Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In which I pretend to appear on "Chopped"...

YIKES! Another muggy, 90-degree day today! But I'm not complaining, as my vegetable garden is finally getting the heat that it needs to produce. I planted so late, and the summer has been so cool and rainy, that I wasn't sure that I would see a proper harvest this year. But yesterday while I was weeding the garden (not the hottest--har, har--idea I've ever had when it's 90 degrees), I found a few surprises and what I hope is the harbinger of many good things to come in the next couple of months.

TA-DAH! The first (mini-) harvest! I picked a small red tomato (I believe it was a super-early variety appropriately named, "Manitoba"), three black cherry tomatoes, the first straightneck yellow squash, and a handful of several kinds of basil (mostly, I was just trying to pinch the flowers off of the plants). Being the sort of person who never enjoys things going to waste, I challenged myself to using all of these fresh ingredients in one meal, sort of like my own personal episode of "Chopped."

And HERE'S what I came up with: Bruschetta-Topped Ribeye with Pan-Fried New Potatoes and Jalapeno, Squash and Corn Spoonbread! Are you feeling me, people?! Let me walk you through it...

First, I had the idea to make a cornbread filled with lots of sauteed veggies, but what I ended up with was much softer and moister, more like a squash casserole that you could almost pick up and eat with your hands, or perhaps most like a southern spoonbread. It was DELICIOUS, and as a postscript, the leftovers were great with poached eggs for my breakfast/brunch today. (My second attempt at poaching eggs Julia's way was more successful than the first, yet still nothing to brag about. But I digress...)

Jalapeno, Squash and Corn Spoonbread

4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
1 very large or two small jalapenos, seeded, ribbed and diced
1 6 to 8-inch summer squash, seeds and spongey core removed, then shredded
2 ears of corn, husked, de-silked, and kernels cut from the cob
1 can cream-style corn
salt and pepper, to taste
2 small packages of cornbread mix (I used Martha White), batter prepared acc. to package

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the diced onion, jalapeno, squash, and corn from the cob, and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are tender. Add a can of creamed corn and mix everything together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the cornbread mix according to the package directions (I used two small boxes of Martha White and made the batter with milk), then stir in the sauteed vegetables. Spray two regular muffin tins liberally with nonstick cooking spray, then using a large scoop, fill almost to the top of each muffin cup (you will probably get 18-20).

Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until set in the middle and golden brown around the sides. Run the point of a sharp knife around the spoonbread muffins when they come out of the oven to loosen, but let them cool in the pan for at least ten minutes or they will fall apart as you try to extract them!

While the spoonbread was baking, I diced the tomatoes, added minced garlic, salt and pepper, a drizzle of EVOO, a good splash of balsamic vinegar, a few pinches of parmesan cheese, and a chiffonade of Genovese, Aromatica, lemon and lime basils, and set the bruschetta aside for the flavors to meld while I got onto the meat and potatoes.

I liberally coated a bone-in ribeye with the house barbecue rub, and threw it immediately into a hot pan with two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil to sear. Meanwhile, I nuked four smaller new potatoes that I acquired from a farmstand down the road about five miles from me, and when they were tender, I halved them and peeled them. When I flipped the steak over to cook on the other side, I placed the potato halves face-down in the meat drippings to brown. When the meat was done, I removed it from the hot pan to cool for a bit and to let the juices settle, and kept browning the potatoes on all sides. When they were crispy and golden, I added them to my plate, topped the steak with the bruschetta, and threw a spoonbread muffin on the side.

If that doesn't do it for ya, I don't know what will! A fitting feast to celebrate the beginning of the harvest in the North Country! REVEL in it, my friends! It was slow coming, and it'll be gone way too soon.

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