient. Its natural sweetness begs to be paired with spicy and creamy dishes as well as light and fresh ones. It works well in both sweet and savory recipes. It would be simpler to say what doesn’t pair well with corn, as it accommodates so many ingredients. Fresh herbs, peppers, garlic, onions, citrus, cheese, salty cured meats, mushrooms, fish, meat and most fresh vegetables are all excellent choices. I love adding it to salads, soups, salsas and dips for a little sweetness and texture.
In a pinch, I love sweet corn simply simmered on the cob for no more than three minutes and eaten naked (not me, the corn!). The family traditionally goes all out with corny (I couldn’t help it) corn holders, butter, salt and pepper. I always lose the butter battle at the table.
My daughter now prefers the kernels cut off and sautéed up in a pan. Since we have braces in the house this has become a more prevalent routine. Annually, my husband asks, “What’s that creamy rice dish you make with sweet corn and ...?” It’s a not-so-subtle hint for my creamy risotto with roasted red peppers and fresh sweet corn.
Years ago, I fell in love with a sweet corn cake that always came on the side of an order at a popular Mexican restaurant. Man, I loved that corn cake: soft, moist, sweet and perfectly delicious. My husband said it looked like regurgitated corn. I didn’t care, I would eat it all. Whatever your preference is, it’s fun to share your seasonal favorites.
This past week, thanks to a generous friend, sweet corn frequented our table. Simply simmered and devoured, sautéed with just a little butter and salt, as a crisp garnish on our spicy chicken tortilla soup and as last-minute side dish for an impromptu dinner with friends.
My favorite for the week was a quick corn medley that was simple and fresh and turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to our grilled pork chops. I simmered four ears of fresh corn for 2-3 minutes, then quickly removed the kernels. I tossed the sweet kernels with a few thinly sliced scallions, a minced sweet red pepper, a handful of fresh chopped spinach (I put spinach in everything) and fresh sliced basil and dressed it with the juice of one lime. I served the grilled pork chops with sliced avocados, the sweet corn medley on top and viola, dinner was served and our corn was all gone. (Hint, hint, Paul.)