Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summertime, and the cream is good


It’s odd to think I have a lot in common with a dairy cow, but the truth is, I do. We both like to laze the day away in a nice field, grazing from time to time if we get hungry. And we both are at our absolute best in the long, warm days of summer. Despite any appearance to the contrary, which you might gather from glimpsing either one of us lying on the grass from a passing car, we are amazingly productive when the weather is good. We feel great, and work hard.

So it is that at this time of year, local dairy products are a precious gift of high-fat milk and cream. It is, in fact, all that rumination and grazing in the grass that is responsible for dairy’s productivity and high fat content in the summer months. If you are able to buy local milk and cream right about now, and it is not homogenized, you are truly lucky. I currently can buy nearly 50% heavy cream and light cream that is in the high 30s. In glass bottles, too: I make a $1.00 deposit on the bottle, credited next time when the bottle is returned.

When good cream is available, it should be used simply. For heavy cream, whipped, of course, (unhomogenized cream beats lightning OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         fast, and is amazingly good); poured straight over a fruit pie or a cake, crisp, or buckle; frozen into a mousse or ice cream; as a base for salad dressing; or made into a simple sauce for pasta. Light cream is good for most of these uses, too, and is my choice for summer soups  and chowders, which I prefer on the thin side.

Thinking about my affinity with cows, I could mention a few other things that we have in common. For example, we both have brown eyes, and, umm, large udders. We both wear a lot of black and white or brown and white. I am getting old enough to be called an “old cow,” if only behind my back. But I won’t mention these things, lest you think I am a bit strange. But really, it can’t just be coincidence that cream and I are such good friends.

Summer Garden Soup

I often say that in the summer I could live on corn and tomatoes. Neither is very good in Rhode Island because of the rain this year, but what there is can be turned into a simple summer soup—a kind of light vegetable chowder.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2 T butter
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
6 medium plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 ears corn, shucked
1 ½ cups corn stock
1 small bay leaf
½-3/4 tea salt
few twists of the pepper mill
1 cup cream

½ cucumber, skin on, chopped fine
few sprigs parsley, chopped fine

Cut the corn from the cobs.

Melt the butter in a 3-qt chef’s pan. Sauté the onion in the butter until translucent, about 2-3 minutes, then add the corn and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato, ½ tea salt, pepper, and bay leaf, toss for a minute, then add the corn stock. Bring to a low boil, reduce to a moderate simmer, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft but still hold their shape.

Remove from the heat and let cool down just a bit. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Stir in the cream and taste for salt and pepper; you may want another ¼ tea of salt and a little more pepper. Serve warm, not hot, or cold, garnished with the chopped cucumber and parsley.


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