The produce this time of year makes me so excited. Every time I pick up my CSA share I feel like I'm unwrapping presents at Christmas time. What in the world could possibly be better than heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, watermelon and peaches?
With such great produce overflowing out of my fridge, you need some really fantastic dishes to showcase it. Most of these are so simple I don't even post them because it feels like cheating. Is it really a recipe if it takes 5 ingredients or less and involves mostly chopping?
Risotto on the other hand is to me the definition of the craft. There's something about chopping and sauteing aromatics, toasting rice, meditatively stirring to coax the rice into drinking up the stock and finishing with a flourish of butter and cream that personifies what it is to be a cook. It's a very zen activity for me because the dish is not difficult, but needs consistent nurturing. I guess that's why I've already given you so many versions, from a homey wintery sausage and radicchio, a bright primavera, and a briny seafood version.
This time around I'm showcasing one of summer's mascots - sweet corn. Some gorgeous tomatoes also made their way in there, providing the acid to counterbalance the corn's sweetness and the richness of the butter and cream. Inspired by a corn chowder, it starts with a little smidge of bacon. Some scallions and basil lend a seasonally herbaceous finish.
Sweet Corn Risotto
Serves 8 as a first course, 4-6 as an entree depending on how hungry your guests are
3 cobs of local sweet corn, husked (the local part is imperative to getting the sweetest corn - the sugar converts to starch quite quickly after harvesting)
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup milk
3 slices center cut bacon, diced
1 small sweet onion, diced (about a cup)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio or other risotto rice
2/3 cup sweet white wine such as Riesling
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup grated parmiggiano reggiano
1 large heirloom tomato, cored and diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 Tbsp chopped scallions
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
Remove the kernels from the cob and reserve. I love my corn zipper for this job, although now they have this nifty new version that looks like it might be a little more natural to use and remove more kernels at once, so it might be time for an upgrade - future Christmas gift anybody? ;) Snap the corn cobs in half and add them to a medium saucepan along with the stock and milk. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low.
In a large saucepan or small stockpot over medium heat, brown the bacon. Once it starts to get crispy add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and the rice and toast until the rice is golden and smells nutty. Deglaze with the sweet wine and add a couple of ladles full of the stock mixture.
Stir the risotto occasionally with a wooden spoon as it cooks over medium heat. It is time to add a couple more ladle-fulls of stock every time you can push the risotto off the bottom of the pan and no liquid seeps in to fill the line you made. Continue stirring occasionally and adding stock for about 20 minutes, then add the reserved corn kernels and continue as before. When the risotto has gotten quite creamy and is almost al dente, add the cream and cook until done (should be 1-2 minutes at this point).
Finish the risotto by melting in the butter and parmesan cheese. At this point check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. I don't recommend salting before this point, as the bacon and parmesan both contribute significant salt. Toss in tomatoes and herbs and serve piping hot.
Leftovers make great arancini or risotto cakes - top them with tomato jam - assuming you don't lick the pot clean first!