I've had corn on the brain all summer and it keeps coming back to me. I watched the first episode of the PBS documentary, A Chef's Life and I fell in love. They put up corn and created several corn dishes in this episode. Filmed in Kinston, North Carolina, it features James Beard Award finalist Chef Vivian Howard, her husband Ben Knight and their restaurant Chef and the Farmer.
For months, I've been watching the trailers, tweeting with Chef Vivian and her PR team behind the show. No matter how many times I've watched the first episode, (last count: 8) when the opening credits start rolling, my eyes fill with tears and the tears just roll down my face. I can't stop them. I just let them fall and dampen my shirt. I get so emotional seeing good, hard work come to fruition and knowing millions of people in America are seeing the same thing I am. I was and am overcome with joy and love for North Carolina and seeing two people as lovely and talented as Ben and Vivian create this beautiful piece of work. When the first few chords of the Avett Brothers song "Will You Return" start to play,
♫♪♫♪ "I wish you'd see yourself as beautiful as I see youit strikes a chord within me. It makes my heart beat a little faster. Vivian did in fact return to her home in Kinston to open up the restaurant with Ben. And even though the area is in one of the poorest parts of the country, it is indeed beautiful and even though there is abject poverty and other things we'd not talk about, there is beauty in the area and in all of the people, too.
Why can't you see yourself as beautiful as I see you?"♫♪♫♪
|(l to r) Joe Philipose (my boss), his fiancee Donna, Chef Vivian Howard & me|
Fifteen years ago, international cuisine was all the rage. It was all about who could spend the most money and import the most expensive ingredients from overseas. Promoting North Carolina products, restaurants and farmers takes up most of my day. It makes my heart swell to see "my people" doing well. It makes me so proud to call North Carolina home. It makes me proud to share with the world that my maternal side of the family is from Eastern North Carolina and it's where I spent four and a half glorious years of my college days.
So, I talked about corn earlier and if you were nice and read everything I had to say about it, the following recipe won't seem out of place.
Inspired by "A Chef's Life" and me trying to hang onto summer as long as I can, I give you: Smoky Corn Quesadillas
Smoky Corn Quesadillas
Adapted from Fine Cooking
1/4 cup fresh corn kernels
4 slices pepper jack cheese
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp smoked paprika
pinch or two of Kosher salt
2 7- to 8-inch flour tortillas
2 tsp. vegetable oil
Lime wedges and sour cream, for serving (optional)
In a medium bowl, combine the corn, cilantro, paprika, and 1/8 tsp. salt. Divide the mixture between the tortillas, scattering it over half of each; Place 2 slices of pepper jack cheese over the corn mixture. Fold the tortillas in half. Heat the oil in a heavy-duty 10-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the quesadillas and cook until browned and crisp on the bottom, about 1 minute. Flip and continue to cook until browned and crisp on the other side, 1 minute more. Let cool slightly, cut into wedges, and serve with lime wedges and sour cream.
Eat them. Your mouth with thank you.