It’s A Summer Cooking Extravaganza!!

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We’re well into the Dog Days of summer here in my neck of the woods, and while I’m having to take consolation in the knowledge that – unlike my home in Texas – this ghastly wave of heat and humidity will not be lasting for the next six whole months, it is fairly miserable at the moment and putting everyone out of sorts.  Even the Wonder Horse is out of sorts.  Even the Death Kittens, Bax and Max, are out of sorts.  I keep reminding myself that this weather will break…and in the meantime, I choose to focus on the extravagant cornucopia of goods fresh from the earth that are pouring out of every farmstand on every road, major and minor, in this area.

The season was off to a sllloooooowwww start, thanks to a lingering winter cold, but once it arrived, it came in with its usual absurd bounty. We’re finally moving into Tomato Season, which is also Corn Season.  And I’m having a minor existential crisis in the knowledge that there just aren’t enough days, and enough stomachs, in the house to make it possible for me to work my way through the glorious assemblage of summer-cooking recipes I have at hand.  Roy is doing his Manly Best to wade through seemingly bottomless spreads of vegetarian delights, but there’s only so many meals that he can eat in a single day, bless his heart.

At times like this, I think that maybe I should have become a chef instead of an accounting professor, and opened my own Farm To Table restaurant.  Then I consider the stunning workload that goes into running a restaurant, and cooking professionally, and I’m a little more resigned to my current situation.  I have an extremely limited audience, consisting of Roy, and our friend Louise, who seems happy to eat anything that pours out of my kitchen, and with this, I must be satisfied.

Still, I feel the need to Share.  So this is what my kitchen has provided this week.  A note: with my academic papers, I am scrupulous about keeping track of my sources.  With my cookbook, I am not at all good about this.  I collect recipes like a magpie collects shiny things, and have about as much notion of where they came from as that bird.  So if you see a recipe and think “Hey! That’s MINE!” please let me know and I will be more than happy to credit you.

Corn Bisque with Red Bell Pepper and Rosemary

4 T (1/2 stick) butter
2 C chopped onions
1/2 C diced carrot
1/2 C diced celery
7 1/2 C corn kernels (you can make this with frozen corn, but it is OH so much better if you make with fresh. Allow approximately 3/4 C kernels per typical ear of corn.)
1 T fresh rosemary
1/4 t cayenne pepper
6 C chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth (obviously, you can make this vegetarian, but it’s way tastier with chicken stock)
1 C half and half
1 red bell pepper, chopped

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, carrot and celery and sauté 3 minutes. Add 5 1/2 cups corn, rosemary and cayenne and sauté 2 minutes. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender and liquid is slightly reduced, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, purée soup in blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in half and half and remaining 2 cups corn. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and sauté until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Stir bell pepper into soup. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Bring soup to simmer. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Vichyssoise

Oh, god, it’s so good I don’t have words for it.

3 large leeks
3 T butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 lb potatoes, chopped
3½ C chicken stock (as before, if you want the Anemic Version, use vegetable stock)
2 t lemon juice (DO NOT LEAVE THIS OUT, AND USE THE FRESH STUFF, NOT THE SQUEEZE LEMON)
pinch nutmeg
¼ t ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1 egg yolk
2/3 C light cream
fresh chives, snipped, for garnish

Trim leeks and slice thinly. Melt butter in soup pot and cook leek and onion for about 5 minutes. Do not let them brown. Add potatoes, stock, lemon juice, nutmeg, coriander, and bay leaf to pan. Season with salt and pepper and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes until all vegetables are very soft. This is the original recipe talking here. I bought two big fat russet potatoes from the grocery, but then Roy ate one, and was sent back to the grocery in disgrace to buy another one. I told him “russet” and maybe that’s what he came back with…maybe he came back with something different. All I know is that I had to simmer this stuff for at least 1 hour before whatever he brought back started to collapse into “softness”. Be warned. Do not use Yukon Golds for this. Cool the soup slightly, remove and discard bay leaf, and puree in blender until smooth. If you’ve done it right, you should have a super-thick, almost glutinous result from the pureeeing process. I had to smack my KitchenAid blender on the side repeatedly in order to get it to puree things properly.

Blend egg yolk into cream, add some soup to the mixture, and then whisk all back into the soup and reheat without boiling. Adjust seasoning. Chill thoroughly. Serve sprinkled with chives.

Crispy Summer Flounder with Scallion Corn Ragout
aka Holy Sugar, I Can’t Believe How Good This Is!!! (that’s a direct quote)

1½ lb flounder filets
1 C milk
2 bunches scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
6 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
corn from 5 ears of corn (about 4 C)
½ C toasted wheat germ
1/3 C cornmeal
½ t sea salt
dash cayenne
½ C (packed) small fresh basil leaves
¼ C minced chives
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Place fish in large dish and cover with milk, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

In large skillet over medium heat, cook scallions in 2 T oil until softened. Stir in garlic and corn. Cook 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover, and keep warm.

Combine wheat germ, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne, in large flat dish. Remove fish from refrigerator and drain off milk. Dredge fish in wheat germ mixture and place on baking sheet.

In large skillet on high, heat 2 T oil. Add half the fillets and cook 3 minutes per side, adjusting heat if they brown too quickly. Transfer cooked fillets to platter. Add remaining oil to skillet and cook remaining fillets.

Just before serving, stir basil and chives into scallion-corn ragout. Season with salt to taste. Spoon ragout onto each plate and top with a fish fillet and lemon wedge.

COOK ON!!

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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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