In the midst of the summer heat, we’ve managed to squeeze out a few days with low humidity and clear skies – the kind of day that begs for a lovely dinner on the patio and a chilled bottle of rosé. A dinner party for three with my favorite boys as my guests, where locusts and neighborhood birds provide the background music. A dinner where we’ll watch the bees buzz from our Russian sage to our purple coneflowers as we lazily enjoy our meal and sip our wine, and as the sun sets, we’ll talk as flames from our citronella torches dance and twirl in the gentle evening breeze.
And then, a siren. A fire truck. Soon enough, both of my dinner guests have their heads thrown back, mouths to the sky, howling away. I’m so glad the hubs taught Brix to howl…
Try as I might, I can’t resist laughing at this spectacle. Poor Brix has such a mournful little wail, his little doggy mouth forms into a perfect “O,” his small body goes rigid and the closer the siren comes, the more excited he gets and start to furiously wipe his feet as he throws his head back again. And B, well, what can I say? Ah well, you can dress `em up…
So often relegated to the backyard barbeque, corn on the cob and its requisite pile of napkins and waiting toothpicks is a veggie that could stand a little dressing up. Not that I have anything bad to say about plain ol’ corn on the cob – I’m the girl that comes home from work and appears in sweatpants no more than five minutes later. But every now and then, it is fun to get a little gussied up, and I thought it was high time sweet corn got the glamour treatment. I knew just the thing.
I’d read recently about a benefit dinner where a sweet corn panna cotta was one of the featured courses. I’d seen sweet corn panna cotta before, but always in a sweet setting as a dessert. While the natural sugars and creaminess of really good sweet corn would be fitting for an after-dinner treat, the tomatoes fresh out of my garden led me in a different direction. I thought back to a tomato and corn pie I’d made last summer and recalled the tasty combination. So with a savory theme in mind, I set off to create a delicate summer first course.
Inspired by a version of panzanella salad I make every summer without fail, I wanted the fresh tomato salad to be full of bright flavors. I strolled out to my garden with shears in hand and returned with fresh basil, chives and garlic. To this I added some balsamic vinegar for a little depth, olive oil, and shavings of Parmiggiano Regiano cheese for a little salty accent. The sweet corn and cream in the panna cotta provide such a creamy contrast to the fresh tomato salad. Served cold or at room temperature, this was a perfect dish to prepare ahead of time and have ready and waiting for you.
sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad
recipe: jb’s pour house
1 c. whole milk
1/3 c. sugar
2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off and cobs reserved
2 c. heavy cream
¼ tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. water
2 ½ tsp. unflavored gelatin
2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½” dice
2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ c. shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
In a small stockpot, bring milk and sugar to a slow simmer over medium heat. Add corn kernels, simmer for about 5 minutes. As corn is simmering, chop reserved cobs into four pieces each. Add cream, kosher salt and reserved cob segments. Bring to a simmer and once simmering, cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Remove cobs from the cream mixture and discard. Bring cream mixture back to a simmer and once simmering, add gelatin mixture. Remove from heat and stir until gelatin is thoroughly incorporated. Strain, reserving both cream and corn. Divide corn kernels among six ramekins and top with reserved cream mixture. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.
Combine tomatoes, chives, basil, garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Parmiggiano Reggiano shavings in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To serve, run a metal spatula along the edges of each ramekin and carefully invert onto a plate. Top with about ¼ c. tomato salad. Serve immediately.
Enjoy – with or without howling in the background!
All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house