This year’s crop of famous — and some might say infamous — Jersey corn is still only about waist-high, but those fledgling stalks already have me dreaming of all things corn. We probably have another month to wait until the early ears hit the farmer’s markets and I’m counting down the days.
Same with summer’s bounty of cherry tomatoes. And even though I know I’ll be rewarded if I wait it out, I couldn’t help picking up a pint of grape tomatoes at the grocery store recently to roast with the ultra-convenient frozen corn we nearly always have on hand.
Corn — or maize, as it’s known in many countries — is an ancient grain which is believed to have originated in Mexico. It quickly spread along trade routes into the Americas and Europe — and beyond — due largely to its ability to thrive in extremely diverse climates. The Americas are still responsible for the majority of corn production, both the sweet corn that we prefer to eat and the feed corn that is grown for livestock. Since I’m a believer, as I’ve said before, in the maxim that “things that grow together go together,” it’s little wonder that we’ve paired tomatoes with corn in this dish. Tomatoes, too, originated in Mexico and followed similar exploration and trade routes to become the world-wide crop they are today.
Before the roasting: corn, tomatoes, thyme leaves, olive oil and salt
This dish qualifies as super simple — a side that comes together so quickly you hardly have to think about it. It’s succotash’s more kid-friendly cousin (nary a lima bean in sight), roasted in the oven to give it a sweeter, slightly more smoky flavor. It’s vegetarian, vegan, and one of those dishes where the quality of the produce really stands out. For those of you concerned about genetically modified ingredients, seek out non-GMO corn and tomatoes and make sure your olive oil is non-GMO too. In my opinion, purchasing produce that hasn’t had its genes played around with means you’ll get the real deal — juicer tomatoes, cornier corn (though perhaps a bit less sweet, but more flavorful!), and olive oil that tastes like the olives from which it was pressed.
Isn’t this a pretty dish to set before…well…anyone? Roasted corn and tomatoes with basil.
Let’s face it. Most children do not arrive in this world universally loving their veggies. Getting there can be a slow process. And for some kids (and some veggies), the process is longer than for others.
With all its natural sugar it’s not hard to warm up to the carrot. Corn, too, is an easy sell. But on the other side of the spectrum lurk broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach. Dark green vegetables contain higher amounts of certain natural compounds which many kids just don’t care for. The bitter taste in cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale come from what are know as glucosinolate compounds, and raw spinach contains carotenoids to which many people — although at times it seems those people fall disproportionately in the 0- to 10-year-old age group — react strongly. Indeed, scientists have identified genes that predispose certain individuals to be “supertasters” with highly-refined palates that distinguish and amplify certain flavors. (If you’re interested in learning more about this phenomena, read People Who Taste To Much by Sumathi Reddy, published in the Wall Street Journal in March, 2013.)
Supertaster or not, your child may occasionally approach their leafy greens with more aggression than anticipation. Why not harness that energy with a little invitation to, quite literally, pound their vegetables.