Andalusian Gazpacho with Grilled Corn

Today’s post is about more than good food. It’s also about some good news, and giving you a little preview into what you can expect from The Stout Sprout in the coming year… and it’s a big year! This fall our Stout Sprouts are entering Pre-K and 1st grade, respectively, and I’m now working in a new position that has me commuting in to Manhattan regularly.

Kitchen time and writing time is now more limited than it has been in prior months, but we’ve been making the most of the time we do have together, visiting farmer’s markets, playing at the Jersey shore, and eking as much time out of our weekends together as we possibly can. Our crunched schedule also means that in addition to focusing on seasonal, kid-friendly dishes, we’re also focusing on convenient meals. Things we can make together and enjoy together without a crazy investment of time or ingredients.

Fresh Jersey corn - nothing better

Fresh Jersey corn – nothing better

What this also means is that we have a backlog of easy weekend and weeknight recipes that make excellent use of the riot of fresh produce that summer has delivered. And while the farms and gardens are churning out juicy, ripe tomatoes, sweet summer corn, crisp bell peppers and cooling cucumbers, we’re busy putting it all to good use.

Take, for instance, one of my favorite summer suppers: gazpacho.

This creamy gazpacho with grilled corn is amazing

This creamy gazpacho with grilled corn is amazing

Gazpacho is the kind of dish that uses all that market bounty. Refreshing and cooling, it’s vegetarian and vegan and, when served with a slice of hearty grilled bread, is still as satisfying as any protein-packed main dish. It comes together quickly and can be made hours in advance of mealtime. There is little real cooking required – just a bunch of chopping and a little blending (and in our case, a little bit of grilling).

Click here for my favorite summer recipe – Aldalusian Gazpacho!

Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Veggie Toppings

These little toasts have a lot going for them, starting with their name. As if “crostini” weren’t inviting enough — roll that “r” and you’ll even sound Italian — few kids I know would pass up toast. And little toasts…well, I hardly have to say more.

Anyone who has ordered a bruschetta appetizer is familiar with this concept: toast up a slice of bread and top it with something yummy. True peasant fare, which is probably how these tidbits became popular in the first place. Economizing with meat or vegetables piled on leftover toasted bread in the absence of elaborate place settings. In the middle ages, after all, you were lucky if you owned a fork and knife, let alone a bowl or plate.

Suffice it to say that the concept of crostini have been around for a very long time. I, however, credit the Italians for elevating this dish by improving upon the toppings (see the afore-mentioned bruschetta as an example) and serving it, frequently enough, with a glass or two of wine.

Now, the kids in the house will have to substitute their favorite non-alcoholic beverage for that wine, but they can easily partake in both the crostini making and eating. And here’s an observation: you may even persuade a non-veggie eater to try something new if you pile it on top of toasted bread smeared with a healthy dollop of creamy ricotta cheese.

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic

You can’t go wrong with ricotta! Keep reading for our recipe for Crostini with Ricotta and Assorted Vegetables….

Roasted Corn and Tomatoes with Basil

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

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.

Isn’t this a pretty dish to set before…well…anyone? Roasted corn and tomatoes with basil.

Get your ingredients together and keep reading for our simple recipe for Roasted Corn and Tomatoes with Basil

Corn Kakiage Fritters (Japanese Fresh Corn Tempura)

We’ve steamed it. Sautéed it. Put it in chowder. Used it in risotto. Stuffed it in squash. Turned it into salsa. Even put it in enchiladas. It is one of our favorite summer ingredients, and the last few fresh ears are at the market right now. It’s corn, and as sad as I am to see the season coming to an end, I have a great recipe that sends it off in style.

Corn kakiage.

And if you’re now asking “corn WHAT?,” let me introduce you to this Japanese izakaya (pub-style) recipe. It is a simple and delicious side to something like the grilled soy/ginger/garlic chicken I recently wrote about, or even served on its own as an afternoon or late-night snack.

