Accidentally vegan: A quick, satisfying lunch of fresh corn, cannellini with tomatoes, rosemary

by Terry B on September 23, 2009

Ingredients from the garden, the farmers market and the pantry come together for a lunch of fresh corn and Cannellini with Cherry Tomatoes and Rosemary. Recipes below.


A recent Saturday found us in the kitchen with random produce and the need to be eating lunch right now. Marion had picked up some fresh ears of corn at the farmers market in Daley Plaza downtown, and there was a bowl of freshly picked cherry tomatoes from our yard on the counter. And even though we are decidedly not vegans [as even the most casual Blue Kitchen reader could tell you], a quick vegan lunch seemed just the ticket.

The funny thing is, it wasn’t a conscious decision. Seeing the tomatoes reminded me that I had recently been doing versions of my Tuscan beans, minus the mirepoix, but with tomatoes, either canned or fresh. I knew they’d be delicious with the wonderful yellow and red cherry tomatoes Marion had been getting from our yard this year. For her part, Marion was eager to show off an amazingly simple way to prepare fresh corn, making it so juicy and sweet you didn’t need butter or even salt. The whole lunch came together in under fifteen minutes. And it was only as we sat down to eat it [devour it] that we realized it was totally vegan.


Cannellini with Cherry Tomatoes and Rosemary
Serves 2

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans [or other white beans], drained and rinsed
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 generous tablespoon fresh rosemary needles [see Kitchen Notes]
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if large [or other tomatoes—see Kitchen Notes]

Combine beans, garlic and rosemary in a sauce pan or skillet. Drizzle with oil and season with salt [lightly—the beans may provide plenty of salt] and black pepper [generously]. Stir to coat beans with oil and set aside for several minutes to let garlic flavor the dish. Warm over a medium flame for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Gently stir in tomatoes and heat until just warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. When the skins of whole cherry tomatoes start to split open, the dish is ready. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Kitchen Notes

Rough up your rosemary. First, fresh rosemary is definitely best with this dish. To get the most flavor from rosemary [or most herbs], don’t treat it with kid gloves. Handling it roughly releases more of its flavorful oils. Sometimes I’ll roll a rolling pin or the side of a drinking glass over a sprig of rosemary to bruise it. Here, because I wanted whole needles, plucking them from the stems provided sufficient manhandling.

You say tomato, I say cherry tomato. This has been a blah year for tomatoes, but a great one for cherry tomatoes. So use them if you can get them. Or grape tomatoes, another great bite-sized choice. But you can also chop up a regular tomato or two if that’s what you’ve got. Keep the pieces chunky. And in a pinch, you can even use canned tomatoes. I’d use just about a cup of well drained diced tomatoes.

Quite possibly the best—and certainly the easiest—fresh corn you’ll ever make


You know the old adage about if it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Yeah, not this time. This corn on the cob is amazing—and amazingly simple to prepare.

As with all simple recipes, starting with great ingredients is key. In this case, it was the corn—Mirai sweet corn, to be exact, a special hybrid developed by Twin Garden Farms in Harvard, Illinois. You can find it at farmers markets throughout Chicago and the suburbs as well as in a couple of cities in Iowa and Wisconsin. You can also buy it at their farm. But any good fresh sweet corn still in its husks will do.

Here’s the recipe: Lay an ear of corn, still in its husk, on a paper towel in the microwave. Microwave it for one minute. Turn it over and microwave it for another minute. Done.

Let it rest for a few minutes and carefully peel off the husks and silk—it stays hot for a good long while. Just as carefully, eat it. If you absolutely must, add butter and/or salt. But try it without first. If you started with good corn, it will be juicy and sugar-sweet. Honestly, butter and other adornments will just get in the way of the taste.

