Archive of ‘corn’ category

Fresh Corn-and-Asiago Cheese Bread Pudding

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Y'all – I'm melting here in Knoxville.  No – seriously.  I'm really melting.  Yesterday it got so hot in our living room that Marcus walked in and I had been reduced to a mere puddle on the floor.  The only thing that saved me was that he sucked me up with a straw, brought me into our air conditioned bedroom and when I started to regain my solid form, he put in the freezer to finish the cooling off process.  It was a very close call.

However I am such a committed food blogger that I dared – nay, I was thrilled – to turn on my oven this past week to make the following recipe.  This was spectacular in oh-so-many ways.  It's a cinch to throw together.  It's delicious.  It's heavenly straight from the oven, beguiling at room temperature and reheats like a dream.

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I inhaled three servings of this stuff the first night we made it – it's one of the most comforting comfort foods I've ever made, yet there's nothing stodgy or heavy about it.  The chewiness of the bread, the luxurious smoothness of the cream, the salty pungency of the cheese mixed with the sweetness of the corn – all of this combined made me sigh when I took my first bite.  This dish is as soothing as cool, crisp cotton sheets but there's nothing overly familiar with it.  This is a dish I'm willing to turn my oven on for right now – that's saying a lot.

The first time we made this, I used Asiago Pressato – the only kind the market had.  This is a younger version of Asiago then most people buy.  It's a bit sweeter than the more aged Asiago and the texture is creamier.  The second time I made it, we used a more traditional Asiago – most versions were delicious.  If you can't get find Asiago, I think this would be delicious with many different cheeses – you might try a good Parmesan (no buying the pre-grated stuff!) or Pecorino Romano.

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Fresh Corn-and-Asiago Cheese Bread Pudding
Adapted from Southern Living
Yield:  12 servings

1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup whipping cream
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 cups 1-inch cubes of french bread or other sturdy bread (I used one loaf french bread)
4 cups fresh corn kernels
1 1/2 cups (6 oz.)Asiago cheese, shredded

Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add bread and toss to coat all the cubes.  Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 13×9 inch baking dish well.

Stir corn and cheese into the bread mixture.  Spoon into pan.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until set and golden brown.

Please click here for a printable recipe!

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Some other recipes using fresh corn:
Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Mozzerella, Corn & Tomatoes 
Summer in a Bowl Corn Chowder
 

Please join us by participating in SummerFest 2010!  Post on your blog or in the comments or join us on Twitter by using #summerfood.

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Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Mozzarella, Corn & Tomatoes

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This is one of those simple recipes that I'm sometimes hesitant to share.  It's so easy and uncomplicated to make that I always feel like I'm just stating the obvious.  Thanks to the feedback I've gotten lately, I realize I'm being silly.  This recipe uses up leftovers, is quick to make, healthy and so delicious that I've eaten it for four nights in a row without a single regret.

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The season for fresh corn at our farmer's market is short and oftentimes sporadic, especially with the drought we're having this year.  When I can find it, I buy at least a dozen ears and I usually cook it all the day I buy it.  After gorging ourselves silly on it, it's nice to do something a little different with the leftovers.  I love this with leftover grilled corn but it's also wonderful with plain cooked corn.  This is great for a quick dinner.  It doesn't have a very scrambled egg texture to it so if you want that, double the quantity of eggs.  

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Sungold tomatoes are amazing in this dish.  Their sweet, tropical flavor works so well but it's also delicious with plain, red tomatoes.  I've also added a little bit of leftover bacon to this dish and I plan on trying some chopped red pepper to it as well.

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Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Mozzarella, Corn & Tomatoes

Serves 2

4 eggs
2 ears of corn, cooked
10 cherry tomatoes (Sungolds are amazing in this), chopped
1 ounce smoked mozzarella cheese, diced
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1/2 tablespoon butter
salt
pepper

Cut corn off cob.  Melt butter in pan over medium heat until bubbling.  Add corn to pan and sauté for three minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs together in a medium bowl.  Add eggs and smoked mozzarella to pan, stirring slowly but constantly.  Cook 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and basil.  Cook for one minute more.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve.  

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Please click here for a printable recipe!

Facing the cruelty behind my cooking

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The Clinch River is one of my favorite places in Tennessee. Sure – It's a creation of TVA and that in itself is a strike against it. But it's such a beautiful place that I find even that can't diminish my love for it.