Corn Kakiage Fritter: corn and scallions fried in a light tempura batter

Corn Kakiage Fritters: corn and scallions fried in a light tempura batter

I’ve come across several versions of this recipe — pronounced “ka-kee-ag-ee” — in cookbooks like Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson as well as online, like this corn fritter recipe from the November 2010 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveler and ‘Still Walking’….Fresh Corn Tempura on the blog “Test 4 The Best.” These are, essentially, fried fritters of corn cut from the cob and bound with a thick tempura batter. Some recipes use egg in the tempura batter and others do not.

But my all-time favorite recipe for corn kakiage comes from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food cookbook. No egg – just the clean, pure flavors of corn, scallions, and salt in a thick but light cake flour tempura.

Essential reading

Essential reading

I recently had a chance to meet Nancy at a Japanese Farm Food dinner in Manhattan. The event reinforced what I like most about this cookbook (in addition to the lovely binding that is reminiscent of kimono fabric): that the best dishes are often the simplest ones. Locally-sourced fresh ingredients and products from artisanal specialists result in spectacular and bold flavors on the plate.

Having moved to Japan in 1988 with the intent of learning Japanese and returning to the U.S. for graduate school, Nancy instead stayed in Japan after falling in love and marrying organic farmer Tadaaki Hachisu. The life that they, their sons and extended family have built on Tadaaki’s generations-old farm is inspiring to say the least. In Japanese Farm Food Nancy writes not only about Tadaaki’s innate knowledge of farming but an intense curiosity that led him to cultivate, from seed, such non-native plants as basil and pecan trees. And of course, crops on the organic farm include more traditional ones like okra, eggplant, rice, cucumbers, squash, corn…the list goes on and on.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Nancy is a leading voice in the Slow Food movement both in Japan and abroad and teaches home cooking in Japan in addition to running an English immersion preschool/after-school program called Sunny Side Up!  A perfect — though not traditionally Japanese — union of cultures, family, food and passions.

Nancy Singleton Hachisu and me at a Japanese Farm Food dinner in New York City

Nancy Singleton Hachisu and me at a Japanese Farm Food dinner in New York City

Nancy kindly allowed me to post her recipe for corn kakiage and passes along these helpful tips that you’ll only find here!

  1. Be sure to skim errant corn kernels from the oil quickly to avoid popping. Also using one of those frying screens could be useful.
  2. Don’t reuse the oil the next day even if it looks clean. Better to cook all the batter. Frying releases water into the batter which will result in more oil absorption the second day.
  3. If the corn lacks flavor increase the scallion amount.
  4. The ice cubes in the batter or chilled sparkling water chills the batter for less oil absorption.

This is a great dish for the vegetarians and vegans out there too. To build on the flavors you could add some finely-diced serrano or jalapeño chiles, minced cilantro or grated lime zest, but none of those things are necessary. Part of the beauty of this dish is just how simple and essential it is.

Someone really likes fresh corn

Someone really likes fresh corn

Corn Kakiage Fritters

6 young corncobs*
2 scallions or 4 fat chives, chopped into fine rings
Best-quality rapeseed (canola) or peanut oil
1 cup (150 g) unbleached cake flour**
1 cup (250 cc) cold sparkling water
1/4 teaspoon fine white sea salt
6 large ice cubes
Fine white sea salt or organic soy sauce, for dipping

Set the corncob in a large bowl and cut the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife. After all the kernels are removed, go over the cob with the back of the knife to remove the last bit of corn from the cob. You should have about 3 1/2 cups (850 cc). Add the scallions (about 4 to 5 tablespoons) and toss with your fingers to distribute and break up the kernel clumps.

Line a cookie sheet with a thick layer of newspaper, then put a layer of paper towels on top. Set next to the stove. Over low heat, warm 2 inches (5 cm) of oil in a 10-inch (25 cm) frying pan.

Whisk the flour with the sparkling water and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Dump the corn kernels and scallions into the batter, add the ice cubes, and stir. Remove the ice cubes.

