Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In Season: Blueberries and Sweet Corn

I love July and not just because my favorite fruit (blueberries) and my favorite vegetable (fresh corn) are in season locally (though I think that has a lot to do with it). While I'm perfectly content to enjoy the summer bounty simply — my sweet corn lightly steamed with a pat of butter, my fresh blueberries sprinkled over cereal or thrown into pancakes — this weekend I was inspired to be a little more creative, with the help of a couple of recipes from our cookbook Corn, by Olwen Woodier.

I made the Blueberry and Sweet Corn Slump first, on Friday night (exciting nightlife around here, clearly). In the process of assembling it, I felt a twinge of doubt — corn in my dessert? Really? But the glass baking dish emerged from the oven with deep blue liquid bubbling like hot lava through the perfectly browned topping, and it tasted incredible. The kernels of corn were stained bright blue and crunched like pomegranate seeds. Their sweetness was well balanced by the tang of the fresh berries, and there was a delicious, subtle grit to the cornmeal in the topping. This recipe is going to be a July tradition from now on.

Blueberry and Sweet Corn Slump

Slumps are similar to cobblers and are made with any fruit or fruit combination. The new sweet corns are so much like candy that they add natural sweetness to fruit desserts. One of my favorite combinations is corn and blueberries. This recipe doesn’t call for a thickening agent, so there is a lot of juice. If you prefer a thicker sauce, substitute creamed corn for the whole kernels or add 2 tablespoons of flour to the granulated sugar.

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (1/3 cup) butter
1/3 cup low-fat milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
3 cups blueberries
2 cups sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F, and butter a deep 2-quart baking dish.
2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl.
3. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
4. Stir in the milk (and vanilla, if desired) until the dry ingredients are just moistened.
5. Mix the blueberries and corn in the baking dish; sprinkle with the granulated sugar.
6. Drop the batter on top of the blueberry-corn mixture.
7. Bake for 35 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings

On Saturday night I made the Sweet Potato and Corn Hash with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms. I would definitely make this dish again and substitute fingerlings for the sweet potatoes, maybe experimenting with an arugula pesto in place of the traditional basil.

Sweet Potato and Corn Hash with Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

The combination of sweet potato and corn produces such a flavorful and colorful dish. Yellow or white potatoes make a delicious alternative to the sweet potatoes. To serve, spoon the corn hash on top of the grilled mushrooms.

2 sweet potatoes, or 4 yellow or white potatoes, scrubbed
Cooking oil spray
1-1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 large (about 6 inches) portobello mushrooms, caps wiped and stems discarded
4 tablespoons homemade or prepared basil pesto
2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar

1. Place the potatoes in a glass dish, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Or boil or steam them for 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.
2. Spray a large skillet with cooking oil, add the corn, and sauté over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, until the kernels begin to brown. Add the scallions; sauté 2 minutes longer.
3. Remove the skins from the sweet potatoes. Cut into 1-inch cubes. Add to the skillet along with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the salt and pepper.
4. Sauté 20 minutes longer; add more oil halfway through and reduce the heat to medium low. Remove to a bowl.
5. Spray the skillet with cooking oil. Add the mushrooms (skin side down), spoon about 1 tablespoon of the pesto into each, and drizzle the remaining olive oil around them. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
6. Remove the cover, add the wine, and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer, reducing the heat to medium low if necessary.
7. Place the mushrooms on individual plates, and top each with a spoonful of potato hash. Arrange more hash around each mushroom.

Yield: 4 servings

— Melanie Jolicoeur, Associate Director of Marketing
Photo: Melanie Jolicoeur

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