Corn in My Freezer Equals Chili


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.

My Yogurt Mania


I love breakfast, but I don’t want to have to think about it. Plain yogurt, mixed with granola, some fresh fruit and  a handful of walnuts, pecans or almonds,  generally does the trick (the yogurt in the photo is topped with apple, walnuts and pomegranate seeds). If I want it sweeter than the fruit makes it, I’ll add a little honey, maple syrup or jam. It’s filling, with enough protein to wake me up, though coffee helps, too.

This is similar to the breakfast my father has been eating for about 50 years—or longer, maybe. I made it a regular habit myself when I was pregnant with my son and needed to eat something more nutritious than a bagel with cream cheese. I started making my own yogurt about 4 years ago, after I attended a demonstration by Ricki Carroll of New England Cheesemaking Supply. She made mozzarella and ricotta, but had yogurt samples, too. I haven’t got into making cheese (the first time I made mozzarella, my kitchen looked like it had exploded), but I’m pretty obsessed with homemade yogurt now. Supermarket yogurt is way too sweet for me. My husband eats the homemade stuff, too, so I make anywhere from  a 1/2 gallon to a gallon a week, for about a quarter of the price I’d pay for factory yogurt. We still buy the store brands for the kids, but I figure they’ll come around eventually. At least they eat yogurt.

A batch of yogurt involves a few minutes of active time, about an hour of intermittent attention and 6-10 hours  of waiting while you go about your business. I make it on weekend mornings, or start a batch late in the afternoon so it’s done before I go to bed at night. There’s some incubating right now on my kitchen counter. The recipe below is adapted from several different sources, though the basic method is from the label on the powdered Y5 yogurt culture I buy from New England Cheesemaking.

Your Own Yogurt

1/2 gallon milk. (I use 2 percent. When I’ve used milk with lower fat content, the yogurt doesn’t set properly.)
1 packet yogurt culture, or 4 tablespoons of yogurt from your previous batch

Special equipment:
Yogotherm insulated container

Pour the milk into a 3 quart saucepan. Heat on medium low until the milk reaches 185 degrees F (a skin will form on top; you’ll remove it later). Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes. The temperature of the milk should remain at 185 degrees.

When the 15 minutes are up, remove the pot from the heat and remove the skin from the top of the milk with a wooden spoon. Cool the milk to 112-115 degrees F. To hasten the cooling process, I put the saucepan inside a larger pot filled partway with cold water, slip  a reusable ice pack into the water between the sides of the two pots and stir the milk periodically. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, this process takes about 15 minutes.

Pour in the 112-115 degree milk into the plastic Yogotherm container. If you’re using powdered yogurt culture, sprinkle it over the surface of the milk and let it rehydrate for a couple of minutes, then stir it in.  If you’re using yogurt from your previous batch, mix it first with a few spoonfuls of the milk before adding it to the warm milk.

Cover the plastic container with its lid, making sure you remove extra air from the container. Put it inside the insulated container and cover it with the insulated lid.  Set it in on the counter where it won’t be disturbed for 8-10 hours. When the yogurt is done incubating, putting it in the fridge for a few hours will thicken it a bit (it won’t be as thick as store-bought ’cause you’re not using emulsifiers or stabilizers. The yellowish liquid that has risen to the top of the container is whey. I stir it back in, but others pour it off and use it in other recipes.

Before you eat any, stir it well and spoon 4 tablespoons into a small container to save  for the next batch. I usually won’t reuse the culture for more than five or six batches—the yogurt gets more tart with every batch and eventually it’s too acidic for me. The yogurt, and the starter, will last more than week in the fridge, though as I said, we usually go through a half-gallon in a few days.

There’s a bit of art to this process, though: you may need to experiment a bit within the temperature range and the incubation window before you get the consistency you like. For me, it’s 115 degree milk, incubated for 8 hours.