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

Summer Vegetable Sauté

Here is a quick and easy way to dress up summer vegetables into a delicious side dish–my Summer Vegetable Sauté. The idea is to preserve the fresh-ripened flavor of the vegetables, while enhancing them with a light sauté and a hint of seasoning. It can be served warm immediately, or chilled for later and served as a salad.

Hear me cook this dish on Earth Eats, WFIU’s weekly show focused on local food and sustainable agriculture. It’s also a podcast you can find on iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.

In the recipe below, I use grape or cherry tomatoes, which are a great option any time of year. In tomato season, use your favorite, whether it’s cherry, beefsteak, plum, or heirloom. Just roughly dice to about 1-inch size and toss them in. If using good local fresh tomatoes, I would pop them in the pan and then remove immediately from heat. They really don’t need to cook and “blister the skins” as the recipe advises. If they are good tomatoes, just toss them in and you are done!

The whole thing can be the basis for a salad including your favorite greens as well. After cooking, allow the veggies to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate if not serving right away. When it’s time to serve, add your favorite greens and toss together. There should be enough liquid in the veggie mixture to “dress” the greens. If not, add a very light drizzle of olive oil and vinegar.

The idea is to play around with ingredients, seasonings, and applications. Give it a try and you’ll be on your way to more creative cooking!

Summer Vegetable Sauté

Note: This dish cooks quickly, so have all ingredients prepped and ready. Don’t overcook the vegetables. They should be tender-crisp when finished. Excellent accompaniment to grilled meats and fish. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C diced red onion (1-inch dice)
  • 1 C diced sweet mini peppers (1-inch dice, red, yellow, orange)
  • 1 C grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1-2 T fresh basil, chopped

Heat a non-stick sauté pan or skillet on medium-low heat. Drizzle with olive oil and toss in onions and peppers. Increase heat to medium. Stir gently, but don’t over-stir, so as to allow veggies to brown slightly. Sprinkle with a pinch (1/4 tsp) kosher salt and a grind or two of pepper. After 3 minutes, add the tomatoes. Stir gently and allow tomatoes to begin to blister their skins. After 2-3 minutes, drizzle veggies with vinegar and add honey. Lightly toss to combine, then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Transfer mixture to a serving bowl, add chopped basil and taste for salt/pepper, adjust if needed. Give it another drizzle of olive oil and serve immediately. 

Option 1: Allow vegetable mixture to cool to room temperature, then add fresh mozzarella (1-inch diced pieces or balls). Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Option 2: Change out the seasonings for a different flavor profile. For instance, red wine vinegar, oregano, and feta cheese for a Greek taste. Or substitute other seasonings as you like.

Option 3: Substitute or add other summer vegetables, such as zucchini, peas, or sweet corn removed from cob.