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Corn Risotto: One last bite of the summer that never was

#tweetyourshabbat is a global movement founded by Carly Pildis, celebrating the struggle and joy of getting Shabbat on the table every week. This is a place for real dinners and real conversations about Jewish life. Join us at Forward in sharing what you’ll be eating and how your feeling this week at #TweetYourShabbat

The summer that never really happened is finally over, with its closed summer camps, empty beaches, and drained pools. It’s September. Seasons are in transition and so are we. We are shifting from summer to fall. We are shifting expectations of what our lives will be and what our days will look like. In the fall of COVID-19 one thing is for certain, we will be perennially in transition.

Schools will open and close and open again. Synagogues will stream our holiest days and we will feel alone, missing the crush of bodies in prayer, as we transition from 5780 to 5781 via Zoom. Marchers will march, demanding desperately needed transformation and change. Our government will transition, one way or another, on Election Day, as will our nation. This is a deeply unstable time as more and more Americans face hardship, hatred, grief, and uncertainty.

In a pandemic, the decisions that we struggle with are in the end merely wishes, blown into the world like dandelion seeds. Our situation can change at any moment. Parents make the gut-wrenching decision to send their kids to school and it closes the next day. We decide to keep going into the office despite the risk, and the business closes its doors on us. We build new routines and new normals every day, attempting to create a feeling of control that we simply do not have. I am desperate to find something to hold fast to, for stillness and permanence.

In this upheaval, the sacred stillness of Shabbat takes on heightened importance. In this tumultuous time, we are definitely in need of some comfort and some joy.

I have been finding comfort and joy in the garden. tomatoes grow heavy on the vine. Squash blossoms bloom. Corn grows sweet. If we put enough seeds in the ground, eventually some of them will sprout.

“I would stare at a bright red tomato, loving it for dear life,” Banana Yoshimoto wrote in Kitchen, which happens to be my favorite book. “Having known such joy, there was no going back.”

That is exactly how I feel at the end of this darkest of summers staring at a beautiful crop of tomatoes that I will harvest for the last Shabbat from the garden this year. Summer has ended. Someday the pandemic will too. The thing I was longing for, something permanent and unchanging to cling to, is right here on Friday night.

How was your week? How are you spending Shabbat? Let us know at #tweetyourshabbat! Everyone is welcome at this table! Come hungry.

Dutch Oven Corn Risotto

This recipe is simpler than a traditional risotto because it is oven-baked, and you don’t need to stand over the stove the entire time. It is cheesy and rich and sweet with mascarpone and corn. It is sophisticated enough for a discerning adult, but my preschooler ate it by the handful, declaring it just like macaroni and cheese. We used mint and basil because they were plentiful in the garden and added great flavor, but if you are unable to find fresh mint it would still be delicious.

3 tablespoon butter
1 onion
1 1/4 cup wine
3 cups vegetable stock
9 ears corn
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup marscapone cheese
1 tablespoon fresh mint
2 tablespoons basil
Splash of vinegar
Pint of cherry tomato

Grill 9 ears of fresh yellow sweet corn. You should grill it husked so the corn caramelizes. A little burnt corn is OK and brings in a nice smoky flavor. You could roast husked corn if you need it, but grilling without the husk gives a wonderful rich flavor. You can do this ahead of time. I know some of you are already wondering if you can use frozen — I am worried this won’t provide rich corn flavor that makes the dish so special.

Preheat oven 425 degrees.

Dice one onion. Add two tablespoons of butter to a Dutch oven or oven-safe pan. If you don’t have that’s fine, you can just transfer it to a pan when ready, but I hate the extra dishes! Melt butter, add onion, and cook until soft, translucent, and buttery, about 5-10 minutes, over medium-low heat.

Add 2 cups of Arborio rice stir consistently, until it is properly toasted. You’ll know it’s done when it sounds like glass beads when you stir it, a hard crunchy sound. You are toasting it, not cooking it yet. This will take about three minutes. Add 1 ¼ cup of white wine. Stir until the wine has been absorbed. Add 3 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed and you are left with creamy, rich risotto.

While the risotto is cooking, Cut the corn off the cob. Puree 4 ears of corn (about 4 cups) with ¼ cup of mascarpone until creamy and smooth. Set aside.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and mix with remaining corn, chopped mint, and half the basil. Splash with vinegar, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Reserve the rest of the basil to garnish.

When the risotto is cooked, stir in Parmesan cheese, corn puree, and butter until fully integrated. It will taste rich and creamy and full of corn flavor. Spoon it out and top corn and tomato salad and garnish with basil. The result is a deeply comforting dish transitioning from summer to fall.


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