The last hurrah, Part II: Get em’ before they’re gone
Last week I wrote about tomatoes and zucchini. Other veggies that will soon disappear are fresh local corn and cucumbers.
In the early days of summer, we look forward to fresh sweet corn on the cob that has captured the sun’s golden rays, turning them into sugar. Corn on the cob is one of summer’s simplest, most wholesome culinary delights. Shucking, cooking, buttering and eating fresh corn is one of the best ways to savor summer’s golden sunshine. Whether boiled, steamed, grilled, roasted, or microwaved, it should be eaten fresh, because that sugar begins turning to starch the minute it’s harvested. Garrison Keillor said, “People have tried and tried, but sex is not better than sweet corn.” Enjoy fresh corn while it is still here!
In addition to corn on the cob, use it in salads, make fritters, bake into muffins, cook into chowder … the possibilities are endless. Sure, you can use canned or frozen corn — but the best chowder is made with the freshest corn you can get your hands on.
Garden cucumbers, or those locally grown and available at the farmers market, are a far cry from their store-bought counterparts. Yes, today you can find cucumbers at the supermarket year-round — but they’re watery and lack the flavor of those freshly harvested. They are waxed for better storage. Vine-ripened cucumbers in season are so delicious, they need little tampering.
Although cucumbers are mostly eaten raw — try them in pasta, potato, grain, and green salads — they can also be cooked like zucchini. In many Mediterranean and European cuisines, cucumbers are the main salad ingredient — rather than just an addition. Polish mizeria, Greek tzatziki or Angourodomatosalata me Feta, Hungarian Uborska Salata and Balkan Sopszka salata use cucumbers as the central ingredient, though they may add tomatoes, feta, dill, garlic or onion.
Cucumbers can also be cooked like zucchini or used as a garnish on soups, like corn chowder.
As autumn begins, enjoy these culinary delights before you must say adieu.
Main Dish Cucumber and Corn Salad
Crisp cucumbers with sweet summer corn … what could be more delicious?
3 ears of fresh corn
1 large cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup fresh minced dill
3 to 4 Tablespoons sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, or some of each
Husk the corn, then with a sharp knife remove the kernels. You want about 2 cups corn kernels. Place in a bowl.
Quarter the cucumbers. With a spoon, remove any large seeds. Slice into small dice. (You want about 2 cups diced cucumber). Add to the bowl.
Hard-cook the eggs. Peel and chop into the bowl.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper; mix.
Chop the dill. Fold into the veggies. Reserve some for garnish.
Fold in yogurt or sour cream. Sprinkle with feta cheese and additional chopped fresh dill, for a garnish.
Makes four 1-cup servings.
Corn and Cucumber Chowder
6 ears fresh corn (about 6 cups corn kernels)
4 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 yellow onion
1 stalk celery
1 pound potatoes, cubed
6 cups corn stock or vegetable broth*
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 cup flour
1 cup half-and-half
1 or 2 cucumbers, finely diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
Husk the corn and remove the silk. With sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cob. Set aside.
In the bottom of soup kettle melt 1 Tablespoon butter (or render 2 strips bacon). Peel and dice the onion; add, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and cook 5 minutes on low. While onion is cooking, chop carrot and slice celery, add, and cook 3 to 5 minutes more.
Dice potatoes (peeling optional) and add. Add the broth, corn kernels, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 3 Tablespoons of butter and the flour. Cook, stirring, just until golden, then stir in the half-and-half. Cool the soup slightly and combine with the sauce. Bring to a simmer again and cook, stirring, until thickened.
Remove from heat. Add diced raw cucumber and chives. Reserve more cucumber and chives for garnishing.
Note: To make the corn stock, cook corn cobs in 6 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup of milk. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove cobs and discard.
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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @yvonawrites.