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Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

grilled corn with miso butter

In eating in, sides, snacks, summer, vegetarian on 13 February, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Tonight I was actually going to get back to the next instalment of the pancake project (Parts 1 and 2 are here and here), and I’m sorry if you think it’s a bit repetitive of me to feature miso in two consecutive blog posts (sesame-miso cookies here!), but I couldn’t not share this, the most delicious of ways to eat corn on the cob.

The last couple days have been brilliantly sunny and for once I haven’t been moaning about the weather (er, sorry about that) but have been revelling in its gloriousness, running around outside at night bare-legged and bare-shouldered*, drinking cold beer and cider and eating salads and tacos and all the sweetcorn I can get my hands on. Doesn’t take much to make me ridiculously happy, apparently.

You know when corn is so fresh and sweet you can just bite into it raw, straight from the cob, each kernel bursting milky-sweet, slightly starchy juices into your mouth as you bite? The kind where you nearly eat the whole ear without bothering to cook it, only popping it in a pot of boiling water as an afterthought, “oh I bet this would taste pretty good cooked too”? This was that kind of corn.

Growing up I loved corn in the summertime. I mean, who doesn’t? But I never had it anything other than cooked until a few years ago, when I was back home in the States, and there was this guy at the local farmers’ market handing out raw sweetcorn for free. It’s so fresh and sweet, he was saying, just picked yesterday in Michigan, drove down this morning. I wasn’t sure whether the picked-yesterday bit was just a sales pitch but it worked; I was drawn in.** I didn’t know what was about to hit me but that first bite was a revelatory moment: cool, sweet, refreshing. If I could have drunk a glass of that juice, I would have; instead, I did the second-best thing I could think of and bought a half dozen ears of corn. I think I may have eaten one on the way home, peeling the husks off like a banana skin, though that could just be my imagination.

Ever since then, when summertime rolls around and sweetcorn starts getting cheaper and cheaper I’m always tempted to take a couple bites out of each ear, just in case it’s as sweet as that first bite. This summer, they’ve been pretty close. But I’m happy to cook corn, too.

In Japan in the summertime you often get 焼きとうもろこし (yaki-toumorokoshi) or just simply 焼きもろこし (yaki-morokoshi), sweetcorn usually flavoured with soy sauce and sometimes butter. The flavour’s so distinct that you can find chips, pretzels, even Kit Kats with yaki-morokoshi flavour. It’s got that addictive combination of saltiness and butteriness and the sweet, almost-caramelised crunch of the corn, the kernels just starting to crisp up at the edges. At summertime festivals when others would be headed for the takoyaki or shaved ice stalls I’d be on the lookout for some grilled corn. And in my own kitchen more recently, when I just need a snack, I’ll melt some butter on an ear of corn, drizzle some soy sauce over it, and savour that memory.

But I’ve discovered a new thing. Something even more glorious than soy sauce and butter: miso butter. I’d seen it mentioned in a couple forms in some Japanese cooking magazines (good old Lettuce Club and Orange Page again). I first tried it out a couple weeks ago on some corn I’d just boiled. I didn’t get the miso:butter ratio quite right, and I didn’t bother grilling the corn, but it was pretty damn good, an umami party on my tongue. I was sold on miso butter.***

This time I got it right. One part miso to two parts butter. Make sure the butter’s soft so the miso blends in nicely, but not melted, or it won’t blend in at all. Grill the corn, brushing miso butter over it from time to time so it melts right into the cracks and the surface gets all blistered and almost-charred and then, when you’re ready to serve, melt some more miso butter over the top and bite in and holy crap, YES.

*Who would’ve thought? In summer? My goodness.

**Actually, never mind, I’m drawn in by most samples, regardless of whether they’re accompanied by a tempting sales pitch…

***And, the next morning when I spread some on toast with a bit of honey? That was the reminder for me to make those miso cookies I’d been dreaming of. With great success.

MISO BUTTER

Mix 1 tbsp miso into 2 tbsp softened* butter, stirring well until all the miso is blended in and it’s a nice smooth consistency. You can make the quantity greater or less; just use the 1:2 miso:butter ratio – easy enough to remember! Keep stored in the fridge where it will firm up a bit.

This is great on sweetcorn, but also anywhere you might want something buttery and rather salty. I can think of a few:

  • on toast, with honey
  • on French toast, with maple syrup**
  • to brush over some fish before baking/grilling
  • with green beans, or asparagus when it’s in season, or brussels sprouts
  • tossed through hot pasta or some boiled new potatoes

*room-temperature or slightly softer, but not melted

**I actually think I’m going to try this tomorrow morning. Will update with the results…

GRILLED CORN WITH MISO BUTTER

Grill your corn how you like, but slather some miso butter all over it before you do so it gets in the crevices and makes everything all salty and buttery. Here’s my lazy/non-BBQ-owning method:

First, slice up the cob into halves or thirds (or just leave it whole). Bring some water to the boil and add the corn, cook for a minute or two until it’s an eyepopping sunflower yellow. Remove from the pot.

Preheat the grill/broiler in your oven. Heat a ridged grill pan* until nice and hot, almost smoking. Coat the corn with miso butter (a pastry brush works great here) and place on the grill pan. Let it start to sear a bit on the bottom, then rotate it a bit, brush with more miso butter, and stick under the hot grill in the oven. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, giving it a turn every now and then and brushing with a bit more miso butter. When it’s nice and golden brown, almost-burnt in places and the miso stuck between the kernels is beginning to caramelise, pull the pan out from the oven.

Brush with more miso butter if you like. Go on, do it.

