As a publicist, it was a privilege to work on EDIBLE: A Celebration of Local Foods by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian. I wanted to feature the book on StoveTopReadings.com, but I make it a policy not to review books I'm working on, so I asked my good friend Jennifer McCord to write the review for this site. She obliged and then provided me with a gorgeous jpeg of the finished Corn Chowder she and her husband prepared from a recipe in the book.
Growing up with a mother who was herself raised on a farm in Minnesota meant that I learned a lot about food at a young age. This information included how food grew, was harvested, taken care of and preserved. I was back in Minnesota recently and the memories returned of picking tomatoes, corn, gathering eggs and trading butter for honey. I still have a sensual memory of how the earth smelled when it was hot from the sun.
My parents cared about what they ate and the sources of their fruit, meat, poultry and vegetables. We grew some of our own food but we also visited local and regional farmers to buy fresh. We’re near The time of year for peaches to can or freeze and searching for apples and winter squash. My mother would often go out in the fields to talk with farmers about the food they were growing and selling. We also picked our own vegetable and fruit. As a teenager it was not unusual for me to drive over to the local farm to pick up the vegetables that had been ordered by phone a week earlier. My parents were early foodies but we didn’t know it then. They just liked to have fresh good food to serve to family and friends.
EDIBLE: A Celebration of Local Foods (Wiley; $29.95; ISBN: 978-0-470-37108-4), embraces this expanding sense of locally sourced foods in a lavishly informative cookbook that is entertaining to read. Compiled by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, cofounders of the Edible Communities Publications, the stories from each of the various regions of the country that are covered in this book offer the reader and/or cook insight from all points of view about all kinds of local food—from farmers and fisherman to chefs and food artisans. This reviewer is making a list of places to visit or foods to watch for when she travels to these regions. It is a worthwhile endeavor to find out how this special group of people take care of and supply food. For example, I learned how Rutgers University is restoring a variety of Jersey tomato, what kind of berries make up marionberry and what university created the honeycrisp apple.
With the Seattle area having a particularly cool summer, and today with a high in the low 60’s, it was a perfect afternoon to try one of the recipes in the cookbook as the local farmer’s market is open today too. The morning was spent at the local farmers market picking up most of the ingredients from fresh corn on the cob, to carrots, onions and potatoes. We chose the recipe called Rich Corn Chowder. It is from Robin McDermott, of Edible Green Mountains, Vermont. The bacon we used was from a local store that specializes in double smoked bacon. The recipe required us to cut off the corn kernels—uncooked and use the cobs to make a golden broth. While it was bubbling away, there was an intoxicating smell of corn cooking. My husband, Murray, and I ended up working together to cut up the other vegetables, fry the bacon and then add them in the order called for in the recipe. The aroma of the soup reminded us both how much we like to cook. Two and half hours later, the soup was done. As we sat down to eat, there was still a bit of warmth in the air on this cool day in Seattle. The soup was an excellent meal in itself, and I will surely make this recipe again.
Jennifer McCord made her first cake when she was nine years old. Even though the cake did not turn out as she expected, the experience began a life long love of cooking. She read M.F.K. Fisher in her late teens and decided to follow her advice. Cook with the cook whose food you have found delightful. Therefore, she has cooked with a host of cooks from bakers to restaurateurs following her palate and learning how to better her own cooking.
Jennifer has her own publishing consulting company where she operates as an editor, publishing management consultant and book packager. She and her husband Murray, live in Settle, Washington. Jennifer can be reached at www.jennifermccord.com.
Rich Corn Chowder
Courtesy of Robin McDermott/ Edible Green Mountains (Vermont)
Makes 8 servings
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.
Corn Broth, optional
4 medium ears corn
8 cups water
4 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice, optional, or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped celery root or celery
5 medium potatoes, chopped
4 cups corn broth (above), chicken broth, or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
MAKE THE CORN BROTH, IF USING: Stand an ear of corn up against a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, and running the blade downward 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.
In a medium pot, add the water and the cobs 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 1 hour 30 minutes. Set a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl; strain the corn broth. Set the corn broth aside; discard the solids.
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, 7 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. If not using the bacon, in a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
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, 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, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the reserved corn kernels, bring the chowder back up to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
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 overprocess or you will lose the rustic texture of the chowder.
Stir in the cream and the reserved bacon. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you may need to add more salt to balance the sweetness of the corn broth and bring out the full flavor of this soup. Serve hot.