So. Let’s be honest. What do you know about Iowa?
Not a whole lot, right?
You’ve probably heard about that crazy presidential caucus thing that goes on here once every four years that makes the media nearly wet their pants with excitement.
Yes, there’s that.
You are probably picturing miles and miles of cornfields, stalks reaching high toward a crystal blue sky dotted with puffy clouds and shivering in the summer breeze. Weather-worn barns with quaint, red-shuddered farm houses watching over fields of happily grazing cattle. Gravel roads. Pick up trucks. Country music on the radio. Oh, and stars! Millions of them overhead, brighter than you’ve ever seen.
Yes, there’s all of that too. But, wow, there is so much more!
Maybe you’ve never been to Iowa. Maybe you have no reason to come to Iowa and never will. That’s okay. We understand….
But we, all three million or so current residents of the great state of Iowa, want you to know that if you do find yourself around these parts, you will be welcomed with open arms and warm hearts. Because in Iowa, in this the very heart of America’s Heartland, people still smile when they pass on the street. They still reach out a helping hand to a neighbor in need. In Iowa, small town main streets thrive, pulsing with life, laughter and a sense of community and pride. Everyone is invited, everyone is welcome, and everyone can feel at home.
I am not a native of Iowa, but it has been my home for more than five years now. I still long for sunshine and beaches when the wind blows, and the snow falls, keeping the temperature outside well below the freezing mark. I grumble and scowl when my favorite bands don’t stop within 200 miles of me on their concert tours. I still miss my Nordy’s and H&M when I step into my much smaller shopping mall.
Despite all that, Iowa is a great place to live. I can see why people who grew up here and leave and want to come back. It’s homey and comforting. Iowa is like a family that wraps their arms around and you and won’t let go. As the famous line from Field of Dreams goes:
“Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.”
I am especially grateful to call Iowa home this time of year. Right in my very own backyard, I have access to some of the most delectable and delicious sweet corn you have ever tasted in your life.
I wait for it oh-so patiently every year. As we start creeping up on the end of July, I know it’s coming. Sweet corn season. Farm stands with hand painted signs pop up in parking lots and along rural roadsides. Farmer’s market vendors pile entire truck beds with hundreds and hundreds of ears, packaged by the dozen and ready to go. There really is nothing like it in the world. Sweet corn IS summer in Iowa. Golden like the sunshine, and sweet like the breeze. It is literally bursting with juice. It may even shoot across the table and hits someone else in the eye when you take a bite. It’s okay, though. There’s never any hard feelings when that happens. 🙂
As a special treat, I’ve decided to take some time and share with you a recipe featuring sweet corn every day this week.
It’s just a way for me to showcase my absolute favorite thing about summer: CORN! There will be a few surprises, maybe a few things you haven’t thought of before, but there is sure to be something to help you use up all the EARS of corn that are coming out your EARS. Heh. That’s a pun. 😉
First up, a truly fresh and delicious summer side dish. This Roasted Corn Salad from the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook is colorful and vibrant, bursting with everything that’s great about summer. Fresh sweet corn off the cob, yellow squash, tomatoes, red bell pepper, onion, basil. The homemade balsamic vinaigrette really takes it over the top. I literally could not stop eating this. I topped grilled chicken with it for dinner and then ate the rest cold for lunch all week. It’s great warm, at room temp or cold and would be a great make-ahead option for a summer get together or potluck.
A few changes from the original recipe – first, I cut it in half. If you’ve made a PW recipe before, you know they feed a crowd. I also cut the amount of garlic, but that’s just a personal preference. I find raw garlic can be really overpowering and I really wanted to taste the veggies here. Feel free to add more if you like. The original recipe also called for drizzling the veggies with olive oil before placing on the grill. I figured there was enough oil in the dressing, so I skipped that step so I could maintain some good crunch on the vegetables after grilling. Worked out well. My changes are noted below. 🙂
Stop back tomorrow for another great sweet corn recipe!
ROASTED CORN SALAD (Recipe adapted from: The Pioneer Woman Cooks)
- 4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
- 1/2 red onion, cut into quarters
- 1 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise
- 1 small red bell pepper, cut in half and seeds/rib removed
- 3/4 quarters of a cup fresh diced tomatoes (use whatever kind you like. I used grape tomatoes, cut in half)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 6 large basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- 1 very small, or half a large garlic clove, pressed or finely minced
- Preheat outdoor grill to medium heat.
- Place corn directly on the grill and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the kernels begin to brown. Add remaining vegetables (except tomatoes) and grill until softened but not overcooked, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from grill and allow to cool slightly.
- Roughly chop the veggies and scrape the corn off the cobs with a sharp knife (you’ll make a mess doing this, just be ready). and place in serving bowl. Add the diced tomatoes and toss.
- Make the dressing: Mix olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a small bowl until combined. Add the the basil, salt and garlic and whisk again. Pour the dressing over the veggie mixture and toss until coated. Serve at room temp or chilled. Makes about 3 cups.