July 16, 2014

Dear friends:

If the corn seems late this year, chalk it up to your corn-crazed impatience. When you bite into that first local ear later this week, it will be right on time.  Mid-July is the normal onset of the corn season in Northeast Ohio.

Most local growers expect to begin picking late this week or next week, they say.

“We expected it Monday then we expected it today (Tuesday). Now we’re expecting it Thursday,” said a worker at Graf Growers. “The cold nights slowed it down. Call first because anything can happen.”

Don’t believe the corn is right on time? I didn’t either. I felt cheated when I couldn’t sink my teeth into an ear on the Fourth of July. So I dug up reports (mostly mine) from years past and found starting dates that range from July 5 (2010) to July 25 (2002, after a cold spring and June drought). In 1985, the first local corn was picked on about July 20; in 1997, July 23; 2005, July 8; and 2011, about July 21.

Nevertheless, when June segues into July next summer, I’ll probably be wondering where the damn corn is. Maybe we’re impatient because the memory of summer corn is so sweet.

I will buy way too much corn this week, thinking it couldn’t possibly be enough. After eating a couple of steamed and buttered ears one day and a couple the next, I’ll look for a way to use up the rest before the sugars turn to starch. Maybe I’ll use the excess in this luscious corn chowder from Emeril Lagasse.

SOUTHERN-STYLE CORN CHOWDER

  • 4 oz. bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell peppers
  • 5 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 7 ears)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled russet potatoes
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat and cook the bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers and corn to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.

Pour the chicken stock into the pot and stir to combine. Use a whisk if necessary to break up any lumps. Add the potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Season the chowder with the salt and cayenne and stir in the cream. Serve with the bacon and parsley as garnish.

From Emeril Lagasse in Food & Wine magazine.

HELP U COOK

Don’t overlook Swiss chard among the heaps of lettuces and other greens in stores and at farm markets this month. It comes in a variety of colors – red- and yellow-veined are especially attractive – and it’s a nutritional powerhouse. Chard is high in vitamins C, A and B as well as copper, iron, magnesium and potassium.

If picked young, the leaves may be used in salads. Larger heads should be washed very well (dirt hides in the folds) and added to soups, stir fries and curries. Or sauté some leaves in olive oil with chopped garlic and serve as a side dish.

THE MAILBAG

From Kevin:
(In a Mailbag answer last week) you may have confused asafetida with epazote. Asafetida is a resin usually compounded with wheat flour and gum arabic. It’s awesome stuff.

Dear Kevin: You’re right. My leaf was epazote. My brain is failing me.

From Amy Z.:
Russo’s is on the Boston Township/Cuyahoga Falls border. Boston Heights is a couple of miles north.

Dear Amy: Thanks for correcting my slip.

From Kristi Perry:
The flank steak sandwich (from the June 25 newsletter) was a hit, big time.  It even drew attention from folks on the neighboring blanket at Blossom (who Googled the recipe before leaving).  It went together great, sliced great and was not messy at all.

P.S.: Don’t forget to come see us at the Seville Farm Market any Saturday until the end of September from 9 a.m. to noon at the corner of State Route 3 and High Street.

Dear Kristi: Finally, something I didn’t goof up! Glad you liked the recipe.

I love your Seville Farm Market and encourage everyone to drop by sometime this summer. The prices are low and the farmers are friendly.

From Linda:
Have you any idea how to make pesto without a blender or food processor? Would my Mouli do it?

Dear Linda: The classic way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle. The basil, garlic and a bit of salt are pounded until smooth, then you add nuts (walnuts or pine nuts) and pound the snot out of them. Keep pounding while you drizzle in olive oil. Then stir in grated Parmesan. Just before using, beat in some butter.

How are your triceps? Considering the physical labor involved in the mortar-and-pestle method, your Mouli food mill certainly is worth a try. Vegetables are pureed in a food mill, so why not basil and nuts?

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