The magic of squeeze corn

Have you ever seen something on the internet and been like, “Nah man. There’s no way that works.” Something like the stay-at-home mom making $5,000 a week by sitting on her couch. Or the “one simple trick”that will end wrinkles. Or most Pinterest craft projects.

Enter squeeze corn.

It’s something that came into my world on Easter, courtesy of my Aunt Debbie. She was standing at the microwave, whisking ears of corn in and out in four-minute increments. This was vaguely confusing.

I am not a microwave person. I like leftovers cold and have a habit of melting butter in a small bowl in the preheating oven. I have one, since I have a nasty habit of forgetting to get meat out of the freezer to thaw until it is far too late to let it defrost in the refrigerator, but its largest function is as a glorified fruit stand.

So, I asked what she was doing. She told me that she’d seen this video for what seemed like the easiest method for making corn ever. A few taps on her iPhone later, and I was watching this:

A few seconds later, I watched her lop the end off an ear of corn and pop out a perfectly cooked, silk-free cob, just like magic.

This I filed away for later. But it wasn’t squeeze corn. No. For squeeze corn you need the Hoovers.

A few weeks ago, Mom, Mrs. Hoover and I were standing in the kitchen at the lake making dinner. Mom was all set to perform the magic of microwave corn, but, like me so many months ago, Mrs. Hoover was skeptical. Mom explained the method and then I jumped in.

“It’s like squeeze corn!” I said.

“Squeeze corn. I love it!” said Mrs. Hoover.

The name stuck.

IMG_1495

Squeeze Corn
I feel a little weird writing this up as a recipe since it’s more a method than anything. 

However many ears of corn you want

Microwave each ear of corn on high for 3.5 to 4 minutes, depending on your machine. You can do multiple ears at once if you want to. Once it’s done, grab the corn with a towel or pot holder (because it is SCREAMING hot), and cut off the fat end, where it was connected to the stalk.

Using the towel or pot holder (did I mention that the corn is HOT?), squeeze the tapered end like a tube of toothpaste, pushing the corn out the cut end. If all has gone well, it should pop out perfectly cooked and completely silk free.

Just like magic.

Beer (can be) toast

Let me set the scene for you. It’s a little over a month into my second semester of college and I’m sitting in a hotel room in Houston, Texas, with 10 other people. The sounds of slightly overserved twenty-somethings mix with fragments of Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Ni**as in Paris” pouring out of a jailbroken iPod Touch. I’m wearing a screaming green ballcap from a sorority date night  because one of the boys put it on me and I was too tired to do anything about it. A couple people are swing-dancing in the sitting room-cum-office that meant we were allowed to call the room a suite.

I am 19 years old, and have not yet learned the futility of arguing with drunk people. So when Ross came out with the now-infamous argument that “beer is toast,” I didn’t leave well enough alone.

“What?” I said, putting all the incredulity I could muster into my voice.

“Beer is toast,” Ross said. “Beer is made of wheat. Toast is made of wheat. Therefore, beer is toast”

“No, it’s not,” I said. I then went on to explain all the ways in which beer and toast are different, up to and including the maillard reaction and the fermentation processes that turn the sugars in wheat into ethanol.

“Beer is wheat. Toast is wheat. Beer is toast because reasons” was the reply.

IMG_1436

The argument is ongoing.

The repertoire has expanded into both bread and salad, and despite the fact that bread is probably the closest edible analogue to beer we have, beer is not, nor will it ever be, toast or anything else. Beer is beer. Toast is toast. Drunk arguments, bless them, are drunk arguments.

That doesn’t mean that beer doesn’t make great bread (and, by extension, great toast). Googling “beer bread” turns up 10,400,000 results that range from quick breads to beer-scented yeast loaves.

But if I’m going to turn beer into toast, I have some very specific requirements. One, beer should be prominently featured in the flavor profile. That means the bread should be malty, dark, and maybe just a little bit bitter – which drives me towards the whole wheat end of the spectrum. Second, the recipe better use a whole bottle, because I can’t stand having tail-ends of beer lying around going flat in my refrigerator. It shouldn’t be sweet or cakelike. I’d also like to be able to whip it up in the same amount of time it takes to grab a cold one from the ‘fridge, which pretty much knocks yeasted doughs out of the running.

IMG_1449

I’m pretty sure this hits the spot. It took a little tweaking, but I think I’ve got the balance right – dense and not too sweet, with the pleasant chewiness of whole wheat and a hint of bitter salt from the baking powder. Best of all, it takes about 5 minutes to throw together and goes from thought to table in less than hour. And it makes the house smells amazing.

