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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Extreme Summer Vegetable Makeover

Farmers' markets, like this one in East Troy, Wis., are overflowing with fresh produce these days. (AP)

Farmers’ markets, like this one in East Troy, Wis., are overflowing with fresh produce these days. (AP)

It’s the height of summer and gardens and farmers’ markets are overflowing with tomatoes, zuchinnis and corn.

Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst gives us a new take on summer veggies. From a cold, creamy, cucumber soup to corn fritters. Kathy also tells us her preferred method for taking corn off the cob.

And have you ever tried to make your own ketchup?

Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder with Saffron Cream

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Kathy's Note
This chowder is a sensory explosion. First there’s the color: the broth is a gorgeous, rich, sunflower yellow, thanks to the saffron, sweet potatoes, and golden yellow corn and peppers. Then there’s the scent: the earthy aroma of corn and saffron. And, of course, the taste: rich, creamy, summery, and satisfying. Serve with biscuit, rolls, or crusty bread.

Ingredients: 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut in 1/2-inch squares
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch squares (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon flour
4 cups low-sodium canned chicken or vegetable broth, or homemade chicken broth (page 00)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large ears fresh corn, or 3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup heavy cream
About 1 teaspoon crumbled saffron
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add half of the red pepper, and all of the yellow pepper and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the sweet potato and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Raise the heat to high, stir in the broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.

Meanwhile, if using fresh corn, shuck it and remove the silks. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cob by standing each cob on one end on a cutting board and working the knife straight down the cob; you should have about 3 cups of kernels. Remove the corn milk and mix in the kernels; set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and saffron over low heat for about 5 minutes, until just simmering.

Add the saffron cream to the chowder and stir in the corn. Heat over low heat for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot, topped with the scallions and remaining red pepper.

Serves: 6

Favorite Variation:
Sauté 3 slices thick cut bacon in the pan as the first step. Remove the bacon and keep 1 tablespoon bacon fat in the pan. Sauté the onions in the bacon fat instead of adding olive oil. Crumble the bacon into the soup just before serving.

Cold Cucumber Soup with Mint, Dill, and Lemon

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From Notes from a Maine Kitchen (Down East Books 2011)
On a steamy summer day this is the perfect lunch or dinner. The whole soup is whirled up in a blender or food processor and can be made in less than 15 minutes. Chill for several hours (or overnight) and serve with chopped cucumber, dill and mint and a drizzle of lemon oil.

Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
¼ cup fresh dill
¼ cup fresh mint
1 cup low fat milk or buttermilk
1 cup sour cream or low-fat plain yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon-flavored olive oil, or 1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Garnishes:
1 cup cucumber (peeled, seeded and finely chopped) mixed with 2 tablespoons finely chopped dill and 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
Drizzle of lemon olive oil or olive oil mixed with lemon juice

In the container of a food processor or blender add the cucumbers, dill, mint, milk and yogurt and process until blended, but not totally smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and drizzle in the olive oil (and lemon juice). Place in a bowl or jar and chill for several hours.

Serve ice cold sprinkled with the cucumber-mint-dill mixture and a drizzle of oil. Makes about 4 cups.

Serves: 4 to 6

Kathy Gunst’s Corn, Tomato, and Basil Summer Risotto

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Kathy's Note
This is a light, summery rice dish flecked with sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, basil and scallions. You can keep it even lighter by avoiding adding cheese at the end, but a light dusting of grated Parmesan does add a wonderful creamy texture. Serve for lunch or dinner with a garden salad and crusty bread.

Ingredients:
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 scallions, white and green parts thinly chopped
1 cup raw corn kernels
¾ cup cherry tomatoes cut in half or ripe tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 cup short grain rice
½ cup white wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup water

Garnish:
¼ cup thinly slice scallions and ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil; 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Corn, Tomato and Basil Summer Risotto (Photo by Kathy Gunst)

Corn, Tomato and Basil Summer Risotto (Photo by Kathy Gunst)

In a heavy, medium pot heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion and half the scallions and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the corn and tomatoes and half the basil, and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add the rice and cook for 1 minute, stirring to incorporate all the ingredients with the rice. Raise the heat to high and add the wine.

Let boil for 2 minutes. Add the stock and water and bring to a boil and let boil for 1 minute. Add the remaining scallions and basil. Reduce the heat to low, stir and let cook for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, or until almost all the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Serve topped with the scallions and basil and serve cheese on the side.

Serves: 2

Farro Salad with Raw Shredded Zucchini, Mint, Lemon, and Toasted Pine Nuts

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Kathy's Note
Farro is an ancient grain, a whole grain high is protein and fiber. Here is it boiled in salted water, drained, and tossed with fresh grated zucchini, fresh mint, lemon, olive oil and toasted pine nuts. An ideal summer salad for a picnic, side dish, or light main course.

