While it’s the beginning of a new year for schoolchildren, the end of the months of fresh produce can be seen in the not-so-far distance.
Most parents find this time of year to be a bittersweet experience. Summer is coming to end, the kids are headed back to school, and life, once again, becomes more orderly and scheduled. Depending on how you and your kids feel about all of the above, you could be happy or sad. More likely than not, it’s a combination of both.
The same kind of melancholy feeling happens for me when I think about food at this time of year. On the one hand, this is prime time for our farmers markets, which are brimming with fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, those same farmers will soon be back on their farms and I’ll be shopping for a much more limited selection of in-season fruits and veggies at my grocery store.
With that in mind, I try to work in as much of the late summer’s bounty as I can into every meal — not only because it’s the healthy thing to do, but also because now is when all my favorite fruits and vegetables taste so good. There’s nothing like a melon or raspberry picked at the peak of ripeness and eaten soon afterward, as opposed to those that are picked unripe in the hope that they’ll look OK once they’ve been shipped halfway around the world in the middle of winter.
One vegetable that’s a summer favorite with every member of my family is corn. All you need to do is check out the roasted corn stand at the State Fair to confirm that the feeling is shared by so many.
My family loves it so much that we seem to have it daily in late summer. While we typically just toss a few ears on the grill to cook alongside whatever else we’re eating, at least one time during the summer I must make a corn chowder.
Chowder — whether it’s clam, lobster or corn — is always a crowd-pleaser. What’s not to love, with its creamy base, chock full of potatoes, onions and whatever else the cook sees fit to toss into the soup pot? Because it’s such an accessible dish, it’s a great vehicle to use when you’re trying to introduce young ones to new foods. Unfamiliar ingredients seem much less threatening when they’re swimming in a bowl with more familiar fare.
In this version of a classic chowder, I use a few slices of bacon, browned with onions, to give a smoky undertone to the entire dish. Loads of corn, potatoes and diced tomatoes are added and a splash of cream finishes off this one-pot meal.
As with most of my favorite dishes, the whole thing can be completed, start to finish, in 30 minutes, making it a perfect school-night meal. While it may not make your crew feel better when they have to rise and shine early in the morning, it will certainly make them feel good at the dinner table.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.