Category Archives: Corn

This is how you learn.

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Farm Camp at Arcadia

Farm Camp at Arcadia
Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi.

“They have farm camp?!” I asked my friend Pamela Hess. “That is the coolest thing ever!”

To my complete delight, she invited me to do a cooking class with the campers at Arcadia, a cool, non-profit farm – where Pamela is the Executive Director – dedicated to reconnecting us with our food and the people who produce it. These kids have spent a week feeding chickens, pulling weeds, harvesting fresh produce and learning how to cook. They already knew amazing recipes like zucchini pasta, fresh salsa, and veggie quesadillas. They even have mad knife skills.

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Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

From the second I arrived they were all over me. “Who are you? How’d you become a chef? What are we cooking?” They uncorked bottles of vinegar and oil knowing instinctually to smell them. When they found something they loved, they immediately shared it with someone else. They asked how we were using each new ingredient and tool that I placed on the table.

We cooked together for just over an hour, far longer than my childhood attention span. We made pan con tomate, and tossed vinaigrettes over zucchini and corn, and arugula, fresh from Arcadia’s farm.

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Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

During Q&A one of the campers asked me how I learned to cook. I talked about the years I spent exploring and practicing in the kitchen, but they didn’t really need an answer from me. When it comes to learning, they are already experts.

Pan con tomate

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 18 slices of baguette, 1/4″ thick, about 1/2 of a baguette
  • 1-2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt
  • Olive oil – the good stuff!
Farm Camp at Arcadia

Farm Camp at Arcadia
Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

Directions:

  • Warm your oven to 400 degrees and toasts the bread until crisp and golden on the edges, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Rub toasted bread a couple of times with the clove of garlic.
  • Cut each tomato in half and grate into pulp using a box grater. If the pulp is really watery, strain through a fine sieve to thicken.
  • Spread a teaspoon of pulp over each baguette slice. Sprinkle with salt, drizzle with a drop or three of oil, and serve.

Corn and Zucchini Salad

Serves 6-8

Cutting corn off the cobIngredients:

  • 1 large zucchini cut in a 1/2″ dice
  • 4 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar – we used Blackberry Balsamic
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!

Directions:

  • Mix together zucchini, corn and basil in a large bowl.
  • Chop garlic, sprinkle with coarse salt – like sea salt or Kosher salt – and mash into a paste on your cutting board using the flat side of your knife or the tines of a fork.
  • Add the garlic to a small bowl with the vinegar and honey. Whisk together.
  • While whisking, pour the oil into the vinegar mixture, in a thin stream. Whisk until it forms a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Dress the veggies lightly and serve.

Fresh Arugula Salad

Serves 6

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Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

  • 1/2 pound baby arugula
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup vinegar – we used Pomegranate vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!

1.4 whisking vinaigretteDirections:

  • Place the arugula in a large salad bowl.
  • Chop garlic, sprinkle with coarse salt – like sea salt or Kosher salt – and mash into a paste on your cutting board using the flat side of your knife or the tines of a fork.
  • Add the garlic to a small bowl with the vinegar and honey. Whisk together.
  • While whisking, pour the oil into the vinegar mixture, in a thin stream. Whisk until it forms a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Dress the salad lightly, tossing with tongs to coat. A perfectly dressed green salad should just glisten with dressing and there should be almost nothing left in the bottom of the bowl when you’re done serving.
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A little American innovation.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Norman Rockwell drew an illustration for the Mass Mutual insurance company titled “Cookout.” As mothers and children set the picnic table, fathers hover around the grill. Nowhere is there any food.

But imagine, give me your very best Family Feud guess as to what will appear on those quintessential American plates.

Burgers, of course, and corn on the cob. What’s on top of those burgers? A single square of cheese melting into the smoky, crevices in the beef patty. Theres a plate of iceberg lettuce available for topping, and if it’s a really good day, mom has fried up some bacon.

This burger, then, is not so far from American tradition. The corn, off-the-cob and tossed with bacon, tops the burger. Baby spinach replaces lettuce and our cheese is upgraded to a far-more-American cheddar. It’s fun, delicious and a little creative.

Maybe that’s why Mr. Rockwell left the plates empty. There’s nothing more American than taking traditions, making some changes, and making them our own.

Corn and Bacon Salsa Burger

Using beef with some fat makes this burger rich and moist. These are big burgers and could certainly be made into 6 smaller patties.

makes 4 large 1/2 pound burgers

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef 80% lean
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, minced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup parsley
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 pound cheddar cheese, sliced
  • 4 Kaiser rolls
  • 1/4 pound baby arugula
  • 1 cup Corn and Bacon Salsa (see below)

Directions:

  • Mix together ground beef, bacon, eggs, parsley and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and form into four large patties.
  • Heat your grill to medium-high and grill your burgers just off to the side of the coals. These are big patties, so you’ll probably cook them for 5-7 minutes a side for medium rare.
  • Place a slice or two of cheese on burgers 1 minute before removing from grill.
  • Layer bun bottoms with arugula and burgers. Top each with 1/4 cup corn and bacon salsa and bun top.
  • If there’s not juice running down your chin, you’re doing it wrong!

