Summer’s End–Celebrating Sweet Corn & Tomatoes

The calendar tells us summer is not over yet, but practically speaking, we are getting into the autumn mindset, with school back in session, football season underway, leaves beginning to fall, and the sweet corn season at an end. In my part of the state we had an abundance of delicious fresh sweet corn, despite the difficult growing season that gave farmers of all crops a few more gray hairs.

Listen to the new podcast episode HERE.

Each Labor Day Weekend the town of Hoopeston, Illinois, hosts the National Sweet Corn Festival. This year was the 76th annual festival. When my husband and I heard they gave away freshly cooked sweet corn we thought it would be worth our while to make the short drive across the state line to check it out. On the latest edition of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, you can hear what it was all about as I got a behind the scenes tour of the shucking, boiling, and buttering process. The Chairman of the Corn, P.J. Clingenpeel was my enthusiastic guide.

Also on the episode is my visit to Red Gold Tomatoes–the corporate headquarters and processing facility in Elwood, Indiana. Did you know Indiana is the third largest tomato growing state in the nation? It’s a distant third, after California and Florida, but we’re a major producer of tomatoes for processing and Red Gold is one of the biggest processors in the country.

For recipes and more information on Red Gold and their products, visit redgoldtomatoes.com. To learn more about the National Sweet Corn Festival, go to Hoopeston Jaycees. Thanks to Steve Smith and Julie Clarkson at Red Gold, and P.J. Clingenpeel at the Sweet Corn Festival.

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Chairman of the Corn P.J. Clingenpeel

The Indiana State Fair

If you haven’t made it to the Indiana State Fair yet this year, there is still time. By the time this posts, there will be five big days yet to go (it ends August 18).

Hear about my visit to the fair on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, HERE.

And if you miss out this year, you can rest assured that each summer brings a new opportunity to take in the fair and all its attractions–the 4-H competitions, music performances, agricultural displays and equipment, the Pioneer Village, the circus, the midway, the food….

Yes, it’s the food that is the main attraction for many fair-goers. Barbecued turkey legs, pork burgers, pork chops, beef rib-eyes, deep-fried pork tenderloin, deep fried (fill-in-the-blank), elephant ears, funnel cakes, ice cream, sweet corn, gyros, kabobs, and on and on… A page on the Indiana State Fair website features all the “new foods” at this year’s fair!

I always try to have an elephant ear at the fair. For those unfamiliar with this staple of the midway (anyone?), it’s a flat disc of yeast dough stretched like a pizza crust, deep fried and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. I missed out this year due to extenuating circumstances. I spent the day judging a barbecue cook-off and thus had no appetite for an elephant ear. Well, it’s something to look forward to next year.

Speaking of the barbecue cook-off, it’s put on at the State Fair every year by Shoup’s Country Foods. This year was the 10th annual competition. Congratulations to the overall champion team Gettin’ Piggy With It! See more on the Shoup’s Country Facebook page.

At this year’s fair, I made a point to spend some time in the Pioneer Village and learn a little about some of the old time cooking techniques. You can hear more about it on the new IHC Podcast episode here. Ever had cracklins? You’ll hear where they come from, plus other pioneer cooking tips and techniques in this episode.

I also met Jeanette Merritt of Indiana Pork, who shared a Tuscan Pork & Bean Salad during a cooking demonstration at the fair. She offered more pork cooking ideas on the podcast episode as well. Jeannette’s salad recipe is below, and more pork recipes are available at the Indiana Pork website.

A note about the man pictured below with no arms and tending the fire. He’s Jeffrey Scott and he’s volunteered at the State Fair Pioneer Village for most of his life. At a very young age he lost his arms in a tragic farm accident. But that didn’t slow him down. He was given the job of stirring the rendering pot when he was a young boy. And he can stir, even with no arms! He also is an accomplished wood crafter and carver.

 

Tuscan Pork & Bean Salad

ForkMorePork.com

  • 6 oz boneless pork loin, cooked, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 10 oz greens (Romaine, spinach, mixture)
  • 15 oz cannellini beans (or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian salad dressing
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

In a shallow serving bowl toss together all ingredients, except parmesan cheese, with dressing. Portion onto individual serving plates and top each with 1 T parmesan cheese. Makes 4 dinner-sized salad servings.

Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits

Professor Torbert Rocheford decided he wanted to help the world. Specifically, to help the poor in Africa improve their diets, and thus their nutrition, in order to save lives. That’s what started him on his mission to develop orange corn. The orange color comes from higher levels of carotenoids, like beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A, which is lacking in the diets of many developing countries.

(Hear this podcast episode HERE.)

It’s not sweet corn, like what we eat right off the cob, that we are talking about. It’s field corn or “dent” corn, that grows on millions of acres here in Indiana and throughout the country. It is the corn that is processed into countless products like corn oil, cornflakes and other cereals, tortilla chips and other snack foods, corn syrup, feed for livestock, corn meal, and grits, to name just a few.

In its most basic milled form, as corn meal and grits (sometimes called polenta), it is a staple in the diets of many people in developing countries. Often eaten three times a day. So improving the nutritional value of such a crop can dramatically improve people’s health in these countries. And that is exactly what has happened in many countries of Africa where Dr. Rocheford’s orange corn has been adopted.

Dr. Torbert Rocheford holds the Patterson Endowed Chair in Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy. On the new episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, he discusses his work in breeding orange corn and how that lead to the marketing of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits here in the U.S. That product is becoming a favorite of chefs and home cooks not only for its nutritional boost, but especially for its creamy corn flavor, and unique orange hue. And the orange corn for the grits is grown and processed here in the Hoosier State. Read more about the grits and the orange corn story here.

Helping him with Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits are his son, and co-founder, Evan Rocheford, and Torbert’s wife Katie, who has come up with some interesting uses for Orange Corn Grits. We hear from both of them in the episode as well. Listen here.

Thanks to all three Rochefords for allowing me to share the story of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s an important story of reaching out with a helping hand to those in need across the world, from right here in our Indiana Home.

Photo of Torbert & Evan by Rachel Sale.

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Microwave Orange Corn Grits for One

Katie Rocheford

  • 1/3 cup Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits
  • 1 1/3 cup water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp butter

Place all ingredients in a microwave safe cooking dish (about 6 cup capacity). Stir lightly, cover and cook in the microwave on high for 5-6 minutes depending on your microwave’s power. After cooking is complete, leave it covered and let it sit 2 minutes. Then stir thoroughly and serve. Extra butter, salt/pepper, milk or cream, etc. may be added as desired.

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Lemon Polenta Cookies

by Carrie Vasios Mullins

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 1/2 cup uncooked polenta (or Orange Corn Grits)
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice

Adjust oven rack to upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together polenta (or grits), flour, and salt, and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter till light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla . Add dry ingredients and beat until just incorporated. Stir in lemon juice and zest.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly golden, about 18 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then transfer cookies to wire rack to finish cooling.

See recipe online here.

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Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits & Lemon Biscotti

by Katie Rocheford

  • 3/4 cup Orange Corn Grits
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Egg wash (one egg beaten with 1T water or half & half)
  • Sugar for sprinkling

Prepare grits: Grind grits in a blender until consistency of corn meal. Stir lemon juice and zest into grits and let sit 15 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine flour, salt, and soda in a medium bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together thoroughly. Add eggs and beat well. Add grits mixture and mix well.

Stir flour mixture into butter mixture by hand until just mixed. Shape and roll dough into 2 logs about 12″ long and 3″ to 4″ wide. (If dough is sticky, flour your hands and sprinkle flour on countertop for easier handling. Or dough can be refrigerated until firm enough to handle.)

Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 350º about 30 minutes or until top is cracked and logs are a bit brown. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 280ºF.

After logs have cooled for 20 min, cut them diagonally into 1/2″ slices (biscotti). Place biscotti back on baking sheet and bake at 280º for 30 minutes. Option: bake biscotti on cooling rack place on baking sheet so as to dry both sides of biscotti. When biscotti feel dry, turn off oven and leave biscotti in oven until cool.

