Ever since our last trip to Portland I’ve been dreaming about the corn fritters we ate at the Whiskey Soda Lounge. I was determined that when corn came into season up here I would try making them myself. Of course, now I don’t quite remember what was in them, but nothing ventured nothing gained. I bought a few ears of fabulously sweet corn from Steve at Dunbar Gardens last week and we grilled them with a little ancho chile salt one night for dinner. We also put a couple of poblano peppers on the grill, and the next night I skinned them and tossed them in a food processor with the leftover grilled corn kernels. I saved out some of the corn and added it in after processing, for texture. Then I mixed in about a third of a cup of flour, one egg, and a handful of chopped fresh cilantro. I plopped spoonfuls of this into a hot skillet and cooked them until golden.
The result was absolutely nothing like the fritters at WSL (which I’m quite sure were deep-fried and possibly full of dried shrimp and minced Thai chile), but it was very tasty nonetheless, much like a Southwest-y version of the “corn oysters” my parents used to make when I was a kid. We ate the fritters as a side dish with a Thai beef-eggplant stirfry, then I refried the leftovers for breakfast with fried eggs and habanero sauce. Now that was good.
Corn’s still in season, what variation shall I try next?
Frozen vegetables are a great resource for when you haven’t made it to the grocery store lately. We go through rather a lot of storebought frozen spinach, okra and peas, and I freeze my own berries, rhubarb, tomatillos and roasted peppers. Frozen corn, though, I have issues with. Whether I buy it or shuck and freeze it myself, I just never get around to using it. This may explain the half-full bag of corn that’s been sitting in our freezer for the past three years. Oops.
Thankfully, it is now gone, thanks to Monica Bhide. We had a vindaloo for dinner last night – a great pantry dinner for us, as we always have pork, chiles and vinegar on hand – and were trying to come up with a vegetable side that wouldn’t involve shopping. Jon opened up Monica’s excellent book Modern Spice and found a pea curry that we were able to adapt to the ingredients on hand, and it just happened to use frozen corn as well as peas. Finally, I could use up that ancient bag! It had more than a little freezer burn and a ton of ice in it, but the prospect of actually making use of it was too compelling.
September is the month of corn. Trucks are parked by the side of the road, heaped high with ears of sweet corn and signs saying ten for a dollar (otherwise known as “Please! Take it!”). Coworkers bring in bag- and boxfuls to work, in desperate hope that someone will be willing to deal with the overflow.
When there is extra corn in the house, but I don’t really feel like eating it straight, spoonbread is a nice option. I’m not a big fan of fresh corn in cornbread, but spoonbread is more like an informal souffle with a bit of cornmeal in it. The version I like to make has both fresh sweet corn and roasted green chiles, as well as plenty of cheese, and the effect is rather like chile rellenos, with more of the fluffy coating and less of the chile. You get both a bit of crustiness and a rather pudding-like interior, and it makes a great accompaniment to roast chicken.
Ideally you should use anaheims, or other mild green chiles. Poblanos would be a great choice for a little more heat. On this occasion all I had were some big (and very hot) jalapeños, so I limited myself to two so the spoonbread wouldn’t be too fiery. You can either roast them in the oven (like I do with bell peppers) or toast them over an open flame with tongs.
I had assumed that we would be eating all kinds of leftovers for days after our end-of-summer party. We did have huevos rancheros for breakfast (with drunken pinto beans and cotija cheese), and chips and guacamole for lunch, but then I realized there wasn’t really much else left except for a large pile of poblano and jalapeño chiles that somehow never got used, plus some leftover grilled corn. I really didn’t want to go to the store again, so I needed to think of something for dinner based on what was on hand. In a fit of fusiony madness, I came up with a sort of Tex-Mex risotto.
I chopped two poblanos and sauteed them in salted butter (I should have added onions, which would have given even more sweetness and depth), then added Arborio rice, followed by a glassful of white wine. I brought a quart of garlic-scented chicken stock to a boil and began adding it to the rice.
The weather was beautiful on Saturday, and I had been at work all day, so I was very happy to come home to a glass of rosé and dinner on the grill. Jon had picked up some gorgeous sweet corn from Dunbar Gardens, and there was a ribeye from an upriver Angus farm, as well as some eggplant left over from the last farmer’s market, which I decided to make into another batch of caponata.
Jon rubbed the corn with oil and a dry spice mix before grilling (see his recipe below). I love corn done this way, with just a little char and plenty of salt and hot pepper. He had run out of New Mexico chile powder, so he substituted a little extra cayenne and some dried chile flakes. The corn had quite a kick.
For the caponata, I tried something a little different. First, I used Castelvetrano olives, an unpitted green olive with a meaty texture and wonderful nutty flavor. We happened to have a few left, and I didn’t want to waste them, so I got out the Oxo cherry/olive pitter from my IFBC goodie bag. Astonishingly, it worked like a charm! A very handy little gadget.