Through the Fire

Cooking our way into a new relationship with food!

Summertime…

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What comes to your mind when you think of food in the summer ? What are the flavors and smells of food you associate with this season ? Right now I am thinking juicy peaches and corn on the cob.

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I never think of fresh corn in the summer without remembering Mr. Green. I grew up in rural western Ohio, surrounded by farms. Mr. and Mrs. Green ( I never knew their first names until I read his obituary and sadly now I have forgotten it) lived maybe a mile down the road from us on a small farm. They were very sweet Christian people who somehow enjoyed our odd Quaker family. He was very tall and she was short and round. He always wore denim overalls and I don’t think I ever saw her without an apron on over her dress. The summer I was13, I worked for them for about a week,having my Mark Twain moment as my main job was to paint their picket fence around the house. Mr. Green had lived in that house his whole life. It was white with green trim and had a very comfortable big porch in front. I spent most of the day there and they fed me lunch. Oh my gosh, did we eat! Lunch was their main meal. The Greens were hard working people who grew their own food. Lunch was huge compared to the dinky diet lunches my mom and I ate. Mrs. Green would get upset with me if I didn’t eat enough. THAT had never happened to me before! They knew about wholesome food and the plates were filled with either fresh food from their large personal garden or things Mrs. Green had canned the previous year. For the first time, I had fresh milk.

I don’t remember all that they grew on that farm but they had the BEST corn. During the harvest, many times a week, my mother would call Mr. Green and ask for a dozen ears of corn. This would be late afternoon, close to dinner time. She would put on a pot of water to boil and when I was old enough, ask me to mind it. She would get in the car, drive that mile, pick up the corn, and come home. We would shuck it, put it in the pot. We’d set the table, prepare the rest of the meal though the corn was usually the star. Maybe my dad would be cooking steak or burgers on the grill if it was the weekend. 10 minutes later, we’d be happily eating those ears of corn, butter dripping down our chins.That corn was one of the few things I saw my mom eat that she truly enjoyed.  It was sweet, a beautiful color yellow, and oh so good.

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Have you ever had it grilled ? I go to Mexico regularly and in one town we pass through, we always make a stop in the zocalo – the city square- and buy some grilled corn from one of the vendors.  It is chewier than our corn here but so rich and filling. They liberally douse it with chili oil, and it gets nicely charred and smoky from the fire. You can get a half a lime to squeeze on it if you wish.  Muy Sabrosa! Try it at home. Grill it outside or roast it in the oven. I recommend using butter or coconut oil. Melt it and add your favorite chili powder.

Here are a few notes about summer and eating from my friend Craig Lane of Health Alkemy Nutritional Services. You met him when he wrote this guest post.

“Summer is the time of heat, growth and activity in nature. The feeling of joy and lightness are our birthrights during the summer. This is a time to increase our physical activity, eat lighter foods and smaller meals to help balance the heart and small intestinal fires, and help nurture the “yang” influence of this season. It is very important to feel warm, yet not to become too active, because this wears the body out for winter.

A general guideline to follow is to eat more freshly picked local fruits and vegetables, less or no animal flesh during very warm weather, eggs during the cool hours also, no nuts/seeds in excess, and avoid heavy grains on hot days, more raw foods in general, lightly cooked vegetables, and light grain dishes such as pastas, millet, quinoa, and corn.”

This makes sense doesn’t it ? In general, people have less appetite when it’s hot. And likewise, who wants to cook, heat up the kitchen, when it is hot ? Plus, often we are busier this time of year. We are naturally drawn to fresh, raw food. We are drawn to eat food that is juicy, full of water and natural sodium – all the stone fruits, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces.

There are so many fruits and vegetables that are in season now. Enjoy the bounty! Explore the farmers’ markets and try something new. Find some farm stands and get some really fresh produce if you do not have a garden.

Here in the part of California where I live, tomatoes come into season later in the summer, and continue into the Fall, so I am still waiting. Now is corn season. Corn is a challenge in the nutritional world! Is it a vegetable or a grain ? What I have come to is that if you eat it within the first day or two after picking, fresh on the cob, then it is a vegetable. After that, it begins to act in your body as if it were a grain and should be considered as such. People on the primal and paleo side of nutrition say NEVER eat it. I say, eat it once in a while in the summer straight from the field. It is so delicious. You can grill it, steam it, boil it. I like to eat it raw – cut off the kernels and have them in a salad.

 

I hope you will try the roasted corn with chili. If you need another delicious idea to spice up your corn, try this recipe. I love it. I found it in an internet search many years ago and have forgotten the source and do not know in what region of India this could be found. Doing a new internet search, I found the same recipe on a number of blogs with no credit for the source. ( This can be a heartbreak for the person who worked hard to create a recipe, AND a legal hassle for people who steal from others’  blogs!)

 

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Indian Cashew and Corn Soup
2 tablespoon unsalted butter or ghee
1/4- 1/2 cup chopped cashews (it will be thicker if you use more)
1 or 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped ( seeded or not, depending on your heat preference/tolerance)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 qts. vegetable or chicken broth*
3 1/2 cup corn kernels – off season, you can use frozen
salt to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 red bell pepper, seeded, chopped
1/4c. shredded fresh or dried coconut
3 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add nuts, jalapenos, coriander and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasted, about 3 minutes. Add broth and corn kernels; heat to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 10 minutes. Puree soup in blender, working in batches, until smooth. Pour soup through strainer back into pot, pressing solids with back of spoon to extract liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in bell pepper and coconut. Simmer until hot, about 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro.

From article by William Rice, Chicago Tribune.

* Did you know you can make broth from the cobs of the corn ? yes, you can. I usually add a few cobs, broken in pieces, to a pot of whatever broth I am using and let it simmer for around 30 minutes.( before I start the recipe) It adds a good corn flavor and probably some good nutrition as well.

Notes**
I have made this both with homemade chicken broth and boxed, and with vegetarian boxed broth. I used my stick blender and didn’t strain. It is really yummy!!

Here is a raw version I found as well.

What a little trip around the world we just took! Corn is a basic food for many people, central to the culture and religion of many indigenous peoples. Enjoy it fully this time of year and let it nourish your body and nurture your relationship with the sun and with the heat of summer.

 

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