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Corn

Oh yeah. that photo says it all, doesn’t it? It’s prime time for corn. I guess, as the farmers call it, it’s sweet corn….if you just say “corn on the cob,” you also mean corn that is used for feed for pigs and cows on farms.

Where I live in Wisconsin, sweet corn is available from local farms from late July until early September or so. The first crop is super sweet and tender, and as the season wears on, the kernels get bigger and thicker and more dense, and less sweet and less tender. But for now, it’s prime time for corn and that means we eat it in our house pretty much every day for six or so weeks. There is no good reason not to!

Mikey’s this and that

So….it’s freaking hot outside. It’s a great time of year once again for my “Guy Gazpacho,” which I’ve already made three or four times including this past week. It’s 90-plus in most parts of the country, and yeah–we sit in air conditioning most of the time. But there is something about a cold tomato based soup that just hits the spot in summer. And I’ve been doctoring up my own recipe lately–adding lemon juice and spicy olives/olive juice.

Speaking of cold soup, I picked up the new issue of Bon Appetit, a mag that my mom still has stacks of, like from the ’80s, never read. So while I associate the magazine with my mom and foo-foo French cooking and cooking that takes all day, I saw the issue on the newsstand and there was this kickass chicken skewer with a sriracha sauce. Oh man. I grabbed it and never looked back, reading that thing cover to cover. My mouth is watering now as I write that there was a page on cantaloupe, now in season. I made prosciutto and melon risotto, and plan on making their cantaloupe gazpacho. Damn. That risotto was freaking insane.

Speaking of cooking magazines, we’ve gotten hooked on Cooking Light lately, as their recipes are (mostly) easy, interesting and tasty. There were a couple of smoked meat recipes–a BBQ pork shoulder that was crispy, spicy, and tender. And a smoked chicken cobb salad with creamy avocado dressing. Yeah, maybe a bit foo foo but not over the top foo.

Do you ever watch shows like Chopped and Masterchef and think that you could be a contestant? Me, I watch those shows and know for a fact I would have zero chance of even creating something edible from whatever they put in front of me–not in 20 or 30 minutes anyway, and certainly not with ingredients I’ve never used befoe. I need time to cultivate the ideas in my head. Anyway, if you are watching Masterchef as Mrs. Mike and I are, let me offer something to hope for–a Krissi vs. Natasha finale. Man, those two would claw each others’ eyes out.

This is the best month of the year for produce–corn, tomatoes, peaches, melon. You can have the 11 other months, I will take July.

Great article the other day about bagged lettuce. However, the article didn’t answer the one question we all have–why does bagged lettuce have that weird chemical aftertaste? Blech. It’s one of the reasons to join a CSA–your lettuce is organic and has no weird stuff sprayed on it or washed with. And it actually tastes good.

Mikey’s Monday this and that

Some random food thoughts for your Monday morning and to start June…..

I think I’ve had just about enough of the spring vegetables. I love asparagus, peas and various spring greens and herbs. But I think almost every stand at the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Saturday had asparagus. My pee is going to smell funny for a month. But anyway, I’m very ready for the summer onslaught–tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, melon, berries….let’s do this thing.

I made meat loaf last night, but not just any meat loaf….Bobby Flay’s Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf. I made it with 2/3 beef and 1/3 ground turkey and I suddenly remembered why I love this recipe so much. The balsamic vinegar/ketchup glaze on top is so good that it’s making my mouth water right now. Next time you are in the mood for meat loaf, you HAVE to try this recipe.

Two summer food shows have started their new seasons–Fox’s Masterchef and Food Network’s Food Network Star. Now, I have nothing against these shows, but sometimes they can be predictable. Masterchef is in Season 4 now, and the best part is that they didn’t drag out the audition part–basically there was maybe one or 1.5 episodes of auditions. And we have our cat fight–between Krissi and Natasha. Natasha is so full of herself but appears to be able to back it up with skills. Meanwhile, Krissi is also talented and she has that east coast “don’t mess with me” vibe. Meanwhile, Food Network Star began its eighth season last night. It’s kind of getting old and stale the way American Idol did. And they seem to pick the same contestants every year–I don’t mean literally, but there are demographics they follow–the tough guy, the Hispanic, the chatty blogger, the dude who can cook his ass off but has no on-camera talent. Oh and this year we have the Ellie Krieger look alike. Of course, I watch these shows like it’s my job, and I don’t see that changing this season.

