Corn season is almost over in these parts. I can tell because I have to wear slippers (like a proper Chinese person) and butter won’t soften just because I left it on the kitchen table (though that has as much to do with household thermostat policies as the weather outside). This photo is of some corn we bought at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. We took it home, with no plans in particular, and when we shucked it (husked? Whatever, I like “shucked”), it looked good enough to eat – pearly white and yellow with irregular kernels so plump (sorry, I hate that word too) they almost looked decadent, fatty, excessive, like obscenely marbled steak.
I couldn’t resist taking a bite. And that bite, and the subsequent bites (I ate the whole thing), inspired me to take this rather terrible photo so that I would remember how insanely sweet and, well, corn-y this ear of corn was. Corn from the grocery store or corn that has been sitting in the fridge too long can approximate the texture of fresh sweet corn, maybe, but has nothing on its taste. Chowing down on this ear was like eating a candy bar, with all of the snap and sweetness, only way, way better (for you).
We ended up sauteeing the kernels with double-smoked bacon and coconut oil, and garnished the dish with cilantro, black pepper, and milk from the cob, obtained via Max’s technique – using the back of the knife to scrape and squeeze all that corny goodness out of each ear. The dish was amazing. Even so, I don’t know if I’d trade it for eating corn straight off the cob, utterly raw and crazily sweet (while watching a Top Gear marathon). They were both amazing.
Anyway, we’re heading to the Copley Square Farmer’s Market this afternoon. I’ll probably buy a bag or two of corn, maybe to freeze, maybe for soup, maybe to eat right off the cob. We’ll see! I won’t miss summer, or corn (corn… corn… corn!), at least not for now. Fall brings lots of excitement, even and especially for root crops, which I’m sure I’ll hate by the end of winter. Visit your local market, support your local farmers and gardeners, and they’ll have plenty of sweet corn for you next summer.
1. This morning, Max picked the first sungold tomato produced in our garden. The tomato plant came from our amazing CSA at Westhaven Farm, and we have watched it grow and fruit over the last few weeks. Tiny, orange, and pretty darn delicious, it was a little piece of sunshine after all the thunder and lightning yesterday in Ithaca. To us, though, it meant something else. It was a reminder of the industrial food system and our efforts to disconnect ourselves from it and to figure out how others can do the same.
2. We recently read an article, an excerpt from a book, actually, by Mark Estabrook, a former editor of Gourmet (RIP). Many of us know about the horrifying human costs of industrial tomato farming. I learned in this article that there are migrant workers who are literally, not figuratively, enslaved on tomato farms. Maybe you already knew about this?
3. This is a little hard for me to write. When I got done reading the Estabrook article, I felt really, really sick. I wanted to drive to Wegman’s and yell at someone. I don’t think this is a good platform to tell people what and how to eat, but I want to share what I learned and what I think, which is this: It’s still important to eat carefully, especially when it comes to tomatoes. For me, this means eating local tomatoes only when I’m the one doing the shopping. In Ithaca, this means eating them when they’re in season, not whenever I want one. This is a choice I’m prepared to make. And anyway, they taste better.
Some important quotations from the Estabrook article:
1. Are you tired of wanting to fry things in butter and being foiled by butter’s low smoke/burn point? Clarify it! And then do whatever you darn well please with it. It’s lactose free, too!
2. Melt two or more sticks of butter in a saucepan over low low low heat. Cook until the foam and bubbling subside and the butter is a golden brown, about 40 minutes. Careful not to burn the milk solids that are at the bottom of the pan!
3. Strain through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer or old tshirt or any combination thereof. Or, mix in some hot tap water, fridge it, and come back a few hours later to find a golden frisbee of clarified butter with all the milk solids sunk in the water underneath.
1. Asparagus season is almost over here in Ithaca.
2. Asparagus loses most of its flavor within hours of being picked, so eat it right when you get home from the market. Do not, do not, do not buy it from the supermarket unless it’s fresh!
3. Add lemon zest, salt, and olive oil; broil until blistered and tender.