Scalloped corn, pesto good options for feeding a crowd

Scalloped corn is a good option to take to large gatherings or, cut in half, the recipe is good for a family-sized dinner.

Pesto is a versatile appetizer that can be served with crackers or over pasta, bringing a fresh flavor to vegetables or a stir-fry.
By : 
Iris Clark Neumann
Food for the Neighborhood

What do you cook when feeding a crowd? This was a question I asked myself when helping prepare a meal for a group.

Connie was making barbecues and bars. At first I thought, sure, veggies and fruit, I could do that. But over the weekend, I made scalloped corn when we had company at the lake.

It used a recipe I'd cut out from a garden center's newsletter a few years ago, but had never made.

Lately, getting my shopping done has not fit well into my schedule. But when I need something to complete a recipe, I run to a local market or I comb through my cupboards or freezer to see what I already have.

A gardening cookbook I purchased this last year said something that has made me rethink grocery shopping. I spend time freezing vegetables and canning pickles all summer long, but forget what I already have on hand when grocery shopping.

The cookbook's advice was to check your own grocery store first before going shopping.

Last summer I froze corn and packed away quart-sized plastic bags of it. There is a sweetness to this home-frozen corn that is a special eating experience. However, I don't often cook corn for a meal. So these bags of corn were still in my freezer.

I packed some in my cooler when I headed to the cabin.

I had also frozen small bags of green peppers last summer near the end of the harvest season. Having these small frozen peppers has saved me from buying peppers for pizzas or other recipes throughout the winter.

Both corn and peppers were needed in the scalloped corn recipe.

We have a new grill at the cabin, thanks to my son-in-law, Kevin, who gave us a grill he'd won at an event. It's been in the box for a year, but when he and Amanda were at the cabin in June, they put it together.

They were there the weekend when I was enjoying my all-school reunion, so I was at home. When I came up the following weekend, I was impressed with the grill, which seemed more like an outdoor stove than a grill.

It's a huge improvement over the grill we had — the one we got free from a neighbor's driveway. I looked forward to the first time I would use it.

This coincided with our first group meal on our new deck. I grilled cheese-filled burgers and served the scalloped corn with them.

The corn had an amazing flavor. So when I got home and was thinking of the dinner, I remembered the other bags of corn in my freezer and called Connie to ask if I could include it in the meal, along with a batch of pesto.

Because we've had a hot summer, it's been great for our basil plants. With this bumper crop, basil pesto is also a natural choice. One needs two cups of packed basil leaves to make traditional pesto.

For the farmers market, we had shared samples of a basil pesto recipe, which was slightly different from traditional pesto, as it used sunflower nuts instead of pine nuts. We also substituted garlic scapes for the cloves. Honestly, I really prefer the taste of pine nuts, but they are more expensive and not as easy to find as sunflower nuts.

Pesto is a great appetizer served with thin wheat-flavored crackers. Since the pesto I made for the dinner was a crowd pleaser, I made another batch tonight. I added about one-fourth cup to flavor a mixture of stir-fried fresh veggies (onion, kohlrabi, egg plant, yellow peppers, cabbage and Brussels sprouts leaves). The veggies topped some leftover, reheated pasta.

Pesto can also be frozen in small containers and tucked away in the freezer to have when fresh basil is unavailable.

Soon, locally-grown sweet corn will be sold from the back of pickups. Cut corn fresh off the cob to use for the recipe or purchase frozen corn from the store, if you don't have the same freezer pantry as I have.

Basic Basil Pesto

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves with stems removed

2 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

To toast pine nuts, place in a small non-stick fry pan. Heat on medium and stir occasionally until nuts are lightly browned. Cool.

In a food processor, pulse basil leaves and garlic until ground. Add salt, pepper, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. Pulse again until ground and combined. Gradually add olive oil, and pulse food processor after adding.

Serve with crackers or over pasta.

Garden Scalloped Corn for a Crowd

6 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

6 tablespoons butter

1 green pepper, chopped fine

1 onion, chopped fine

2 cups milk

8 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels

2 egg yolks, slightly beaten

1 cup bread or bagel crumbs

1 tablespoon butter

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, salt, paprika, dry mustard, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Melt butter in a large non-stick skillet; add green pepper and onion and cook until soft. Stir in flour mixture and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add milk and stir constantly until it starts boiling. Turn off heat, stir in corn and egg yolks.

Pour into a greased 9 x 12 inch glass pan.

Create bread crumbs by pulsing chunks of dry bread or bagels in a food processor. Melt the tablespoon butter and mix with crumbs. Sprinkle corn mixture with bread crumbs. Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until mixture bubbles and bread crumbs are browned.

Note: This recipe can be halved for a family sized portion in 8 x 8 inch pan.