Corn and Bacon Salsa

For a nuttier, toastier flavor, toss corn kernals with 1 tbs olive oil and 1/4 tsp cumin and roast in a 400 degree oven until golden, about 7-10 minutes. Add right before seasoning the salsa. Serve this over grilled, cumin-lime marinated chicken or with chips.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups salsa

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices, thick cut bacon
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • Sherry  or Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry* vinegar

*Where do you get Roasted Red Pepper Blackberry vinegar? Sapore, of course! You can order online too.

Directions:

  • Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned on both sides. Remove from pan and dry on paper towels. Leave 2 tbs bacon fat in pan.
  • Return heat to medium and add red onion. Cook until softened.
  • Add red onion and jalapeño. Sauté 3 additional minutes.
  • Add raw corn, increase heat to medium high, and cook for 3-5 minutes until edges of corn turn golden.
  • Stir in cilantro, cumin and chili powder. Remove salsa from heat.
  • Chop bacon and stir into salsa.
  • Season to taste with a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper. Add additional cumin or chili powder as needed.

Tell me I’m not alone.

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Aside from Sylvester’s famous expletive, I thought succotash was one of those weird, dated American farm dishes where lots of unappealing vegetables were cooked down, in large batches, into an equally unappealing mush that inspired fond, parochial memories, while no one actually wanted to eat it. I was wrong.

Liz Creelman Patterson and her husband Rob are responsible for my recent education. The succotash served alongside my trout at their fabulous wedding earlier this month, was delicious with firm, fresh vegetables and bright herbs.

Based on a Narragansett Indian dish of corn and shell beans, succotash has spread throughout the US. It seems best known today in the South, where okra and lima beans are cooked in lard. I used the bright green beans that were plentiful at DC’s Eastern Market (and no shelling involved), added red pepper for sweetness and color, thyme for savory depth and a pinch of piment d’espelette, a French pepper that is dried and ground with great complexity and mild heat. Bacon brought pig to the dish instead of lard.

This succotash was the clear winner in our test kitchen that week. Ready in under 20 minutes, there was no sufferin’ in the preparation or the eating.

Corn And Bacon Succotash

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick bacon, diced
  • Small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lb green beans, ends removed and cut into 3/4” pieces
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 3 ears of corn, kernals sliced off
  • 1 tbs thyme
  • Piment d’espelette or cayenne pepper
  • Butter
  • Sherry vinegar

Directions:

  • Sauté bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  • Add onion to skillet with bacon fat and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add green beans and pepper to pan and sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add corn, cover pan, reduce heat to medium low and cook 10-15 minutes until vegetables are crisp tender.
  • Remove lid, add thyme and bacon, and cook an additional 3 minutes.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, cayenne, butter for richness and vinegar for brightness.

So, this happened…

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We grew up eating a lot of corn. A summer staple, we always ate it the way God made it – fresh from the cob. A quick roll in a stick of salted butter was the only addition. So, a little short on experience, I hatched a plan to serve corn fritters during this week’s Saturday morning Eastern Market demo. Fortunately God smiled on me just like he smiles on the corn.

Now, I make a mean zucchini pancake, so I had a few of the basics down, but I was certainly ready to accept some expert advice, which arrived in the form of Art Smith, Chef/Owner of DC’s Art and Soul and a return contestant on the current season on Top Chef Masters. It was test night, and once we had nailed down the recipes for a fresh plum soup and cold peanut-sauced soba noodles, I stepped out of the way.

If you have any doubts, Chef Art’s reputation as a top chef is well earned. It was a wonderful experience watching him bring the recipe together, instinctively finding the right texture and flavor. After a quick test batch he settled on a slightly thick batter, lots of corn and just a couple tablespoons of oil in the pan.

Thank you Art for a wonderful night! My kitchen definitely feels a bit hipper.

Corn Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 4 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • Olive oil for frying

Directions:

  • Mix together dry ingredients – salt, baking powder, flour and corn meal – in a large bowl.
  • Mix together wet ingredients – eggs, 1 cup buttermilk, butter and honey – in a second bowl.
  • Purée one cup of corn in a food processor and add to wet ingredients along with cheddar cheese.
  • Stir the remaining corn into the dry ingredients.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in gently just until mixed. The less you work it the better. Add additional buttermilk to get a wet, thick batter.*
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a 12” skillet and fry batter in 1/4 cup cakes.
  • When solid enough, flip cakes and serve with syrup, fresh berries or salsa.