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TVA or the Tennessee Valley Authority has a very mixed heritage in our area. During the 1930s, the Tennessee Valley was a very poor area, even by Depression Era standards. TVA projects displaced over 15,000 people, covering over towns, native burial grounds and land that had been in families for years. On the other hand, TVA provided jobs to an area that was surrounded by poverty. Marcus's grandfather was an electrician at Norris Dam and a few other TVA projects. TVA reduced the devastating floods in this area but they also destroyed pristine areas when they built projects like the Tellico Dam. The creation of the Tellico Dam ruined one on of the best trout fisheries in the area when they dammed the Little Tennessee, and land that TVA acquired through eminent domain at a very low cost is now being sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre to developers.

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No matter what my feelings towards TVA are, Norris Lake is here to stay. The Clinch River starts in Southwest Virgina, near Tazwell. The Clinch and Powell River meet up at Norris Lake, formed when Norris Dam was built in 1936. Norris Dam is the first dam built by TVA and at the time was constructed in a modernist style – considered quite advanced and controversial at the time. It really is an impressive sight, especially at dusk.

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Because the dam is 285 feet high, it impounds a large quantity of very cold water. This cold water is the perfect temperature for trout. In the 80s, TVA constructed a weir dam that speeds the river back up about two miles from the dam – this adds oxygen to the water and makes it even more habitable for trout.

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On a hot summer's night, not many things are more refreshing then walking alongside the tailwaters. Not only is it beautiful but the rushing, cold water kicks up a cool breeze, even on a hot night. During the summer, there's usually fog that begins to form as sunset approaches.

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Norris State Park, Cove Creek Wildlife Management Area and Chuck Swan State Forest all preserve areas around the lake. We've seen groundhogs, hawks, osprey, deer, skunks and foxes around here. 

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On Friday, Marcus and I went blueberry picking at a farm nearby and stopped by the river so Marcus could fish for a bit. It was one of those days when the fishing alchemy was perfect and in the hour we were there, Marcus quickly caught several brown trout. Two were too small to keep and one was too big so they were quickly let go. Marcus asked me if we should keep the other ones to eat and I told him he could make that decision. It was a cop-out. If he decided to keep them, I wasn't responsible for their death. But even doing that made me feel bad – I could have asked him to let them go and he would have.

I'm a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to facing the cruelty of my cooking head on. Sure, we buy the majority of our meat from local, humane producers and we eat a lot less meat than the average consumer. But I don't feel guilty when I eat that meat. I don't feel like I personally caused that animal to die and it's because I'm so insulated from the process.

I think there's a lot of truth to the saying that if slaughterhouses all had glass walls, we'd be vegetarians. Most of us have insulated ourselves from the cruelty of our choices. We buy pork or beef at our grocery store, sanitized and packed in a neat little package. We don't have to see the horrific conditions those animals were raised under. We don't even have the courage to call it by it's animal name – cow meat or pig meat.

I've had people throw a fit when Marcus has mentioned that he sometimes hunts and fishes quite a bit. These people stand there in their leather shoes, holding a burger from McDonalds and tell us that hunting is cruel and have no idea of the irony of their statements. We've created a world where we don't have to see the consequences of our actions, at least when it comes to the meal on the kitchen table.

There's no getting away from the fact that creatures on this planet will die to produce the food that keeps you alive. You can be a vegan and animals will still have died to produce your food. Even humans will be harmed and possibly die to produce the food you eat. All kinds of animals die during the harvesting process. Merely using the land for the growing of food, rather than animal habitat, causes death. If you don't eat organic produce, farm workers will contract cancer because of the chemicals that are used in the farming of your food. Even if you eat organic foods, farm workers in foreign country will go hungry when the organic peaches they grow to provide for their families are turned down for not being up to standard. Even if you buy local, organic produce, you're still not blameless. An organic farmer I know lost 600 tomato plants in one night to deer. His losses were so great that he had to get a depredation permit in order to get any kind of harvest at all and to control his losses for next year.

I grow a lot of our produce in my suburban garden. Every year we fight off the birds and possums so we can harvest our tomatoes. They don't usually take enough to cause severe losses but I know the frustration of going out to the garden and finding nibbles and pecks in almost all of the not-quite-ripe tomatoes. A few weeks ago, we had a difficult choice to make. The biggest groundhog I had ever seen was in our back yard. They may be cute animals but anyone who's gardened knows that devastation they can cause in a garden in a single night. It disappeared, never to be seen again but what would we have done if it had decided to make its home nearby?

