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Summer Corn Dinner with the Date Dish

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“It’s the end of the summer, it’s time to get corny!” pronounced my bestie Lindsey with excitement.

She is beautiful, intelligent, and gifted in the kitchen. But, my goodness, her jokes are a little bit corny.

We were sitting in her lovely New York City apartment, joined by my friend Lacy, a marketing maven, and Ally, a PR pro. All three ladies are relatively new to the City but no strangers to style, grace, and street smarts.

These gals are smart, successful, and gifted in the kitchen. As for me, one could bestow some accolades upon me, but “a talented cook” is not one of them.

Thankfully, Lindsey is always here to help. She often talks me through my culinary trials and tribulations by phone despite her busy life as a personal chef, culinary student, and founder of The Date Dish. And, in exchange, I update her on the latest fashion trends before her seasonal shopping trips and keep her abreast of the latest and greatest sales.

When I was in New York, after a day of shopping, we celebrated (read: mourned) the end of summer with a corn-themed, healthful girls dinner. As always, my added value came from bringing wine, bringing laughter, and bringing people together. But certainly not from cooking.

On this particular occasion, the appetizer was a chilled corn soup with shitake mushrooms, one of my favorite summer dishes. The entree was a seared salmon with succotash and pineapple slices. And, for dessert, beautifully presented lemon polenta cakes with white balsamic strawberries and homemade whipped cream.

Here are the recipes. Unfortunately, I don’t think Lindsey will be able to walk each of you through them like she does with me.

DD1

Chilled Corn Soup with Shiitake Mushrooms

Ingredients:
– 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– 1/2 large onion, chopped
– 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
– 3 cups corn kernels (from 3 ears)
– Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
– 2 sprigs thyme
– 2 1/2 cups water
– 4 shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and wiped clean
– 1 tbsp olive oil

DD2

Instructions:

1. Heat butter and oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and almost translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly and being careful not to burn. Add corn and thyme sprigs; season with salt and pepper (you will need a good amount of salt). Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is softened and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes.

3. Add 2 1/2 cups water to pot. Bring mixture to a boil, immediately reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until corn is very soft, 10-15 minutes longer; discard thyme sprigs.

4. Purée corn soup in a blender on high until smooth for about 3 minutes (or use an immersion blender in the pot). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids. Transfer soup to a large bowl, cover, and chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

5. Finely dice shiitake mushrooms in very small squares, about 1/8″ wide. Right before serving, heat a small sauté pan on medium-high heat with 1 Tbsp butter (or olive oil). Add mushrooms, thyme leaves from 1 thyme sprig, and salt and pepper and sauté until golden, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

6. To plate, spoon 1 Tbsp of mushroom in the middle of the bowl and place in front of your guest. For presentation, carefully pour in the soup over the mushrooms and enjoy.

DateDish3
Seared Salmon with Succotash, Serrano Pineapple Relish and Basil Oil

Ingredients:
1-2 serrano (or jalapeño) peppers, thinly sliced on a mandolin
– 1 pineapple, skin removed, cored and halved lengthwise
– 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
– 1 tbsp. butter
– 1 tbsp. olive oil
– 1/2 small onion, chopped
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– 2 ears corn
– 1/2 cup frozen baby lima beans, thawed
– 1/2 cup frozen edamame, boiled for 7 minutes
– 1 red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced
– Pinch of cayenne pepper
– 3 sprigs thyme, stems removed
– 1 tbsp. champagne vinegar

DD7

Instructions:
1. Prep the peppers and pineapple. Slice the serrano peppers thinly on a mandolin and place in a small bowl. Cover with champagne vinegar, about 1/4 cup, and let pickle for an hour or more. Taking 1/2 of the cut pineapple, place it flat side down and cut very 12 very thin slices (about 1/8″ each). These will be used for the base of the plate. Dice some of the remaining pineapple in very small pieces so you have about 1/4 cup of finely diced pineapple for the relish later.

