Thursday, July 3, 2008

Corn Crazy

Corn is definitely one of my favorite things. I remember happy moments when I was growing up in the Catskills where we'd head off to Jackson's Farm to buy corn which would be pulled off the stalks while we waited and then we'd run home to a boiling pot of water to toss it in.

I'm not happy to learn that most of it is being planted for fuel these days. What a scam. I've had to buy ethanol when I've been in Iowa (my sister and nieces used to live there) and my mileage wasn't any better and the price wasn't any lower. I'm worried about world wide famine being increased because food corn is being repurposed.

I'm nuts for fresh or green corn tamales. It's a treat I discovered after I moved to Los Angeles. I can't remember if it was a night we went to El Cholo with our friends Karen and Michael or a night at El Coyote with Harlan and Susan Ellison. As good as those tamales are (and El Cholo claims to have originated them), it wasn't until I tasted the green corn tamales from Corn Maiden at a farmer's market that I found food for the gods. For one thing, Corn Maiden does not stick cheese or peppers in the green corn tamales (except for the ones sold at grocery stores.) I usually eat mine with a mild tomatillo sauce and it is just heavenly.

Corn Maiden has a booth at most of the larger farmer's markets in Los Angeles. It has booths at Calabassas on Saturday and Studio City on Sunday. There is always a Corn Maiden booth at the Sunday morning farmer's market in Hollywood (see picture), which I attend regularly (there's also a place selling roasted corn on the food concession row.) I like to eat mine while I shop, but I sometimes buy them for the freezer and steam them at home. While I've got a recipe, it's a labor intensive affair that I doubt I will ever try. It is so much easier to buy them, and Corn Maiden does have an on-line mail order business in Culver City.

(I will note that El Torito markets a packaged corn cake mix to which you add a can of creamed corn. It tastes very much like a green corn tamale and will do in those moments when I've just got to have one. I try to keep a package on hand for just such emergencies. I can find it in the Mexican food section of some of my local grocery stores, such as Von's.)

What I am willing to try is a recipe for a Roasted Corn Dip. It seems like a swell idea to take to a 4th of July party this weekend. We had a wonderful Roasted Corn Dip provided by Bite Catering Couture at Larry Niven's birthday party two weeks ago. While I didn't ask for their recipe, I found the one below at Emeril Lagasse's website. It reads like it will taste very much like the one I had (although I don't recall the olives.) I'm a little lazy, so I plan to use some of Trader Joe's wonderful frozen roasted corn (thawed, of course), which will make things go a little faster:

Roasted Corn Dip

  • 4 medium ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1/4 cup small diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup small diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1 medium jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • 1/2 pound grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions, (green part only)
  • 1/4 cup chopped black olives

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub each ear of the corn with the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place the corn on the grill or either on a open flame. Cook the corn for 1 minute on all sides. Remove from the heat and cool. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cob. In a large saute pan, melt the butter. Add the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the corn and continue to saute for 2 minutes. Add the jalapenos and garlic. Continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Turn the vegetable mixture into a mixing bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise and half of the cheese. Mix well. Stir in the green onions. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a greased 6 cup ovenproof oval baking dish. Spread evenly and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish the dip with the chopped olives. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

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