The sweet corn is in! The corn harvest marks two things for me: the midpoint of summer, and the height of grilling season.
Corn was once grown only in the New World. It is believed to have originated some 9,000 years ago in Mexico, far from the biblical lands of the Middle East. So when reading about corn in the Torah, one has to remember that the word probably refers to grains, and not the beautiful, mouth-watering ears we love in the summer.
The plant came from a grass called teosinte. The kernels were tiny, spaced far apart, and very hard. The inhabitants called the collection of kernels “maize.” The crop was domesticated about 8,700 years ago, and indigenous people came to rely on it, grinding it for much of their food.
Corn is completely man-made. It has never been found growing wild anywhere on the entire planet. In fact, it seems that it cannot grow in the wild. It must be planted and cultivated by humans.
Zucchini, another versatile vegetable now reaching its peak harvesting, also came from the Americas. Evidence of the plant has been found in Mexico dating back 7,000 years. Early explorers brought the seeds and plants back across the sea and introduced them to Europe. The Italians loved the prolific veggie; the French hated them — until they learned that a small zucchini was far more palatable than one the size of a large club.
Zucchini is a chameleon in the kitchen; it can be used in just about any dish. Use it raw in a salad or with dips. You can use a new gadget to create spiral strands as a substitute for spaghetti. Coated and fried, it makes a delicious appetizer or side dish. Zucchini is even an ingredient in sweet tea breads and desserts.
Nutritionally, zucchini is not the powerhouse that other veggies are. One cup has 35% of the RDA of Vitamin C and a touch of Vitamin A and just a trace of fiber. On the other hand, it is a dieter’s dream and has practically no calories (35) or carbs (net 3 gm).
Because it is so versatile, it can be eaten all day in hundreds of ways, helping a dieter stay on track. On the other hand, there is nothing as delicious as a piece of zucchini bread with some iced tea.
Spicy to sweet, calorie-free to highly caloric, this versatile, mild-flavored vegetable is a backyard gardener’s delight and is, just about now, at the peak of picking perfection. Check out the farmer’s market now for great prices. And pick up some sweet corn while you’re there! These make for a perfect summer meal combined with any protein from tofu to fish, chicken burgers or steak!
Festive Roasted Corn (Dairy or Pareve)
8 ears roasted corn
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 to 2 red onions, peeled, cut in quarters and thinly sliced
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Oregano, to taste
Torn basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Roast the corn on the cobs over hot coals or in the oven. When slightly charred, remove from the heat source and let cool. Meanwhile, toss the green beans, peppers, tomatoes, and red onions with 2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Roast until some char marks show and the onions begin to brown. Remove from the oven to cool.
Cut the corn from the cob and place in a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables and mix well. Add the feta and herbs, lemon juice and olive oil and toss well. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Serves 6 to 12.
Smoked Butter (Dairy or Pareve)
1 stick unsalted butter or pareve margarine
1 Tbsp. chives
1 tiny clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 to 1 tsp. smoked salt, to taste
1 tsp. fresh parsley, finely minced
Soften the butter by leaving it at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Use a fork and mix in the remaining ingredients. Place in a mold or on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into a 1-inch thick log. Twist the ends and refrigerate until hardened.
Sweet-Hot Honey Compound Butter (Dairy or Pareve)
2 sticks unsalted butter or pareve margarine, softened
3 to 4 cloves roasted garlic
2 to 3 Tbsp. Sriracha sauce, to taste
2 to 4 Tbsp. honey, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until fully blended. Scrape into a mold or onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll into a 1-inch thick log, twist ends, and refrigerate until hardened. Makes 1 cup.
Pineapple Strawberry Zucchini Bread (Pareve)
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup canola oil
1-1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened plain or vanilla almond milk, soy milk or rice milk
1 can (8 ounces) crushed pineapple packed in juice (tidbits are fine). Do not drain.
1/2 cup diced strawberries
2-1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans. Set aside.
Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside.
Place the oil and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix on medium until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond milk and blend well.
Remove the bowl from the stand and add the pineapple, strawberries, zucchini, and walnuts. Stir with a fork to blend.
Divide between the two pans and place in the center of the oven for 50 to 75 minutes. A tester should come out with a few moist crumbs. Makes 2 loaves.
Crunchy Zucchini Spears (Dairy or Pareve)
4 zucchini, each 6 to 8 inches, cut in half crosswise, then into 1/2-inch thick spears, 8 to 12 pieces per zucchini. Or cut long slices, 1/3 inch thick.
3 eggs or egg whites
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1-3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Canola oil for frying
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Set aside. Fill a deep skillet or saucepan with 1/2 inch of canola oil.
Cut zucchini as directed and pat dry with paper towels.
Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and add the onion powder, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Place the panko breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl.
Dip the zucchini spears into the eggs, let the excess drip off and then roll in the panko mixture. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue until all the zucchini are coated. Sprinkle with cheese.
When the oil reaches 350 degrees (a small cube of bread will brown in 1 minute), add pieces of zucchini so that there is room for them to move. Fry until the zucchini is deep golden brown. Turn and fry until the second side is golden. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
Continue until all the zucchini are done. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and then sprinkle with some snipped chives or parsley. Serve with some heated marinara or salsa. Serves 6 to 10.
NOTE: Alternatively, you can bake these on a greased, parchment-lined sheet at 425 degrees, turning once.