Friday, September 07, 2007

corn in the grand scheme of things

So, in a previous post I mentioned the garden pests being pretty bad this year and how my first round of corn never made it into the house. Hoo boy was I pissed. Then sunday morning I picked our first ears and IMMEDIATELY brought them inside and boiled them. Well, obviously they made a little stop for documentation purposes, but not for the worse. The water was boiling and ready. They boiled for a few minutes and then we slathered them with butter and a pinch of salt. It was super satifying eating an ear of home grown corn. It was two years in the waiting and I would be chawing on some momentarily. My day of corn had arrived.

It looked promising. Full kernals, tender and white. I took my first bite. Corny for sure, kinda tender, but not really sweet. Figures. Work my ass off to finally get some corn around here and it's just alright. Damn! Ok, I mean I can see that I'm on a rant here but geez man, in terms of input effort and final produce this experiment screamed loser. I thought to myself "well, in the grand scheme of things this is a lesson that I should stick with growing tomatoes here in coldville, where the sun is not powerful enough to produce super sweet corn."

Two days later I found myself eating chili and what I really wanted in it besides hotdogs was some fresh corn. But nooooo, not enough around here to be found. Maybe in another week we'll have a few more ears if the theives, er uh.....I mean garden pests don't make off with them. Anyway, the chili was very satisfying in a local sense, but a bit tough with some under cooked beans. Next time I'll make it on a day that I'm not attempting three other kitchen tasks. You live and learn right? Patience you see, is inevitable in the grand scheme of things. One of the better spices in the kitchen, right up on the shelf next to love.

Tuesday night after the farmers' market, I was famished. We had some leftover white beans, zucchini and 'maters on the counter, and herbs that needed picking in the dark of night. Meaning it was dark and I needed herbs. A bit of chopping, dash of olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Tossed in the dish the beans were in to save on washing. Cold bean with fresh tomato salads are some of my favorite and with some feta and walnuts thrown in this one certainly hit the spot. The only thing it was missing was some fresh corn.

Speaking of no corn, last night for the first time in months I made my first pizza dough without cornmeal in it. It wasn't as difficult as I thought, as I simply substituted whole wheat. It still makes for one fine dough, especially herbed as we like to do it here at the monkey ranch. I had some fresh tomato sauce and some delicious sautéed mushroom-peppers-onions combo for the top. Some jersey jack to finish it and all that was needed was blistering heat for near ten minutes. It was chewy and herby on bottom, gooey contained in crisp up top. The elder monkey and I ate the entire thing in about the time it took to halfway cook some calzones. I was a bit amazed my cousin didn't show up, having that preternatural sense about them soon going in the oven at your house. With the bready items finishing cooking it was time to prep dinner.

I whizzed up a dough earlier that morning. It was all local wheat that I tried coaxing into being flakey. It had obvious butter chunks when I started but was rather thick and a bit tough. I'll have to keep working on these whole wheat crusts. I love them, but I think I need a grain mill or grinder attachment or something so I can start off with a finer flour. It was chunky and smelled nice, and the gauge it was rolled out at should contain just about any degree of wet contents. I hacked up some broccoli and green beans, putting them in the steamer for the last ten minutes the quiche baked. If only we had some fresh corn.......

The next morning it was even better. The super soft texture of the custard from the night before performed a miracle and held up nicely. The crust softened a bit in the fridge as the moisture in the dish evened out. It is one of my favorite breakfast items so a few slices served with some strong local coffee put me in the right frame of mind to end the week on a strong note.

Overall, we'd been living large eating locally this week. One round of corn instead of a predicted three, but what the hell I learned a lesson in the grand scheme of gardening here in oaktown. Next year, I won't spend so much time on just a few ears of corn. I'll channel some of that energy (and water) toward other veggies that can be put up for later.

Speaking of putting up, over at the new locavore blog there are many examples of folks preserving things this month. For an inventory of the work I've done so far this week go check it out here on my new locavore page.

Now for a few recipes of the food pictured here:

Plant, water, encourage the sun to shine on, protect from mites aphids ants dogs humans and the like for a real long time until the stalks are about ready to give you sustenance. Go out to pick and become quite depressed with your fellow humans as you realize your corn has been ripped off. Wait another week and then finally come inside and eat an ear. Realize that the best corn you can grow is nowhere near as good the stuff at the farmers' market. Learn your lesson that corn just doesn't do that good around here.

Boil ears for 5 minutes. Slather in butter and a pinch of salt. Enjoy.

2 cups cooked butter beans
1 small zucchini
3 ripe garden tomatoes
6 big leaves of basil
2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 diced feta
olive oil and salt to taste

Combine the beans, diced zucchini and diced tomatoes, chopped basil and thyme together. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil and add some salt. Mix and then add cheese according to your own preference. I used a cow milk feta here so it was probably milder than the typical goat version. Add the chopped walnuts, adjust the salt if needed and then sit down and enjoy it all to yourself as you deserve a nice healthy meal after a long day at work.

