Saturday morning at the market I learned that local sweet corn would only be available for another two weeks. In reality it has been a long season...but it has seemed so very fast. I hate to see it draw to a close. I love sweet corn. We enjoy it in salads, pastas and as a vegetable side dish all summer long...I never get tired of it. This year we have been enjoying it in (among other things) corn pesto.
My recipe for corn pesto is adapted from one that ran a few years back in Bon Appetit. I'm not sure I would have thought to make a pesto from corn. It includes all the usual pesto suspects—pine nuts, Parmesan, olive oil and garlic—and it is deliciously sweet from the corn. I have not used it for anything other than as a sauce for pasta, but I think you could probably come up with lots of great ways to use it...as long as you remember to balance its inherently sweet flavor with some salty and/or bitter ingredients. Both the pastas that I made incorporate these elements—salty bacon with bitter kale in one and salty prosciutto and slightly bitter and hot arugula in the other.
I didn't alter the original recipe too much. I changed the ratios of the ingredients a bit, but that is a personal taste thing and is really not that significant. The biggest change I made was the manner in which I prepared the corn. The original recipe uses corn that has been sautéed in bacon fat (since the pasta recipe that accompanied it included bacon and corn that was sautéed in the fat). I roasted the corn instead—mostly because roasting is my favorite way to prepare corn...but also because it makes the pesto into a recipe that stands on its own. Furthermore, since the recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups of roasted corn—and ears of corn don't produce uniform quantities of kernels—there will almost certainly be kernels of corn left over. And plain roasted corn kernels are a handy thing to have on hand in the summer—for salads, stuffing for other vegetables, grain pilafs, salsas, vegetable medleys...and of course, pasta. If your corn leftovers have been sautéed in bacon fat, they will be delicious, but their use will be limited.
One final note about a difference between my recipe and the original. I prefer my pastas lightly sauced. The original recipe from Bon Appetit calls for almost twice as much corn pesto as I use. If you like your pasta to be heavily sauced, simply make a larger batch of pesto and use as much as you need to obtain the ratio of sauce to pasta that pleases you.
Summer seems to have raced by me this year. I can't believe that today is really the first day of September. I have not yet had my fill of sweet corn ....or tomatoes ....or eggplant ....or peppers .... Happily, the market will continue to offer most of these items for another two or three weeks at least. I don't know how many posts I will have the time to squeeze in during the coming month, but I feel safe in predicting that those that I do write will certainly feature these late summer foods that I love....extending my enjoyment of the season as long as I possibly can.
1 1/4 c. (200 grams) roasted corn (see note)
1/4 c. (30 grams) pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 fat clove of garlic, smashed to a purée with a pinch of salt
pinch of cayenne
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 t. kosher salt
3 T. olive oil
1/3 c. (30 grams) finely grated Parmesan
Place the corn in the bowl of the food processor (fitted with the metal blade) along with the pine nuts, garlic, cayenne, pepper and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Process until the corn and pine nuts are very finely chopped and have formed a paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times.
With the machine running, pour in the olive oil, processing until incorporated. Add the Parmesan and pulse in. Taste and correct the seasoning. Makes about 1 1/4 cup pesto.
Note: To roast corn, place the corn (in the husk) in a preheated 375° oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the husks as soon as you are able to handle the corn. Cool and cut the kernels away from the cob. A large ear of corn will produce about 1 cup of kernels. If you are using the pesto to sauce one of the two pasta recipes that follow, remember to roast extra ears of corn.
Bucatini with Corn Pesto, Kale & Bacon
1 bunch kale (see notes), center ribs removed (you will have about 5 oz. trimmed kale) and leaves rinsed in several changes of water
2 to 3 strips of bacon (about 2 oz.), cut cross-wise in 1/4-inch strips
1 small (or half of a medium) red onion (about 4 oz.), cut in a 1/4-inch dice
a pinch of hot pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 c. roasted corn
1/2 lb. Bucatini (or linguine)
1/2 recipe corn pesto
freshly grated Parmesan
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the kale and boil until tender—about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the kale and spread on a baking sheet to cool. Squeeze out the excess water with your hands and chop coarsely. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan, set over medium low heat, render the bacon, stirring occasionally until crisp. Transfer the bacon to paper towels. Increase the heat to medium, add the onions to the pan along with a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are tender and beginning to caramelize—about 8 to 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon (more or less, depending on the fattiness of the bacon) of olive oil to the pan followed by a pinch of hot pepper flakes and the kale, stirring and tossing to break up the kale and coat it in the fat. Cook over moderately low to low heat until the kale has darkened and is sizzling in the fat a bit—another 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the corn and heat through. Reduce the heat to the very lowest setting while you cook the pasta.
Drop the pasta into a large pot of rapidly boiling water seasoned with about a teaspoon of salt per quart. Stir and cook until the pasta is al dente. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out a half cup of the pasta water and set aside.
While the pasta finishes cooking, place the corn pesto in a large bowl with a quarter cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Stir until smooth and incorporated. Drain the pasta and add along with a drizzle (maybe a half tablespoon?) of olive oil. Toss to coat the pasta, adding more of the pasta water as necessary to obtain a fluid sauce. Add the warm kale and corn mixture and toss well. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Correct the consistency with pasta water and/or olive oil. Serve topped with the reserved bacon and freshly grated Parmesan. Serves 2 to 3.
- I use Red Russian Kale, but Siberian or Tuscan would work well too.
- The recipe may be easily doubled. Choose a very large sauté pan for cooking the onions and kale.
- If you have corn pesto on hand, but don't have extra roasted corn, you may prepare this pasta by adding raw corn kernels to the sauté pan after the onions have caramelized. When the corn begins to sizzle in the bacon fat, add the oil and kale and proceed with the recipe.
Fettuccine with Corn Pesto, Prosciutto & Arugula
1/2 lb. Fettuccine
1/2 recipe Corn Pesto
3/4 c. roasted corn
1 1/2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
a handful of arugula leaves (1/2 oz.) stemmed and cut in 1/4-inch ribbons
Freshly grated Parmesan
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water. Drop the pasta, stir and cook until the pasta is al dente. When the pasta is almost done, scoop out a half cup of the pasta water and set aside.
While the pasta finishes cooking, place the pesto in a large bowl with a quarter cup of the pasta cooking water and stir until smooth. Stir in the corn. Scatter the prosciutto evenly over the surface of the pesto and corn, but don't stir in.
|By waiting to stir in the prosciutto until the hot pasta has been added, |
you will be less likely to end up with clumps of prosciutto and more
likely to obtain thin ribbons that are well distributed throughout the dish
Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl. Top with the arugula and a drizzle of olive oil (1/2 Tablespoon, or so). Toss until all the ingredients are evenly distributed and the pastas is coated with the pesto.
Add more pasta water and/or olive oil to obtain a sauce that is fluid, yet not pooling in the bottom of the bowl.
Serve the pasta topped with freshly grated Parmesan. Serves 2 to 3. Recipe is easily doubled to serve 5 to 6.