Have you ever taken a bunch of ingredients and tried to make a meal out of them, sometimes using way more of what you have on hand than you should? I did that last week when I made this chicken dish with bacon and cheese, and somehow tried to incorporate spinach and mushrooms. But I wound up doing the spinach and mushrooms on the side. However, in what should have been a sauce for the chicken, I instead added white wine to the spinach/mushroom stir fry and didn’t cook it out…blech. But I also had an avocado sitting there that I almost used. Sometimes I wonder about myself. I can put cool things together much of the time, but sometimes have cooking slumps. Does this happen to you?

At some point recently, I saw a cooking show about pizza and it may have been one of those competitions between two purveyors of pizza in New York City. And I was struck by the fact that this one pizza chef used canned San Marzano tomatoes as the sauce on his pizza. Those are usually seasoned with a bit of salt and maybe basil and that’s about it. The tomato shines by itself. So I tried this the other night and it was delicious. I’m just one of those people who doesn’t like those garlicky sauces or commercial pizza sauces, but I think this was the best and most natural way to go.

Oh, speaking of pizza…..I have to give a shout out to Scott and Jen at La Fortuna Pizza. I have found great pizza in Madison, and it’s as good as any I’ve ever had. They have a food truck and one of their regular stops in the summer is at the Verona Farmer’s Market, five minutes away. Every Tuesday. And hey, tomorrow is Tuesday! Low carb what?

Good news and good food

Sometimes life allows for overindulgence.

I love to eat, and I love to especially eat carbs–in particular foods like pizza, fresh bread, pretzels, and jelly beans. But it’s hard not to overeat when you are eating things you really love. And so I, like many Americans, have a bit of a weight problem.

I saw my doctor yesterday for a physical, and while my cholesterol and blood pressure numbers are pretty good, I’m about 40 pounds above what’s considered a good weight for my height. I’m only 10 pounds above what is considered borderline overweight, and so I really don’t have TOO far to go.

But the best part? My doctor said he does not believe in diets. He says I should not deprive myself of any food item because then I will resent him and resent myself and be miserable in general. Everything in moderation, fair amount of exercise, and all should be well–as long as I drop a pound a month or so. Totally doable, right?

So the numbers were mostly good news, but the food news was even better. Because it’s coming into summertime, and there are so many summer foods I love–ice cream, burgers, corn, tomatoes, melon. Ah yes. But there is a small catch–I can’t let myself get out of control, because freedom to eat is not an absolute. In other words–moderation.

Which also means that, fear not, Mikey’s Kitchen readers, I’m going to write about all of the great summer foods that lie ahead. Let’s get to it!

Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival–fun and flavor for all

Chef JimThanks for the fine folks at Grassland Butter, I took my wife and 5-year old son to the Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival two weekends ago. We moved to Wisconsin two years ago and this was the first time we went to the fest. It also certainly won’t be the last time. The food was great, the rides were great for our thrill-loving boy, and the weather was perfect as well (75 and sunny).

Chef JimGrassland was an official sponsor of the event, which meant their butter was the perfect companion to the sweet corn. We were amazed at the production line for the corn–as we waited with our tote, we watched the corn come out of the steamer in husks, after which we had to peel (ouch!) ourselves. Then we brought the corn to the butter table, where the fine folks rolled our corn in a gigantic block of Grassland butter, and then we made our way to the hanging salt shakers before gorging ourselves with the corn. Of course, it was peak season and the corn was delicious, but the Grassland butter really did take it to another level. My only regret was that I totally forgot about the grilled cheese sandwiches, which are also slathered with the butter and supposedly a fair favorite. Next year though!

Chef JimBefore we ate, our son dragged us to pretty much every ride there was, and every weird haunted house “ride.” My wife had the pleasure of going on just about everything, while I skated by only going on the flying swings with him once. He had the best time, and that is always the most important thing.

Chef JimSo, is it next August yet?

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