Funny how things work out in life.

For those not aware I am in on deadline for my next cookbook, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: Recipes and Recollections of a Southern Culinary Journey. I am in the final stretch so I am enlisting the assistance of friends and sharing recipes from books and people that I think do good work.

Sometimes we get a little hung up on competition. I’m all about doing one’s best and healthy contest, but there’s a lot to be said for sharing. They are helping me; I’m helping them. Not to overdo the idioms, but think “a rising tide floats all boats.”

However, since I am from the South, we’ve got to involve pork, not boats. It’s called The Pork Chop Theory and I learned it from my friend and mentor Nathalie Dupree. It’s a very sharing and feminine approach to life and work.

This week, I asked Tracy Ryder, co-founder of Edibles Communities with Carole Topalian, if she would share some recipes for corn.

I’ve had some great corn all summer – Georgia , Florida, Maine, and Massachusetts. My grandfather always preferred to plant his corn patch in the fruitful black soil at the river’s edge. He taught me that when corn is ripe and ready to be picked, the silk at the top of the ear should be dark brown, almost black. It is not unusual to see people peeling back the husks in search of ears with perfect rows of kernels. Just take a peek to make sure the ear is full and free of worms, but keep the husk on to keep the corn moist and sweet.

Lately, I’ve been consumed with corn, dried corn that is. Grinding grits, when to grind, where to grind, how much to grind. The top photo and the photo just below is of my heirloom granite ground grits for My Southern Pantry. (Much more on that later, but if you want to stay posted, please follow that story on the MSP Facebook Page.)

I have a dual sided Zuni Corn Maiden created from turquoise that I wear on my “life necklace”. My life necklace is sort of like a charm bracelet, but not exactly. It is a select group of items either lovingly given to or purchased by me when something was happening that I wanted documented.

Something to have close to me to touch when I want a “physical” memory.

Corn Maidens reflect the agricultural and ritual importance of corn to native Hopi and Zuni culture. Corn Maidens are emblematic of this respect for corn as a sustainer of life and spirituality. It’s a very female oriented aspect of the culture. Corn, essentially represents the Mother.

And, you know, it’s all about taking care of Mama.

The dual sides of the Corn Maiden represent the younger and the older woman. On the younger side the Corn Maiden is shown with her cob full of corn. Mature Corn Maidens are depicted without corn kernels — but their robes are much richer.

The coincidence of the corn is that I had purchased my Corn Maiden while in Santa Fe with Edibles Communities.

My Corn Maiden was meant to document an amazing, rich, and fulfilling experience.

Being in Santa Fe was truthful, challenging, and stimulating. Seeing new things, tasting new flavors, feeling new emotions, thinking about things in a way I had never before was immensely rewarding.

Edible Communuties is a national network of award-winning regional magazines that is dedicated to transform the way consumers shop for, cook, eat and relate to local food. It’s the world’s largest publisher of information on local foods with the specific flavor of each community.

There are currently 62 magazines that celebrate the abundance of foods season by season through documenting local and authentic food traditions. These magazines connect the people in the food community with stories of real people making real food, a truthful source of local food information for consumers.

It’s an amazing group of talented dedicated people making really good magazines.

Through its printed publications, websites, and events, Edible Communities strive to connect consumers with local growers, retailers, chefs, and food artisans, enabling those relationships to grow and thrive in a mutually beneficial, healthful and economically viable way. Think of it as a sound business model built on taking care of Mother Earth.

Given my experience in Santa Fe, they had me at hello, but it gets better.

They now have a cookbook.

In the continued exercise of spreading the love and the tenets of The Pork Chop Theory, with a nod to Mama Earth and the Corn Maiden, I am sharing some recipes from my friends and colleagues.

Their beautiful cookbook Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods is a collection of essays and recipes from the individual EC magazines on local food heroes and traditions incorporating the very best regional foods from every area of the United States, as well as British Columbia and Ontario.

This week, we celebrate corn.

Many, many thanks to Tracy and Carole.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA


SUMMERTIME SWEET CORN FRITTERS

Much lighter than hush puppies, these corn pancakes are perfectly seasoned and bring out the sweetness of corn kernels freshly cut from their cobs. You might want to consider doubling the recipe; these fritters disappear very quickly!

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 3 ears of corn)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions or scallions
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoons paprika
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. In a large bowl, stir together the corn, flour, egg yolks, onions, salt, paprika, pepper and cayenne. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into the corn mixture. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the remaining egg whites into the corn mixture in three additions.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter has melted. Carefully drop some of the corn mixture by tablespoons in to the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook each fritter until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn each fritter over and brown the other side, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the fritters to a platter lined with paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt, if desired. Repeat until all of the corn mixture has been used. Serve hot with some broiled tomatoes, a salsa made with chopped avocado, mango, lime and cilantro, and sour cream, if desired.

RICH CORN CHOWDER
It is not surprising that sweet corn frequently appears on Vermont menus during the few weeks it’s in season. This luscious corn chowder uses the whole vegetable – cob and all – to create a dish that is satisfying and distinctive. If you choose to preserve some of the summer bounty for use throughout the year, frozen kernels (and cobs) work very well in this recipe.

Makes 8 servings

Corn broth (optional):
4 ears of sweet corn
8 cups water

Chowder:
4 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice, optional, or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped celery root or celery
5 medium potatoes, chopped
4 cups corn broth, chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

1. Make the corn broth, if using (you can use chicken broth or vegetable broth instead): Stand an ear of corn up against a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, and running the blade downwards between the corn kernels and the corn cob, cut the corn kernels from the cob, rotating the cob until all kernels have been removed. Transfer the corn kernels to a medium bowl. Repeat with the remaining 3 ears of corn; set the corn kernels aside for making the chowder.

2. In a medium pot, add 8 cups of water and the cobs of corn from which the corn has been removed. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer until the water has become rich and golden, about 90 minutes. Strain the corn broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Discard the solids.

3. Make the chowder: In a large pot over medium heat, add the bacon (if using). Cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. If not using the bacon, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.

4. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Stir in the carrot and celery root and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the potatoes, corn broth, water, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved corn kernels, bring the chowder back up to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.

5. Remove the bay leaf. Using an immersion blender or a potato masher, lightly break up some of the potatoes and corn in the chowder. Do not over-process, or you will lose the rustic texture of the chowder. Stir in the cream and the reserved bacon. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot.

2.To thicken the soup, immerse a stick blender into the pot and pulse quickly 5 or 6 times (or use a potato masher) to quickly break up some of the potatoes and corn. Do not over-process, or you will lose the rustic texture of the soup.

Stir in the cream and reserved bacon. Adjust the seasonings; you may need to add more salt to balance the sweetness of the corn broth and bring out the full flavor of this soup.

NOTE: A corn chowder soup base adds great flavor to this soup and is a wonderful bonus when freezing kernels cut off the cob. Simmer the cobs in water to cover for 2 hours, until the water has turned into a rich corn broth. Cool the broth and store in freezer containers.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, http://www.virginiawillis.com