We need to strip off the marketing gloss of our dining choices and come face to face with the cruelty that comes as a result of our choices. That doesn't mean we need to go out and shoot a deer or kill a chicken ourselves, although I greatly admire people who are willing to do that. It does mean that we need to be aware that our food comes with a cost. We need to treat our food with the reverence that it deserves – we need to use it wisely. We need to appreciate the farmers that grew it and the lives that were lost in the production of it.

This life can be an amazing gift – full of beauty and wonder. But none of us can escape the fact that it can be cruel as well. In the gorgeous surroundings of the Clinch River valley, I was responsible for the death of three living creatures. The best thing I could do is to be grateful for the loss of those lives so that I could live.

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Trout with Brown Butter-Caper Sauce

1/4 teaspoon olive oil
2 trout fillets – about 4 oz each
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons shallots (We used Egyptian Walking Onions from our garden)
1 heaping tablespoon of drained capers
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter

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First off, if you caught your own fish, you need to clean them and fillet them. 

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Chop your shallots and get your capers and lemon ready. Add oil to a non-stick skillet and put over medium heat. Heat for 2 minutes. Salt and pepper both sides of fillets and add to pan. 

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When the edges of the fillet start to turn white, flip. This will take 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. After flipping, cook for another 1 1/2 or until fish flakes easily with a fork. 

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Remove fillets from pan, put on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm.

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Add butter to skillet. Watch carefully because in a non-stick skillet it's hard to see when it begins to brown. It usually takes about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes for us. 

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When it's beginning to turn brown, add shallots and sautee for two minutes until they begin to soften.

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Then add lemon juice and capers, cook for another minute.  

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Pour sauce over fish and serve.

For a printable recipe, click here!


2465276993_396ac181ea_o This meal is part of my One Local Summer meal for this week.  Admittedly, capers aren't local but I'm hoping that next year, I'll have pickled nasturtium buds to use as a substitute.  The butter was made from Cruze Farm milk and we used some of the caper juice to sub in for the lemon.  Instead of shallots, we used Egyptian Walking Onions from our garden.  We served this fish with roasted Dragon Langerie, Masai and Purple Trionfo Violetto beans from our garden.  Dessert was a blueberry cornmeal cake made with local blueberries and local cornmeal.

The Best Cornbread I Will Never Serve My Mother-In-Law

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In the family I married into, cooking is done only by the matriarchs.  They are the best cooks and they are the only cooks.  The kitchen is their domain and woe to anyone who thinks they can keep up on that battleground.  I very rarely cook for my husband’s family – I usually let my husband do that.  Better for them to think that I’ve whipped the man into submission into the kitchen than to give the appearance that I think I can compete in the cooking Olympics.  Sure I can compete – I think I’m a damn good cook and I know many that agree.  But I’m perfectly willing to yield that reputation at their door.  Anything I would make would be too weird, too spicy, too healthy, not what they’re used to.  Too different is what it boils down to and to be honest, I’m really at peace with that.  Every once in a while, I’ll make something non-confrontational – tomato salad, bread, cookies.  But I never make fried chicken.  I never make biscuits.  And the last thing I would ever do is make cornbread.

Cornbread is the heart, soul and community bread for breaking in the South.  We’re as passionate about it as we are about religion and football.  Family recipes are guarded carefully and the cornbread you make is never as good as the cornbread their mommas make.  It’s as simple as that.  You’re either using the wrong type of cornmeal, desecrating it with sugar, adding too many eggs or not using the right kind of fat in your skillet.  It’s a tradition here and many feel like you should never mess with a tradition.

Although I grew up in the South, my parents weren’t Southerners so I don’t have any tried and true rules when it comes to cornbread.  I have no pre-conceived notions about what cornbread should taste like.  I just know what tastes good to me.  To me, a lot of the cornbreads served up north aren’t the cornbreads that make up a daily part of life.  While I don’t share the disdain for them that many in the South have, they do seem more like cake than bread.  Tasty, but with their copious amounts of sugar, not cornbread.  I’ve had cornbreads that have more flour than cornmeal but, in my opinion, that’s getting rid of the essence of the cornbread.  It might be very tasty but it’s a bread with cornmeal, not cornbread.  Stone ground cornmeal is heads and shoulders above any other kind of cornmeal – it hasn’t had the corniness milled out.  Buttermilk does magical things in cornbread and should never be omitted.  And while my Mom always baked cornbread in a baking pan, I am a complete and utter convert to the use of a cast iron skillet in the making of a proper cornbread.  The buttery crust that shatters in your mouth, right before your teeth sink into the creamy corniness of the inside is, to me, the soul of the cornbread.

