Few ingredients inspire a love-hate relationship in me the way corn does. As a Nebraska-born girl, I feel a certain ingrained allegiance to corn- its sweetness, its bright, golden hue, its utilitarian cob, the accoutrements (corn-contoured butter dispensers, prongs, etc) and the way biting into an ear of corn makes summer just feel like summer. As a sustainability advocate, I resent the way corn came to dominate the landscape, reduce crop varieties, deplete soil minerals and become a secret, sugary ingredient in just about everything! In the spirit of summer and positive reinforcement though, this is an ode to my love of corn.
Roasting intensifies the corn’s innate sweetness. Paired with juicy grape tomatoes, spicy radishes, creamy avocados, hot peppers fresh from my honey’s fields, tangy feta and more, this salad captures the bold colors and fresh flavors of summer. It’s an easy salad to contribute to a summer bbq or cookout. In my case, it was part of my South American Inspired Picnic to celebrate my one year anniversary with the Urban Farmer. As a picnic food, pair this salad with plantain or corn chips for utensil-free eating.
This salad isn’t meant to be dogmatic. Start with the roasted corn, trust your palate and follow your cravings. You can easily make it vegan, and if you have leftovers, add them to an omelette at breakfast to enjoy corn at every meal possible. It is summer after all, and this is when corn deserves a chance to shine!
Like a dancer rehearsing tirelessly for a performance, the Urban Farmer has worked and worked for this day. Excitement, jitters, second guesses, strokes of confidence and last minute preparations culminate in today’s performance. Today the Urban Farmer delivers his very first CSA!
A CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) is the consumer’s way to invest in a farm. It’s a way to support principled farming practices with dollars and cents. It’s a way to share in the highs and lows, the bounties and the dry spells. It’s a means to understanding the seasons, the gambles and if all goes well, it’s a way to understand one of the best gifts of locally grown food: fresh, intense flavor!
Much like an Iron Chef challenge, a CSA arrives weekly with surprise ingredients. If your glass is half empty, the lack of choice and control will be a burden. What am I going to do with kohlrabi?! If your glass is half full, the array is a creative challenge and just the motivation you need to break with culinary monotony. Hopefully, you’re the latter.
The Urban Farmer could eat radishes (and just about anything from the ground) like grapes, but for many of us, the spicy, bitter and crisp radish is more perplexing. These bright red beauties emerge with a bouquet of greens, which we often overlook, tossing them into compost piles without a second thought. With so many radishes emerging from the field, my creative challenge was to harness more potential from these French Breakfast varieties: enter pesto!
In true S.A.T style, when I say “pesto,” your immediate association is probably basil, and the word nerd in me wondered, why is this? Is it a rule? Are pesto and basil inextricably linked?
In an intense research effort, I consulted Wikipedia, and I found my excuse to break with basil traditions:
The name [pesto] is the contracted past participle of the Genoese word pestâ (Italian: pestare), which means to pound, to crush, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle. The ingredients in a traditionally made pesto are ground with a circular motion of the pestle in the mortar. This same Latin root through Old French also gave rise to the English word pestle.
I respect European traditions enough not to assign names sacrilegiously, but Wikipedia permitted me to extend the idea of “pesto” to the ingredients of the very first CSA and fulfill my radish challenge. Whether you’re receiving the Urban Farmer’s very first CSA or a fresh bunch from another farmer, here’s to new ways of using the freshest, local offerings.
Radish, Chard & Leafy Greens Pesto
About this Recipe: Crunchy and garlicky, use this farm-fresh pesto wherever you would use the traditional basil version. The chard and large, leafy greens yield far more than their basil equivalents. Whether I used broccoli or cauliflower greens will be determined soon, when more of the vegetable protrudes from the ground. You can use turnip greens, kale or more chard as a substitute if need be. The main objective is just to use as much of the vegetables as possible. I left the texture of my pesto rather coarse, preferring to add more oil based on the application. The thicker consistency works well for these chèvre, back pepper and radish crostini. I skipped the cheese, preferring to add cheese with the application as well. The result is a vegan-friendly pesto with lots of healthy raw nutrients!