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Volume 37 Issue 14, - July 26 - Aug 1, 2007 now in our 37th season

Summer Gold

by Maryjane Mojer

When I was young(er) I imagine that I had the same goals that many people did and do.  I knew that I wanted a family, a home, various bits of material comforts including good pens and a great stove.  I’ve been fortunate to have met those goals. 

Work wise, I had goals as well.  I wanted to be a DJ when I graduated from Nantucket High School in 1978, I wanted to wait tables, and I wanted to work at Bartlett’s Farm.  The fact that my knowledge of music was limited to the few AM stations we could get here in the 70’s, along with no understanding of, well, radio, my career as a DJ took off like a lead balloon.  I therefore went to college for my second passion; horticulture and landscape design.  I loved it and had the pleasure of working at the old White Elephant, Harbor House, and Mad Hatter, spending several hours each year with my friend Karla Erickson replanting the incredible topiaries made by Brad Brooks.

Waiting tables came along after that, when we started our family, and it was what I thought it would be; hard work, but a heck of a lot of fun.  Waiting tables is a job where you could make someone’s day with a smile and a thank you.

At 47, although I’m still not sure what I want to be when I grow up, the path to where I am has been an education in itself.  Many of my goals have been reached, and, finally, years after the desire took hold in my brain, I do work at the Farm.  This is, also, just what I thought it would be; hard work and a heck of a lot of fun.  The seasonality of a farm is fascinating.  It’s just midsummer and the poinsettias are coming in soon.  Seeds for next year are being ordered, fields plowed and fall crops sown.  The autumn harvest is my favorite and there is a particular sweetness to some of the vegetables harvested with the cool, fall nights that you just don’t get with the summer sun.

However, for the two summer crops that most everyone looks forward to, field tomatoes and corn, the harvest is just beginning.

The corn was sown weeks back in consecutive crops for successive harvests.  Each morning when I drive to work at dawn, the fields have changed from the day before, and again, when I drive home they’ve transformed.  This is astounding to me.  Watching the growing cycles of the crops is not unlike watching my children grow.  That is, nothing short of miraculous and too fast. This is a phenomenon that I hope I never get used to. 

The questions started weeks ago; is the corn in?  When’s the corn coming?  Got corn?

The cry went out this weekend: Corn’s in! 

Phone calls, internet postings, everything short of smoke signals (though that may explain the fire at the dump.)  The usual bustle of a Saturday was increased by the excitement at the first taste of this year’s crop.  I use farm vegetables in the kitchen when available.  When I heard it was corn day, I ordered enough for lunch for the staff.  Talk about your perks.  I also brought home a dozen ears along with five pounds of tomatoes.

We’ve cooked corn many, many ways.  Boiled in water…boiled in milk…boiled in water and milk…boiled in milk, water and sugar… steamed…baked…broiled…grilled…scraped off the cob…creamed.

For my family, the simpler, the better and the quintessential summer supper begins to come together.  When I got home Saturday after work, I turned my oven onto 400 degrees, and I shucked the dozen ears of corn.  I put them in a pan, covered them with cold water and added a tablespoon of salt.  I set this aside while I put the work day behind me, opened one of the latest two-for-ten bottles of wine, and poured myself a glass.

My family loves good bread.  We also love good, fresh bread, and all too often have bits of baguettes and fragments of loaves leftover.  Before I took off my chef shoes, I cut up all of my leftover bread bits into large size croutons.  I tossed them with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and toasted them until golden.  Measurements are not imperative for this, but I wound up with about six cups of croutons.

I then washed and chopped up about six large tomatoes into big pieces and set them aside.

An assortment of herbs, (about a quarter of a cup) was a quick and easy pick from the porch containers with my kitchen shears.  I whisked together ¾ cup red wine vinegar and ¼ cup of olive oil, along with a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper.  I tossed all of the croutons with the vinaigrette and set this aside.  To the chopped up tomatoes, I added one half of a medium red onion, sliced thin, and two cucumbers cut in half lengthwise and then into ½ inch slices.  If you like more cucumbers than tomatoes, add them.  No onion?  No problem!

After tossing all of the vegetables in with the croutons, I covered it with plastic, kept it at room temp and turned on the corn. 

Corn doesn’t need a whole lot of cooking time.  It really just needs to be hot, and for me, that’s cooked enough.  I brought the pot of corn to a boil and shut it off.  Done.

As for corn toppings, I like mine as is.  My husband is a butter, salt, and pepper guy.  A squeeze of lime and a bit of chili powder with a pinch of salt and a roll in grated cheese is messy but oh, so good.

Grilling corn is about as easy as it gets.  I used to peel back the husk, remove the silk, replace the husk, tie the top into a neat little knot, soak the corn and then grill it.  No need  for all the prep.  Just place the ears in a five gallon bucket, cover with cold salted water, and soak for a few hours.  Drain them just before you’re ready to grill, and place them over the hot coals.  As the husks char, keep rolling them around until the husks are evenly browned.  Carefully peel back the husk and the silk will peel off easily.

Leftover corn, if ever there is such a thing, is a great start to the next night’s supper.  Cut off the cob, it is a wonderful addition to any salad.

If you’re inclined to scrape the kernels off the cob and freeze your corn that way, don’t toss out the cobs.  They make a wonderful corn stock.  Take all of your cobs, and cover them with cold water.  Add a few scallions, a bay leaf or two, and a couple of peppercorns.  Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for two hours.  Strain and freeze unless you’re going to use this right away.  This is just like any stock, and makes a fabulous summer vegetable soup base, or, in the middle of December, when you’re gazing at your poinsettias, a yummy Corn Chowder.

Corn Chowder

You'll need:
6 to 8 slices of bacon diced OR
(my favorite)
4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 pounds red potatoes, diced
4 cups corn kernels (about 4 or 5 cobs)
2 to 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 to 4 cups corn stock
2 cups heavy cream

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, saute the bacon till crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Drain off all but two tablespoons of fat.  Reduce heat to low.

Add onions to hot fat, saute till tender, not browned.  Add potatoes to onions, saute till coated with fat.  Add corn to potatoes and onions, toss to coat.

Pour corn stock over to cover (add more if need be).  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for an hour until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat.  Stir in heavy cream and fresh thyme.  Stir in one tablespoon of butter.  Taste to season, adding cracked black pepper.  Garnish with fresh chives nipped from your herb pots.

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