My husband on the other hand has been indoctrinated from a young age about what a proper cornbread should consist of.  Getting him to branch out and try something different was about as easy as herding cats.  But my husband is nothing but competitive – by instilling the mere thought that there might be better cornbreads out there, I was able to lead him down the path of the underground cornbread resistance.

So we went on a quest for the “perfect” cornbread.  I can’t tell you how many recipes we tried – they blurred together in a cornmealed frenzy.  I checked out book after book from the library on Southern cooking and cooking in East Tennessee.  During the course of this marathon, I made some of the densest, driest cornbreads imaginable.  It was very frustrating.  And then I thought of something that I was quite ashamed hadn’t occurred to me before – why hadn’t I looked in my tried and true cookbooks – the one with splatters and rips in the pages.  No – they weren’t “Southern” cookbooks but if they had served me well in other areas, why not check them for this?  And that’s when I found our cornbread “Holy Grail”.

One my favorite cookbooks is Passionate Vegetarian
by Crescent Dragonwagon. And it’s definitely the cookbook I use most judging by the sorry shape it’s in.  In it, she has a recipe for Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread.  It had all the basic requirements and nothing I’ve ever made from her cookbook has been less than very tasty – most recipes become repeats here in our house.  And no one can say that this woman doesn’t have passion for cornbread – she’s written an entire book about it.

This cornbread has become the very definition of cornbread to me.  It’s light as can be but still packs real substance.  I can eat a slice of it by itself and be a very happy girl but it’s the perfect accompaniment to chili, soup beans and greens.

Some of you from the South are already fussin’ up a storm because you saw sugar in this recipe and good, true, REAL cornbread doesn’t have sugar in it.  I say, hooey.  I’ll take any tried and true Southerner and give him/her two cornbreads made exactly the same, one with a little bit of sugar, one without.  Sure as spit, they’ll always choose the one with a touch of sugar.  I’ve brought this cornbread to plenty of functions and every single time, this cornbread gets eaten up while the other “authentic” cornbreads look lonely.  Adding just a touch of sugar makes this taste like you’re biting into a piece of bread made with buttered sweet corn.  It does not taste like cake in any way.

Another complaint I’m sure I’ll hear is that this has flour in it.  Well, so does the basic cornbread recipe at the holy shrine of all things cornbread, Lodge Cast Iron Cookware Company.  So do many of the cornbread mixes sold to Southerners here in East Tennessee.  I know that using flour in cornbread is an anathema to many here in East Tennessee and some of you may not even try this because of it.  You’re really missing out.  When you use really good cornmeal (stone ground and preferably local), the flour merely accentuates the corniness of the cornbread.  It lightens the texture, giving it lift and keeping it from being as heavy as many cornbreads I’ve tried.  It also creates a cornbread that keeps well and reheats beautifully – important in this household of two.  We’ve even frozen wedges and let me tell you, on a cold, hectic winter night, there’s nothing quite so life affirming to pull out of the freezer for a quick meal than a slice of this cornbread.

We still love to experiment with cornbread but this is the one we always come back to.  When my husband and I talk about cornbread, this is the cornbread we picture in our minds.  It’s the cornbread we make for our friends and my family.  It’s the cornbread we bring to potlucks and parties.  Quite simply, it’s the perfect cornbread.  A bold claim – indeed.

Edited to add – My friend Laura just did a post about this cornbread as well.  Check it out – it’s a great post.

Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread
(Adapted from Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon)

Note: There are all kinds of variations that you can make with this cornbread.  Over the next few months, I’ll show you some of them.

1 cup stone ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1- 3 tablespoons sugar (the fresher the cornmeal, the less sugar you’ll need. I use 1 tbsp)
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (please use good buttermilk if you can get it, like Cruze Farm)
1 large egg

1/4 cup mild vegetable oil, such as corn, canola, or peanut

2 – 4 tablespoons butter

Preheat your oven to 375.  You need to make sure your oven is good and hot if you want to get that crunchy crust that turns cornbread into a little slice of heaven.  This page has a good description on how to calibrate your oven temperature – at the very least, make sure you know how much your oven is off so you know how to adjust the heat or timing of your baked dishes.

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In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (cornmeal through sugar) and stir well to combine them.  If your baking soda or baking powder have any lumps, sift them (or break them up well with a spoon) before you measure them into the bowl.

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In a smaller bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg and vegetable oil.

