Saturday, July 22, 2006

More than just Friends - WHB

Somehow, in the culinary part of my mind, tarragon has gotten all tangled up with tomatoes.

It’s a steamy hot affair. A sensual meshing of perfectly complementary parts in a passionate embrace, forming a seamless whole. A bond that would seem to last forever.

But you know those naughty herbs. Tarragon just can’t stay true. It’s always sneaking off into some other dish. Even if the chemistry is not perfect. Then scurrying back before its one true love is destroyed.

But not to fear, the tomato will always be there waiting, ever the patient unjudgmental Gump.

I have to admit to being the catalyst for this latest tarragonal tryst. It’s mid-summer, and we are awash with fresh tarragon and tomatoes. Now we even have a source for tasty heirloom tomatoes (still great!). So you would think that the tarragon tomato romance would last forever, like Paul and Holly, or Benjamin and Elaine (Romeo and Juliet have nothing on Paul and Holly!).

But we’re also drowning in corn. And it’s pretty good this year. We almost always get white corn, less from choice so much than because that is all there is to buy. And find different ways to roast the kernels to bring out the natural sweetness and enhance it with some intense caramelization. Sometimes in the husk over coals. Sometimes cut from the cob and set under the broiler. Or tossed in olive oil and sautéed in a pan.

The corn we are getting is sold as white corn. All corn sold now days is what is known as sweet corn (as opposed to feed corn, intended for livestock). This is artificially bred corn that is controlled to enhance genes that promote sweetness. Corn used to be sweet. Then came enhanced sweet corn. Now we are on to super sweet corn. Which some seem to feel has left the corn taste behind in favor of additional sweetness. In addition, the corn is being bred to migrate from yellow, which used to predominate, to a more white color. I was not sure if the white color sort of came along with the enhanced sweetness, but that was implied.

Just like with tomatoes, and a host of other things, heirloom corn is available. And, as implied, the corn is allowed to pollinate and geminate in an uncontrolled environment, with all the associated genetic diversity. Such corn will never be nearly as sweet as current super sweet corn. But it may have other benefits, such as tasting like actual corn, and promoting a more sustainable farming eco-cycle. Here are a few links to follow on corn:
There are additional links on heirloom corn seeds, but since these are mainly commercial sites, you can search for these yourselves.

I’ve written about tarragon before. And indicated we are likely getting what is known as Mexican tarragon. Which is sweeter in general than the ‘traditional’ variety known from French classic cooking.

And I do like the corn tarragon combination. Not as much as tarragon tomato. This is not an intense love relationship, but they are certainly more than just friends.

So I thrust them together. After hiding my tomatoes in a brown paper bag. Of course, I always keep them in a paper bag till they’re ripe, but whatever!

And made a Roasted Corn and Tarragon Risotto. With a spicy fresh tomato salsa to go on top. For this edition of , sponsored this week by Paz of .

And that was very good. Sweet. The tarragon taste, because I added it at the very end, infused the entire dish with that wonderful, lightly licorice aroma.

But then we decided to go further.

This looked just like some of the batters for fritters, or even crab cakes.

So I chilled the risotto. And cut it out into rounds. And breaded it lightly with corn meal. And fried it up.

And we ate the rest of it as crispy cakes.

This is a carb bomb. Unusual for us. But delicious. And, unbelievably, it held together. Crisp, sweet little cakes. Set in a spicy tomato sauce. Outstanding!

Roasted Corn and Tarragon Risotto with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Roasted Corn and Tarragon Risotto Cakes on Fresh Tomato Salsa
Recipes by surfindaave
Serves 4 to 6

6 ears fresh corn, cut from cob, cobs reserved
8 cups chicken broth, heated to a boil with the reserved cobs, then kept hot
1 onion, chopped
700 grams arborio rice
olive oil
2-3 tbsp rice vinegar or white wine
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt, pepper
Fresh tomato salsa (recipe follows)
Additional parsley, chopped, for garnish, if desired

For the cakes:
½ cup flour
1 egg, mixed with 1 tbsp water
1 cup corn meal

Place the corn kernels on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Toss the kernels with some olive oil, and spread them in a single layer as much as possible. Roast the kernels under the broiler, stirring occasionally, until they are well browned in many places. Remove from broiler and reserve.

Keep the chicken broth at a bare simmer.

In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the rice and turn up the heat. Cook the rice, stirring, until it begins to turn translucent. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the rice vinegar, stirring. Add 1 cup of broth, stirring. As the broth is absorbed, add additional broth ½ to 1 cup at a time, stirring. When ¾ of the broth has been added, add the corn kernels and any liquid in the roasting pan. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring, and adding broth as necessary. When the rice is al dente, remove from heat. Stir in the grated cheese, tarragon and fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper as necessary, and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

You can serve this one as risotto, with the tomato salsa spooned on top.

Or, you can chill the finished risotto in a baking pan lined with wax paper (will take an hour or so, or do this the next day if you have leftovers). When chilled, cut into rounds or squares.

You can try to fry them as is in some olive oil. I floured them lightly, dipped them carefully in an egg wash, and then into corn meal. I chilled them for a half hour before frying to firm the up, then fried them in some olive oil. Not one fell apart! And then you have roasted corn risotto cakes. Serve the cakes on top of some of the tomato salsa, with some chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Delicious! Enjoy!

Fresh Tomato Salsa
Recipe by surfindaave
Serves 4 to 6 as garnish

8 roma tomatoes, pips and skins removed, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chili, minced (with seeds is hotter)
a splash of red wine
1 pinch of sugar
olive oil

In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sautee the garlic for 1 minute, stirring (don’t let it burn). Add chopped tomatoes, chili, wine and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with the spoon, over medium heat until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Set aside to cool and reserve.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, my goodness! What a meal -- both of them! I wanna be a part of this food relationship! ;-)

Paz (mouth watering)

7:31 PM  
Blogger Kalyn said...

I am reading this with my nephew (age 5) and he says you are a very good cook.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

One of my favourite soup recipes that I have been making for years and years, is tarragon and tomato.

I think it is a match made in heaven as you so keenly demonstrate.

12:06 AM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Thanks for all the comments! And glad everyone enjoyed it! It was a very nice combination.

Maybe Kalyn's nephew is a soon to be contributor to WHB?

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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12:50 AM  

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