Corny as Baltimore in summer

July 23, 1995|By David Tanis | David Tanis,Universal Press Syndicate

The history of corn stretches back some 7,000 years. Today corn figures prominently in the hearts of cooks and diners throughout the world.

Cornmeal Blini With Smoked Salmon and Creme Fraiche

Serves 4

1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour

1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup milk

1 egg

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

8 ounces sliced smoked salmon

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

capers, pickled onions, nasturtium petals, freshly ground black pepper, red or black caviar or snipped chives, for toppings (optional)

Heat the oven to the warm setting or 200 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the milk and egg, then pour over the flour mixture. Mix lightly to make a medium-thick pancake batter. If necessary, thin it with a little more milk. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat a nonstick frying pan or griddle or a lightly oiled cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Ladle in 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake. Cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until the tops are bubbly, then flip and cook 1 minute more. Remove the cooked pancakes to an oven-proof dish and keep them in the warm oven until all the batter has been used. Briefly warm 4 small plates in the oven.

To serve, put 3 or 4 blini on each warmed plate. Drape the salmon slices around the blini and dot the blini with a heaping tablespoon of creme fraiche. Garnish to taste.

Corn, Avocado, Jicama and Radish Salad

Serves 4

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 cup light olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

juice and zest of 1 orange

juice of 2 large limes

large pinch of cayenne, or to taste

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon paprika

1 small jicama or 1 small daikon radish

1 bunch small red radishes

3 large ears sweet corn, boiled and kernels removed (or 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed)

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

2 large ripe but firm avocados

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro

To prepare the dressing, place the cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast until slightly browned and aromatic. Remove from the heat and let cool. Grind the cumin seeds into a fine powder in an electric spice mill or with a mortar and pestle.

Pour the oil into a small bowl. Add the ground cumin to the olive oil, along with the garlic, orange juice and zest, lime juice, cayenne, salt, pepper and paprika. Mix lightly with a fork or whisk. Set aside.

Peel the jicama and slice 1/4 inch thick. Stack the slices into neat piles and cut the slices crosswise into 1/4 -inch sticks. Slice the radishes into thin coin-shaped slices. In a large bowl, combine the corn, jicama, radishes and green onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, toss well and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.

Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Carefully pull off the skin so that the avocado flesh stays intact and unmarred. Now cut the halves into thin slices. Divide the slices among 4 chilled salad plates. Toss the corn mixture again and spoon over and around the avocados. Sprinkle each salad with a large pinch of paprika. Scatter the cilantro leaves over the salads and serve.

*

Here are options for corn on the cob for those willing to break with tradition. Amounts are given per ear.

Boiling: If your corn is young, fresh and tender, remove the husks and cook it for a maximum of 2 minutes in rapidly boiling unsalted water in an uncovered pot. Cook no more than six at a time in a gallon of water. Serve immediately.

Grilling: One time-honored technique is to pull back the husks, remove the silk, tie the husks back on and soak the ears in cold water for 20 minutes. Grill the corn over hot coals, turning occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes.

Another method is to shuck the corn completely, oil lightly, then roast in a covered barbecue for 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Mediterranean-Style Corn on the Cob

extra-virgin olive oil, to taste

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

hot red pepper flakes, to taste

Drizzle boiled or grilled corn with oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Sage and Chive Butter

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage

1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Dill and Chervil Butter

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill

1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh chervil or parsley

freshly ground black pepper,

In a small bowl, mix the butter with the preferred flavorings. Spread liberally on the corn.

David Tanis is the chef and a partner of Cafe Escalera in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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