When garden-grown produce peaks, it’s hard to improve on the product. Our weekly CSA box is no exception. As much as I enjoy cooking with tomatoes, I can’t imagine eating these ripe red slicers any way but raw.
A little piece of Spring Valley, Minnesota, crowds my kitchen counter. Norm-the-Grower, our CSA farmer, delivered gorgeous tomatoes. While the Midwestern drought boxed the heck out Norm’s sweet corn crop, his tomatoes are perfect. So much so, that we declared our annual corn-and-tomato meal.
My spouse and I started this tradition –well, fell into it- through a combination of excess fresh tomatoes from our first garden, a dozen ears of corn from the farmers market, and no children complicating the food preparation picture. We didn’t want to waste the corn and we had tomatoes coming out of our ears. Thus, the corn-and-tomato meal was born. Kids are now included.
When it comes to sweet corn, I am spoiled. Growing up on the farm, we planted a row of sweet corn on the edge of our closet corn field. Sweet corn spent less than an hour between picking and the dinner plate. Crop science has, since my youth, substantially slowed sweet corn’s sugar-to-starch conversion time so that just-picked succulence can last for a good week or more. But, I’m still a slave to my fresh corn orthodoxy.
I used to slather my corn in butter after boiling. Now, at best, I briefly nose the salt shaker over the cob after grilling it, wrapped in aluminum foil. Less is best. The same goes with tomatoes. After slicing and arranging on a plate, I drizzle a small amount of good quality olive oil over the tomatoes and then add a few grinds of fresh pepper with several torn apart basil leaves. That’s it. Nothing more complicated is required.
If I have leftovers, I’ll throw together a salsa for the next day. I combine the cooked corn, sliced from the cob with the remaining chopped and drained tomatoes with cooked black beans, a diced white onion, a diced jalapeno pepper, a handful of chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips from St Paul’s El Burrito Mercado and today’s leftovers become tomorrow’s food. Waste nothing.
Minnesota’s peak fresh corn and tomatoes moment will quickly pass. Don’t miss the opportunity to eat simply and bountifully.