*Baking may be an exact science, but recipes aren’t. The moisture level of your dry ingredients can change the amount of liquid you need to add. The size of your eggs and the moisture in the corn will affect how much buttermilk you need. Don’t be afraid to play around with the amounts listed above, one tablespoon at a time.

High as an elephant’s eye.

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My Dad did his PhD thesis on corn. At night my Mom typed out page after page, over 100, on a typewriter. Corn expertise was highly regarded in our home. Dad taught us that all vegetables have sugars which, once harvested, convert to starch. This happens faster in some vegetables than others. Corn is one of the fastest.

As a kid, when corn was on the dinner menu, Dad and I would stop by Sapowsky’s on the way home and wait in their dirt driveway, outside the farm stand, for the next cartload of corn to come in from the fields. We would grab a dozen and head home, where Mom already had water boiling. As soon as we pulled into the driveway I would get out, shuck the corn, Mom would boil it for a couple of minutes and we would eat it, hot and fresh, usually without any butter or salt.

Today’s cultivars of corn have more stable sugars, but corn is still best picked during the cool hours of the morning, quickly refrigerated and eaten as soon as possible. These salads celebrate the light, sugary sweetness of raw corn and should be made with the freshest corn you can find.

Southwest and Herbed Goat Cheese Raw Corn Salads

This Southwest salad is just dying to be served over carnitas tacos! The Herbed Goat Cheese version is a perfect, light summer picnic salad. Serve it alongside herb and wine poached chicken and a perfect loaf of crusty country bread slathered in farm-fresh butter. Just a thought.

For Salad:

  • 2 ears fresh corn, husked
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Slice the kernels from the corn, mix with the red onion and toss with one of the following dressings.

For Southwest dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs goat cheese
  • 1 tbs finely chopped basil
  • 1/2 lime, juiced – about 2-3 tbs
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/3 cup Red Merken Chili Oil*

*Red Merken is a spicy chili oil with nice depth. Substitute another chili oil or order online from Sapore.

Directions:

  • Mash garlic into a paste with coarse salt.
  • Stir together cheese, garlic paste, basil, lime juice and cumin.
  • Whisk in Red Merken Chili Oil.
  • Lightly dress corn and onions.

For Herbed Goat Cheese dressing:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs goat cheese
  • 1 tbs finely chopped tarragon
  • 1 tbs lemon juice.
  • 1/4 cup Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup Mission Olive Oil*

*The Champagne Mimosa Vinegar is light with a hint of fruit. Substitute any light white wine vinegar. Mission olive oil is light and grassy. They can both be ordered online from Sapore.

Directions:

  • Slice kernels from the corn. Toss with onion in a medium bowl.
  • Mash garlic into a paste with coarse salt.
  • Stir together cheese, garlic paste, tarragon, lemon juice and Champagne Mimosa Vinegar.
  • Whisk in Mission Olive Oil.
  • Lightly dress corn and onions.

Alice Waters, this combination is divine.

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Corn and Zucchini Pasta’s inclusion in Chez Panisse Vegetables is more of a concept than a recipe. Alice provides ingredients and technique leaving the vagaries of measurements and time to the individual cook. This is recipe trading grandmother style. “What do you mean measurements? You can just feel when you’ve got it right.”

It’s a gift. You learn more in the making than you ever could in rote execution. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Practice your knife skills. Cut the zucchini down into a 1/4″ dice, approximately the same size as the corn kernels.
  • Fresh pasta isn’t just un-dried. Fresh pasta is traditionally made with eggs and soft wheat “00” flour while dried pasta is made with just hard durum wheat and water. An easy rule of thumb is to use fresh pasta for light dishes and cream sauces. Dried pasta is your choice for heartier sauces like Bolognese and Carbonara.
  • Large pasta is tough to mix with small ingredients. When tossing the corn and zucchini with the fresh fettucini that Alice recommends, you end up with all the veggies in the bottom of the bowl. Orzo is easier to mix through.
  • Butter is a condiment. Add it at the end. Don’t even think of leaving it out. It adds a necessary richness.

Corn And Zucchini Pasta

This tastes just as good hot as it does as a cold pasta salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large candy sweet or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced
  • 2 cups zucchini, finely diced (about 1-2 medium)
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1 cup Orzo, uncooked
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2-3 tbs chopped cilantro or parsley
  • Champagne Mimosa or Sherry Vinegar

Directions:

  • Bring a 4 qt pot of water to a boil and salt heavily, 2 tbs.
  • Heat olive oil in a 12” sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened.
  • Add garlic and jalapeño and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Turn up heat to medium high and add zucchini.
  • When you add the zucchini to the pan, add the pasta to boiling water.
  • When zucchini is softened but firm add corn and cook 1 minute.
  • When pasta is still undercooked – firm in the center, strain it, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Add pasta and liquid to vegetables. Cook until water has evaporated.
  • Add cilantro and butter. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper.