Seasonal Chef: Corny for Corn

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In the past two weeks I’ve seen corn showing up at the farmers markets. The piles about three weeks ago seemed small, but just this past weekend – boom! Beautiful soft green husks gently harboring the sweet golden kernels inside. In some cases just picked and ready to eat right off the cob. Sweet and sticky, who could resist?

Fresh corn is one of those ingredients that can be prepared in multitudes of ways: baked, fried (as in pancakes), grilled, pureed, on the cob, off the cob … then in a grain form you can prepare it in cakes, muffins, cookies, as a crust, as a creamy polenta or grits … the list is endless!

I first want to mention one of my favorite snacks is popcorn, using coconut oil. I’m actually eating some right now as I write this post! I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t I read somewhere that coconut oil is high is saturated fat?” As a matter of fact, you are right. However, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides which are metabolized differently than fats in other oils.  Aside from being super tasty, coconut oil can help raise your good HDL levels and help strengthen your immune system. But lets get back to the topic at hand – while I nibble on my popcorn!

Corn has been cultivated for thousands of years. It dates back to almost 7000BC in Central America. It’s not entirely certain when the crop made it’s way North and East, but it seems that Christopher Columbus may have been instrumental in helping that journey.

In my research of corn this week I was surprised to find that it has many nutritional and health benefits. It’s high in fiber which helps lower your cholesterol levels. It’s shown to have positive effect for people suffering from diabetes and helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. It’s loaded with vitamins like A, B and C, not to mention Folate, Magnesium and Calcium. (Did I just hear the word “superfood?”)

I have two simple applications for corn to share with you this week. First, another of my tasty cold soups, starring corn! There are many versions of Corn Soup to be made, but this one is my quick version – who needs to be in front of the stove on a hot day, right? I picked these ears of corn at the PepsiCo Market in Purchase from the Orchards of Conklin.

This recipe could not be easier. First you are going to remove the corn from the cob.

Then sweat your onions. A couple of notes: first try not to burn the onions and use white pepper. The only speckles in this soup should be from the basil at the end.

The cobs, corn and water go into your pot with the onions and simmer for about 10 minutes.

After you let it cool a bit, pull out the cobs and give them a little tap on the side of the pot to remove any corn that might be clinging.

Into the blender is goes for a nice spin.

After the soup is silky and smooth place it in a container, add the whole corn and then to the ‘fridge.

Just before serving I like to add a little basil oil. This is another pretty presentation addition that is fast and easy to make, and will give your soup a “Wow!” factor.

       

Here are the steps: a quick blanch in salted water, shock in an ice bath, then puree with some lemon zest and olive oil.

My finished product!  (The recipe is below.) Just make little droplets of the oil and with a skewer drag the dots a bit. Then top with a little fresh basil. I’ll be demoing this sweet herbaceous soup today (August 1) at the Irvington Farmers Market and again on Saturday (August 4) at the Hastings Farmers Market.

I’m also excited to tell you that my pal Chef Dave from Cafe Mirage in Port Chester will be including my soup in his box dinners this weekend and next weekend for the Lawnchair Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Check out the performance locations in Port Chester and Rye for dates and times. It’s another great production this year, with many of my friends involved, including my fabulously talented hubby!

OK, so I said I had two applications … here is the second. Let me first say that I honestly cannot remember exactly where this idea came from. I think it might have been on the original Martha Stewart show from many years ago. I think that only because I have literally been making my corn on the grill this way for many many years. It is absolutely the most fool proof way to do corn on the grill; rendering the cobs tender, steamed and delicious.

      

Basically all you need is a piece of heavy foil and a very wet paper towel. Then season your cob with whatever you desire. I add fresh parsley, parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper. Fold up the paper towel first then the foil. Place it on the grill and rotate it every 5 minutes for about 15 minutes. I keep it around the edges of the grill while I’m cooking other things. The paper towel keeps it moist and steams the corn. All the seasonings cook right into the cob.

You can add a little more butter or seasoning, but I find that it’s just perfect right out of the foil.

I hope you enjoy these simple and easy corn recipes this week. Next week I’m I’m very excited to tell you that I will be competing in a fun Throwdown Competition with my fellow blogger JL Fields, who writes I Eat Plants on Thursdays. Over the weekend we stopped by Amawalk Farm in Katonah and picked our ingredients: Bunching and Cipollini Onions.

Our fearless leader Liz Johnson will be sending out more info about the competition very soon. In the meantime, mark the date on your calendar: Saturday August 11, from 10:30-11:30 am at the John Jay Farm Market. I hope you can come by and cheer me on!

Buon Appetito!

 

Chef Maria’s Cold Corn Soup w/Basil Oil
Makes about 1½ quarts

SOUP
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt, plus more
¼ teaspoon finely ground White Pepper
1 cup White Onion, ¼”dice
5 ears of Corn, shucked and cut in half

BASIL OIL
1 bunch Basil, leaves removed
Zest ½ Lemon
¼ teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Soup: Over medium heat sauté the onion with butter, olive oil, salt and pepper for 5 minutes, until translucent and soft. Meanwhile grate 4 ears of corn with a box grater in a large bowl (to catch all the juice), reserving the cobs. Cut the corn of the last cob and set that corn aside in a bowl.

Once the onions are soft add the grated corn, (scraping all the lovely juice with a spatula) into the pot, along with 4 cups of water and the cobs. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

After the soup has simmered for 10 minutes take it off the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cobs with tongs gently tapping them against the pot remove any corn still clinging on, before discarding them. Using an emulsion (stick) or regular blender process the soup until it’s smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add the reserved corn to the pot and let it cool completely. Place in refrigerator until completely cold.

Basil Oil: Blanche the herb leaves for 10 seconds in boiling salted water, coolimmediately, and drain well. This step will keep your oil a nice bright green. Add allthe ingredients to a mini food processor and puree until its blended well and the leavesare finely chopped.

Serve the soup ice cold. Just before serving drizzle the oil over the soup and top with a few finely sliced (chiffonade) basil leaves for garnish.

Maria Reina is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher at Tarry Market in Port Chester, NY. In her free time she loves hanging out at local Farmers Markets in Westchester County doing cooking demos with seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog you can follow her  on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

 


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About Author

Seasonal Chef blogger Maria Reina comes to the world of food as a third career, spending a great portion of her adult life in the field of Human Resources. With her private company Bella Cucina Maria she is a personal chef, caterer and recreational cooking class teacher in Westchester. She's an avid food television watcher and cookbook collector, always looking for a new take on a traditional dish. In her free time she loves hanging out at local farmer's markets, chatting it up with the farmers and doing cooking demos with their seasonal ingredients. In addition to her blog, which is loaded with easy recipes, you can follow her on Facebook (Bella Cucina Maria), Twitter (Bellacucinam), Instagram (Bellacucinam) and Pinterest (Bellacucinam).

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