I picked up Corn by Olwen Woodier at the Food for Thought Bookstore and Cafe at the Worcester Public Library, operated by the Friends of the WPL, for the excellent low price of $2.50. The book is a little worn and gray around the edges but the pages are all clean, so I doubt it was ever used as a cookbook.
Although corn in all of its forms is probably my favorite food, it was still surprising to flip through the cookbook in the bookstore and think that every single recipe sounded delicious, from Breakfast Burritos with with Corn Tortillas to Ginger-Basted Roast Chicken with Whole Corn Stuffing to Sweet Corn and Rice Pudding with Rum and Lime Sauce.
The layout of the cookbook pages is very appealing, printed in an easy-to-read font with plenty of white space, and just one color, cranberry (in light and dark) for the recipe titles, yields, and side bars, offsetting the black text. (The book has NO photos, though, if you’re a fan of glossy color photos in cookbooks.) It lies open flat pretty easily, but might need a weight on one side for a recipe near the beginning or end of the book. The author’s writing style is clear and pleasant; she offers menu suggestions and variations on most of the recipes. She gives a history of corn at the beginning of the book, but Corn is definitely a cookbook – most of the book is made up of recipes. Although fresh corn is only really good in the summer, the cookbook can be used year-round, substituting frozen or canned corn for fresh, or trying out the recipes that call for corn in other forms like cornmeal, corn tortillas, and popcorn.
My husband would probably see the book’s title, CORN, in bold lettering across the front cover and read it as CARB. With good reason! I probably can’t make any of the recipes for him. But, my husband was going to be gone for a few days and I was able to salvage a couple of small ears of corn from the garden before the neighborhood squirrels feasted on them. (They eat into the sides of the ears well before they’re even close to being ripe enough to pick.) So I made a carb-filled salad to take for my work lunches last week. I ate it all week and tasted even better on Friday than it did on Monday, so this dish would definitely be good for a potluck or buffet table.
Rice, Lentil, and Corn Salad
1 cup dried lentils (3 cups cooked)
6 cups cold water
1 cup brown rice (3 cups cooked)
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 TBL dried herb mixture containing dill
1 TBL Dijon mustard
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups canned whole corn kernels, drained
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
4 large scallions, including the greens, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1. Rinse the lentils, drain, and place in a 2-quart saucepan with 4 cups of the water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20–30 minutes, until just tender. Remove and drain.
2. Bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil and add the rice. Cover the pot and simmer for 20–30 minutes, until the rice is tender and the water has been absorbed.
3. While the rice and lentils are cooking, prepare the dressing. Place the oil, vinegar, herb mixture, mustard, and garlic in a 2-cup screw-top jar and shake vigorously. Set aside.
4. Rinse the cooked rice under cold water and combine with the lentils in a large bowl.
5. Add the corn, pepper, and scallions. Toss the mixture with the dressing. Chill, if desired, or serve at room temperature. When ready to serve, garnish with basil leaves.
Yield: 8–10 servings.
Excerpted from Corn © Olwen Woodier, used with permission from Storey Publishing.
My notes on the recipe: Salads are flexible dishes, so I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I used fresh corn instead of canned, and probably only had half of the amount called for. I used orange bell pepper instead of red because that’s what I had on hand. For the dressing, I used a 1/2-cup of olive oil instead of 3/4-cup, and instead of the dried spices, I used some chopped fresh herbs from the garden – rosemary and parsley. I did throw in a little dried dill weed, but if I’d had fresh I would have used that instead. I added all of the shredded fresh basil right away instead of garnishing with it. It loses its color in the salad, but as I mentioned before, the salad tasted delicious even days later, so the recipe is definitely a keeper. It may have been extra good because the scallions, herbs, and corn came straight from the garden, but I think it would be good anytime.
One more tip – if your seasoned rice vinegar has been in your cupboard for a year or two, dump it and buy a fresh bottle. The vinegar I used was fresh from the store and had great flavor.
Happy Weekend Cooking!