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Pesto Shrimp and Grits

Susan Mintert

  • 1 cup Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, cooked according to package directions (yields 4 cups cooked grits)
  • 24-32 peeled raw shrimp (more or less, depending on size)
  • Pesto sauce, divided (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 cup fresh diced tomato (optional)

Measure out 2-3 T. pesto sauce and thin it with a bit of olive oil so it can be easily brushed onto shrimp. Keep this portion separate from the rest of the pesto, since it, and the utensils used, will be in contact with raw shrimp.

Skewer shrimp for grilling. Lightly salt and pepper shrimp, then brush with the thinned pesto sauce. Drizzle with additional olive oil, then cover and refrigerate while cooking grits and preparing grill.

While grits are cooking, preheat grill to medium-high heat (about 400ºF). When grits are done cooking, keep covered on the lowest heat setting to keep warm. (When ready to serve, if grits have become too stiff, simply add a bit of water or milk and stir to loosen up.)

When grill is ready, place skewered shrimp on grill over direct heat. Cook about 3 minutes, then turn over. After 5-6 minutes shrimp should be done. They will be pink and slightly firm to the touch. Do not overcook. Remove from grill.

To serve, spoon a generous bed of grits into individual serving bowls. Top each with 6-8 shrimp and a small dollop of pesto sauce, a few tomatoes, and a good drizzle of olive oil.  Serves 4-6.

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Katie Rocheford (right) with Susan, in Katie’s kitchen
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My supply of orange corn grits

Summer Happenings

I’m gathering material for a couple of upcoming episodes of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast, and I hope you’ll check them out when they are posted. I have some other tasks to complete in the next week, and after that I’ll be in the studio editing and producing like mad to get them ready. I’m working on episodes featuring Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits, based in West Lafayette, and Shoup’s Country Foods in Frankfort.

Shoup’s Country Foods sponsor the Backyard BBQ Cook-Off at the Indiana State Fair each year. The fair is coming up soon, August 2-18, and the cook-off is Saturday, August 10. Catagories include pork ribs, pork loin, chicken, “Build a Hog Burger,” and more. If you are a backyard barbecuer, consider entering! You’ll find all the details HERE. The deadline to enter is July 26, or until space fills up.

(I just found out I’ll be a judge for the BBQ Cook-Off! So sign up or come by and see it all take place August 10 at the Indiana State Fair.)

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The Shoup family of Frankfort, Indiana, started in the custom meat processing business decades ago. Over the years they have expanded into a retail meat store, mail order, and catering business. Catering has lead them to open their own event center and to involvement with the biggest catered tailgate party anywhere–the Super Bowl. Their story will be featured on an upcoming episode of the IHC Podcast.

On my blog and on social media you may have seen pictures of Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. I’ve cooked them several times and liked the results so much I couldn’t help sharing! I met Professor Torbert Rocheford and his son Evan recently and I’ll be sharing their story about how the grits came to be, and where in the world orange corn comes from. (Hint: Professor Torbert invented it.)

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Italian Pot Roast with Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits

 

Look for these stories and more here on the blog and on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. You can always catch up on your listening by clicking on the episodes listed here on the blog. Or go to indianahomecooks.podbean.com, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, Google, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe, download, and take IHC on your summer travels. That’s a great time to listen. And thanks!

Indiana Farmers Coliseum photo from Wikipedia.

 

Indiana Traminette

The “Indiana Traminette” episode of the IHC podcast is HERE.

June is “Indiana Wine Grape Month,” and the nearly 100 wineries of Indiana are proudly featuring our state’s official signature grape—Traminette. I sat down recently with a couple of experts on Traminette and foods that go with it, on the latest episode of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Thom England is a Certified Executive Chef and Culinary Arts Progam Coordinator at Ivy Tech in Indianapolis. Meredith Easley is with Easley Winery in downtown Indy. Hear what we talked about and tasted HERE.

A hybrid of the German Gewürztraminer and the French Joannes Seyve, Traminette is all-American, having been developed in the 1960’s and 70’s by researchers at the University of Illinois and Cornell University. And it’s gaining in popularity for growers, winemakers, and consumers in the Midwest because of its suitability to our growing conditions and its versatility.

