small summer bites

My dear readers, I cannot keep you in the dark a moment longer about this mind taste-bud-blowing corn pesto I made over the weekend. As you read most recently, I bought an abundance of fresh goodies at Saturday’s farmer’s market, which have supplied extra deliciousness to this week’s meals.

I agree seven ears of corn is potentially overwhelming for a family of two, but Bon Appetit inspired my own version of Corn Pesto that is not to be missed. And, yep, you’ll need a lot of corn.

I do not consider myself a food / recipe visionary, but… After spotting these precious peppers, I imagined them sliced in half, roasted, and filled with ribbons of basil and corn pesto. (Let’s hope the inspiration continues!) Bon Appetit featured a corn pesto sautéed in bacon fat and served over pasta, but it sounded too heavy and starchy for the light meals this weather encourages. The idea of corn pesto, however, was too intriguing to pass up my own rendition…

Because I wanted to start with a strong flavor base (in lieu of bacon grease), I must first tell you about the other hors d’oeuvre I made to accompany my stuffed peppers:

Lindsey’s Herbed Tarts with Feta and Caramelized Onion

Is it apparent by now how I so enjoy any excuse for caramelized onions?? For cousin Kelly’s sweet 16, I volunteered to bring hors d’oeuvre (one of my favorite things to make), and what’s a great appetizer without sweet, succulent onions?

Click here for details of how I make my (shortcut) tartlettes. My experimental variation this time around includes pressing fresh chopped herbs (parsley here) into refrigerated pie crust. I would prefer chives or basil, but parsley had to make due and indeed it worked!

I unrolled a store-bought pie crust, sprinkled herbs over top, and rolled very thin. I was cautious here on using too much parsley (which I pressed into both sides of the dough), as I didn’t want its peppery flavor to be overwhelming. To my delight, I found the flavor almost completely muted once cooked, and the herbs contributed only a dainty greenery to my tarts. Just what I wanted! As I will try chives or basil next time, I will be more generous with the amounts.

I’m telling you, this is really as simple as can be. After a mere two minutes of rolling the dough, cutting out circles with the lip of a drinking glass, the dough pressed right into an ungreased mini muffin tin. (Poke plenty of toothpick holes to prevent puffing). 10 minutes later are these impressive, elegant, and tasty tarts. Could it be any easier??

With the tarts complete, I simply filled each with caramelized onions (click here for my method) and a nice cube of feta.

I don’t doubt these are delicious under the broiler for two minutes, the feta just golden and melting into the onions. Unfortunately, the severe power outages over the weekend (and into the week) prevented me from heating the tarts before serving. But, thankfully for me and your future guests, these serve beautifully at room temperature, and are guaranteed to be gobbled regardless.

Hopefully your host (or aunt-in-law) will have a lovely plate for their display. But I can’t make any promises, blink and they’re gone.

There was only the peeking sun (post-storm) offering light for this photo, but hopefully you enjoy a glimpse of the finished product.

Now onto the main (and more versatile) dish…

Lindsey’s Roasted Baby Peppers Stuffed with Corn Pesto & Purple Basil

Perhaps you’re not making both of these appetizers, but I must let you know I saved the pan with browned onion bits as key flavor for my corn pesto. A few chunks of caramelized onion intentionally joined the corn saute, so consider searing, say, 1/8 of an onion before adding your corn…

(As with most pestos, you will need a food processor.)

adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
  • 1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Slicing the kernels from 6 ears of corn sounds disastrous, but was not so messy (and scattered) as you may fear. I sliced off both ends of each cob and sliced straight down with a sharp knife in a gentle sawing motion. Completing this prep work over an 8-cup measuring bowl sure makes things a little easier…

    Heat one and a half tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. After the oil is hot, add corn, coarse salt, and pepper.

    Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic during the last minute of cooking, stirring well. Reserve 1/4 cup of the corn kernels in a small bowl, scraping the rest of the corn mixture into the food processor.

    While the corn is cooking, toast your pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat—keep an eye on them! You want them beautifully golden, but they can burn in a blink.

    Into the food processor with the piping hot corn, add 1/2 cup Parmesan (get the good stuff, though it doesn’t have to be Parmigiano) and the toasted pine nuts.

    Like most pesto, the processor does all the work for you, and the dish is practically done from here. With the machine running, add olive oil through the feed tube and blend until pesto is also smooth. You’re done!

    Now what to do with this amazing, amazing buttery batch? Here’s one of many inspirations…

    I sliced a handful of sweet mini peppers in half (stem on for extra dose of adorable) and brushed the cut sides with olive oil to help the edges char.
    On a rimmed baking sheet (parchment paper beneath to prevent sticking), these peppers were cooked to perfection after about 8 minutes at 400F. You want to see the edges brown, but don’t cook them so long they soften and lose shape. That is, if you want little cups for your corn pesto! (P.S. Vegetables as containers for other ingredients seriously makes me smile. At our wedding, we had this sautéed mushroom medley in halved acorn squash… just gorgeous).

    You can see here that the peppers are glistening with oil and charred slightly on the inside. Like the corn pesto and the onion tarts, these store wonderfully at room temperature, should your serving conditions lack, say, electricity.

    For easier filling, I transferred some corn pesto into a plastic bag with a cut corner. From here, it’s super fast to pipe the pesto into the peppers (say that five times fast) and top with ribbons of purple (okay, or green) basil. You recall I didn’t have much lighting to work with for a good photo, but you get the idea…

    If you like, sprinkle the filled peppers with the reserved corn kernels. Or, you can serve this thick, chunky mixture as a delicious dip for pita chips or multigrain crackers—it’s just as enjoyable this way, too. 

    Do write about how you use your corn pesto! I hope this also becomes a summer favorite in your kitchen 🙂

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    Filed under dinners, small bites

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