Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto

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This may be the last weekend of the official summer season in the Hamptons, but as far as I’m concerned, summer isn’t over until the corn and tomatoes are gone and pumpkin mania takes over. September is a particularly magical month in the Hamptons, because for a few weeks, the weather seems to be absolutely perfect every day, and there are no packed beaches or traffic jams to accompany it. It’s hands-down my favorite month of year here.  So, in honor of the winding down of the insanity that is the Hamptons in August,  and the warm weeks ahead, I wanted to share my all-time favorite late-summer dinner: Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto.

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What is sweet corn pesto, you ask? Let me explain. It’s a sauce that made the same way as traditional basil pesto, but with a few major differences. Instead of basil and pine nuts, I sauté fresh corn with some smashed garlic and blend it all together with Parmesan and olive oil to make a sauce that’s creamy, subtly sweet and savory.

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I love this pasta for so many reasons. It is a unique and heavenly way to use these superstar summer veggies, and a dish that is as impressive as it is simple. The pasta warms the tomatoes just enough to bring out their sweetness, and the panko crumbs toasted with red pepper flakes add just little bit of heat and crunch to each bite. I love having lot of different textures in the same dish, and this recipe has that nailed.

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And for me, this recipe also means slowing down and getting back in the kitchen after months of grilling and throwing together simple sides and salads. With sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and basil, this recipe is as summery as it gets, but it’s also a hearty and comforting dinner -perfect for early September nights with the first discernible chill in the air. Make this over the long weekend if it’s getting cool where you are, and serve the pasta in big bowls with red wine. I promise you’ll be happy you did.

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Spaghetti with Sweet Corn Pesto

Ingredients

 extra virgin olive oil
3 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 6 ears of corn)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of a knife
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup panko (Japanese bread flakes)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound spaghetti
2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half through the stem
½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed

Directions

In a large (12-inch) sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the corn, the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender.

Remove ½ cup of the corn and set aside. Transfer the rest of the corn and garlic to the bowl of a food processor (or powerful blender such as a Vitamix) and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the spicy bread crumbs. Using a paper towel, wipe out the sauté pan you used to cook the corn, and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the panko, crushed red pepper flakes and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring very often, for 3-5 minutes, until the panko is golden brown. Remove to a small bowl to cool.

Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon pepper to the corn and garlic and process until coarsely pureed. With the food processor running, add 3 tablespoons olive oil and process until smooth. Add the Parmesan and pulse until combined.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the directions on the box. While the pasta cooks, wipe out the sauté pan again. Transfer the corn “pesto”  to the pan, add 1/4 cup of pasta water and bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until smooth.

When the pasta is finished cooking, use tongs to transfer it to the sauté pan (do not drain!) and toss it with the sauce. Add the cherry tomatoes and reserved corn and toss again. Sprinkle a thin layer of panko crumbs over the pasta, tear the basil leaves into pieces, and scatter half of them over the pasta.  Serve immediately with remaining panko and basil on the side.


Lobster & Corn Risotto

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Labor Day might be the unofficial end to summer, but isn’t the first week of September a little early to be drinking pumpkin coffee? Last time I checked, it’s supposed to be 90 degrees in New York this weekend. So for now, I’ll be eating tomato salads and drinking watermelon cocktails, but when the temperature finally does start to drop, even slightly, I’ll be making this Lobster & Corn Risotto. A great recipe for the inevitable transition from summer to fall, it calls for summery ingredients- corn on the cob, cherry tomatoes and lobster meat- in a dish that’s warm and comforting on those first nights with a chill in the air.

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Risotto has a reputation for being dififcult to make, but once you understand the basic process- cooking the rice slowly by adding hot stock in small amounts- it’s really not hard, and infinitely adaptable to the season or what you happen to have in the fridge.  This recipe doesn’t even require stock- by boiling the corn cobs in water, you can make your own quick corn stock in twenty minutes.

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Fact: lobster meat is expensive. There’s no way around it. I wanted to know if taking the time to cook them yourself would be a worthwhile way to avoid the steep price of cooked lobster meat.  Short answer? Not really. While cooking lobsters isn’t difficult, you need a giant pot and a lobster cracker, and you need to be okay with making a huge mess. All in all, it’s a lot of work for the relatively small amount of meat called for in the recipe. But by all means, give it a try. If nothing else, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for lobster rolls, and the all the equipment you need to make them.

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img_6377(photos by Simon Bordwin)

Lobster & Corn Risotto

Ingredients

  • 3 large ears corn on the cob
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (1 leek)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half through the stem
  • 1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbs finely chopped fresh tarragon
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ¾ lb cooked lobster meat

Directions

  1. Remove the husks and silk from the corn and cut off the kernels as close to the cob as possible. You should have about 2 cups of kernels. Set the kernels aside. Break the cobs in half and place in a medium saucepan with 10 cups of water. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes. (The stock should remain at a low boil so it reduces slightly.)
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a medium pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for one more minute. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid has evaporated. When the stock has been cooking for fifteen minutes, remove the corn cobs and discard, keeping the stock at a simmer as you cook the risotto.
  3. Add the stock to the pot with the leeks and rice, one ladleful at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take about 25 minutes.
  4. When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, add the tomatoes, corn, salt and pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
  5. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest, tarragon, Parmesan and lobster meat, reserving a few pieces of lobster meat for serving. Serve immediately, with the reserved lobster pieces on top of each serving.