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Put your 10 1/4 inch cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat and let it heat up for 2-3 minutes (or as long as it takes to get nice and hot).  Add butter to the skillet and once it’s melted and bubbly, tilt it around to make sure the butter has spread all over the bottom of the pan and up onto the sides a bit.

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Mix the bowl of wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients.  Please make sure not to over-stir this – you only need to mix it until everything is wet.  There will still be small lumps in it – you just want to mix it until there are no big pockets of dry ingredients.

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Pour mixture into the skillet.  You should hear it sizzle a little.  Put this into the oven right away and bake 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

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Cut cornbread into wedges and serve warm.

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For a printable recipe, click here!

Summer in a bowl

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 You know it's summer when you've done both of the following things.  The first is picking a tomato off the vine and biting into it while the juice runs down your arm and drips off your elbow.  The second is having to go get the floss after dinner because you've got bits of corn from corn on the cob stuck between your teeth.  Only then are you in the full flow of summer!

Sweet corn is an ephemeral thing.  Of course you can get it only in summer, but good sweet corn is still somewhat difficult to find.  If you grow it yourself, you can quickly find out how fast raccoons and groundhogs can find it.  If you buy it from a farmer, it often isn't the best it can be.  Good old fashioned sweet corn is best cooked this way.  One – start a pot of water boiling.  Two – pick the corn and eat.  When you're dealing with sweet corn brought to market, you can't do that so you need to go by taste.  A lot of times the corn will either be super sweet but rather insipid without a lot of good corn taste.  This is the result of newer varieties of corn that have been developed to appeal to our country's infatuation with sugar.  I like my corn sweet but I also want it to taste like corn.  Or if the farmer's grown a really old fashioned variety, it sometimes isn't sweet enough.  Whenever I hit the farmer's market, I buy an ear and walk around the corner from the farmer, open that husk up and try it out.  If it's got a good corn taste and it's sweet, I go back and buy a couple of dozen of ears.  As soon as I get home, I start a pot of water boiling or fire up the grill.  Cooked corn will hold beautifully in the fridge for several days and you can actually freeze cooked corn on the cob and you'd be surprised at how fresh it tastes a few months later.  

Tonight, I wanted to make a corn chowder that focused on the corn but also had a little smokiness and body to it.  I love Sungold cherry tomatoes in this soup because they are so sweet and tropical tasting.  This is an easy soup to mess around with.  I think it would be great with basil added and grilled corn would be fantastic in it, especially if you served it with toast topped with smoked mozzarella. 

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Summer in a Bowl Sweet Corn Chowder:

6 ears steamed corn on the cob
3 strips bacon (cook another strip or two if you're like me and sneak bits out while cooking)
1 large onion, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
10-12 SunGold or SunSugar cherry tomatoes, quartered (you can use other tomatoes, stick with the sweeter, golden kinds)
1 cup whole milk


Cut each corncob in half cross-ways and stand each half on the flat end and using a knife, cut the corn away from the cob.  I usually run the blunt end of the knife down the cob to get as much of the juices and corn out as possible.  Save all of this in a bowl and put the corncobs in a 1.5 quart pot and fill with cold water.  Bring to a boil and let boil for 2-3 minutes.  Reduce the heat and simmer while you prepare the rest of the soup.  

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium heat in a non-stick skillet.  After the bacon begins to brown a bit and some of the fat is rendered, add the potato and onion.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cook for about seven minutes, until the onion begins to soften a bit.

Strain the water the corncobs have been cooking in into a larger saucepan.  Add the onions, bacon and potatoes to this liquid.  Bring to a boil and the reduce the heat so the soup is simmering.  Cook for about 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Add tomatoes to soup and cook for two minutes.  Add milk and corn to soup and heat through.  Taste and add salt to your liking.  Serve.

This was my official One Local Summer meal for this week.  Everything except for the salt and pepper was local.  We've had a lot of local meals this week.  The blackberries and the peaches are in full swing around here and the first, really good heirloom tomatoes are getting ripe.  We've been grilling out a lot and whenever we do that, we grill extra summer squash for meals later in the week.  We made another pizza with homemade sourdough and topped it with leftover grilled zucchini, homemade mozzarella and basil from the garden.  We made an americanized version of Okonomiyaki which quickly used up a head of local cabbage and local leeks that were getting a little old. And we've made several local meals of homemade bread, tomatoes and basil from the backyard and homemade mozzarella made from local milk.  Local eating is anything but a hardship this time of year.