Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grilled Corn Pesto

I have been remiss. I totally forgot all about this recipe until I was rifling through my “food pictures” folder and saw this right next to my grilled corn chowder folder - it’s alphabetized, ya know. Oh snap! How could I have forgotten such deliciousness? I was unconscionable of me, really. But the remedy is easy - sharing the recipe with you! Right now. Forthwith.

And by forthwith, I mean after I’m done talking my head off about it. Terse I am not, people.

I made this a few weeks ago when corn was on super sale at the store. Actually, I thought it was a super sale at the time, but I found out my naivety the next week when I was all corned out and it was even cheaper. The same thing happened to me last week with peaches. Don’t you hate that? Anyway, I had come across a pasta dish in the course of my interweb travels that was topped with a fresh corn pesto, which used corn instead of the more traditional greenery of basil or spinach. Intrigued, and laden with several ears of corn, I decided to do my own spin.

First off, I grilled the corn. Of course I did. Remember when I said that I’ll never cook corn another way? Ok, I don’t think I ever actually put it in those terms, but I figured the sweet, caramelized flavors of grilled corn would add a great flavor to the pesto. I was right - it was amazing. I’m too modest, I know. Other than the corn, this is a pretty traditional pesto. Or at least, traditional for me. I don’t usually have pine nuts in the pantry, so I like to use almonds. The silky, mellow nut flavor from the almonds went really well with the corn. All ground up, it’s like velvet. That’s a taste, right? I had a handful of basil thanks to an awesome friend who had sent me home with some from her garden the day before, so I threw it in. Along with the parsley, it did a great job of brightening the sauce with some needed herbaciousness, but the lesser amount kept it as a complimentary background flavor. The corn was the star of this pesto. It was creamy, sweet, and tasted distinctly of summer. Definitely a winner!

I know pasta is the traditional means of delivering sauces, like pesto, to your mouth. But corn is a very starchy vegetable*, and, well I admit it, I am totally neurotic about eating too many carbs. It has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of moronic low-carb diet. I just know my body, and super starchy meals result in a very unhappy Julie, hungry with low blood-sugar. It’s pretty much the worst thing ever because I love carbs. It’s pretty much all I ate for the first, um, 27 years of my life...or so. Sometimes feeling your best means sacrificing your wants for your needs. Also? I needed a vegetable for this particular meal. So I shredded up some zucchini (using my handy-dandy Cuisinart food processor with the shredding blade. (I’ve been using that shredding blade all summer to make all kinds of slaws. Yum! (I’m not trying to plug Cuisinart, but last week a friend asked what food processor I use, so I figured I’d share. (She’s getting married. Congrats! (I think all people getting married should register for a food processor. You might not use it right off that bat, but one day you’ll need it, and the love affair will begin...)))))**, and tossed it with the pesto to make a delightful side. Somewhere Husband is laughing at my use of the word “side,” saying that, in terms of proportions, vegetables are always my main. And he’s right, but nevermind that. I think the punch of flavor from the pesto and the fresh, crisp texture from the zucchini was a great combination, but of course, there are a million ways to have fun with how you eat this. Grilled corn pesto pizza? That’s a salivating idea, indeed! Want to go a healthier route, but not tickled by the idea of zucchini? Try roasted spaghetti squash. You’ll still get that fresh bite (even though it’s fully cooked, spaghetti squash, amazingly, still manages to maintain a crispness to it), but with a bit of a milder flavor. You could also serve it directly over some meat.  Since you're grilling anyway, maybe a few slices of grilled steak?  Heck, I went ahead and ate a few spoonfuls right out of the bowl. So, you know, that’s always an option too.

However you choose to eat this pesto, I highly recommend you make it. It’s sweet, it’s silky, and it tastes like summer.  In hindsight, I wish I had captured a shot of the sauce by itself.  But after spending hours thinking about the recipe, buying the ingredients, and putting it all together, I just wanted to eat it.  Can you blame me?

How would you serve this? I’m always looking for ideas.

*You know that Manwich commercial where the kid is dressed up like a Manwich for a school play and some kid in a corn costume chides her, saying she’s supposed to be a vegetable? I always yell at that kid that I don’t count him as a vegetable either. And really, that commercial is just a bunch of BS. When a food company tells you their product “counts” as a serving of something healthy, don’t buy it.
**You counted my parentheses to make sure I closed them all off, didn’t you? Admit it.

Grilled Corn Pesto

makes about 3 cups

4 ears of grilled corn (see instructions below)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
3 cloves garlic
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 TB)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup of olive oil, or more for desired taste and consistency

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor, minus the olive oil. When the ingredients are well blended, with the food processor running, stream in the olive oil until a thinned out sauce forms. Add enough olive oil until your desired consistency is reached. Serve over pasta, meat, or shredded vegetables.

Note: You can toast almonds in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes or in a dry pan over low heat. Just until you can smell their oils releasing. I use my toaster oven. It’s fastest. 

Grilled Corn (cut and pasted from this post)
  1. Over medium heat, place the corn (in their husks!) on the grill, directly over the flames. Turn the corn every 2-3 minutes, when the husks begin to blacken. The silk or ends of the husks might catch fire as they dry out. I think this adds an amazing smoky flavor to the corn, but if you’re scared (chicken!), just make sure to trim those bits off before you put them on the grill. [Practice proper safety! Always use long tongs when handling the corn, and keep your digits away from the flame.] 
  2. When the husks are good and charred and the kernels are mostly cooked, remove the corn from the grill and place it in a pan or bowl you have standing by until it cools down a bit. Carefully peel back and remove the husks, watching out for any trapped hot steam. Place the naked ears (teehee!) back on the grill and turn every 1-2 minutes, or until as many kernels as possible have browned and caramelized. Brown = sweet flavor! 
  3. Remove the corn from the grill, and when it is cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob. Scrape the back of your knife along the cob to really get all the creamy corn bits out of there.


  1. this sounds really tasty with the zucchini, and don't even like zucchini!

    ok, bye bye summer. BRING ON THE PUNKIN RECIPES PLEEZ!

  2. Sorry, sis. Neither canned pumpkin nor fresh sugar pumpkins are at Trader Joe's yet, so no pumpkin recipes yet! But I can promise some squash recipes on the horizon. Butternuts, acorns, and spaghetti, oh my!

    I also have some seasonally ambiguous recipes I'll be posting soon as well. Yay!

  3. This looks WONDERFUL. Great post!!!