2. Char the corn on the cob over a hot grill or flame from your gas stove on high heat, rotating often, about 3-5 minutes. This char will give the succotash a nice smoky flavor. Stand the corn upright and cut off the kernels with a large knife. Reserve the kernels for the succotash.

3. Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat and add oil and butter. Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring, until softened. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in corn, lima beans, edamame, red pepper, cayenne and thyme and cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender, about 7-10 minutes. Stir in 1 Tbsp champagne vinegar and a good amount of salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pickled serrano peppers and add 1/2 of the peppers to the mixture. Toss to distribute evenly. Cook 5-10 more minutes then set aside and keep warm.

4. Add the other 1/2 of the serrano peppers to a 1/4 cup of finely minced pineapple. Set aside for garnish.

5. While the succotash is cooking, prepare the salmon. Pat salmon dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add salmon skin side down, and sear until well browned, about 4-5 minutes. Turn heat down to medium and gently turn fish over and sear until just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more.

6. To plate, overlap 6 thin pineapple wedges on the bottom of the plate. Spoon 1/2 cup of succotash over the pineapple. Add the salmon on top of the succotash. Garnish with the pineapple & serrano relish. Optional: drizzle with basil oil (below)

Basil oil: Add 1 cup packed spinach to a large pot of boiling salted water and blanch for 30 seconds until just cooked and color is set. Remove with a slotted spoon and shock in ice water for a few minutes to cool. Drain and dry the basil leaves and transfer to a blender with 1/2 cup good extra virgin olive oil and a 1/2 tsp salt. Puree on high speed for 3 minutes until completely smooth. Strain through a fine sieve and reserve.

Lemon Polenta Cake with White Balsamic Macerated Strawberries and Mascarpone Cream

DD3

Ingredients:

Macerated Strawberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
– 1 tbsp. sugar
– 1 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
– 3 basil leaves, chiffonade

Polenta Cake
– 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
– 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp medium-fine polenta or organic cornmeal
– 3/4 tsp. baking powder
– 1/4 tsp. salt
– 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
– 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
– Zest of 1 lemons
– 2 large eggs, room temperature
– 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta (or yogurt)

Strawberry Sauce
– 2 cups frozen strawberries
– 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
– 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Mascarpone Cream
– 4 oz mascarpone cheese (sweet, Italian-style cream cheese), at room-temperature
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
– 2 tbsp. powdered sugar

DD4

Instructions:

Strawberries: In a mixing bowl, stir together the strawberries, vinegar, basil and sugar. Set aside, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Polenta Cake

1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in the center.

2. Butter a small square or circular baking pan about 8″ by 8″.

3. Dust pan with flour; tap out excess. Whisk flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and lemon zest in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

4. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with ricotta in 2 additions, beating just until blended after each addition. Spread batter evenly in pan. Tap bottom of pan on counter a few times to smooth out the batter.

5. Bake cake about 22-27 minutes until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

6. When cooled, run knife around cake edges to loosen. Invert cake onto cutting board. Using a 3″ cookie cutter or circular ring, cut out 2 round cakes.

7. Strawberry Sauce: Combine all ingredients in a medium nonreactive saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until strawberries are soft, 5 to 7 minutes

8. Mash with the back of a fork until they are all broken down. Continue to simmer another 5 to 7 minutes until everything is liquid.

9. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, pushing with the back of a spoon to extract the liquid. Serve warm or at room temperature.

10. Mascarpone Whipped Cream: Use a hand-mixer or stand-up mixer with the whisk attachment, on medium speed, blend together the mascarpone cheese (room temperature) and 1 tbsp of the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Spoon into a separate bowl and set aside.

11. Pour the cream and the remaining sugar into the mixing bowl and blend on high-speed just until stiff peaks form, about a minute or two.

12. Turn the mixer off and carefully fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.

13. To Plate: Place individual polenta circles on the plate and top with macerated strawberries.

14. Add a spoonful with mascarpone whipped cream and garnish with a strawberry slice and small basil leaf. Drizzle with strawberry sauce.

Date Dish

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