Mad About Maize
by Peggy Paul Cassella
Most experts agree that the wild ancestor of corn (or maize, as it’s called in other countries) can be traced to Central and South America about 70,000 years ago. After it was domesticated around 7500 B.C., it became a mainstay of the ancient Native American diet and remains a staple crop today with a variety of applications—from enjoying as is to manufacturing into syrups, whiskey, cornmeal, flour, oil, laundry starch and animal feed. The sweet variety we know as corn on the cob has plump, off-white and/or yellow kernels.
As soon as it is picked from the plant, its sugars begin to convert to starch, so the sooner you can get it after harvest, the sweeter your corn will be. Whenever possible, buy fresh corn at your local farm stand or farmers market, and look for ears with vibrant, tightly wrapped husks and snug rows of kernels that come all the way to the tip.
Sweet Corn Pizza with Basil–Garlic Scape Pesto
Makes one 12-inch pizza
- 1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, plus a handful for garnish
- 1/4 cup finely chopped garlic scapes (from 3 scapes)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
- Flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- 1 cup fresh sweet corn kernels (from 1 large ear)
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Place pizza stone/steel (if using) on a rack in the middle of your oven. If you plan to use a baking sheet instead, simply place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 500 F or as hot as it will go.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the 1/2 cup of basil, garlic scapes, olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Process until the mixture forms a smooth paste, and stream in more oil as needed to reach your desired texture. Taste the pesto and add a few grinds of black pepper and more salt if needed.
- Gently stretch or roll the dough into a 12-inch disk. If using a pizza stone or steel, dust a pizza peel generously with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel. If using a baking sheet, spray it with cooking spray before placing the dough disk on it.
- Spread the pesto evenly over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Scatter on the corn and onion, and sprinkle the feta over all.
- If using a pizza stone or steel, increase the oven heat to broil. Slide the pizza from the peel (or inverted baking sheet) to the hot stone/steel and broil for 5 to 7 minutes until the crust is crispy and the cheese begins to brown. If using a baking sheet, do not increase the oven to broil. Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then drizzle with a little olive oil and season with a pinch of salt. Tear the remaining basil leaves and scatter them over top.
Slice and serve.
Peggy Paul Casella is a cookbook editor, writer, urban vegetable gardener, produce peddler and author of the blog Thursday Night Pizza.