Monday, June 18, 2012

Sweet Corn, Spinach & Bacon Hash with Garlic Scapes and Basil

A few weeks ago, I was flipping through a cookbook at work, when a recipe caught my eye. Specifically, "The Mom 100 Cookbook" thinking, that Ann Workman really cut herself short using the word "Mom" in the title, since these recipes were so spot-on that there are many other segments of the population who could really use this book. And many of them won't pick up a book with "Mom" in the title. Heaven knows I show the book to almost every customer who asks me about good cookbooks...but I digress. There is a recipe in there called "Sauteed Corn, Spinach, Bacon and Scallions". Took me by surprise. My own mother used to make a similar dish with leftover cooked corn cut from the cob, red onions, bacon and zucchini. It was the only way she ever got my Dad to eat zucchini without his making faces so I'd laugh. Mom called it "Corn Hash". So do I. I was a picky, rotten eater as a kid, but this sweet summery dish disappeared from my plate pronto. Still soooo good.

My Mom was a nice Italian girl raised in a mostly Pennsylvania Dutch and German area, and bacon found its way into a lot of things she cooked. I actually don't remember ever having this with any corn but a white shoepeg variety called Country Gentleman.  Tiny, sweet kernals would just pop as you ate it from the cob. Didn't need butter or salt. I don't think anyone ever grows it anymore except on a few old farms out in Lancaster and Berks counties, in Pennsylvania. Shame how some good things just disappear.

I've made it a few times over the years with leftover boiled or grilled corn (my favorite corn is a bi-color called Mirai) and my own smoked bacon, and, about three years ago, added garlic scapes from the first hardneck garlic I'd ever grown with a big handful of fresh basil. This year, thanks to Ann, it has a boost in both beauty and nutrition from adding spinach. Good thing there's a few weeks left of spinach out there in the yard unless the rabbits finish it off. We just gobbled this down.
Sweet Corn, Spinach & Bacon Hash with Garlic Scapes and Basil
I think it's interesting how a pretty basic recipe goes from cook to cook, and generation to generation, each one putting her own touch on the dish before passing it on. Thank you for the spinach idea, Ann, its perfect. Next batch may have some feta cheese or cubed Haloumi, and that version will be dinner and not a side dish. And if there are any ripe tomatoes in my garden, one of those, diced at the end and added after the spinach. So many possibilities, so little Summer.

Please try this, it's that good.

Notes: If you really can't get good in-season corn, look for a frozen super-sweet variety, and thaw under running water in a colander before using. The bacon is important in this dish. Get a double-smoked or farm-made (or your own) if you can. Thick cut. Supermarket bacon doesn't taste nearly as good in this. Don't salt, if needed at all, until the cooking is complete, the bacon and spinach may contribute enough--usually it needs none.

My new pet knife, sharper than a razor and fun to use,
 a Ken Onion design knife from Shun.
Sweet Corn, Spinach & Bacon Hash with Garlic Scapes and Basil
Adapted loosely from Ann Workman's "The Mom 100 Cookbook" and my Mother.
Serves 4-6

1/4 lb. thick cut, smoky bacon
1 cup water
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1/4 cup minced garlic scapes, tender green parts only
4 cups sweet white corn cut from cob (about 4-5 large ears)
6 cups of loosely packed baby spinach, about 5 - 6 ounces
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut in thin ribbons
Fresh ground black pepper
(kosher or sea salt)

Place the bacon slices and the water in a large nonstick skillet, bring to a simmer over medium heat and let the water cook away. When the water is gone, raise the heat slightly, and continue to cook the bacon, turning frequently until brown and crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel to drain, and add the chopped onion and garlic scapes to the bacon fat in the pan. Cook over medium heat until the onion is soft. While the onion mixture cooks, crumble the bacon and set aside. Add the corn and crumbled bacon to the skillet and cook, stirring over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the baby spinach and the basil, and continue to cook until the spinach just wilts. Add a few grinds of black pepper, and stir well. Taste for salt and add if needed.


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