Increase the heat on the oil to medium-high; the oil should not be smoking. Test the oil with a drip of batter before starting. It should sizzle and immediately form a small ball as it hits the oil but should not brown. Adjust the oil temperature as needed.

Ladle 4 individual scoops of batter with a soup ladle into the pan (like pancakes) and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes per side depending on the heat adjustment. Carefully turn over using two heat-resistant curved rubber scrapers. Cook until the second side is golden brown and oil bubbles have largely subsided (indicating water has cooked out).

Remove from the oil with a slotted skimmer to the prepared newspaper and paper towel-lined cookie sheet. Eat immediately with fine white sea salt or soy sauce.

Makes 8 fritters.

Go over the cob with the back of a knife to remove the last bits....

Go over the cob with the back of a knife to remove the last bits….

* We used 3 mature (large) ears of corn and got roughly the same quantity of kernels.
** If you don’t have cake flour on hand, don’t let that dissuade you. You can use 1 cup of sifted all-purpose flour, REMOVING 2 tablespoons of it, and replace those two tablespoons with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Sift these together several times through a fine mesh sifter to evenly combine. Voila – 1 cup of cake flour.

Parent rating: Five stars. Light, crispy, chewy and not quite like anything you’ll get at most restaurants in the states. Make these for your next informal dinner party and you’ll wow your guests. Additional toppings can really put these over the top if you want to experiment a little. I bet some smoked salmon would be delicious, as would a simple condiment made with chopped scallions, cilantro, chiles and lime.
Kid rating: Four-and-a-half stars. Daughter 1 finished hers before anything else on her plate and asked for another. Daughter 2 didn’t quite finish hers…but I attribute that to the three drumsticks she had before even tucking in to these. The corn kakiage were big hit with the girls that will be back on the menu just as soon as we can get our hands on more fresh corn (I refuse to believe corn season is REALLY over….).

Thank you, Nancy, for a wonderful recipe and a simple, kid-friendly introduction to a very satisfying Japanese dish!

One kakiage just isn't enough

One kakiage just isn’t enough

Cheese Enchiladas with Fresh Corn and Grated Zucchini

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” — Aesop

Bare with me here. It may seem like a real leap to begin with a quote from an Ancient Greek fabulist and ultimately end with a recipe for a Mexican rolled tortilla dish, but this one will be worth it.

Better yet, the story involves monkey bars, a fortuitous CSA pick-up, and the kindness of strangers. And, as with so many things, timing happened to be everything. I don’t intend to waste a thing with this story or the meal!

Cheese, zucchini and corn enchiladas

Cheese, zucchini and corn enchiladas

You probably want me to get to the recipe sooner rather than later so I’ll keep the back story as simple as I can: it begins with a five-year-old plaintively asking for some playground time after being picked up at school. And why not. We’ve had a stretch of relatively warm weather for October. No reason to waste it rushing home, though we seem to be the only ones with such a brilliant idea because we have the playground to ourselves. Daughter 1 and I climb the ladders, slide down the slides, clamber up a rock wall and scale across a trellis for the better part of an hour before I suggest we call it a day. But wait, what’s this? Another car pulls up and out climbs another little girl…someone my daughter knows from kindergarten. How fortunate.

So now there are two little girls climbing, sliding, clambering and scaling, while two moms stand idly by. We learn that, although we’ve never run into one another before, we live no more than three (long) blocks apart. And we share a common interest in food…more specifically, working with fresh ingredients and encouraging our kids to eat a more healthy, balanced diet. They were just coming from a CSA pick-up at Stult’s Farm before stopping at the playground, and we started to trade meal ideas. Before I knew it, we were going home with several lovely ears of fresh corn and a zucchini. Not bad for an afternoon in the park!

That was the act of kindness: strangers meeting, talking, connecting and sharing. I appreciated that gesture more than I can say, and in return I’d like to share a little something too. We turned that corn and zucchini into enchiladas — another great vegetarian feast. Our simple recipe follows.

