Monday, August 9, 2010

Time for Corn

I started eating this season's corn in June and by July I was corned out. Now it's August, and everywhere I look, I see corn recipes. Every cooking magazine is filled to the brim with variations on roasted corn and corn chowder and skillet fried corn and caramel corn. I've been completely disinterested.

Instead, I've focused on ice cream festivals and savory bread pudding and pizza with mozarella cream sauce and Italian sausage. I've focused on the green peppers and basil and oregano that overflowed a co-worker's garden and arrived clean and bright in my cube. I focused on firing up my lopsided little grill on my balcony and grilling chicken drumsticks and mushrooms and trout with lemon slices.

There hasn't been time for corn in this busy cooking life of mine.

But finally one of those devilish corn recipes caught my eye because it was disguised as something I love: pesto. And it had bacon in it.

Corn pesto is similar to basil pesto - it's blended with garlic, salt, pine nuts and Parmesan. A good glug of oil is added, and it's tossed with pasta. But the corn is cooked in bacon fat, and when blended it turns creamy like a carbonara. Add a little pasta cooking water and season with more salt, and you'll find it more satisfying than a cream sauce. People are always looking to eat light things in the summer but I'm not. Bring on the heavy, hearty food all year round!

Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto (from Bon Appetit)
  • 4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add corn, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

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