Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm As Corn-y As...

...as you can be in the summer.


Corn and summer go together like sunscreen and the beach or sunny days and baseball. Fresh corn at very reasonable prices can be had easily now at the market. I grew my own years ago when I had a big garden plot, but now it would take up too much room. I like the white kind and check on the freshness by slitting one of the kernels. If the juices spurt out then they haven't turned to starch, so the corn will generally be sweet and juicy to eat.

On rare occassions we buy too much and there is an ear of corn left over. That's happened twice in the last couple of weeks. Each time I used that single ear the next day, first in a salad and night before last in a baked side dish that I dreamed up while driving home from work. Iknew I had all the ingredients in the pantry, fridge and garden. Don't 'ya just love it when that happens?

The salad is our usual mixed greens, tomato chunks, cucumbers, sliced carrots and chunked avacodo one, but the addition of fresh corn kernels sliced from the cob completely changes the character of the salad. There is an even better sense of veggie and a summer tang and that juicy crunch of corn kernels.

Usually I use an Italian dressing or Raspberry one on green salads but for this salad I used a nice creamy Ranch dressing. It somehow plays up the farm fresh nature of corn and crispy greens. No recipe...jsut add fresh corn kernels to your favorite green salad.

The second recipe is for a cornbread based side dish. Fresh corn is folded into corn muffin batter and then the batter is partially baked in a wide, shallow baking pan. While it bakes a veggie topping and a cottage cheese based custard topping are made. Both go on top of the cornbread, the top is sprinkled with feta cheese and pine nuts and the dish is baked until golden. The mellowness of the cornbread is enlivened by the fresh corn kernels.
Summer squash (theres that zucchini again!) and spinach meld with red onion and cradeled in the custard for a savory flavor constrast to the sweet corn, then feta and pine nuts add Mediterranean flavors and additional zestiness and crunch. All in all it's a delightful side dish, although it can also be the main dish with, perhaps, a plate of sliced summer tomatoes on the side, dusted with threads of basil chiffonade.

The key to the corn and veggie bread is partially cooking the cornbread before adding the toppings. The bread gets cooked just enough this way, but the toppings also can sink into the batter just a bit and not slide off the top. The measurements are approximate. Next time I'm going to add more greens. BTW, this dish smells wonderful, even when cold. I reheated some for lunch.

As long as summer is here, we might as well enjoy it's fresh produce and these are both great ways to do that.

Elle's Zesty Veggie Cornbread Bake

½ recipe corn muffin batter (6 muffins worth) – your favorite
kernels cut from 1 ear of corn (about 1 cup)
1/3 – ½ cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large handfuls baby spinach, chopped, about 4 cups
(you can substitute for all or part of the spinach with Swiss chard,
baby kale, baby collards or similar dark leafy greens)
1 medium zucchini squash, quartered lengthwise, then sliced – about 2 cups
½ cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
Salt & pepper to taste
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir the corn kernels into the corn muffin batter, then spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 6 minutes.

While cornbread is baking, saute’ the red onions in the olive oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the leafy greens, stir and cook another minute until wilted. Remove greens from pan, return pan to heat and add the zucchini slices. Stir and cook over high heat another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While zucchini is cooking, use a blender or immersion blender to blend the cottage cheese and milk until smooth. Add the eggs and mix just until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. (You can also add Tabasco sauce or cayenne to tasteif you like a more spicy flavored bread).

Distribute the cooked zucchini slices evenly over the partially cooked corn bread. Distribute the cooked greens mixture evenly over the zucchini and cornbread. Pour the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the veggies. Sprinkle the feta cheese evenly over the cheese mixture & sprinkle with the pine nuts.

Return the baking pan to the oven and bake another 15 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes, then serve in large squares.

Serves 4-6.

As you can see, the measurements are approximate so feel free to adapt this to what you have coming out of the garden.

4 comments:

tanita davis said...

a.) You can see why I do a poor job of being vegan. I would *have to* have some of this,
b.) I just made chowder the other night with some corn on the cob -- yum. Corn really does go right along with summer, doesn't it?

Jude said...

This looks like some serious cornbread. I like how you char the cheese slightly.

Peabody said...

This looks super wonderful! A great way for me to use up some corn and zucchini.

Elle said...

Tanita,Being a vegan is the right thing to do, but you can see why I would have a hard time being one, too. Fresh corn in chowder is excellent! Corn is some of the best summer produce!

Jude, It's a pretty hefty dish. I put it under the broiler to brown the cheese because I was too hungry to wait for it to brown properly.

Peabody, I'll be making this again soon...it really is yummy and uses up that veg.