So the next time you go to the playground and return with corn and zucchini, you know who to thank. The greatest thanks, though, would be for you to just keep the kindness going. Share this post, or foist some produce onto an unsuspecting — but oh-so-grateful — playmate.

Cheese Enchiladas with Fresh Corn and Grated Zucchini

10 – 12 small flour or corn tortillas — corn is more traditional, but we used flour because that’s what I had on hand
2 10-ounce cans enchilada sauce — we used mild, but feel free to spice it up if you want
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or mix of cheddar/Monterey jack cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for topping the finished casserole)
1 ear of fresh corn, corn kernels cut from the cob
1 medium zucchini, grated
Optional for serving: additional grated cheese, sour cream, minced cilantro, thinly sliced jalapeño pepper, hot sauce
Serve with hot white or brown rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the zucchini in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with a generous pinch of Kosher salt. Work the salt into the zucchini and allow the zucchini to sit in the colander for 30 minutes to drain. When ready to use, pat zucchini with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove additional liquid and discard any liquid collected in the bowl.

Grated zucchini, salted and draining

Grated zucchini, salted and draining

Corn, cut from the cob

Corn, cut from the cob

Pour approximately 1/4 can of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 3 quart Pyrex baking dish. Pour another 1/2 can of sauce into a wide shallow bowl. Begin to assemble enchiladas by coating both sides of a tortilla with the sauce in the bowl and then placing the tortilla on a flat work surface. Onto one end of each tortilla place roughly 1/8 cup grated cheese, 1/8 cup grated and drained zucchini and 1/8 cup corn kernels (I didn’t really measure these…they were more like generous pinches of cheese, zucchini and corn…just take care not to over-fill). Roll the enchilada to enclose the filling and place, seam side down, in the baking dish.

Wrapping the enchiladas: cheese, zucchini and corn

Wrapping the enchiladas: cheese, zucchini and corn

Repeat with remaining tortillas until all the filling us used up. Eye-ball ingredients along the way so you use equal amounts of filling in each enchilada and don’t have too much of anything left at the end.

Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas in the baking dish and top with the reserved 1/4 cup shredded cheese. Loosely cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until all enchiladas are heated through and sauce is bubbly. Remove the foil, allow to bake for another 10 minutes to further melt the cheese, and then move to a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve enchiladas with rice and any of the optional toppings.

Serves: 4 – 6

Enchilada, hot out of the oven

Enchilada, hot out of the oven

Parent rating: four stars. Great use of late summer produce and, despite the rolling and baking, really quite easy to make. We probably would have spiced this up with hot enchilada sauce and some jalapeños but didn’t go that route to keep it kid-friendly.
Kid rating: three stars. Daughter 2 ate her dish happily until Daughter 1 complained about there being “too much zucchini,” at which point neither of them ate much more of the enchiladas. The rice, sour cream and cheese, on the other hand, all got gobbled up.  In retrospect, I probably could have made several with just corn and that would have gone over quite well. All in all, the kindness of strangers paid off!

Leftovers make an excellent lunch

Leftovers make an excellent lunch

Late Summer Salsa with Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomatoes

I look forward to the change of seasons with both anticipation and a hint of sadness. How could summer be over so soon I ask myself every year. But just as I’m lamenting the fact that the beach towels have officially entered their winter hibernation in the linen closet, I remember what a great season fall really is.

Autumn arrived this past weekend and with it plans of apple picking, pumpkin carving and hay rides. Mulled cider will soon be on the menu to take the chill of already brisk evenings. All good things, but I still feel the need to send summer off with an appropriate tribute. A “same time, next year” kind of thing.

By the looks of things, the crowd at the local Saturday’s West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market felt the same way. Shoppers are still picking up some lovely late summer produce. The last of the fresh peaches, corn, and plums sit next to pears, kale and other fall crops. I suppose this really is the best of all worlds — a way to transition out of the steamy summer months and into a season that brings us back indoors, to the proverbial hearth…and to weekend afternoons spent watching college football, the MLB playoffs, and Sunday (and Monday, and Thursday) NFL games.

