From farm to fork

From my bag of treasures from yesterday’s Farm Market, we made corn on the cob for dinner last night. This is, by far, the freshest corn we’ve had this season. You know its going to be good when you put a hole in a kernel and the juice is sticky like sugar.

We don’t really have room for a grill, what with the herbs, tomato and pepper plants taking up the patio,  so I opted to just boil the corn on the stove.

Since I was buying this at the special Michigan Farmer’s Market and since the signs on the stand said “picked last night!” I didn’t really have to consider how fresh this corn was. BUT, if you are out shopping and don’t know when the corn was picked, consider the color and texture of the husks. Green and pliable is best. Also, the softer and lighter the silks are, the fresher the corn. Lastly, peel back a little bit of the husk and pierce a kernel with your fingernail. If the liquid is a little cloudy, its probably fresher corn. One thing you shouldn’t do is peel all the husks off at the store. I admit that leaving the mess there is nice but your corn will like you better if you keep the husks on till you get home.
Besides, if you want to grill your corn, you can use the husks as free wrappers. There are a few variables to consider when grilling corn on the cob.

  • Husk removal: You can take them all off and wrap the corn in foil. Or you can peel off all but the innermost 2-3 layers. That is what I do. You will want to peel back all the layers enough to remove the silk before you throw them on the grill. If your husks won’t stay on, use a little piece of kitchen twine around one end or create a tie with a narrow piece of husk.
  • To soak or not to soak: SOme people soak their ears (of corn!) in water prior to grilling. I can go either way on this one depending on time and type of grill. The water will help to steam the corn which can speed cooking along. But you lose some of the “grilled” flavor. Not so important on a gas grill but with a woodfire or wood chips, you might want to consider not soaking or a minimal soak.
  • Flavor enhancement: Grill them plain or add spices, herbs, oil or butter. WHen I’m really feeling ambitious, I’ll mix up a flavored butter which I then smear on the ears (under the husks) prior to grilling. Serve with more butter at the table. Some people prefer oil on the grill then topped with butter.

Since we just boiled ours last night, it was a really simple process. Boil a big pot of water. Add salt. Toss cleaned ears in pot, let boil 5-10 minutes. Done.

On the subject of salting the water, I read something at The Sustainable Kitchen about the proper salting of food. This was a hurdle for me, when learning how to cook. I grew up in a household that minimized using salt due to blood pressure concerns. Overtime, I learned to prefer low-salt versions of some things and my palate adjusted to the point where many common processed foods were too salty. I still prefer low-salt peanut butter and I would still buy reduced sodium canned goods because I’d rather add the salt myself. BUT, I do add salt now. I had to readjust my tongue but now I understand that foods should taste better- brighter and stronger, not salty, when properly seasoned. Alton Brown once referred to salt as a flavor enhancer not a flavor in itself. And we all know that Alton is a genius.

By the way, Mr. Brown is a fan of kosher salt which I also use. But lately I’ve become enamored of sea salts. Nothing fancy although there are some gourmet sea salts available. I use the fine texture and had found that it works well to pre-season meats but also as a table salt.


We ate our corn with a cranberry-brie stuffed chicken breast from The Fresh Market. I was really not excited about the chicken- not enough stuffing, never did find the brie and it took much longer to cook than indicated on the directions. I was saved from having to cut through the ties and lose all the juices by my handy-dandy probe thermometer. Another Alton Brown referral. You set the target temp, insert the probe and set the timer to beep when your targeted temperature is reached.

Munching thru Minneapolis

Chris and I went on a little vacay over the Fourth of July week, first a few days in the Minneapolis then heading up to his family’s lake place in Wisconsin.

We arrived late on Tuesday night after a lovely delay in Chicago- can’t leave without the pilots!  During out layover in Chicago, we ate airport food which can sometimes be good food but was not, in this case.  Wolfgang Puck may be a world-renowned chef to the stars but his Pizza Express shop in O’Hare is nothing to get excited about.

We stayed with Chris’s friends, Adam and Kat, who live near Lake Calhoun, one of the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis.  You can canoe on the lakes as well as enjoy bike/walking trails, marvel at the gorgeous houses surrounding the lakes (we did that) and visit a rose garden and bird sanctuary among other activities.

