By Terese Allen, Organic Valley Food Editor
Fat and red-ripe, earth-fragrant and bursting with flavor--vine-ripened tomatoes are our favorite vegetable. Or are they? Consider corn on the cob: sun-gold, salt-flecked, field-fresh, with glossy rows of kernels spurting sweet juice. Maybe sweet cornís the best. Who can decide?
But why try? Lucky for us, the peak seasons for these two American favorites coincide, making late summer the most joyfully delicious time of the year.
Short of raising your own, the freshest, most healthful tomatoes and corn come from farmers' markets and CSA operations. Thatís where organic vegetablesóchemical-free, grown under the full sun, in real dirt--abound. And thatís where youíll find heirlooms, too, especially open-pollinated tomato varieties that have excellent flavor and vary widely in shape, size and hue. These vintage beauties range from large, meaty Brandywines and marble-sized Matt's Wild to lemon-colored Yellow Pears and dark-fleshed Purple Cherokees.
In the kitchen, a dozen ears of sweet corn can be a culinary adventure, for just about anything folded into softened butter tastes good on corn: fresh herbs, mustard, lemon zest, curry powder. Or go international with toppings. In Mexico, for example, street vendors sprinkle grilled corn with lime juice and chile powder; on boiled ears they lavish mayonnaise and grated cheese.
Off the cob, corn, like tomatoes, is beloved in main courses, salads, soups and sides. For this monthís recipes, weíve paired sweet corn and tomatoes with Organic Valley dairy products in a variety of dishes. In these frugal times thatís a smart match, since utilizing organic dairy is an inexpensive way to add nutrition and body to meals that focus on summer veggies. (Case in point: a dreamy, made-from-scratch cream of tomato soup, or savory skillet corn cakes enriched with molten Cheddar.)
Likewise, small amounts of organically produced meat can add protein and heft without busting your budget--a little Organic Prairie bacon with pan-roasted corn, for instance, or lean chicken breast stir-fried with cherry tomatoes.
The summer harvest of sweet corn and garden tomatoes is all too short, but thank goodness it usually stretches into back-to-school days. Here are some lunchbox-friendly ideas to let your kids enjoy the organic veggie season as long as possible.