Corn in My Freezer Equals Chili

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Toward the end of October last year, I started to think about how much I’d miss corn on the cob. Nearly every Saturday morning, I’d hover over the ears splayed on a white folding table at the farmer’s market. Usually, they went straight on the grill, wrapped in foil, then rolled on a slab of butter, with a generous shake of salt and pepper.

I didn’t think of hoarding them over the winter until I overheard Darcy, at the farmer’s market, talking with another customer about freezing the cobs: Leave the husk on, she said, pack them into a freezer bag and push the air out. Instead of defrosting them first, remove the husks and drop them directly into a pot of boiling water. And, voila, corn on the cob in January.

My skill at freezing things leaves something to be desired, or else it was in the freezer too long;  the corn straight up didn’t taste that great. It works just fine, however, in a vegetarian chili recipe that I’ve been making, and tweaking, for years.

We had it tonight. Not  just because it’s quick (one of the kids was in a play; I didn’t get home to make dinner until after 6 pm). Also because it’s time to clear the bits of summer and fall produce out the freezer. In addition to the corn, I still have some basil and mint,  a few Habanero peppers, a couple of pounds of cranberries (not sure what I was thinking), half a cup of pesto, as well as some grapefruit I froze before we went away over the holidays because I didn’t want to throw it away. I’ll probably use the basil to enhance a jar of tomato sauce. I can spread the pesto on a sandwich. Some of the cranberries can go into muffins. Habaneros into salsa, or maybe chopped up on pizza. Maybe I can use the mint to flavor tea? Or make a sauce for lamb. Not sure what to do about the grapefruit yet.

Foolproof Veggie Chili (Serves 4-6)
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. The original calls for cooking the onions and garlic in 1/2 cup water for 5 mins, instead of using oil, which makes the recipe low-fat. And also does not lard it up at the end with cheese and sour cream. But this is what I like.

1 tbl canola or grapeseed oil
2  large yellow onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbl ground cumin
1 tbl ground coriander
1 cup jarred salsa. The spiciness of the salsa will determine the spiciness of the chili
2 green bell peppers
2 15-oz cans beans, drained and rinsed. I use black, pinto, kidney or a mix of them. Really depends on what’s in the pantry.
1 28 oz can tomatoes, with juice. I’ve used whole plum tomatoes, chopped up, diced tomatoes or crushed. Any of these work, though the texture of the final dish will be different. Crushed tomatoes make it thicker than either the whole, chopped, or the diced tomatoes.
2 cups corn (frozen kernels, or 3-4 ears, shucked)
2 medium zucchini or summer squash. Or one of each. (optional)
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional).
salt & pepper to taste
hot sauce, sour cream, chopped onions, shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack are good), chopped scallions and/or chopped cilantro for toppings

Heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened. Add the cumin and coriander and stir until the onions and garlic are coated, about 1 minute. Add the green bell peppers and salsa. Stir, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the beans and tomatoes with juices, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the corn and zucchini, summer squash and/or green beans, if using. Simmer, uncovered, for another 10 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender.

This chili is good served over rice or pasta—especially if you have some left over from another meal. Also, tortilla chips. Leftovers make a great topping for nachos, with some cheese melted on top.

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