Due to our late arrival on Tuesday/Wednesday, we just crashed the first night.  On the drive to Adam and Kat’s house though, I did come to realize that this trip was more than just a little vacation- it was Chris’s sales pitch for moving to Minneapolis after law school.

Wednesday, we got up, showered and scrounged up some breakfast then watched a Soaring video until Adam got home from his half-day at work.  We decided to go out for lunch then pick up groceries for a grilled dinner on the deck. 

First, we drove along the Minnehaha Parkway looking at many beautiful homes while the abundance of trails and eco-friendly people were pointed out to me.  Also, Adam took us through Uptown which is apparently where Chris used to hang out a lot as he pointed out his favorite bar, sushi joint, live music source, etc.

We arrived at Minnehaha Park home of a beautiful waterfall and Sea Salt, a seasonal cafe with fresh fish and seafood plus a beer & wine license.  They were quite busy; we were joined in line by customers who had ridden up on their bikes.  I haven’t quite figured this place out yet- it appears to be an independent restaurant inside a city or state owned park.  Strange.

 

The original plan was to get fish tacos which is kind of what happened.  I ordered scallop tacos, Chris went for shrimp tacos and Adam chose the crawfish po’boy.  We also shared an appetizer of shrimp cocktail.  Adam and I each went for a pint of local brew Summit Beer.  Being that the weather was just gorgeous, we looked for seats outside.  Tables were found but no chairs.  A few feet away, a man and woman were sitting at a picnic table with attached benches. The man, whose name I don’t recall but might be Tom, offered us the extra seats if we didn’t mind listening to a foreign language. As it turns out, his sister-in-law is Danish and Adam spent several years in that part of the world for work! Although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t part of the sales pitch for Minneapolis, the whole experience was pretty cool. 

 

After stuffing ourselves, we headed to the grocery store Kowalski’s, one of Chris’s two favorites.  It was a nice grocery store, for a smaller gourmet upscale type of place.   It was definitely expensive but I found a few unusual items including marcona almonds, an almond variety from Spain that is particularly tasty.  I bought some of those, along with dried Montmorency cherries and we mixed them in with our Minnesota Wild Rice.  Kowalski’s Market should not be confused, by Michiganders, with Kowalski Meats.  You know, Kowalski Kowality. If you’ve ever eaten a polish dog or a hot dog at a sporting event in this state, you’ve probably eaten a Kowalski dog, unless it was Koegel’s, of course.

After finishing up at Kowalski’s Market, we headed over to France 44, a cheese and wine shop.  A huge liquor store with a cheese shop attached, I was a bit overwhelmed at first.  I was given charge of picking out the wines for later that night.  There were a lot to choose from but not many comments or reviews posted.  After much browsing, I settled in the domestic wines section as they were all 10% off for the Fourth of July Holiday.  We bought a bottle of Cline 2005 Big Break Zinfandel, one of many in the Cline repertoire. The first time I’d had this variety but Chris and I really like their Ancient Vines Zinfandel.  We bought something else but I can’t remember the name and since we didn’t get to drink it, I can’t comment on it anyhow.  The Zin was tasty and strong- definitely a bolder taste than the Ancient Vines.  Although I didn’t have my aerator-pourer, we found a cheap substitute at the shop so we can demonstrate the magic of air to Adam.

The boys left me in the wine racks and headed over to the cheese side where Chris found the sheep’s milk cheese that he now wants more of.  The stuff I can’t find as I don’t know the name.  I’ve sent an email off to the blog writer for the shoppe and will hopefully know more soon. 

Later that evening, we enjoyed some grilled meats, corn on the cob (best of the season so far) and Minnesota wild rice along with our bottle of Cline.  The following day, we headed up to the family lake place for 3 days of typical mid-western food: is that a marshmallow dessert I see?  To be fair we also had more great corn on the cob, a delicious wild rice-cream of mushroom side dish and “mom’s” homemade chocolate chip cookies.

While in the area, we did a driving tour of Crex Meadows and spotted a few deer and acres of wild rice: