In our last trip to the farmer’s market, your editor focused his energies mostly on heirloom tomatoes – and what tomatoes they were. This weekend, however, we’re taking a closer look at some of the other bounty of summer: sweet corn.
Corn, in general, has a number of things going for it: it’s colorful, nutritious and simple to prepare in a number of ways ( I prefer roasted or grilled, husk on for straight ears). Of course, what that list lacks, at least for much of the year, is taste. This isn’t a surprise; after all, most of the year we’re talking about corn moving through the agribusiness infrastructure in ways that would make a Slow Food-ite barf up their locally sourced organics. But thankfully, for a few months of late summer, corn becomes a local delight, with multiple delicious varieties available everywhere, from farmer’s markets to Safeway.
I’ve seen a number of different varieties of sweet corn around town in the past two weeks; in fact, I bought some about two weeks ago. Unfortunately it was a mess – mealy, with shriveled kernels. I had to cook the hell out of it, and mix it with store bought corn to get a passable dish. I was surprised, frankly. This weekend’s trip to my local farmer’s market, however, would prove completely different. What a difference a few weeks make. This weekend, I bought beautiful bi-color corn at the U st. farmer’s market. I can’t remember the name of the stand, but in the future, there will be copious shout-outs, I promise.
As I mentioned above, I prefer my corn oven roasted (or grilled) in the husk. But this recipe calls for a slightly different presentation: the corn kernels are cut from the cob, then pan roasted in a cast iron skillet. With fresh corn, it’s truly delicious and a truly simple, yet versatile recipe.
Pan Roasted Corn with Black Beans
Recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ears of corn
1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press
1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans (I used canned, but if you cook dried beans beforehand, you get a tastier dish and save money at the grocery store)
1 ripe tomato, cored and diced (heirlooms, like these green zebras, provide an interesting splash of color)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
An unbelievably simple recipe – just heat the oil, and cook the corn with salt and pepper, without fussing with it too much (this was difficult for me, I’m sure it will go easier for you) until it begins to char, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper and cook for a minute or so more, stirring more often. Combine with the tomatoes, black beans and lime juice. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning.
As I said, this is an incredibly versatile recipe. It can be served hot or cold, and keeps well in the refrigerator. Also, the recipe itself is endlessly variable: this recipe came from Bittman, but your editor has seen recipes which call for ginger, sweet onion, Thai chilies and cilantro; also, we make a version here at Casa Epicure with roasted red peppers and zucchini.
This recipe, specifically, has a nice balance of flavors: the sweetness of the carmelized corn combines with the acidity of the tomatoes (the cultivar I used, luckily, had a truly deep tomato flavor) and the richness of the black beans.
As for the thrifty side of this equation, even with farmer’s market ingredients this dish fits any budget: the corn cost $2.00 for the four ears; the tomatoes were $3.00/lb (each tomato ran me about $1.50 each); top it all off with a 99¢ can of black beans (using dried beans would cost you about 50¢ for the same equivalent; I’m all about that sweet 49¢ savings) and a 75¢ jalapeno and you’ve got a meal. Not too bad, and take a look at how beautiful it presents: