Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kinda Corny

Have I happened to mention this is my favorite time of year?  Once or twice or a thousand times on this blog?  The delicious, fresh produce is seemingly never ending.  We are literally gorging ourselves on corn and tomatoes right now, knowing we won't be eating them again for a very long time once the summer is over.  These are 2 vegetables that I'm pretty adamant about eating in season because the stuff that gets shipped in from California and Mexico the rest of the year is hardly worth eating.  Tomatoes can be salvaged by roasting so I do cheat occasionally, but I won't go near corn off-season.

So what have we been doing with the corn?  I had a double corn dose with some grilled empanadas.  The dough was made with masa, dried and limed ground corn that is used to make tortillas.  Which basically what these are - tortilla pockets.  Its very simple dough, just corn and water and a little salt.

The dough is divided into 4 balls and then flattened into tortillas.
Having a tortillas press really helps this process.  My mom picked one up for me in Mexico - just one of the many gadgets in my kitchen that gets used about once a year.  You can also use 2 heavy frying pans, that will work just as well.
For the filling I used...more corn!  Grilled and tossed with sauteed zucchini and summer squash (more abundant summer vegetables) and chopped queso fresco.

The reason you really need to make your own dough for this and not use store-bought tortillas is that you actually mold the dough around the filling so everything stays in when cooked.  

Traditionally empenadas would be fried, and you could certainly bake them for a lower fat version.  But since the grill was already on I decided to grill these.
They came out nice a crispy but a little on the dry side and in need of a sauce.  Luckily I had...tomatoes! I sauteed them into a spicy tomato sauce that was perfect on these.
The leftover filling made a great side salad.
Cheesy, corny goodness...

Grilled Corn and Zucchini Empanadas
Serves 2
1 cup masa flour
3/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 ears corn
1 small zucchini, roughly chopped
1 small summer squash, roughly chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup queso fresco, chopped
1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, grated
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 tsp chipotle powder or 1 canned chipotle
1/2 smoked paprika
  • In a medium bowl, mix together masa flour and water until it forms a crumbly dough.  Gather into a ball, cover with damp towel, and chill until ready to use.
  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add zucchini and summer squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute until lightly browned.  Transfer to a medium bowl.
  • Light a grill and heat to medium-high.
  • Husk corn and brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill until starting to char, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
  • Let corn cool slightly, then cut kernels from cob and toss with squash.  Added chopped queso fresco and toss.
  • In the large skillet, heat a little more olive oil over medium heat.  Add tomatoes and garlic and simmer about 10 minutes.  Stir in chipotle and and paprika and cook about 5  more minutes.  Remove from heat and cool a few minutes, then transfer tomato mixture to blender.  Blender until pureed but still chunky, keeping top of blender slightly open to allow heat to escape.  Return sauce to pan and heat over low.
  • Remove dough from fridge and divide into 4 equal portions.  Roll each into a ball.  It helps to have wet hands.  Cover with damp towel.  Working one at a time, press each ball between 2 pieces of plastic wrap using tortilla press or 2 heavy frying pans.  Press evenly until thin and about 5 - 6" across.  Set aside, using a thin spatula to transfer to another damp cloth.  Continue pressing all for dough balls.
  • For each tortilla, mound a small amount of squash and corn mixture on half of tortilla, leaving about a 1"space around edge.  Sprinkle a little monteray jack on filling.  With wet hands and thin spatula, carefully fold other half of tortilla over filling and press edges to seal.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.
  • Brush each tortilla pocket with olive oil, the transfer to grill.  Grill each side about 5 minutes, until crisp and slightly charred.  Top with tomato sauce and serve with remaining filling along side.
My next corn recipe was inspired by and amazing corn soup I had last week at my favorite Boston-area restaurant, T.W. Food.  Its tiny place that cooks local, seasonal food that is always unbelievably delicious.  We visited for Boston Restaurant Week, and for my appetizer I selected the corn soup with an heirloom pepper and maple relish as the garnish.  

When I decided to try this at home, I used fresh crab meat (perhaps inspired by Daisy?) as the garnish.  The sweet crab complimented the corn beautifully.