Best of all worlds - summer and fall crops at the West Windsor Community Farmer's Market

Best of all worlds – summer and fall crops at the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market

With all that going on, a great summer send off is something that can be eaten in front of the TV, beer (or sippy cup) in one hand, nibbles in the other. If you’re already grilling up some hickory-smoked chicken thighs, a strip steak or sausages and can still get some good fresh corn, I recommend you try:

Salsa with a side of chips...and steak

Salsa with a side of chips…and steak

Late Summer Salsa with Grilled Corn, Avocado and Tomatoes

3 ears of corn
1 ripe avocado, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large heirloom tomato, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 scallions, whites thinly sliced (discard green tops, or freeze for later use in stocks)
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeño, finely sliced (optional)
Tortilla chips and sour cream for serving
1 tablespoon diced fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Prepare your grill for indirect grilling, heating up coals on one side of the grill to a temperature of approximately 350 degrees. If cooking on a gas grill, light only one side of your grill. (For an explanation of direct vs. indirect grilling, see this earlier post on hickory-smoked chicken thighs.) Prep your corn by pulling back — but not removing — the husk. Take the corn silk off each ear of corn as best you can, and bring the husk back up over the ear, securing at the top with a piece of twine or a piece of corn husk. Soak the corn in water to cover for 30 minutes.

Place the ears of corn on the cooler side of your grill and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, rotating the ears of corn several times during the grilling. The corn will cook inside the husk. Be careful not to burn the corn husks, though they may get a little charred in places and this is NOT a bad thing…just adds some smoky flavor to the dish.

When the corn is tender, remove from the grill and allow to cool before husking. Then break each ear in half and, on a large cutting board, cut the kernels off each ear (you don’t have to break the corn in half, but I find it easier to handle this way).

Note – if you want to skip the grilling and just husk and boil your corn on the stove top, go nuts. Your salsa will not be as smoky, but you will save time.

Corn off the cobs

Corn off the cobs

Put the corn into a large mixing bowl and add the avocado, tomato, scallions, bell pepper, lime juice, jalapeño slices, and salt and pepper to taste.

You can serve this in a variety of ways but we scooped sour cream into dipping bowls and topped with the salsa, a sprinkle of cilantro, and served the chips on the side. You could just as easily serve the sour cream and salsa separately, or forgo the sour cream entirely.

Serves: 4 – 6

One of our favorite kitchen gadgets - the lime juicer

One of our favorite kitchen gadgets – the lime juicer

Parent rating: Five stars. Great go-to on game day. It makes great use of the last corn, tomatoes and peppers of the summer, plus I feel like the family gets an extra serving of veggies while noshing. This even makes a good dinner when served with chicken or perhaps a side of rice and beans.
Kid rating: Five stars, without jalapeños. One star with. Our girls with gobble this down as long as it’s not too spicy. Dips are always fun. Dips with lots of veggies = touchdown!

Risotto with Fresh Summer Corn and Herbs

I am a pressure-cooker risotto convert. Actually, advocate or evangelist might be a better description. Risotto wasn’t even in our regular menu rotation before I started cooking with a pressure cooker and now we make it several times a month, easily. I even packed the pressure cooker for our trip to the shore.

After all, what is not to like about risotto? Creamy, cheesy, and able to leap high buildings in a single bound (and by that I mean you can add just about any veggie or protein flavor combination with equally-stellar results), it’s a dinner-time super hero.

Jersey shore dinner of steamed clams, risotto and string beans

Jersey shore dinner of steamed clams, risotto and string beans

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t be discouraged. There are several great — and easy — risotto recipes out there with techniques that prove you don’t need to constantly stir the rice pot to get good results. I recommend starting with the version for Basic Risotto on the Cook’s Illustrated web site if you have a subscription. As I’ve previously hinted, this is our go-to web site for reliable and proven recipes — the subscription is definitely worth it for a serious cook. Another great recipe for Laid-Back Risotto comes from Mark Bittman on the New York Times web site, translating a Mario Batali recipe that features spring asparagus.