2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 stick butter
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freeze butter then chop into smallish pieces. Add to flour in a food processor along with salt and blend until crumbly. Don't over do it. Make sure there are obvious chunks of butter still left. Remove from food processor and add the egg and yogurt. When dough is just beginning to stick together gather into a ball and wrap up, putting into the fridge for a few hours while you work on the filling and other stuff.

5 eggs
1 cup non-fat milk
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
10 ounces grated jack and cheddar cheese (whatever proportion you like, but remeber the jack melts better in a quiche application)
1 cup sauteed veggies with bacon pieces (this started out as pancetta that was cooked and taken out of the pan, then mushrooms, onions, bell pepper and jalapeno were added and cooked until brown and lightly carmelized then the pancetta was put back in)

Roll dough into a shape roughly two inches wider than the dish you are putting it in. Press into place, shape the edges into a fun crust. Combine filling ingredients into another bowl and pour into crust. Place into a preheated 400 degree oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes. Turn down to 350 and cook until middle is set and lightly brown, maybe 10 or 15 more minutes.


K & S said...

so, I'm thinking you should attach tiny rat traps on your ears of corn so when the pests take hold of it...whappa! The photos of your corn look like the corn we have in Hokkaido. In Hawaii when it is lychee season, there are families that actually sleep next to their tree to prevent it from being raided overnight.

Mimi said...

I hope the pests were as disappointed in your corn as you were. :0)
Great looking food. Even though there was a corn shortage, it looks like everyone must have been full and happy all week.
Your crust sounds nutritious but you might want to try a crust with whole wheat, butter and ice water. Mine comes out great. No egg or milk products. If you scoot over to the library, look for a book called the Moosewood book of desserts. I use their recipe for pie crust but substitute whole wheat flour for when I make quiche. The lemon variation is wonderful for sweet pies.

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Monkey Wrangler said...

Kat: Nice idea with the traps! I'd try sleeping out there sometime but my neighbors would either think I'm some homeless guy and call the police or the homeless guys would be encouraged and move right into my yard.......maybe I should stick to planting spikey things next year.

Mimi: Thanks for the tips (Mollie Katzen rocks!) I think my sis has that book so I'll try borrowing it. As for the flour though, I'm buying it at the farmers' market where I have a choice of a higher or lower gluten content wheat. I've been buying the higher for bread making so when I use it otherwise it might not exactly be helping in the toughness department. I have tried it with an ice water recipe and it was still quite tough. The flour is also much coarser than any pastry flour I've ever seen, so really I'll try it out again, but I have a feeling I'll need a different flour in the future.

Automatic message program in the name of Kamarulzaman Suief: Please pull your head out of your ass and read the response I posted before! You, you get no link exchange. Maybe what you need is all caps. NO! I DO NOT WANT A LINK EXCHANGE! LEAVE ME ALONE!

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Joanna said...

hey monkey wrangler - back to the tomatoes. what did you end up doing with them- canning or freezing? Either way, can you share your process? I've never canned tomatoes and just heard about needing to add lemon juice to prevent botulism? do share your experience.

Rev. Biggles said...

Feh, corn in your neck of the woods? I dun't think so. Me thinks you need some of that Kansas heat for that. Like over in concord. Big D grows tons of sweet corn action. He's got heat though. My corn sucks worse than yers.


HipWriterMama said...

The pizza and the quiche look simply divine. Thanks for the quiche recipe. I'm going to try it this week.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Joanna: As the 'maters get ripe they are chopped, pressed a bit and frozen until I have enough for sauce making. I do now, but need the time. As the the actual canning, yes it involves adding an acid, like 2ish tablespoons per quart of sauce......don't quote me there though, quote what we have affectionately been calling the 'ol blue ball book, uh that is I mean the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. And so far (3 batches of sauce) so good.

Rev. Biggles: Yeah 'speriment over. Results: too much work for something that need bigger sun.

Hip: Let me know eh? It was rather tasty.....

leena! said...

Wow--you've been cooking up a storm lately, with or without corn. Wish I could say the same for me. I'm drowning in a sea of school work.
By the by, that pizza looks killer, monkey man! At what stage do you add the herbs into the dough?

Monkey Wrangler said...

Thanks Leena. 'Bout done with corn around here, yup.

As for the herbs, they go in the dough near the end of the kneading. So they're in there at least 7-8 hours. Mmmm.........herbs.

migraine florida said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Monkey Wrangler said...

Migraine: Like what the fuck kinda comment was that? It just had to be deleted!