Growing up on a farm in Virginia, I had no idea what the word locavore meant — I’m pretty sure as a word it didn’t exist.
But thinking back to my childhood summers, I realize that word described us pretty well.
On any given evening we might be eating steak or hamburger from a steer my father raised and had butchered at a facility a few miles down the road. And depending on the growing calendar, we’d be eating green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn or cantaloupes grown in my mother’s garden.
It’s the corn and the tomatoes I remember the most.
My mother is a purist when it comes to corn. If it were up to her, there would probably be an 11th commandment: Thou shalt always eat corn on the day it is picked and no later.
This time of year, with the tomatoes in our garden waning and local sweet corn soon to disappear from local markets, I feel compelled to eke out all the summer produce goodness that I can. I usually don’t feel the need to gussy up my tomatoes or my corn too much, but once in a while, I want to really cook with them.
Tomatoes and corn pair beautifully together, and I’ve gathered a few recipes that feature them both. Fresh basil is the third ingredient that ties these two tastes together nicely.
Until I tried this Tomato and Corn Pizza recipe from Southern Living (July 2010), I had never eaten corn on a pizza.
I liked this recipe, although I changed it a good bit. I used big slices of regular tomatoes, and more than this recipe calls for. I also didn’t use a prebaked crust but made my own, baking individual serving sizes. I also omitted the sugar since I wasn’t sure why it was necessary.
Tomato and corn pizza
3 small plum tomatoes, sliced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 (14-oz.) package prebaked Italian pizza crust
1/3 C. refrigerated pesto
1/2 C. fresh corn kernels
1/4 C. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. sugar
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
3 Tbs. fresh whole or torn basil leaves
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place tomato slices on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; let stand 20 minutes.
Place pizza crust on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet; spread with pesto. Stir together corn, Parmesan, and sugar. Top pizza with corn mixture, tomatoes, and mozzarella slices.
Bake at 450 degrees for 14 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Remove from oven, and top with basil leaves.
• • •
Most people don’t expect corn in a pasta dish, but it works. I used whole wheat penne in this recipe from allrecipes.com but you could use whatever kind of pasta you like.
Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes and Corn
8 ounces pasta
4 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/2 C. whole corn kernels, cooked
4 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 C. chopped green onions
1 tsp. dried basil
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. chopped fresh basil (optional)
In a large pot with boiling salted water cook pasta until al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar and dried basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the tomatoes, corn kernels and scallions. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
Toss pasta with tomato mixture. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired.
• • •
What could be more Southern than tomato pie? I’ve attempted to make tomato pie before, and I’ve never been happy with my results. In fact, I tried a recipe last summer with the thought of including it on a food page, but I disliked it so much that I didn’t want to be responsible for sharing it.
I was a little wary to give it another shot, but this Tomato and Corn Pie (from Gourmet magazine) sounded good. And it is good. What really makes this recipe work is that instead of a typical pastry crust it features a thin biscuit crust (note the tablespoon of baking powder).
I did tweak the recipe a bit, using olive oil mayo instead of regular. I am not the world’s biggest mayo fan, and I may even leave it out on the next go-round. I’m not sure that flavor is absolutely essential here.
If you look at the photo of my pie, you will also see whole pieces of corn and you would be right to wonder about that, given that the recipe calls for puréed corn.
Oops. I forgot the purée step. I wish I’d done it the proper way, but whole corn didn’t ruin the pie.
Tomato and Corn pie
2 C. all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus
2 teaspoons melted
3/4 C. whole milk
1/3 C. mayonnaise
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 3/4 pounds beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick, divided
1 1/2 C. corn (from about 3 ears), coarsely puréed in a food processor, divided
2 Tbs. finely chopped basil, divided
1 Tbs. finely chopped chives, divided
1/4 tsp. black pepper, divided
7 ounces coarsely grated sharp Cheddar (13/4 cups), divided
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl, then blend in cold butter (3/4 stick) with your fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until mixture just forms a dough, then gather into a ball.
Divide dough in half and roll out 1 piece between 2 sheets of plastic wrap into a 12-inch round (1/8 inch thick). Remove top sheet of plastic wrap, then lift dough using bottom sheet of plastic wrap and invert into pie plate, patting with your fingers to fit (trim any overhang). Discard plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in middle.
Whisk together mayonnaise and lemon juice.
Arrange half of tomatoes in crust, overlapping, and sprinkle with half of corn, 1 tablespoon basil, 1/2 tablespoon chives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.
Repeat layering with remaining tomatoes, corn, basil, chives, salt, and pepper, then sprinkle with 1 cup cheese.
Pour lemon mayonnaise over filling and sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Roll out remaining piece of dough into a 12-inch round in same manner, then fit over filling, folding overhang under edge of bottom crust and pinching edge to seal.
Cut 4 vents in top crust and brush crust with melted butter.
Bake pie until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
You can make this pie a day in advance and put it in the refrigerator. Reheat for about a half hour in a 350-degree oven.