Wednesday, July 20, 2005

So after the family dinner Sunday, my mother was pressing leftovers on her children, as a mother will do, and she asked about the grilled corn. I said I would take some for a salsa or a salad or something. One of my sisters commented that that was the difference between her and me: she just heats up leftovers, and I cook with them.

Now, my sister cooks. She has three kids, and she makes dinner and bakes cookies and all that. But I do think that there is a point in your development as a cook when you start to think, not in terms of meals, but in terms of household food planning. This is a skill that doesn’t come until you’ve been cooking for yourself for a number of years, so that you have the culinary wherewithal to wing it a bit, and you have to be making most of your meals, so that you have ample opportunities to use things up. It takes a while to get there, and I think fewer and fewer people manage it these days, what with all the prepared foods available.

This sort of culinary strategizing really gets my frugal little peasant heart a-beating. Maybe it’s not the sexiest side of cooking, but it has its appeal. There’s a certain thrill in knowing you haven’t let anything go to waste, that all of your sows’ ears have been sewn up into pretty little silk purses.

So here’s a round-up of possibilities for that grilled corn (which by the way, is not quite in season locally yet. Mom jumped the gun. But this summer is hot; maybe we’ll have some soon.):

Salsa – mix with chopped tomatoes, chili, cilantro, black beans if you like, a bit of cumin.

Quesadilla – make a similar mix to the salsa, put inside a quesadilla with cheese.

Cornbread – A local restaurant used to make a specialty cornbread with real corn in it. Frankly, I found it a bit gross. But I had many friends who loved it.

Chowder – Cut the kernels off the cobs. Put the cobs in some chicken broth and simmer ½ hour. (Extra points for use of part of the vegetable normally thrown out). Meanwhile, chop and sauté some onion and red pepper. Add some red pepper flakes, a bit of celery seed. Add the corn-infused broth and a bay leaf, bring to a simmer. Add chopped potato. Cook until potatoes are tender. Add corn kernels and cream (light, heavy – your waistline, your decision). Heat through. Variation: Use sweet potatoes, a chili or two, a touch of cumin, skip the cream, add cilantro at the end.

Pasta – This is what I had for lunch. Cook up some penne. Saute a couple slices Italian sausages. Remove from pan, pour off most of the grease. Add a few cloves of garlic, cook for two minutes, add a bunch of kale, Swiss Chard or other slightly bitter green. Saute until the greens are wilted (if you have a lot of greens, you can lower the heat and cover for a minute or two to let them steam). Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Add the corn to warm. Mix together sausage, greens/corn, pasta. You could definitely add roasted red peppers, either from a jar or grilled with the corn. A little Parm is nice; a lot of black pepper is necessary. This is a variant of something I used to make back when I had a grill, called “Every-vegetable-you-can-think-of-plus-sausage-over-pasta.”

Salad - Grilled corn, black bean, avocado, arugula salad with cumin-lime dressing.

Corn pudding – Put corn in buttered ramekins, add shredded cheese, pepper. Pour a mix of egg and milk over. Bake in hot-water bath until set in the middle. Again, roasted red peppers would be a nice addition.

There is no need to eat corn on the cob reheated in the microwave. Resist!

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