I love Traminette and the variety of styles our Indiana winemakers produce—it can be floral and spicy, crisp and fruity, dry, off-dry, or subtly sweet. Traminette’s versatility makes it a perfect wine to sample and compare as you visit wineries around the state. 

A special congratulations to Butler Winery of Bloomington, winner of Traminette of the IMG_6860Year at the 2019 Indy International Wine Competition held at Purdue University in May. The Butler 2018 Traminette was one of the wines we sampled, along with Easley’s award winning 2016 Traminette, and others from Tonne Winery in Muncie, and Country Heritage Winery, Fort Wayne, Plainfield, and Nashville.

For more information on Indiana wines and wine trails in the state, go to indianawines.org, and indianagrown.org.  

Thanks to Martin Marcelo and Gina Powell of Easley Winery for their help with our tasting–prepping, pouring, and photographing! And thanks to Thom for his delicious food and Meredith for the delightful wines. Cheers!

 

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Uncorking refreshing Traminette
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In the kitchen at Ivy Tech’s Penthouse Restaurant
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Thom’s Indiana pork tenderloins and curry chicken–great partners for Indiana Traminette!
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Cheers, Meredith!

Sandy Beach BBQ

Hear the Sandy Beach BBQ episode HERE.

The arrival of grilling season always inspires new ideas for outdoor cooking, whether on a gas or charcoal grill, or in a smoker. Since purchasing a Big Green Egg combination grill/smoker a couple years ago, I’ve been working on my BBQ game, improving in consistency, but also identifying what I still don’t understand. And if you are like me, and most backyard barbecuers, you might only fire up your smoker on the weekend, so you don’t get the repetition needed to really master a cooking technique. It does help to take notes, so you can remember what worked or didn’t work the last time!

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Michelle & Andy Schwindler

I started following the Sandy Beach Barbecue Company on Instagram over a year ago and was impressed with the images of their food cooked on the Big Green Egg. They have a lot of fun doing demonstrations at their Big Green Egg dealership on the shore of Lake Freeman just south of Monticello, Indiana. As the weather slowly, and laboriously, warmed up this spring, I decided to call Michelle and Andy Schwindler, owners of Sandy Beach, and ask if they would show me their set up and be my guest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast. They enthusiastically agreed!

When I arrived, Andy had two of the Eggs fired up, one filled with chicken and cauliflower roasting in the smoky heat, and the other in preparation for an appetizer of melted brie, blueberries, and pecans. Was I in for a treat! Andy and Michelle could not have been kinder and more hospitable with their time, knowledge, and food.

See the pictures from my visit below and see more from the Sandy Beach Barbecue Company on Instagram and Facebook and at their website. They have a full slate of live fire dinners featuring low and slow BBQ, wood-fired pizza, surf & turf, and other options.

Full disclosure: I did not purchase my Big Green Egg from Sandy Beach. But I wish I had, as you will hear at the end of the podcast. Happy grilling, smoking, and BBQ’ing!

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On the new Indiana Home Cooks podcast episode, we talk about all the food shown here and how it was cooked. Top to bottom: Andy at the Egg; whole chicken, drumstick lollipops, & cauliflower steaks; breaking down the chicken; melted brie with blueberries and pecans; lunch!

Italian Pot Roast BONUS TRACK

Hear this podcast episode HERE.

I enjoy playing around with different flavors in traditional recipes and giving them a fresh spin. For instance, from-scratch chicken noodle soup can be brightened up with the addition of fresh ginger, lime, and cilantro, and maybe a dash of fresh diced jalapeño or other hot pepper for a slight kick.

One day a few years ago I was preparing pot roast ingredients to load into the Crock Pot, when it dawned on me that I could take this standard family fare in another direction. Instead of the usual pot roast seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, etc., and onions, carrots, and potatoes with gravy, what about an Italian twist? Instead of the carrots and potatoes, how about diced tomatoes and red bell pepper, along with the onions, and thyme, oregano, basil, and parsley for seasoning? Oh, and a splash of red wine couldn’t hurt. When the roast is cooked to fork-tenderness, pull it apart in chunks, and serve it over creamy polenta with a drizzle of olive oil, some chopped fresh parsley, and, of course, grated Parmesan cheese.

