The Recorder – Risotto and salsa to celebrate the corn moon
Later this month, we’ll be celebrating the Corn Moon. It will fall a little late this year, on September 20, just two days before the summer starts.
The September Full Moon was nicknamed the Corn Moon by Native Americans because it coincided with the peak of the traditional corn harvest. We’ve been picking corn for a while, but the moon is my favorite celestial object, so I like to summon it when I gaze at local food.
Corn is the perfect late summer vegetable. Its color reflects the hues of the sun and fields filled with goldenrod. Its subtly sweet taste reminds us to savor the beauty of summer while we still have it.
With most Americans, I believe fresh corn is best enjoyed boiled or steamed briefly, then smeared with butter, salt, and pepper. In recent years, I have learned to skip butter, but I keep it on the table for guests who consume corn.
I always allow them to roll the corn directly in the butter. Leftover corn flavored butter gives extra flavor to other vegetables.
Unfortunately, I am rarely able to hold back from buying more corn on the cob than I need from the stalls of local farms. It can be a problem. As readers are probably aware, corn is ideally cooked and eaten on the day it is picked.
Refrigerated uncooked corn is still edible a day or two after picking. However, cooking corn as early as possible is ideal. It prevents the natural sugar in corn from mutating into starch.
What’s a cook to do? I tend to cook the corn briefly as soon as possible and then keep some of the cooked corn in the fridge or freezer for future use. I can make corn fritters, corn salad (it goes with a lot of other veggies), corn chowder, etc.
I recently used leftover corn in a risotto. I share this recipe below. Risotto can sometimes seem intimidating as it forces the cook to be careful throughout the cooking process.
I take on the risotto challenge in several ways. First of all, I invite my guests to come with me into the kitchen to sip cocktails or any other drink of their choice. So I don’t miss a sparkling conversation while I stir my risotto.
Second, I remember letting the risotto speak to me. The manufacturing process involves adding liquid bit by bit as needed. If I watch the dryness of the bottom of the pot while chatting with my friends and family, it’s pretty easy.
The risotto tells me when it’s done by crémant. It is a magical process. The cook should taste the rice grains frequently. Suddenly the risotto will reach a point where it will still have a bit of chewiness but will also taste rich and creamy.
I promise you that if you keep on tasting (the proverbial tough job someone has to do!) You’ll know this point when you get there.
Note that the best variety of rice for risotto is short and plump, like Arborio… or like me.
My other corn recipe today doesn’t use leftover corn, but the corn can be cooked ahead of time if you have too many cobs on hand. Simply grill it outside on a grill or inside on a drip pan, remove the toasted kernels from the cob, and refrigerate the corn for a few hours or even a day.
I use my roasted corn to create a salsa. The first corn salsa I have ever tasted was invented by Nikki Ciesluk. Nikki runs the Ciesluk Market in South Deerfield.
His salsa, which was featured in Yankee review (https://bit.ly/3gGScl1), made me want to do it myself.
Somehow, I never had time to do Nikki’s salsa. I made a slightly different version of a corn moon when friends were visiting. The corn gives this salsa a satisfying sweetness and crunch.
Like most salsas, this will vary a bit depending on the heat of the peppers used and the moisture content of the tomatoes.
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
1¼ cup arborio rice
¾ cup of white wine (approximately)
½ bell pepper, chopped
2 cups lightly cooked corn kernels
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (plus a little more if you wish)
4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth (or if needed, you can use water if out of stock)
2 tablespoons diced fresh tomatoes
½ cup grated Parmesan (plus a little more if desired)
a little more chopped parsley or small basil leaves for garnish
Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and the oil. Stir in the onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the rice. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add ½ cup of wine plus chopped pepper and a little corn, and stir. Add 1 cup of broth and continue to stir.
As the mixture cooks and dries, add the rest of the broth little by little. Stir frequently but not constantly. Cooking will take some time, between half an hour and 45 minutes. The risotto is ready when it suddenly tastes creamy.
Just before serving, add the tomatoes; parsley; the rest of the wine, corn and butter; and cheese. For 6.
3 small ears or 2 large ears of corn
olive oil as needed for roasting
1 medium chilli pepper (you can go as mild as an ancho or an Anaheim or as hot as a jalapeño, but not far in either direction), seeded and cut into chunks
½ bell pepper – green, red or orange – finely diced
½ small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
½ teaspoon of salt
a handful of chopped cilantro
½ tomato, diced
Preheat your grill and peel the corn. Brush the ears with olive oil with a brush or paper towel and toast the ears until they begin to brown a little (about 12 minutes), turning frequently. Let the corn cool for a few minutes; then cut the grains.
In a bowl, combine the peppers, onion, lime juice, salt and cilantro. Stir in the tomato, then the corn kernels.
Serve as a side or with tortilla chips. Makes about 2 cups.
Tinky Weisblat is the award-winning author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook”, “Pulling Taffy” and “Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb”. Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.