Personally, it was the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Pressure-Cooker Parmesan Risotto that started us down the pressure-cooker risotto path. The advantage to using the pressure cooker is that dinner can be on the table in 15 minutes, start to finish, and that is a lifesaver on a busy weeknight…or in our recent case, an evening at the shore where we didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. It’s reliable and easy and, in our house, frequently requested as well.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. One of our favorite versions uses fresh (preferred) or frozen corn, but we have also used the techniques below to make:
– Butternut squash risotto (add cubes of butternut squash early, with the onions)
– Fresh baby spinach risotto (add baby spinach at the last moment)
– Ham and pea risotto
– Seared shrimp and scallop risotto (sear shrimp and/or sea scallops separately and incorporate at last moment)

Super hero indeed!

Fresh corn from the Ocean City farmer's market

Fresh corn from the Ocean City farmer’s market

A quick note about the white wine used to deglaze the pan and start the steaming process for the rice: use something dry that you’d normally drink. If you’re having wine with dinner, this is a great excuse to open the bottle early. But often enough I don’t feel like opening a full bottle of wine for this recipe alone, in which case I use the vermouth that is nearly always open in our liquor cabinet and doesn’t turn as easily as a regular bottle of wine. I prefer Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth for this recipe. Vermouth is a fortified wine that incorporates other botanical flavors. The herbs and spices in Noilly Prat are mild and work well with risotto. There are some other wonderful vermouth’s out there that make a mean martini, but which I wouldn’t use for risotto because they are too full-flavored. Experiment a little to see what you like if you go this route.

Here is how we made this week’s batch, using Jersey Fresh produce we picked up at the farmer’s market:

Pressure-Cooker Risotto with Fresh Summer Corn and Herbs

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
4 cups chicken broth (homemade if you have it)
Approximately 3 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from 3 ears of the freshest corn you can get (or use frozen corn…I do in the winter)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (optional…works well with some but not all flavor combos)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, basil, or sorrel, finely minced (or combination of herbs…a little thyme might be nice depending on what you’re adding)

Begin by heating the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat in the pressure cooker (or pot on the stove top if you’re making a traditional version of risotto). Add the onion and sauté until softened. Add the rice and stir, allowing rice to sauté slightly for about 1 minute. The outer layer of the rice grains will take on a slightly translucent look – this is what you want. When all the rice gains looks uniformly translucent and ever so slightly browned, add the white wine or vermouth.

When the wine is nearly evaporated, add 3 cups of chicken stock and put the lid on the pressure cooker. Bring your pressure cooker to high pressure and cook risotto for 4 minutes before releasing the pressure. For a non-pressure cooker version, keep adding warmed chicken stock to your pot as needed until rice is cooked through.

Carefully remove the lid and stir the risotto, adding more chicken stock over medium heat as necessary until the rice is tender but al dente.

Add the corn, allow to cook for 1 minute, and remove from heat. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese (a non-traditional addition, but something my kids really like that rounds out the creaminess), the lemon zest if using, and the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.

Stir in the herbs — or sprinkle over the top — and serve.

Serves: 4 as a main course, 6 as appetizer or side-dish portions

Fresh corn risotto

Fresh corn risotto

Kid rating: five stars – sometimes four-and-a-half depending on the various things I add. This is a reliable staple on our dinner table that both girls enjoy and request.
Parent rating: four-and-a-half stars. We tend to like stronger flavors than the girls, and I’ve been known to dish their portions and then “spice up” our portions with some spicy sausage or some veggies that might not be on the good list on any given week (for instance, peas). But this version, with fresh corn and sometimes some added cooked chicken, is a favorite for everyone.