August days are some of the best the short summer months have to offer. The air is humid and warm; the nights are damp with the sweet summer smells of the corn fields and blooming flowers. Lightening bugs create a nightly show as you listen to the crickets chirp. The days are long and the nights take on a sweet southern air, making you want to just sit and take it all in. The ice tea and lemonade is flowing as we all try to keep cool, and no one wants to heat up the kitchen cooking.
This is a month of cooling foods and lots of grilling. Which is fine by us, as the garden is overflowing with goodness and Fincel’s corn is here. This month we are focusing on the abundant garden and the joy of fresh corn.
August pretty much allows you to eat straight from your garden, or take advantage of one of the many farmers’ markets in the tri-state area. One very common theme in home gardening is the over abundance of tomatoes. Once they start to ripen, you can have more tomatoes than you know what to do with. We are sharing a few of our favorite “tomato-centric” recipes to make good use of your bounty.
Gazpacho is a chilled summer soup made from tomatoes, cucumbers, and garlic. Its origins are from the Andalusian region of Spain, where it is believed to have been brought by the Romans. It is a perfect summer soup made from vegetables, fresh from the garden with minimal preparation. They pay off is an explosion of flavors, fresh, bright, and cooling against the hot summer heat. In modern age, gazpacho has gone from being a simple soup of chopped or puréed vegetables to an inspirational canvas of new interpretations such as watermelon, white (made with cauliflower and almond), green, and cherry. The possibilities are endless with this fresh summer soup. Here we are sharing a classic Spanish style rustic tomato gazpacho and a watermelon gazpacho.
Rustic Tomato Gazpacho
6 ripe tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/2 large cucumber – peeled, halved, seeded and cut into chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup water
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs. sherry vinegar
Hot sauce, for serving
In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, garlic, water, oil, and vinegar and process until coarsely pureed. Season with salt and refrigerate until chilled. Serve with hot sauce. Serves four.
The gazpacho can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight.
Sherry vinegar is available at Galena Garlic Co. in downtown Galena.
You can substitute it with rice wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar, but we strongly suggest you try to buy the sherry vinegar. It has many wonderful uses due to its delicate sweetness. You will find yourself using it a lot more than you think.
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1/2 serrano chile (can be seeded for less heat)
2 cups cubed fresh watermelon, seeded
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs. minced red onion
1/2 cucumber, seeded and minced
2 tbs. minced fresh dill, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a blender, pulse the tomatoes until broken down. Add the chile, and half of the watermelon and purée. Add sherry vinegar and olive oil and pulse. Add the onion, cucumber, and dill and season with salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour into chilled bowls and sprinkle with dill, feta, and remaining watermelon. Serves four.
Recipe courtesy of Tyler Florence.
We all know tomatoes are excellent on a green salad, but with the abundance of tomatoes in the garden, we want to showcase the supple tomato in this beautiful and hearty panzanella salad. Panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad, comprised of tomatoes and stale chunks of bread. Through out time, this salad has evolved and been interpreted in many ways. Life’s a Feast likes to add red onion, cucumbers and basil to our panzanella salad and toss it all with red wine vinegar and a good olive oil. Below is a basic recipe, but the fun and ease of this salad is to add or omit as you like. Many people add capers and anchovies for an added depth of flavor. But on a hot summer day, I like the tomato to be the star attraction.
4-6 cups day old crusty bread (sour dough, ciabatta, or peasant bread are good), cubed
4 large tomatoes (about 2 lbs.), large dice
1 English cucumber, large dice
1/2 red onion, large dice
1/2-3/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
2-4 tbs. sherry or red wine vinegar
Basil threads (about 10 good sized basil leaves)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
On a rimmed baking sheet, either lay out bread cubes overnight to dry, or toast the bread in a 300-degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and basil and mix well. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of vinegar and toss. Let sit at room temperature about 20 minutes. Add half of the bread cubes, toss well to coat the bread, adding more oil and vinegar as needed. Wait about five-ten minutes then add more bread cubes as needed for the perfect balance of bread to tomato. Taste before serving, and season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, and add more olive oil and vinegar if needed. If the salad seems to wet, toss in a few more cubes of bread.
Do not refrigerate this salad before serving, as the coldness of the refrigerator alters the flavor of a ripe tomato. You should never store tomatoes in the refrigerator, for that matter.
To make basil threads, lay leafs on top of each other and roll them up like a cigar. Take your roll and cut basil like you would a pinwheel, into very thin “threads” of basil.
Serves four to six.
Grilled Corn on the Cob in the Husk
Corn, corn, corn!! If you are from the mid-west, corn is king in the summer. Nary is an event without corn on the cob, whether you grill it, boil it, steam it, or microwave it, nothing beats the sweet bursting kernels of corn straight off the cob. If you are not growing your own, you most likely are making your way to one of the many locations to grab Fincel’s corn. Now, the Fincel Family Farm has been growing corn for over a hundred years, and they get it right. You are hard pressed to NOT eat several ears in one sitting because it is just so darn good!! So we could go into all sorts of recipes for how to use the corn once removed from the cob, but we want the corn on the cob to shine brightly, so we are sharing three additional methods to preparing corn on the cob other than the classic boil method. In addition, we are adding a few twists to the butter.
One of the many reasons we love this method is the husk protects the tender kernels from drying out or burning on a hot grill.
