Ginny’s Mexican Corn Salad

Mexican Corn Salad-1

Mexican Corn Salad is a riff on the south-of-the-border street food classic – grilled corn served with lime, mayo and cheese.  Except there was no room on our grill, so Jody’s sister Ginny, the creator of the dish,  threw it in the oven just to see what would happen.  It didn’t get smokey or charred, the way it would have on the grill, but it worked out fine nevertheless.  Testing the salad four times in the last two weeks (i.e. fed our kids and their friends), confirmed what we’ve always suspected: whether the corn is local or not is way more important than whether it’s cooked on the grill or in the oven.  We sampled corn from Whole Foods, from a farmers market down on the Cape and from our neighbor outside of Boston, Allandale Farms.  That latter two choices made corn salads that sing – the Whole Foods option was okay (the kids hoovered it up), but not in the same league as the farm stuff.   Don’t cheat yourself.  If you’ve got local corn available, use it–even if you just steam it.  People get a little loopy about corn, perhaps because it shows up so late in the season.  I’ve seen people who would sneer at an out of state tomato pawing through a mound of imported supermarket corn in June, obsessively wrenching apart  the husks to peer into the crown, invariably disappointed.  What are they hoping to find?  Do they really think that the starchy ears trucked in from ten states away will be any good?  Have tomatoes taught them nothing?  If peace, love and happiness aren’t growing in your own back yard–at least when it comes to corn and tomatoes–then they probably aren’t growing anywhere at all.

Advertisements

Cherry Goat Cheese Clafoutis

Cherry Goat Cheese Clafoutis-2

I’m not a fan of cherry pie (too sweet).  How un-American is that?  You can practically hear George Washington grumbling as he rolls over in his grave.  Oh wait, George Washington chopped down the cherry tree, at least apocryphally.  Maybe he wasn’t a fan of cherry pie either.  Maybe if George had enjoyed a Cherry Goat Cheese Clafoutis once in awhile the father of the United States might have been depicted by contemporary artists looking as if he were actually pleased about it.  Clafoutis can cheer anyone up.  As a student without much money in the French-speaking part of Switzerland I would sometimes treat myself to a slice of a beautiful clafoutis displayed in a pastry shop window.  It was one of those dependable, not terribly expensive indulgences that made me feel comforted and sophisticated at the same time.  With one foot in the tart world and another in the cake world, a medium that tasted a bit like crêpes and felt like custard, how could it not brighten my day?

Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers

Tomato and Burrata Salad-2

We’re obsessing over peeled tomatoes.  Jody has even made a convert of me, Mr. No-Fuss-No-Muss.  Tomato and Burrata Salad with Basil, Olives and Capers might well have begun Peeled Tomato…  By the end of the summer you’ll either be slipping tomatoes out of their skins quicker than a fast-change artist in a costume shop. . . or you’ll be reading another food blog that doesn’t ask so much of you.  But if you do, you’ll miss the supple sensation that is a tomato without its skin, as well as a remarkable esthetic experience.  I, for one, had no idea how ordinary tomatoes metamorphosed into the Betty Grables of the garden without their skins.   They’re gorgeous.

And nothing makes it worth the effort – trifling as it is – of removing a few tomato skins than pairing the tomatoes with burrata, the really hot cousin of bufala mozzarella.  

Corn and Mussel Chowder

Corn and Mussel Chowder-3926-1

In his brilliant maritime novels set during the Napoleonic wars the English writer Patrick O’Brian was ruthlessly accurate about the handling of square-rigged sailing ships and the social relations in the British navy.  In order to keep readers from feeling completely adrift O’Brian, whom the NYT Book Review dubbed “Jane Austen at sea,” often had his sea-wise characters explain details of shipboard life to landlubbers who had wandered into the story.  Those new to cuisine afloat soon learned, for example, that chowder and the dreaded “portable soup”* were thickened with hardtack lest the liquid slosh out of the bowl and onto the diner. Hardtack, sailors then cheerfully pointed out, was infested with worms, nicknamed “bargemen,” after their resemblance atop the crackers in the soup, to pilots steering captain’s barges  from one side of the bowl to the other.   In MASTER AND COMMANDER, O’Brian has a character contemplate his soup with its infested crackers and then observe, “Don’t you know that in the Navy one must always choose the lesser of two weevils.  Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!”  

You’re either on board with this kind of humor or you’re not.  If you’re not, you can console yourself with today’s post, Corn and Mussel Chowder.  Oh ha, ha, ha, ha!

Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios

Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios-1

Our summertime preferences for sweets run to the light and refreshing, as versus the dense and sensual.  I want to rise from the table and feel as though I’ve beaten the heat and humidity, not stoked the furnace, which makes Chili-Ginger Granita with Watermelon and Pistachios the ideal dessert after a meal of grilled lamb and eggplant, or just a treat to dull the edge of a blistering afternoon.

If you’re unfamiliar with granita, think of it as the crunchy version of sorbet.  Granita’s gravelly texture would seem to make it the coarse country cousin of sorbet, yet somehow it manages a rude elegance, like handmade orecchiette, that sorbet can’t quite touch.  Aside from the fact that sorbet often contains egg white, and granita does not, the primary distinction between the two is that sorbet is made in an ice cream machine.  The machine churns as the sorbet mixture freezes, breaking the ice crystals into smaller and smaller pieces, resulting in a dense, even texture.  Granita predates the ice cream machine. The basic method begins with a frozen block of fruit flavored ice, then scraping it apart with a fork.   Surprisingly, this is quite easy.  A subtler approach is to stir up the granita a few times during the process of freezing, then scraping this somewhat looser product after it has frozen completely.  We tried both.  Both work.  The freezer interruptus method results in finer crystals.  Your call.