Wednesday, July 30, 2008

...HELLO corn and blueberries!

Since they have already begun to show "back to school" commercials, I am begrudgingly compelled to admit that we are on the other side of summer now. (Wouldn't that make a great title for a novel? The Other Side of Summer. But I digress...) And though we now grieve for the passing of springtime crops like lettuces and strawberries, I am ecstatic to report that the corn truck has finally arrived up at the corner store (as of last Thursday), and with the first sweet corn also come such welcome companions as green beans and blueberries!

Of course, my favorite way to eat sweet corn is to nuke the ears in their husks for about ten minutes, peel and de-silk, slather with butter, season with salt and pepper, and devour a minimum of two ears with every meal until October! But I thought I might try a new way to honor this harbinger of the harvest (another good novel title). In the latest issue of Gourmet, they shared a yummy-looking corn pudding recipe that looked like it would just do the trick. It's a savory bread pudding from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, though carnivores may wish it as a side to be paired with some grilled meat or another. Besides showcasing fresh corn, it's also a handy recipe for using up odds and ends of bread that we all have lying about. And it's DEE-licious!

Bread Pudding with Corn
Gourmet, August 2008)
Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon corn oil or butter
1 bunch scallions, including the greens, sliced into thin rounds
4 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 teaspoon paprika or ground red chile, plus extra for the top
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped dill or basil
4 eggs
2 cups milk (use whole milk here)
1 tablespoon (or so) sugar, optional*
5 cups cubed bread without crusts (I prefer to leave the crusts on myself!)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup half-and-half or milk (I used heavy cream--oh yes I did!)

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter a 3-quart gratin dish or casserole.

Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, corn, and paprika and cook until the scallions have softened and the corn is heated through, about 4 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir in the parsley and dill (I opted for basil instead of dill).

Whisk the eggs and milk with 1/2 teaspoon salt (and sugar, if using) and pour it over the bread in a bowl. Add the corn mixture and cheese and transfer the mixture to the prepared dish. Pour over the half-and-half. Bake until puffed and browned, about 45 minutes. Add a dash of paprika or chile to the top and serve.

*Because this is new corn, not yet at the pinnacle of sweetness, I also added about tablespoon of sugar to the custard mix. You might also want to do this if you're using frozen corn in the off season.

Along with my first-of-the-season corn binge, I have also recently acquired two pints of the most gorgeous, Vermont-grown organic blueberries. The first thing that I just had to do with them is to make fresh blueberry pancakes for our Sunday brunch. I was seduced into doing so by that wanton temptress, Deb, over at Smitten Kitchen. As usual, her pictures looked good enough to eat! I only have two comments about the recipe. One, I would start with 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk and add the remaining 1/2 cup if needed. I just dumped all the liquid in at once and ended up with very thin, almost crepe-like pancakes. They were still delicious, but I think most folks would want something a bit thicker and fluffier. Secondly, I would advise you to go ahead and make the whole batch! Even though I was only cooking for two, I saved the leftovers, wrapped them in plastic, and then they can either be popped in the toaster or even in the microwave for a quick but fabulous workday breakfast. Cyd said that these pancakes were so good, you didn't even need syrup. I concur--perhaps a light sprinkling of powdered sugar would suffice. In either case, I say to you, YUM! And I'll say it again, YUM!

Best Buttermilk (Blueberry) Pancakes
(Source: adapted from Martha Stewart’s Original Classics Cookbook via
Smitten Kitchen)
Yield: Martha says this makes 9 six-inch pancakes; Deb got about 16 four-inch ones, and I got about 16 very thin six-inchers

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or slightly less table salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for brushing griddle
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen and thawed (optional)

1. Preheat an electric griddle to 375°F, or place a griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and four tablespoons melted butter, and whisk to combine. The batter should have small to medium lumps. DO NOT OVERMIX (batter should NOT be smooth or the pancakes will not be delicate and fluffy)!

2. Test the griddle by sprinkling a few drops of water on it. If the water bounces and spatters, the griddle is hot enough. Using a pastry brush, brush a little of the remaining butter onto the griddle.

3. Using a 4-oz. ladle, about 1/2 cup (for a 6-inch pancake), pour the batter in pools 2 inches apart. If you wish to make blueberry pancakes, arrange a handful over the cooking pancake, pressing them in slightly. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, about 2 1/2 minutes, flip over. If any batter oozes or blueberries roll out, push them back under with your spatula. Cook until golden on bottom, about 1 minute.

4. Repeat with the remaining batter. You can keep the finished pancakes on a heat-proof plate in the oven at 175°F. Serve warm.

No comments: