Summertime: Let’s Pit And Strip!

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As summertime swings into High Gear with a crippling heat wave, the local farm stands are starting to break out the serious material.  We’ve been through Wave 1: Asparagus (a local specialty, according to legend and the Hadley Chamber of Commerce).  Then there was Wave 2: Strawberries and Rhubarb.

I’m a huge fan of the asparagus, love strawberries, and I can plumb do without the rhubarb.  I’ve never been able to abide that stuff.  Don’t like the texture, don’t like the flavor – no matter how dressed-up it is with other stuff.  Just can’t stand it.

So I’m happy to report that we’re getting in to Wave 3: Corn.  And in the grocery stores, Cherries.  I had a Produce-Buying Extravaganza this afternoon, bringing home four big shopping bags of veggies, and some other necessaries for soup-bases.  Roy has departed for Points South (New York City) to visit family, and I regard it as only right to honor his temporary departure with a spate of vegetarian cooking…because if there’s one thing Roy can’t stand, it’s a dinner without meat and potatoes.*

Tonight’s Festival of Goodness involves a corn risotto and a cherry pie.  As long as I was heating the house up by running the oven for the pie, I toasted a heap of bread chunks alongside it, so tomorrow’s Feast is going to be a Panzanella.

For now, I give you Corn Risotto With Basil Oil, and Cherry Pie With Coconut Crumble.  Bon apetit.

First, the risotto.  The original recipe is for a standard stir-till-you-go-blind babysitting risotto.  I’ve monkeyed with it substantially in order to use my load-and-go rice cooker.  If you like rice dishes at all –  risottos, rices, tapioca puddings, steel-cut oats, stewed fruit preserves, anything like that – I heartily recommend a rice cooker.  I hate single use appliances, and thought that rice cookers were one of those…until I saw the Rice Cooker Cookbook, which showed me the Error Of My Ways.  It’s now an indispensable part of my kitchen operation.  You’ll find the rice-cooker recipe for this dish below the old-fashioned one – and if you compare the two, I think you’ll find yourself taking a good hard think about acquiring one of these babies. In addition, the two recipes here feature some of the few truly single-purpose implements in my kitchen…both of which would be worth their weight in gold if they weren’t made of plastic. I wouldn’t be without either one.

3 ears of corn
2 T butter
2 leeks, sliced thinly
1/4 C dry white wine
2 C chicken stock
3 C water
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (you will need rather more of this than you expect to)
handful of fresh chives, snipped into little bits
4 T basil olive oil (find this with the olive and exotic oils at the grocery)
1/3 C shredded parmesan

Peel the corn and use the corn stripper to get the kernels off without making a mess or leaving most of the corn on the cob.  Throw the cobs away, keep the kernels.

Melt the butter in a big saute pan or risotto pan over medium heat, and add the leeks to the melted butter. Cook for about 5 minutes, giving a stir once in a while to keep the leeks from burning. Add the white wine.

Meanwhile warm the stock and water in a saucepan over medium heat. You should keep the liquid hot but not simmering.

Increase the heat under the leeks to medium, add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is hot throughout, about 3 minutes. Begin adding the hot liquid 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding more liquid only when the previous addition has been absorbed. After 10 minutes, stir in the corn. It will take about 20 minutes of constant stirring for the rice to absorb all the liquid and achieve a suitable creaminess. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, the chives, and the basil oil.

OR, IF YOU HAVE THE RICE COOKER…

3 ears of corn
2 T butter
2 leeks, sliced thinly
1/4 C dry white wine
3 C chicken stock (note this is not the same amount of liquid as above, because you are not going to be pumping any in the form of steam into your kitchen.
1 C plus 2 T Arborio rice (also note this is not the same amount of rice as above)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (you will need rather more of this than you expect to)
handful of fresh chives, snipped into little bits
3 T basil olive oil (also a different quantity than above)
2 T butter
1/3 C shredded parmesan

Peel the corn and use the corn stripper to get the kernels off without making a mess or leaving most of the corn on the cob.  Throw the cobs away, keep the kernels.

Melt the butter in a big saute pan or risotto pan over medium heat, and add the leeks to the melted butter. Cook for about 5 minutes, giving a stir once in a while to keep the leeks from burning. Add the white wine.  Add the rice, and stir until the edges of the rice grains become transparent.  When each has a large white dot in the middle, you are done. Empty the pan into the rice cooker.  Dump the corn into the rice cooker.  Pour the chicken stock in, stir everything up, close it, and set for the Porridge cycle.

Go put your feet up, have a glass of wine, hang out with company, anything but stand there over a hot stove stirring until your arm wants to fall off. When the rice cooker beeps, put the butter in and give it a stir.  Wait a few moments, then put the chives, cheese, and basil oil in and give it a stir.  Serve.

Serve this with a simple salad.

Finish up with the pie:

Cherry Pie with Coconut Crumble

1 crust pie shell

For topping
1/2 C flour
1/2 C (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 C rolled oats (NOT quick-cooking or instant)
1/2 C coconut flakes
1/4 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 C (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces

For pie
2.5 lbs fresh cherries
2/3 C sugar
juice of 1 good-sized lime
grated zest from the same lime
2 T quick-cooking tapioca (be certain that you have got the “quick cooking” type)

Mix first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Use the cherry pitter to rid your cherries of their pits.  Wear an apron while you are doing this, because some mess is inevitable.  Be aware that your fingers and any dry cuticles on the nails will take on a crimson hue: if you’re having company that you’d rather not frighten, wear a pair of those cheap latex-free gloves that you can buy in a big sack from the grocery store.  Mix the pitted cherries with the sugar, lime juice, lime zest, and tapioca in a bowl, and dump the lot into the waiting pie crust.

Put the pie on a baking pan that you don’t care very much about, or use aluminum foil to cover the pan.  This pie will boil over.  If you use the foil-covered pan approach, I strongly suggest giving the pan a spritz of non-stick spray before covering it with the foil.  Sounds like belt + suspenders, but this advice comes from Ugly Experience. Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Pull it out, knock the oven temp down to 375°F. Pat the topping over pie. Bake until done (about 50 minutes).  Pie should be boiling over, as predicted. Coolat least 30 minutes if you don’t want to be peeling the skin off the roof of your mouth.

                                                                                                                           

*Hahaha, just kidding.  Roy is going to be reading this in New York and I’m counting on the vision of a table loaded with my vegetarian home-cooking to draw him home, maybe even a little early.  And if the vision of the groaning vegetarian board doesn’t do the trick, the fact that the air-conditioning is busted in his mother’s apartment in the City, where temps are up near three-digits, may speed his return.

Race Point Dunes

Race Point, Cape Cod. No good link with cherries and corn other than the powerful statement that It’s SUMMER!

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About Lori Holder-Webb

I'm a Southern Woman by birth and a Texan Woman by upbringing...and yet I find myself living in New England and married to a New York City boy. Up here we use the same currency as we do at home, and I don't need to travel with a passport, but the commonalities pretty much end there. The language is different, the jokes are different, the people are different, and the weather and terrain sure are different too. I moved away from Texas in 2002, and ever since then, I've been the stranger in the strange land... I've had some questions about the name of the blog - if you were not alive, or living abroad or under a rock, or in grad school during the late 1980s, Oldsmobile attempted to shuck its stodgy image with a series of commercials intended to bring brand appeal to the younger generation: this car, they said, is not your father's Oldsmobile. If you have a morbid curiosity, hit YouTube for William Shatner Oldsmobile...it will take you right there.

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