Tuesday, September 6, 2011
A Kernel of Truth
One of the best things about late summer (aside from the slowly subsiding humidity) is what's available at the farmers market. Tomatoes are at their peak, peppers and chilies come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and juicy peaches and stone fruits are everywhere. But best of all, mountains of corn—white, yellow and bi-color—bookend most of the market stalls. The sound of shoppers undressing cobs by sharply removing their husks can often be heard from across the street, and making your way through the crowd to the front of the line becomes a contact sport.
Needless to say, I've found myself among the excitable throngs of folks tearing away at corn on more than one occasion, and—I'm embarrassed to admit—with equal tenacity. The difference between myself and many of my fellow corn enthusiasts is what we do with our corn once we've procured it. Lacking a proper grill and being too much of a weenie to try smoking indoors (but I'm working on it), I've discovered the next best thing: roasting corn off the cob. It's easy, it's fast, it's versatile, and best of all, it comes with easy clean up.
Simply cut all of the kernels off the cob into a large bowl with a paring knife (it's the least messy way to do this). Toss the corn kernels with a little extra virgin olive oil and the seasonings of your choice (I like salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne and cumin), and spread out onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Pop the whole thing into a 350 degree oven and roast for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and charred on the ends. That's it. Use it in pasta dishes (see one pasta salad example here), as a stand alone side-dish, or my favorite, as the base for a soup. Because you've already seasoned your corn, all that's left to do is blend it with chicken or vegetable stock. If you know you'll be making soup ahead of time, throw an onion and a few garlic cloves into the oven with the corn for extra flavor. Top with a few reserved corn kernels, a spoonful of sour cream, and a sprinkle of your favorite fresh herb. A little lime on the side caps off a perfectly light and sweet late summer dinner.
Roasted Corn Soup
6 corn cobs, husked, kernels removed and reserved
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves (skins left on)
1½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
3-4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place corn kernels, olive oil, onion, garlic, olive oil, cumin and cayenne in a large bowl and toss to combine. Spread mixture out onto a foil lined baking sheet or roasting pan (this will make clean-up easier) and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until kernels are slightly browned on the edges.
2. Reserve ½ cup worth of the roasted corn for garnish and place the rest of the roasted mixture into a blender (reserve the garlic), or if using a hand blender, add the mixture to a pot. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and into the mixture and discard papery skin.
3. Add enough stock to the mixture to cover, then blend to combine. Continue adding stock until your desired consistency is reached. Strain into a pot and reheat, or serve cold, topped with the reserved corn, sour cream, and cilantro. Enjoy!