*a cast-iron one that can go in the oven is ideal. If you don’t have one, just heat the grill in your oven, skip this step and chuck your corn in there on a baking tray, making sure to rotate and brush with extra butter.

sesame-miso cookies and a year of this thing

In baking, cookies, sweets, year-round on 7 February, 2012 at 10:40 pm

A year ago today, probably to the hour, I was writing the first-ever post on this blog, about a fig I’d carried home so carefully in the palm of my hand. How long ago that all now seems.  

Last summer I was all anticipation, all breathless excitement for what was ahead. This summer? Defeat. I really don’t want to complain about the weather on this blog but I will say this: if I wanted to spend my summer wearing woolly cardigans and thick socks I’d have chosen to live in Iceland.* This summer I haven’t been nearly as excited about the glut of berries, the juiciest peach, the ripest tomatoes. This summer I’ve mostly wanted to throw on a blanket and curl up with a bowl of soup and maybe, you know, have a wee cry at the thought of actually being on a beach.

Okay, I may be being a bit dramatic. I mean, we have had little snippets of sunshine and I haven’t been wearing thick socks ALL summer (though I am wearing a big woolly cardigan as I type this). But it hasn’t felt like summer. So I guess I was hit with the realisation that, whoa, this time last year I was all excited about late summer and this year I’m still hanging on to this hope that we’re going to have this nice long languorous summer with jugs of Pimm’s in the late-afternoon sun and jandals. Figs? No, no, I’m not ready yet.

Every time I look out the window and see people walking by wearing boots and puffy jackets (for real!! it’s supposed to be February, for goodness’ sake!) I get a little bit sad, a little bit droopy-hearted. But maybe I’ve been looking at this all the wrong way. It’s not like we can do anything about what the weather’s going to do tomorrow. And maybe the best way is not necessarily declaring defeat or resignation, but instead accepting things for what they are. Moving forward. Getting on with it. If that means I have to wear tights in the summer months** then so be it.

So this year, on the first anniversary of the very first post on this blog, I don’t have an amazing birthday cake full of seasonal fruits and flavours for you. I don’t even have anything that says it should be summer, no plums or peaches, no boysenberries or cherries or nectarines. But you know what I do have? Miso cookies.

Yes! Miso cookies! Now here is something I’m excited about, and that you can get excited about too, no matter what the season. I’d been mulling the idea over for a while, actually since I got my hands on the second issue of Lucky Peach, which had this fantastically illustrated feature on miso (all of the types!) and also Christina Tosi’s recipe for the corn cookies served at Momofuku Milk Bar. I haven’t spent enough time in New York City to have ever visited any of the Momofuku restaurants, let alone Milk Bar,*** but their stuff is pretty legendary, and anyway I was intrigued by the “10-minute creaming process” involved in making the corn cookies.

So I started thinking about a cookie, with miso, kind of like a peanut butter cookie in crossing the savoury-sweet bridge. Something that’s both chewy and crisp. Something that would involve creaming butter and sugar together for ten whole minutes and begging forgiveness of the tired old electric mixer afterwards.

The result was this: exactly what I had envisioned, with the added touch of a tablespoonful of black sesame seeds sprinkled through. Straight out of the oven, they were a dream – hot, buttery, almost-gooey – that only got better as they cooled to crispy-edged, chewy-centred, salty-sweet cookies with an extra nutty hint of sesame. Like peanut butter cookies. But better.

*Er, does anyone who reads this blog actually live in Iceland? I’m only going by summer photos of Reykjavik I’ve seen on street style blogs… I mean, it would be pretty cool to be in Iceland, but, also… cool.

**It’s something I generally refuse to do, no matter how cold it gets. I’ll wear pants, yes, but tights? Not in summer, not on my life. (Or maybe not anymore.)

***Though clearly I need to. Look at their menu!

SESAME-MISO COOKIES
(adapted from Christina Tosi’s corn cookie recipe in Lucky Peach. Awesome.)

200g butter, room temperature or a bit softer, though not melted
300g sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp miso*
275g flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sesame seeds**

Cream butter and sugar using a mixer (stand or handheld) for a couple minutes, until the mixture starts to fluff up. Add the egg and beat on a medium-high speed for 8 or so minutes, until the sugar’s pretty much dissolved and it looks a bit like this. Now mix in the miso until it’s all blended together.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture. Stir it well (I abandoned the mixer and used a wooden spoon at this point) until it all comes together. If it seems a bit dry at first, don’t worry. It will come together.

If you haven’t already, stir in the sesame seeds. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for about an hour. I actually popped the whole bowl, covered, into the freezer while I cleaned up the mess I’d made and that seemed to work just fine.

Heat the oven to 180C. Drop walnut-sized balls of dough on a cookie sheet (lined with baking paper, if you’re so inclined) and bake for 12-15 minutes. Rotate halfway through and start checking after 12 minutes if your oven’s temperamental like mine. When they’re done, they’ll be a golden-brown colour, a bit more so at the edges, just a bit paler in the middle.

Cool on a wire rack. Share with those you love, and watch the look of puzzlement on their faces when they ask “Yum, what kind of cookies are they?” and you say, grinning, “Miso!”

Makes about two dozen. 

*I used 2 tbsp and the dough tasted quite miso-y, but after baking the miso flavour really mellows out quite a bit. Don’t worry, it’s nothing like miso soup. Next time I may try adding half a tablespoon more, though not too much more than that – otherwise it’d probably start to get too salty.

**You can add more if you like – I was just running low. 1 tablespoon makes cookies that are daintily flecked with sesame seeds. Not bad.