8 ears of corn, in husk
1 tbs. salt
water to cover corn
Hold corn by stem and remove large outer leaves of husk, then gently peel back inner husk to the base. Pull away the silk from the ear and then gently fold back husk over the ear of corn. Repeat with all ears and place in a large bowl or pot and cover with cold water and one tablespoon of salt and let set for 30 minutes.
Heat grill to medium heat, about 325-375 degree or when you can hold your hand over the grill for about six-seven seconds.
After ten minutes, remove corn from the water and shake the ears to get the extra water out. Place the ears of corn on the grill and close the lid. Grill for about 15 – 20 minutes, turning about every five minutes. Corn is done when kernels are tender when pierced with a pairing knife. Remove from grill and keep husks up until you are ready to serve. Right before service, pull back husk and slather with butter or one of the compound butters below.
Cooler Corn on the Cob
For many of us, summer means camping and barbecues and large family gatherings. Often, our grills are filled with burgers, brats, hot dogs, and kabobs and there simply is no room for all the corn needed for the number of people. Here is where cooler corn is pure brilliance and about as simple as you can get.
Things needed for cooler corn
A cooler, wiped clean
corn on the cob, shucked
2 kettles of boiling water
First, gather all of the kids, and hand them the bags of corn and a bag for the husks. Have them shuck all the corn and place cleaned corn into the cooler. Once all of the corn is in the cooler, pour two kettles of boiling water over the corn and shut the cooler. Now here is the tricky part… are you ready? Just kidding. That is it. Let the corn sit for about thirty minutes or so, and when you open the cooler, your corn is cooked to perfection. Rumor has it the corn will stay perfectly cooked for up to two hours, but who ever has any corn left after two hours?
Microwave Oven Corn
Whether it is a small family dinner or you are just hankering for an ear of corn and don’t want to heat up the house boiling a pot of water, microwave corn is quick and easy with minimal effort.
Things needed for microwave oven corn
A microwave oven
corn on the cob in the husk, trimmed and dirty, dry husks removed or wiped down
Place up to four ears of un-shucked corn in the microwave if you have a large microwave oven (if you are making more, do in batches). You can place them on a plate, or just straight into the microwave. Lay the corn out evenly, so they do not overlap or touch, to ensure even cooking. Some people will add a damp paper towel on top of the corn. I don’t find it necessary, but it depends on your microwave. Microwave corn for three-five minutes, depending on how many ears and the power of your microwave. Typically, one ear will take about three minutes, while three to four will need about five minutes. Depending on the size of the corn and power of your microwave, plan on two to four minutes per ear.
Remove from the microwave and let sit to cool and distribute the heat in the husk. If you placed corn directly into microwave, use caution when removing, as the steam from the corn is very hot and will burn you. Use an oven mitt or towel or thongs to remove them safely.
Once cool enough to work with, pull back a portion of the husk and test the doneness of a kernel (tender when pierced). If it needs more cooking time, simply pull the husk back over and return to the microwave. Once done and able to handle, move corn to a cutting board, and with a sharp knife, cut the stem end of the corn off, about a half inch up, so you see kernels when cut. Grab the top of the husk and squeeze and your ear of corn will pop right out of the husk, free of silk and ready to enjoy.
Everything is Better with Butter!
Now we all know corn and butter go together like peas and carrots, but who says you can’t mix it up? Here are three flavored butters that will take your corn to the next level of awesomeness.
Cilantro Lime Butter
8 tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbs. fresh squeezed lime juice
Zest from one lime
1/2-3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer to serving bowl and serve with corn. Covers about 12 ears of corn
Bobby Flay’s BBQ Butter
Courtesy of the Food Network for eight ears of corn
2 tbs. canola oil
1/2 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp. Spanish paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
1 tsp. toasted cumin seeds
1 tbs. ancho chili powder
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add the onion and cook until soft, two-three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the paprika, cayenne, cumin, and ancho powder and cook for one minute. Add half cup of water and cook until the mixture becomes thickened and the water reduces. Let cool slightly.
Place the butter in a food processor, add the spice mixture and Worcestershire sauce and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, scrape the mixture into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Elotes – Mexican Style Street Corn
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream or Mexican crema
1/2 cup finely crumbled cotija or feta cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 tsp. ancho or guajillo chili powder, plus more for serving
1 medium clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients until mixed well and set aside.
When the corn is ready, slather ear with mixture, sprinkle with chili powder, extra cheese and a squeeze of lime.
We hope you have a great month and enjoy the abundance of the garden, whether it is your own or from the Farmer’s Market. Take advantage of all the fresh produce this month. If you can’t make it to the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, be sure to hit up Fincel’s at one of their many locations, for fresh, beautiful produce and corn.
Looking for more recipes or ideas, please join our active food group at www.facebook.com/groups/lafinthekitchen.
Fincel Farms locations:
East Dubuque Van’s Stand – Van’s Liquor Store lower parking lot; Wall St., off Sinsinawa Ave., East Dubuque, IL – open daily from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., or sold out.
Dubuque West End – Independent Tri-State Blind Society parking lot, 3333 Asbury Rd., Dubuque, IA – open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. or sold out; Saturday & Sunday from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. or sold out.
Dubuque Farmers’ Market – This market location is available from May-October each year. Located at the corner of 12th and Iowa St. in downtown Dubuque; open from 7:00 a.m.-noon on Saturdays only. WIC checks and SNAP Market Money Tokens are accepted at the Dubuque Farmers’ Market.
East Mill Farmers’ Market – Open Monday evenings from 3:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m., May-October. Located at 620 S. Grandview at the East Mill Bakeshop. WIC checks are accepted at the East Mill Farmers’ Market.