IMG_1466
Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Inspired by Ali’s Honey Beer Bread at Gimme Some Oven

168g (1 1/2 c) all-purpose flour
170g (1 1/2 c) whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp butter, melted
12 oz. (one bottle) beer, preferably something malty. I used an amber my roommate and I brewed a month or two ago.
rolled oats, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

This is a quick bread, which means that devotees of Alton Brown (like Ross and myself) will be unsurprised to discover that we’ll be employing the muffin method – the wet and dry ingredients will be assembled separately, then wet is added to dry and briefly mixed to combine.

So let’s start with the dry ingredients. Combine both flours, the baking powder and the salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. You could also sift everything together, but I find that the wheat germ and bran can get stuck in the sifter mesh, which sort of defeats the purpose of using whole wheat flour in the first place.

Melt the butter in a small bowl, then add the honey. If you want, you can microwave the honey for a few seconds so it pours more easily. Mix the two together, then add the beer (if you’re like me, you’ll open it with the back end of a paint key because you lost your bottle opener in the move). If your beer is cold, the butter might solidify again. You’ll be able to tell if the mixture looks a bit curdled. Don’t worry about it – it won’t affect how the bread comes out.

Pour the beer mixture into the dry ingredients and mix them with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until they’re just combined and no dry pockets of flour remain. Pour the batter into a greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan (or whatever you have around – quick breads are pretty forgiving), and sprinkle the top with rolled oats if you want to.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the fattest part of the loaf comes out clean. You’re supposed to let the bread cool to room temperature so the proteins can set before you cut into it, but so far I haven’t managed it.

And yes, this bread makes fantastic toast. I love it glazed with orange marmalade or thickly spread with salted butter and honey.

A beginning and an end

Two days ago, I said goodbye to my first apartment, my first (and only) roommate, and my first kitchen.

Now, I’m curled up on the futon in my new place, sipping Gatorade and finally feeling that I’ve moved in. Which is not to say I’m unpacked or that my life is actually in order. My walls are fetchingly decorated with flags of blue painters tape, I’m using a cardboard box as an end table, and I don’t have hot water. But tonight I ate something (with vegetables! not pizza!) that came from my new kitchen, and things just sort of settled.

It’s the choking kind of hot outside, the kind of heat where you open the door and it snatches your breath and falls over you like a damp, steaming blanket. So, a night for assembly, not for cooking. A night for cold soba noodles, slicked with peanut dressing and sharp with puckery lime, spicy radish, and sweet, crunchy carrots. The kind of night that needs nothing more than a few slices of tomato showered with salt, pepper, and basil.

It’s appropriate that we start our journey together here, with the intersection of two of my childhood favorites – noodles and vegetables – on this, the first real night in my new apartment. Here’s to new beginnings.

Cold Noodles with Peanut-Citrus Sauce
From Orangette, by Molly Wizenberg

For the sauce:
1/2 cup well-stirred natural peanut butter, the kind that only has peanuts and salt in it
1.5 tsp. soy sauce
1 small clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. water

For the noodles:
1/2 lb soba noodles*
3 red radishes, sliced very thin
1 large carrot, sliced very thin on the bias
1 head baby bok choy, sliced in 1/4 inch ribbons
basil, torn or in chiffonade, for garnish

Let’s get started with the sauce. In a bowl large enough to hold all the noodles and veggies, combine all the sauce ingredients and whisk until it stops looking all curdled and weird. Give it a taste and adjust it to your liking. For example, I used a full teaspoon of the chili-garlic paste and added a pinch of cayenne pepper because A) I was out of sriracha and B) I wanted a little more spice.

While you’re making the sauce, put a pot of salted water on to boil. When it’s ready, add the soba, drop the heat to a simmer, and cook the noodles according to the package directions. Be sure to keep an eye on things because they cook fast!

When the noodles are al-dente (that is, completely cooked through, but with enough resistance to be pleasantly chewy), drain them in a colander and then immediately rinse them in cold running water. Be sure to pick up little handfuls of the noodles and comb them through your fingers under the water. This serves two purposes: it cools the noodles and rinses off much of the starch coat so the noodles don’t stick together later.

Shake the excess water out of the noodles and dump them in the bowl with the dressing. Smoosh everything around with a couple of forks until the noodles are evenly coated with the dressing, then throw in all the veggies and toss them around until everything is nicely combined. If you want, you can sprinkle the whole dish with basil before you serve.

*Molly Wizenberg notes in her blog that this recipe makes slightly too much sauce for 1/2 a pound of noodles, and recommends trying something between 10 oz. and 3/4 lb. I can’t speak to this – I made a whole batch of dressing, but only made enough noodles and veggies for a single serving so I just added dressing to my heart’s content.