The whole scenario ran through my mind in an instant. So I followed my inspiration, and my Italian Pot Roast turned out fabulous!

Part of my thought process involved how I could use polenta. I had known about this creamy cornmeal dish for some time, seeing it on TV cooking shows, in magazines, and elsewhere. Along with pasta, it is a staple of Italian cuisine. To us Hoosiers, it’s known as grits.

I thought I should be authentic and use “polenta” so I found a quick-cooking Italian polenta that I used the first few times I made it. It was perfect with the Italian Pot Roast, serving as a creamy bed on which to ladle the tender beef chunks and sauce. But lately, when I make polenta, I pull out the Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and cook it according to the directions for Corn Meal Mush on the box. I add a little butter, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and maybe a splash of milk to keep it creamy. It’s delicious and comforting.

A recent discovery I’ve made is another grits product that makes a fine polenta–Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn Grits. It’s a bit pricey, but delicious, and the orange corn is a brighter color on the plate if you are serving it with the Italian Pot Roast or Shrimp & Grits. Professor Torbert is a real professor of agronomy at Purdue University, who developed a special line of corn that is higher in beta-carotene, giving it a more orange hue. He has turned his orange corn into a specialty food product. I hope to share his story on a future episode of the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast.

In the meantime, give the Italian Pot Roast a try. You can cook it in your slow cooker,  roasting pan or Dutch oven. All three methods are explained below, and you can hear me cooking it here. Enjoy!

Italian Pot Roast (Serves 4-6)

  • One 2 to 2.5 lb. chuck roast
  • Olive oil
  • One medium to large onion, roughly chopped
  • One bell pepper, any color, roughly chopped
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup beef broth*
  • 1/2 cup red wine*
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley, one handful chopped fresh, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 T sugar
  • Kosher salt & pepper

For serving:

  • More parsley
  • Grated parmesan cheese
  • Cooked polenta (directions below) or bite-size pasta, such as ziti

If cooking in a slow cooker (Crock Pot), reduce amount of wine/broth by half. Use a 1/2-cup of EITHER broth or wine, or reduce to 1/4-cup each.

Slow cooker instructions:

Put roast, veggies, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, broth/wine, herbs, sugar, and salt & pepper to taste in cooker. Cook on low for 10-12 hours. Or cook on high for 5-6 hours.

For conventional oven, preheat to 325º. Combine all ingredients in a large roasting pan as instructed for slow cooker above. Cover pan with foil or a lid, and bake 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven, and let sit, covered, up to 30 minutes. 

Conventional oven, plus extra flavor step for braising:

Season roast on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat an oven safe pot, like a dutch oven, on the stove on medium setting. Drizzle about 1 T. olive oil in hot pan and place roast in to sear. About 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove roast from pot and set aside. 

Lower heat to med-low and pour in broth and wine. Allow it to boil and scrape up bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, 2-3 minutes. Carefully add roast back to the pot, season with thyme, oregano, and basil. Add onions, peppers, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar. 

Cover pot and place in preheated oven, and allow to braise for 2.5 to 3 hours, till fork tender. When done, remove from oven and let the roast sit, covered, for up to 30 minutes. 

To serve, pull roast apart into chunks and stir it into the sauce. Ladle over cooked polenta or pasta in bowls, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese. Makes great leftovers. 

To make polenta:

You don’t have to buy “polenta.” Use Quaker Yellow Corn Meal and follow the instructions for cooking “Corn Meal Mush” on the box. When it has finished cooking and is thick and creamy it is ready to serve. If it thickens up too much before you are ready to serve, add a bit of milk and whisk. It’s also tasty to stir in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and 1/3 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

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Slow-braised to fork-tenderness
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Served over polenta, and topped with fresh parsley, olive oil, and grated Parm.