Corn

Wake Me Up When September Ends: Denial of Summer Growing Season Ending Charred Corn Salad

“Don’t you love New York [i.e. Los Angeles] in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I’d send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”

-Meg Ryan (sort of) in, “You’ve Got Mail”

Things that excite me about September:

  • Not being socially shunned for drinking hot coffee
  • Festive legwarmers and boots
  • Soup, Stew, Chili, and every other warm, hearty comfort food

Things that are the opposite of exciting in September:

  • Pumpkin mania – Thanks, Starbucks for killing my soul by offering Pumpkin Spice Lattes in 95-Degree August Los Angeles weather
  • The implication of everything becoming serious again, i.e. school beginning for those still doing that sort of thing and work vacation time elapsed with no end in sight until Thanksgiving and Christmas
  • The end of the summer growing season

I love so many things about autumn, but I’m definitely attempting to ignore summer being over like a parent dealing with a bratty child….which is not unlike how decent human beings treat ratchet girls at the club…..I digress.

This recipe is ridiculously simple. Twenty minutes gate-to-gate simple. Use-up-the-last-summer-corn-before-it’s-too-late-you-fool simple. Seriously, go make it. Slice some avocado on top of it, while you’re at it.

Charred Corn Salad

  • 4 Ears of Corn, Shucked
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1/2 Small Red Onion, Thinly Sliced
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • 1 teaspoon Pure Maple Syrup
  • 1 Jalapeno, Diced
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro

Brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before grilling over Medium-High heat for 12-ish minutes, i.e. until charred all over.

Meanwhile, let the onion sit in the lime juice for 10 minutes to mellow out the flavor. After 10 minutes have passed, add the maple syrup, jalapeno, and 2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Once the corn is charred to your liking, remove from the cob and toss with the dressing you’ve just made. Tear the mint, parsley, and cilantro leaves – because chopping is too much damn work when you’re hungry – and add the torn leaves to the corn mixture to your liking.

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Shrimp, Corn, and Brown Butter Pasta: I Tried Classic Comfort Food

In 2011, the United States was seventh in the world in pasta per capita consumption, but consumed more total pounds of pasta than Italy. Pasta is everywhere, all the time. It’s a date night classic, easy to throw together when you’re too lazy or tired to cook, and the majority of things it can be mixed with for flavor even comes in cans, jars, or some combination thereof for maximum convenience.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend and chef during which he described making pork bolognese to feel better after a bad day. I came home from that conversation to our former roommate sitting on the sofa, drinking beer and describing bolognese as the ultimate comfort food. Deja vu.

I mean, I get it. It’s warm, hearty, rich, meaty (or vegetable-y, depending on what school of thought you follow), and like a good relationship, gives back exactly what you put into it. I’ll be honest, though. This culinary force is not strong within me. To be blunt: I have never associated pasta with being a comfort food. I do not crave it after a bad day. I do not crave it after a good day. I do not crave it here or there, I do not crave it anywhere.

All right. What were we talking about?

Right.

I realize my wolf pack is going to dwindle to a minuscule number after I reveal I’m “not into pasta.” This acknowledged, I wanted to drink the Kool-Aid and try making something recognizable to the general public as a pasta dish. The focus was flavor. If the dish ended up being comforting, it would be a bonus.

I find comfort in….

  • closing my eyes on the sofa with The Beach Boys, The Ventures, or other instrumental surf music playing in the background and a glass of nice Tempranillo (preferably a Crianza….and Reserva….) on the side.
  • a long massage followed by a leisurely cappuccino.
  • curling up with cheese toast and a juicy book.

Which translated itself in my notebook to something rich (but not necessarily creamy), simple, and relaxing (i.e. very few steps) to make. I don’t have a new comfort food, but at least I’ll be able to whip something together for a last-minute date night.

Shrimp, Corn, and Brown Butter Pasta

  • 1/2 pound Shrimp – Peeled and Deveined
  • 2 ears Corn
  • Unsalted Butter (3  and 1/2 Tablespoons Total)
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup Dry White Wine (I used Francis Ford Coppola’s Director’s Cut Chardonnay. Remember, always be willing to drink the wine you’re cooking with.)
  • 1 stalk Celery – roughly chopped
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons Celery Leaves
  • 1 Shallott – 1/2 left whole, 1/2 finely diced
  • Parsley Sprigs (Grab a large handful)
  • Paprika
  • 1/2 pound (usually half a box) Fettuccine, Pappardelle, or other long pasta

Melt 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a pan over Medium-High heat and saute shrimp until pink and fully cooked through. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Cut the kernels off the corn cobs. SAVE THE COBS! YOU NEED THEM. Repeat, YOU NEED THEM.

Melt 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a pot over Medium-High heat until the butter starts to brown. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Toss in the corn cobs, celery, whole shallott half, parsley sprigs, and 3 cups of water. Boil this again, and reduce by 1/3. (30 minutes-ish)

Strain the vegetable stock (congratulations! You made stock without realizing it!) into a bowl and save.

