In the last two weeks, I have cooked four pounds of plums into four jars of jam, I have boiled pretzels in lye and baked them into chestnut glossiness and I have turned nine lemons from my mother's companion's garden into creamy limoncello. I have made lentil soup and panna cotta and roasted cauliflower and pickled salmon. I have made three different batches of yeast dough - one to be rolled and filled with a poppyseed filling and baked into breakfast buns, one to be covered with marzipan cream and red currants and baked into a pie, one to be turned into doughnut rings and doughnut holes and plain old doughnuts, too, filled with puckery jam and fried to a sugary crisp. I am making liquor out of plum pits and vodka, there is a towel-wrapped bottle of milk being turned into yogurt wrapped in my oven right now and there are egg whites in the fridge waiting to be meringued.
I am also in need of a stiff drink.
Folks, I love my kitchen and being busy in it. But lately, when dinner rolls around, I just want to throw up my hands and take a hike. Living alone during the week means that I can at least get away with just eating buttered bread for dinner or a handful of cherry tomatoes while standing at the counter, hoping that by keeping very still, I won't lose my radio connection. But I feel guilty doing that, like I'm short-changing myself. I'm supposed my own best caretaker, but lately, I haven't been doing a very good job of it.
So yesterday at 4:00 pm, I pushed back from my desk and went outside. I took a long walk in the sunshine and stretched my legs. It felt so good to feel my muscles moving and to smell that clean Berlin air. I went back to TJ Maxx to buy the watercolor set I'd abandoned last week when the mean reds caught me off guard and I went to a nice organic grocery store that I should go to more often, where I bought really good tea and a nice, crackling loaf of bread and two ears of corn, still husked. Corn! Husks! That is a small luxury.
At home, I followed this recipe, roasting the unhusked cobs in the oven until the husks turned brown and papery and the corn beneath got all fragrant and sweet. After their pass in the oven, the yellow of the nibs practically glowed. I cut the nibs off the cobs and sautéed them until they started to pop in the pan, turning golden-brown and even sweeter still.
Once the nibs were done, I scraped them into the bowl and turned to the seasoning. I didn't have the jalapeño that the original recipe called for, so I used this potent Turkish red pepper instead. I left out the butter and the chives, but I used twice the amount of lime juice and didn't skimp on the Manchego cheese grated on top.
Then I took the bowl of seasoned, spicy, sweet-sour corn and I sat on the couch for dinner, alternating between watching the sky change color as the sun slipped below the horizon and watching 22-year-old footage on the tube of East Berliners charging through the border, whooping and hollering and weeping. That never gets old, never, ever, ever. (The Wall went up 50 years ago this weekend, hence the video retrospective on the television. Soon enough, the amount of time it's been gone will eclipse the amount of time it was up. How's that for the passage of time?)
The corn was sugary and super-spicy and the combination of the lime juice and the manchego cheese gave the whole thing these super-intense blasts of flavor, not unlike the ones you get when eating salt-and-vinegar potato chips. You know, when your whole mouth sort of suddenly puckers together or something, because of the intensity of flavor? I thought that kind of thing was only possible when engineered in a lab. Turns out that lime juice, Turkish red pepper and Manchego cheese can give MSG a run for its money.
This is best served as a side dish, maybe alongside a chicken thigh that's all sticky and charred from the grill. I bet it's even better when made with the local corn that you lucky ducks in the US can buy at the farmer's market, just-picked and still milky, husks soft and tender. But even with my tough old German corn, eaten out of the serving bowl all by itself while sitting on the couch, shoulders heaving at the sight of those cheering crowds, it was still pretty great.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Roasted Corn with Manchego and Lime
For the original recipe, click here
2 ears of sweet yellow corn, unhusked
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 lime, juiced and zested
1/2 ounce finely grated Manchego cheese
1. Preheat oven to 450°. Roast unhusked corn on a baking sheet, turning occasionally, until heated through and crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Shuck corn and cut kernels from cobs. Discard cobs.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add corn kernels and sauté until heated through and light-golden in spots, 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer corn to a large wide bowl or deep platter and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. Pour the lime juice over the corn and sprinkle with cheese and lime zest. Mix quickly and serve immediately.