Southwestern Ontario is recovering from an extremely hot dry summer, but I will miss it all the same. The experience of vitalizing sun warming our bare skin, outdoor activities, festivals and farmers markets and patio dining will soon leave many of us nostalgic for summer days that never seem long enough. The remaining days of the season ought to be savored.
In addition to reading outdoors and taking in the beauty of the evolving season that springs from the ‘season of renewal’, the abundance of local summer produce available at the market, the benefits reaped from my own small backyard garden and the outdoor dining that often follows my cooking sessions will be missed most of all. Brisk yet sunny fall days are refreshing and the fall harvest is a cook’s canvas too, but because I am not yet ready to leave summer behind, I have been celebrating and savoring the late summer harvest that truly is an inspiration for culinary enthusiasts and everyday cooks.
Corn of course comes to mind because, like summer, fresh local corn can be enjoyed for only a few months of the year. Even though the summer was a rather arid one, the corn that is available at the local markets happens to be delicious.
Buttered corn on the cob is a favorite, as is roasted and grilled corn salted and smothered with butter. Keep it simple or dress up your dishes with the sweetness of fresh corn. It literally demands to be incorporated into salads, soups, casseroles, curries, grain sides, dips, baked goods, relishes, chutneys and so many other foods that appear on the dining table.
Home cook that I am, I consider myself to be a culinary enthusiast and cooking with fresh sweet corn always inspires me in the kitchen. When the days are warm, it is natural for me to come up with a corn salad or side dish.
When the days are cooler, my mind turns to a bowl of warming soup, such as this Tomato Corn Chowder that included fresh tomatoes from my garden. This is my own recipe based on a soup I used to enjoy at a local London restaurant, but it is no longer on the menu. Shame that, but I dare say my version is even better.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
4 cups frozen or fresh corn
1 medium potato, diced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
pinch of turmeric
juice from 1/2 lemon
3 cups tomato juice
1 cup cream, slightly whipped
fresh grated Cheddar or jack cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion to the pan and stir for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and jalapeño and continue to sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Now add the remaining ingredients except for the cream and pour in the tomato juice. Bring to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes.
Pour in the cream and simmer for another 5 minutes over low heat.
Partially blend the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or blender.
Taste for seasoning and serve hot, garnished with fresh grated Cheddar or jack cheese.
Makes 4 servings
Of course, on the subject of nourishing and warming soups, my elegant yet quick and easy nourishing Quinoa Corn Soup immediately comes to mind. Now I’m getting hungry.
If soup is not on the menu, consider Quinoa with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Corn, or perhaps Corn and Pinto Bean Dip or this stunning Sweet Corn Risotto with Tomato and Basil. This dish is another bonus choice for dinner if you happen to have fresh tomatoes and fresh basil growing in your garden too.
2 ears fresh sweet corn (or 1 1/2 cups frozen)
2 cubes vegetable bouillon (salt-free and gluten-free)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 – 3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 cup arborio or other risotto rice
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
Husk the corn and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the ears for 2 to 3 minutes or just until the kernels are a bright yellow. Remove the ears of corn and pare the kernels from the cobs. Return the cobs to the water, lower the heat to medium, and simmer for at least 5 minutes or up to half an hour.
Discard the cobs and strain 4 1/2 cups of the corn stock into a medium saucepan. Add the bouillon cubes and bring to a good simmer over medium-low heat.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, toss in the onion and stir for 2 to 3 minutes or until the onions start to turn translucent. Add the jalapeños if using and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
Add the rice and stir gently to coat the grains with oil. Add 1 cup of the corn and bouillon stock and stir until the liquid is just absorbed. Continue adding the stock to the rice one ladleful at a time, stirring and waiting each time until the stock has been absorbed before adding the next.
Continue this process until 3/4 of the stock has been used up. At this point taste the rice and check to see if it is cooked to your preferred texture — the risotto should be soft, creamy and cooked throughout while holding its shape. You will probably need to add more stock at this point, but you may not want to use all the stock if you prefer your risottos more on the al dente side. Continue adding stock to the rice until you reach the consistency you like.
With the last ladle of stock, add the corn, tomato, Parmesan and basil and season with salt and pepper. Gently stir to combine and remove from heat when most of the last ladle of stock has been absorbed.
Serve right away, garnished with additional basil or diced tomato if desired.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
The sweetness of local corn is surely a cause for celebration.