Garam Masala is subtle. No one would mistake this for curry. It’s more like a warm summer welcome that announces the flavor of scallops and corn, hands you a drink and a fork, and then gets out of the way.
Not that kind of naked. Naked as in camera-only. No multiple lights, no radio controls, not even a tripod. It has been a very long month–the PanMass Challenge, loved ones off to parts known and unknown–and during our single day of work in a week of vacation the last thing I wanted to do was set up lights and softboxes in our little vacation kitchen to make it look and feel transformed. Sometimes all you can do is just let things be. We had
barely enough plenty of light coming though the windows and I thought why not dance on the edge a little? Back to basics: camera – light – food. This is a Chilled Corn and Peach Soup photographed au naturel.
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.
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!