It’s officially been fall for almost two weeks now, and I have to say, Connecticut is already getting pretty serious about its chill. Of course, four years later, I am still wholly maladjusted to this idea of seasons, even though I am ever more certain that they do, in fact, exist. Right now I’m pretending that I’m enjoying a Californian winter instead of a New England fall. The wind-whipped months of ice that come after that? Well, I’ll just treat that as a fantastical literary experience. Thanks, Dante.
One thing I love about being back at school though, is when I have weird dreams about being at Hogwarts, I can wake up, go downstairs to the dining hall, and reassure myself that in fact I am not obsessed with a teenage story about witches and wizards or deranged. The dining halls here are so Hogwarts. In fact, Hogwarts is so the dining halls here. Gothic architecture and all. Anyway, as much as I love getting meals with friends or with a good story unfolding next to my plate-full of food that isn’t too bad to eat, I get bored with it sometimes and plan dinner parties with friends.
Last week, a group of eight of us got together for a meal of roasted corn, tomato, fennel, and avocado salad; braised chicken and mushrooms in marsala wine, garlic, and lemon sauce; roasted herbed carrots, potatoes, and onions; bread pudding and, finally, cheesecake. Yeah, I don’t know how we managed to eat that much either. It was so good it was disgusting. I initially wanted to make a nectarine and beet salad with chevre, but I couldn’t find beets at Shaws, so I had to change it up. I had two ears of corn that I picked up from the Yale Farm’s Food & Film Festival, and I needed to use them before they turned into those stalks of maize your kindergarten teacher kept as decorations for the classroom from late September through November. I decided to go with a corn and tomato something, but wanted to add something that wouldn’t turn it into a wannabe salsa. Which is why I picked up an avocado to go with it. Just kidding, I picked fennel. I mean, I did end up putting avocado in the salad, but the fennel, with its licoricy taste, totally changed the attitude of the dish. Tossed with some white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper, the real flavors of the ingredients shone through. I think a simple dressing really does more for food sometimes than something too powerful, which ends up overwhelming a first course in a bad way. This salad is perfect for the crust of fall–the fennel gives it a good edge of licorice, and the roasted corn is so evocative of a farm in New England during the fall.
Ingredients (feeds 8 as a starter or small side)
2 ears of sweet corn
one pint cherry tomatoes (I used organic)
2 avocados, diced into chunks
2 fennel roots, cubed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
salt and pepper, to to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350. While waiting for the oven to preheat, soak the corn, still in its stalk, in water to prevent any kind of burning or fires that could happen in the oven. Cut the other vegetables and place them into a mixing bowl.
2. Peeling back the stalk from the corn, rub a little bit of olive oil and a little salt onto the corn. Put the stalks back up, and stick the corn in the oven. Roast for about 15 minutes.
3. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife, and add the corn to the bowl.
4. Toss with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.