Corn Soup with Crab
serves 2
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels cut from cobs, cobs reserved
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 white wine
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 oz. fresh crab meat
1 Tbs snipped chives
  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.  And onion and saute until softened but not browned.  Add garlic and all but 1/4 cup corn kernels, season with salt and pepper, and saute about 5 more minutes until softened.  Scrape pulp for corn cobs into pot.  Add white wine and scrape up any bits from bottom of pan.  Cook a few more minutes until most of the liquid has cooked off.  Add water to pot and simmer about 5 more minutes.
  • Remove pot from heat and let cool slightly.  Add soup to blender and puree until smooth.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve if you're a perfectionist, or just pour back into the pot if you like it rustic (like me).
  • Stir milk into soup and re-heat over medium-low heat.
  • Meanwhile, melt butter over medium heat in a small saute pan.  Add corn and saute about 4 minutes.  Add crab and saute until just heated through.  Stir in chives.
  • Serve soup garnished with corn and crab mixture.
Excellent with some tomato bruschetta on the side...

Had enough corn yet?  I didn't think so.  Another vegetable that just started coming out of the ground (quite literally) is potatoes.  They're small and new, delicious and versatile.  I found a couple recipes recently for a corn pesto served with pasta, and decided to take it one step further  and make my one pasta.  Well, sort of.  How about potato gnocchi?
I know it sounds like a lot of work to make your own gnocchi, but trust me, it is terribly easy.  You just make mashed potatoes and stir in some flour to form a dough, roll the dough into ropes, and cut it into pieces.  Its fast and easy and totally accessible for a weeknight dinner.
I have to warn you, this is not a light dish.  Between the potato, corn and bacon, it is rather starchy and rich.  A little goes a long way, but it is indulgently delicious.

Corn Pesto with Bacon and Potato Gnocchi
serves 2
1.5 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
1/2 - 3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
2 slices bacon
1 small onion, diced
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels cut from cobs, cobs reserved
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 pine nuts
1/4 extra virgin olive oil 
small handful sliced basil leaves
  • Boil potatoes in a large pot of salt water until tender.  Scoop potatoes from water with slotted spoon and let cool a bit.  Keep water in pot.  Mash potatoes into a medium bowl with a potato ricer or masher.  Stir in 1/2 cup flour, adding more to make dough come together.  Season with salt.  Gather into a sticky dough.
  • Divide dough into 4 chunks.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment.  On a floured work surface, role each dough hunk into a long rope, about 3/4" thick, and cut into 1" pieces.  Lay pieces on parchment and continue with remaining dough.  Set aside.
  • Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp.  Remove bacon and drain.  Pour off all but about 1 Tbs of bacon drippings from pan.  Add onion and saute until softened but not brown.  Stir in corn and garlic, saute about 5 more minutes.
  • Scrape corn mixture in food processor and add grated cheese and pine nuts.  Process until blended but still chunky.  With motor running, pour in olive oil and process until a uniform sauce comes together.
  • Return pot of water used for potatoes to a boil.  Add gnocchi in 2 batches and cook until gnocchi floats, about 4 minutes.  Drain and reserve some pasta water.
  • Add gnocchi to saute pan and pour in corn pesto.  Add a little pasta water to thin slightly and stir until gnocchi is coated.  Transfer to 2 plates, crumble a slice of bacon over each and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Garnish with additional parmesan cheese.
Its good to a be a lightly corny sometimes.


  1. I think corn soup was on every restaurant week menu as an app. Glad I inspired you to add some crab to yours! Your empanadas and gnocchi look awesome.

  2. It's 9:02 in the morning and I want all these dishes NOW! Wow Gretchen, you outdid yourself again. You are sooooo inspiring! I'm so lucky to have you!!! I promise I will make that gnocchi dish even though it looks incredibly hard- but if you say its easy, I believe you!!!

  3. Um, I want corn & crab soup NOW. And I normally hate gnocchi; but somehow yours make me want to curl up to them and call them mama. Weird?

  4. You are making this vegan want to eat crab!!!!

  5. Also I should have taken three more pounds of that quinoa salad. It's INCREDIBLE! Just the right amount of Everything! Thanks again for bringing it (literally and figuratively.)

  6. I read about this weekend on Daisy's blog - looks like such a great time!