Melt 1/2 tablespoon of butter (it’s not that much, I’m just mentioning it a lot. Do you want to feel better or not?) over medium heat, saute the diced shallott half until soft, then stir in paprika to taste until everything is a rusty red color. Pour in the reserved vegetable stock and 1 additional cup of water. Reduce by 1/3 (20 minutes-ish).

Stir in the corn and let boil and toil in the butter/stock mixture until fully cooked. If you’re stressed about scalding the bottom of your pan, add more water by the 1/4 or 1/2 cup….I didn’t need to, but you might, depending on how volcano-like your stovetop is.

Finally, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a large pinch of salt. Cook pasta until al dente according to package directions, drain, and return to pot. Stir in the corn mixture and cooked shrimp until heated through.

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Sorry your car is at a 45-degree angle in a ditch….try the muffins?

I shouldn’t complain about the hours I work. I mean, I lived with two djs. I’ve seen how exhausted they are after setting up for an event all day – heavy lifting, making sure sound works correctly, usually doing all this under the sun in black t-shirts – only to have to stand on their feet for five hours or more at night for their gigs. I’m used to not having Mr. Right in bed next to me when I head for sleep and not being able to say goodbye to him when I leave for work in the morning. It’s a working relationship. Shit happens. I’ve got so much respect for those ladies and gentlemen dating chefs, bartenders, bouncers, dancers, and the like. Snaps to all of you for making the commitment to making it work.

That being said, work weeks get stressful. I work 6-7 days a week. Yes, I realize that means I have no days off occasionally. Once again, shit happens. When I’m not at one museum, I’m at the other. I used to work for a contemporary photography gallery on top of those two museums. If I’m not at any of those places, but still not home? I’m either at the ice rink or in the dance studio – teaching and trying to convince my non-teenage body that I can still move in a way that’s moderately aesthetically pleasing.

I really, really shouldn’t complain. Real talk, I love it all. That being said, the vacation we just took to visit my family in Sacramento and spend time in Napa and San Francisco was needed.

A moderately accurate representation of my inner self during this trip.

Mr. Right and I spent an entire day shopping for food and alcohol while Hey-Telling (for those of you who don’t have this app, get it – it’s a walkie-talkie throwback to Nextel phone days) one of my best friends who was planning on joining my family’s celebrations.

My grandmother lives on a farm. I don’t mean this sarcastically, her house is literally in the middle of a functional field. The aftermath of a sunflower crop was everywhere while we were visiting.

In order to get to her house, one turns off the main road onto a smaller road….then off the smaller road onto a dirt road. It’s not exactly over the river and through the woods, but it’s far enough.

“If directions to your house include the phrase, ‘Turn onto a dirt road….you might be a hillbilly.'”

Heard it all before; trust me.

The outskirts of the field surrounding my grandmother’s house are lined with an irrigation ditch. A corresponding irrigation road runs alongside this. Do you see where the story is going yet? Since my girlfriend hadn’t been to my grandmother’s house since the summer following my freshman year at UCLA, she accidentally turned onto the irrigation road instead of the road leading to the house. A few yards into the turn, she realized she’d made a mistake, attempted to reverse, and…..

Damn. Festive firework added for this lovely lady’s privacy. Speaking of which, I love this woman.

Thankfully, no one was injured and we were able to make use of my AAA service. It took two tow trucks and two burly men quite a bit of effort to get the car back onto the road – as it turned out, only the front left tire was keeping it from going in the water – but the guys sent to help us in the 103-degree weather were nice, and my friend’s car didn’t even get wet.

After we were solidly dusty, they followed us back to my grandmother’s house for a plate of food. (I mean….it was the least we could do.) I also made sure to pour the poor girl an oversized glass of wine to go with the plate of carbs I shoved in her direction.

Muffins don’t fix everything….but they definitely help.

Garlic & Sun-Dried Tomato Corn Muffins (adapted from a recipe by Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients:

  • Two 8.5 packages Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (Don’t judge. Life must go easy on us, and our food sometimes. Besides, a lot of technology and money went into the box cake/muffin mix to make it taste good.)
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes – chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cups thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 3 cloves (or 3 tablespoons, if you’re working with the Costco-type of jar) minced garlic
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs – beaten

Turn an oven to 375 and place paper liners in a muffin baking sheet.

Mix the dry ingredients together (the muffin mix, sun-dried tomatoes, corn, and garlic). Mix the wet ingredients together (the milk, sour cream, and eggs.)

Combine the dry and wet mix together. (As you can tell, this recipe is extremely difficult. Please note the tone of voice I’m saying this in.)

Bake for 15 minutes ish, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out without any gunk on it.

Serve with the comforting beverage of your choice. Also make sure your car is safe, while you’re at it.

I had to get in on the fun. And obviously, UCLA girls rock.