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Oops, I Forgot Corn Season!

by | Oct 19, 2008

Everyone knows that we here in San Francisco often get branded as elitist.

My first thought when I heard this was, “Great!” Who doesn’t want to be considered the best of the best? I personally love arugula (the latest symbol of elitism) and happily enjoyed it all summer as it was tossed around with contempt on the presidential campaign trail (I hope they added olive oil and vinegar too!).

But there actually is a problem with elitism. Sometimes we get so caught up in what is excellent that we forget about some simple pleasures in life that are branded less favorably. I sadly and apologetically admit that I have succumbed to this weakness. I am embarrassed to say it, but this summer I forgot about corn.

The problem is that corn is usually a four letter word synonymous with unhealthy foods.
As you are probably aware, government subsidies have resulted in massive corn over-production. Consequently, virtually all of the processed (i.e., really really bad for you) food in America is made from corn.
Corn is an especially bad word to local organic farmers, desperate to grow something different in America. What all of this boils down to is that there is very little corn available at San Francisco’s proudly elitist Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, even during corn season.
I realized the omission only last week when I found a beautiful pile of corn at my neighborhood corner store (Valencia Farmers Market). I bought a few ears, but according to my calendar October is almost over. At best, corn will only have a couple more weeks before it disappears.
To help make amends, I present this simple corn succotash recipe:
  • 1 cipollini onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 ear of sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame (soy beans) or lima beans
  • 1/2 cup frozen petite peas
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 handful of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

The corn I bought was so sweet that it was delicious even raw. My recipe highlights its natural sweetness by making corn the centerpiece of the dish and keeping the cooking time short.

To remove the kernels from the cob, shuck the corn then hold it top-end down in a large bowl. Keep the corn upright by using the bottom end of the cob (pointing upward) as a handle. Use a sharp knife to cut down the sides of the corn, repeatedly turning the cob and cutting until all the kernels are off. The advantage of using a bowl over a plate or cutting board: I had only one rogue kernel escape onto the counter during this entire process. Preparing corn this way takes less than 2 minutes.

Next dice the onion and bell pepper. Cipollini onions are small and flat, almost donut shaped. They are sweeter than normal yellow onions and are relatively easy to find. Heat olive oil on medium heat until it swirls easily in the pan. Add onions and peppers and cook until they just start to brown, about 5 minutes.

Next add the edamame and stir. When no more ice is visible in the pan, add the peas and mix. (For the record, I don’t measure out any of these ingredient myself. My ingredients list gives ballpark numbers for those of you who prefer detailed instructions, but feel free to ad lib as you see fit.) Continue to cook until no more ice is visible again, then add the fresh corn. Stir and season liberally with sea salt and black pepper.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally. After about 2 minutes, clear a space in the bottom of the pan and add the garlic. When the garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), mix it with the other ingredients. After another minute add the spinach and cilantro and stir again. When the spinach has wilted, your meal is ready.

Two Meals

This dish was so delicious I cooked it two nights in a row. The first night (pictured), I made it how I described above then served it on a bed of brown rice and topped it with half an avocado (salt and pepper).

The second night I roasted the red pepper instead of cooking it with the onion, and added it with the corn. Lacking spinach this second time, I used extra peas and cilantro to put more green on my plate. I did not use rice, and instead of avocado I topped it with half a can of salmon.

Canned salmon can be really gross (slimy and full of bones), so be careful if you plan to buy it. That being said, I really enjoy Henry and Lisa’s canned wild Alaskan pink salmon (thanks to Emily for the tip). It comes in a box (pictured) and is available at Whole Foods. Canned salmon is better for you (but more expensive) than canned tuna because of its lower mercury content. Smoked salmon would probably be good on this dish as well.

If I had to pick I would say dinner #2 was better, but both were fantastic. It is hard to beat those roasted peppers though.

Comments and admonishments for my corn neglect are welcomed.

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