Last week, at the end of our summer in Virginia, my husband Geoff and I took a little trip to NYC for theatre (Geoff) and food (me). I have a habit of traveling to specific locations based solely on the food they offer, and as you might guess, the big apple is no exception to that. New York restaurants offer more amazing vegan food and local, organic produce than any other city I have been to. Ok, maybe the super-crunchy Asheville rivals their vegan options, but only NY has this variety of high-end, gourmet vegan cuisine. Since this is a food blog I will spare you the details of the vacation (and the pics!), but let me hit some high points of the food before moving on to today's post. My favorites include chimichurri seitan and grilled kale salad at Candle 79, kimchi pancakes at the vegan Korean spot Hangawi, and the best damn grilled cheese I have ever had at the Chelsea market (clearly not vegan or healthy in any way but soooooo amazing).
The inspiration for today's post, however, comes from one of our favorite stops on the trip: Mario Batali's Eataly. Eataly is a modern concept market, where their motto is, "We eat what we sell, and we sell what we eat." And eat they do. Each section of the market (chocolate, coffee, meat, seafood, produce, pasta, etc...) boasts its own restaurant that features the food of that section. So, as I wandered into one of the most beautiful produce sections I had ever seen, I felt myself unconsciously wandering over to the "Le Verdure" restaurant table, ordering a glass of crisp, cold Italian wine, and perusing a menu. I was entranced by the veggies, and ready to see what Mario could do with them.
Let me take a moment here to acknowledge the fact that Eataly is, in fact, a bit touristy. I felt a little silly even walking in there with a name like "Eataly." I mean, really? However, I was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere, and even more in awe of the genius of the place. It is an all-encompassing food experience. Eataly employees are ready to talk to you about your vegetables, help you figure out how to cook them, give you some wine pairing suggestions, and will go so far as to prep them for you - for free!!! Granted, with what you are paying for that vegetable, they should prep it, dip it in gold, and serve it back to you on a crystal tray drizzled with white truffle oil. Anywho, inflated prices aside, this was a fantastic food experience, from beginning to end.
Back to the restaurant. Le Verdure. I ordered a raw vegetable salad, partly because it would allow me to taste the produce in its most virgin state, but more likely because this wasn't actually a mealtime, and we had dinner reservations in 3 hours. This is a common vacation occurrence for me. I am not going to let a little thing like not being hungry prevent me from experiencing everything I can. There aren't enough mealtimes in a day when you are in NYC.
I digress. So, Geoff ordered a grilled corn bruschetta. It was delicious. Not so delicious that I freaked out and hugged the chef, but delicious enough that I kept thinking about it once I got home. So, today I give you my version of a grilled corn bruschetta, inspired by Eataly.
I have to say, this is one of my new favorite recipes. It captures the smoky flavors of summer with the sweet corn and tarragon, but it is also super rich and absolutely delicious. If you are not a tarragon fan, I dare you to try this recipe and not change your mind. I am not kidding. I dare you.
Make this recipe as an appetizer to a light Italian or grilled summer meal, or as a lunch with a small green salad on the side. Enjoy!!!
Grilled Corn Bruschetta with Tarragon
1 loaf french or multigrain bread, sliced into 1/2 in pieces
4-6 ears fresh corn (enough to yield 2.5 cups)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 cloves roasted garlic (see note below)
1/4 cup fresh tarragon
1/4 cup fresh chives
1.5 tablespoon vegan creamer (or half & half)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (scant)
1. Shuck corn, and coat in grapeseed oil (or other high-heat oil) and season with sea salt and pepper. Grill on medium-high until kernels are slightly charred on most sides. Let cool
2. Coat each side of bread slices with olive oil & a touch of salt. You can do this with a pastry brush, but a great shortcut is olive oil cooking spray. Broil until golden brown on both sides, but be careful not to burn (I burn them every time). Remove from baking sheet and set aside.
3. When corn is cool enough to handle, shave kernels from ear. The easiest way to do this is over a wide, shallow bowl. Hold the corn vertically and run your knife down the sides.
4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium/high. Saute shallots until golden brown. Deglaze with white wine, and saute for another 1-2 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
4. Add 2 cups grilled corn & roasted garlic, saute long enough just to heat through.
5. Transfer corn mixture to food processor. Add creamer & herbs, and blend until somewhat smooth. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
6. Top each toast with heaping tablespoon of corn spread and 1 teaspoon of grilled corn. Drizzle with a couple drops of olive oil, and garnish with a few leaves of tarragon. Serve warm. For extra credit and a ridiculously rich factor, drizzle with a few drops of truffle oil. WOW.
NOTE: Roasting Garlic
Roasted garlic is one of those ingredients that immediately elevates the dish you are making, and adds a rich, umami flavor. How do you make it? Super simple. Just take an entire head of garlic, slice off the top of the head so that most of the cloves are exposed. Drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil, and roast in the over on 400 for about 30-35 minutes. Once cooled, you can just squeeze the cloves right out of their little pods, like tomato paste. Add to pasta, salad dressings - anything!