Ingredients:
1 cup farro
1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 cup raw shredded zucchini (shredded on the widest opening of a box grater)
¼ cup thinly sliced fresh mint, plus 1 mint sprig for garnish
Juice of 1 large lemon, about 1/4 cup
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Farro Salad with Raw Shredded Zucchini, Mint, Lemon, and Toasted Pine Nuts (Photo Courtesy of Kathy Gunst)

Farro Salad with Raw Shredded Zucchini, Mint, Lemon, and Toasted Pine Nuts (Photo Courtesy of Kathy Gunst)

Bring 3 cups salted water to boil. Add farro and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until almost tender; drain.

In a small, ungreased skillet, heat the pine nuts over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.

Toss the drained hot farro with the zucchini, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and all but 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts. Sprinkle the remaining pine nuts and sprig of mint on top and serve warm or room temperature.

Serves: 4

Corn Fritters with Herb Butter

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Kathy's Note
It’s hard to believe that one can ever grow tired of eating freshly harvested corn on the cob. Here fresh corn is stripped from the cob, mixed into a quick batter, and made into small, savory fritters served with a simple herb butter. You can also omit the herbs and Herb Butter, add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the batter, and serve the fritters for breakfast, accompanied by a pitcher of warm maple syrup.

Ingredients:
2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (about 1 ½ cups corn kernels)
1 large egg, whisked
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup half and half or milk
Pinch of salt, or to taste
A few grindings of black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon melted butter, plus more for frying
Vegetable or olive oil for frying
½ cup Herb Butter (melt ½ cup butter with 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs and serve warm)

Place the corn kernels in a large bowl. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the flour, baking powder, half and half, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, and chives. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and beat well. The batter will be chunky, but should be evenly mixed.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add the remaining melted butter and ½ tablespoon of the oil and allow it to get hot, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add heaping tablespoons of the corn batter to the pan and cook the fritters for 2 minutes. Using a spatula, gently flip the fritters and cook another 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter and oil to the pan as needed. Serve hot with the herb butter.

Makes about ten to twelve 2 ½ to 3-inch fritters.

Serves: 4

Cutting Corn Off The Cob

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Kathy's Note
Eating corn straight from the cob is one of the wonders of summer. But we also like to cut the kernels off the cob and use them to make muffins, bread, salads, sautés, soups and stews.

The basic method for removing corn kernels from the cob is simple: shuck the corn, removing the silky strands that line the inside of the husk. Hold the cob upright on a flat working surface. Use a large, sharp knife to cut down the side of the cob, in a kind of sawing motion, to remove the kernels from one side of the cob. Turn the cob and repeat until all the kernels are removed, being careful not to cut into the cob. Use the corn kernels as soon as possible.

An average ear of corn will yield about ½ to ¾ cup corn kernels.

Bread and Butter Refrigerator Pickles

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Kathy's Note
You can also add thin slices of carrots or thin green beans to these simple pickles.

Ingredients:
1 pound cucumbers, cut into ½ inch-thick slices
Kosher salt
¾ to 1 cup cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs or dill heads

Place the cut cucumbers in a large colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Set the colander over a bowl and place in the refrigerator for about an hour. Remove and rinse under cold running water to remove the salt. Drain again.

In a medium saucepan heat the vinegar, sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, coriander seeds, and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Place the cucumbers and the dill in a bowl and pour the hot liquid on top. Stir well. Transfer to a medium glass jar, seal and refrigerate.

The pickles will be ready to eat after 3 hours and will last for at least 10 days.

Corn Chowder with Bacon and Thyme

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From “Relax, Company’s Coming by Kathy Gunst.” (Simon and Schuster, 2001)

Ingredients:
6 strips bacon
1 teaspoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 yellow, green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 medium potatoes, peeled and almost finely chopped
6 ears corn
4 cups milk
Dash hot pepper sauce
½ cup heavy cream

Garnishes:
Sweet paprika and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

In a large soup pot cook the bacon over moderately low heat until crisp on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels. Remove all but 1 teaspoon of the bacon fat and heat with the butter over low heat. Add the onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring. Add the pepper, thyme, salt and pepper and cook another 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile husk the corn and remove the silk. Using a sharp knife remove the kernels from the cob. Add the corn to the pot with the potatoes; don’t throw away the cobs.

Crumble one piece of bacon and add to the pot along with the milk. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Add the corn cobs (they will infuse the soup with more corn flavor). Reduce the heat to low, season with salt and hot pepper sauce, and simmer covered for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Remove the corn cobs and serve hot topped with the remaining bacon (crumbled), paprika and thyme.

Serves: 6

DIY Tomato Ketchup

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You’ll need a lot of garden tomatoes for this excellent ketchup.

Ingredients:
10 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ to 1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon and ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Place the tomatoes and onion in a large stainless steel saucepan and place over moderate heat for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have softened and broken down. Strain the mixture through a large sieve, making sure to stir as much of the pulp through as possible. Don’t worry it is looks watery; it will thicken up.

Place the strained tomatoes back into the saucepan and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Let the mixture simmer over a moderately low heat for about 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of ketchup. Taste for seasoning and add more spices if needed.

Place into clean glass jars and refrigerate. The ketchup will keep for at least a month.

Makes 4 to 6 cups.


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