Corn of Plenty (aka: me and the farmer’s market blow my mind)

I’ve been on a search lately for the best restaurant in DC, the mind-blowing, moan-inducing, foodie experience that happens (for most normal people anyways) just a handful of times. I can’t report back on anything, but a recent meal almost convinced me I had found it…..but it was in my own house.

Ok, a bit egotistical I know….but seriously, the mind-blowing part is not exaggerated. As my partner, and coconspirator in the meal said (as he was eating his 3rd helping, straight from the pot, with his hands), “Your cooking has reduced me to a barbarian.” First, I must give credit to the farmer’s market, whose fresh fruits and veggies really did 90% of the work for me. The fresh sweet corn, sungold and purple heirloom tomatoes, and basil would have tasted great just chopped up in a bowl with a pinch of sea salt, so I can’t take much of the credit .

I had a craving for fish, but found the fresh squid at the market to be much more reasonably priced, and I happen to love all types of squid/octopus. I decided to do a “salsa cruda” (raw sauce, Spanish flavors) inspired by a grilled whole snapper I had at Vin Rouge in Durham, NC. The sungolds and heirlooms provided the base for the salsa, and I added minced green pepper, Italian parsley, basil, minced shallots and jalapenos, white wine vinegar, salt/pepper, and diced white plums for a hint of sweet. I marinated the rings and tentacles of squid in a simple lemon juice-garlic marinade and then sautéed them for about 1 minute until just cooked. I mixed the squid into the salsa and let it all hang out in the fridge for a minute.

Estimate of ingredients:
– 1 lb cleaned squid, cut into rings and bite-sized tentacle pieces
– 1 cup sliced sungold or cherry tomatoes
– 1 cup diced heirloom tomatoes
– 2 white or yellow plums, diced

– 1/2 green bell pepper, minced

– 3 tablespoons minced jalapeno
– 1/3 cup minced Italian parsley
– ¼ cup minced basil
– 1 shallot, minced
– 3 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
– ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
– 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Our CSA brought us a bunch of sugary-sweet corn this week. I’ve done grilled corn, corn salads, grits with fresh corn, and corn salsa, so I was looking for something different. Luckily, this month’s issue of bon appetite mag offered up quite a few suggestions on how to use up the summer bounty. One recipe featured a “corn pesto” that intrigued me. Your basic pesto, with corn in place of the basil. As usual, I didn’t follow the recipe as written, but it was great inspiration for the creamy corn-bacon-parm-sauce that topped the handmade fettuccine I cranked out this afternoon (yes, my dear dad got me the pasta maker attachment for my stand mixer for my 30th! This was my first attempt, and it was soooooo worth it).

Ingredients:
– 4 slices bacon, chopped
– 4 cups corn kernels (from about 5 ears corn)
– 3 cloves garlic, crushed
– 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
– Pinch of cayenne pepper
– ½ cup walnuts (or other nut)
– ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
– 3 tablespoons olive oil
– Salt to taste

I crisped some chopped bacon, sautéed the corn kernels, garlic, pepper and a touch of cayenne pepper in the drippings, setting the bacon aside, until the corn was tender (about 3 minutes). Set aside 1 cup of the corn kernels, and puree the remainder in the food processor with the nuts and cheese and a touch of olive oil. Taste and adjust for salt. I mixed this with the just cooked fresh fettuccine, a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid, and then topped with the bacon and basil. As the first bites reached our lips, heavy breathing and wide eyes commenced.

Although I would not pair the dishes together (in the future, they would be separate courses, as the squid flavors overpowered the delicate pasta), they both totally rocked my world. Thinking back on all of the meals I’ve had in DC, I think this might be the best…..but I will continue to search, and of course keep cooking – there were some baby artichokes at the farmer’s market tempting me…..any ideas for these?

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