Yeah, this recipe is all over the Internet. Here’s why I wasn’t skeptical about it when Marion suggested it [I mean, besides the fact that it was Marion suggesting it]. I remembered reading [and saving with the best of intentions] an article in the New York Times by Mark Bittman about cooking with a microwave oven. kafka-microwave-gourmetNot reheating already prepared food, but actually cooking fresh food—primarily vegetables—in the microwave. Bittman cites cook/writer/roasting maven Barbara Kafka, who devoted an entire book to the subject, Microwave Gourmet, saying that microwaving fresh vegetables is not only faster than other methods. The food looks better, tastes better and is more nutritious. The corn sold me. I have reprinted out Bittman’s article, “You Use It Every Day. But Can You Make It Cook?” —and this time, I’m going to put it to good use.

Oh, yeah—no second post this week. We’re at the tail end of a glorious, much needed vacation, a road trip to Toronto. It was all I could do to get this post done. I’ll be back with two next week.


{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

dani September 24, 2009 at 1:32 am

Having lived in Iowa during my teens (reluctantly, I must admit), sweet corn and tomatoes equal summer to me. An ear of corn, sliced tomatoes (or cherry/grape tomatoes), fresh green beans, and cottage cheese make my favorite summer meal. I just happened to have an ear of corn on hand and couldn’t wait to try cooking it in the microwave. Heaven! Thanks so much for the tip. Who knew you can actually use the micro to cook! And you are sooo right – no butter or salt needed. I hope you’re having a lovely vacation.

Terry B September 24, 2009 at 2:13 am

Dani, I think that anywhere anyone lives during his or her teens, it’s done reluctantly. Do read Bittman’s article for more on cooking with your microwave. There are suggested times for various vegetables as well as some recipe links. And thanks—we’re just back from Toronto, where we had a wonderful time. It’s a beautiful, lively city with cool art, nice people and great food. May do a mini-post on some of the food in the next week or so.

dani September 24, 2009 at 2:38 am

Thanks for the link to Mark Bittman’s article. I cannot wait to try artichokes in the micro!

Melissa September 24, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Sometimes the most amazing meals comes out of necessity. I love that. That is me & my tossed pasta recipe. Now a staple. Crazy microwave tip. You know, it some ways it is sad how we have become such an instant society, but on the other hand, if it makes our lives easier & quality is not compromised, then why the heck not. We do not live in our parents world , or even our world, 20 years ago! It’s fun, the contrast between farmers market bounty & the uber modern appliance. I’ll need to check out that article & book. Looking forward to a mini Toronto post. Love that city. Glad you had a great trip.

Rocquie September 24, 2009 at 1:37 pm

What a simply lovely lunch.

Pat September 24, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Ohhhhhhhhhh, this corn is sooo good. I’ve been buying it all summer at the farmer’s market too. It’s wonderful!

Mamma September 25, 2009 at 11:01 pm

We are so fortunate as well. Chase corn is in BC Canada and it is sweet, tender and the more butter and salt the better.

Amber Hayes September 26, 2009 at 5:51 am

I really love this simple idea and Mark Bittman is great. I have his book How to Cook Everything and have learned a lot from him.

Terry B September 26, 2009 at 10:44 pm

Dani—I know! That he called microwaved artichokes “a revelation—and that they were ready in six minutes. How can you not try them?

Melissa—Patience really is being bred out of us, isn’t it? On the other hand, microwaving vegetables classifies as minimal processing in my book—even less is done to it than when you boil it. And I like the point that he said Kafka made about it: That one of the beauties of microwave cooking “is that when the timer goes off, the thing stops heating.” Less chance for overcooking, even if you wander off and forget it.

Thanks, Rocquie!

Pat—And now with this simple, quick, delicious way to prepare it, we’re craving it more than ever.

Mamma—I suppose we should try some butter and salt, just for the sake of experimentation, but it’s so good plain that we haven’t even been tempted.

Amber—You should also check out Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. We gave a copy to a vegetarian friend recently, and she totally loves it.

Mimi September 28, 2009 at 1:41 am

Terry B, that really sounds great – two of my late summer favorites. And apparently it is still late summer in Chicago! We just returned today from four days down there (had a suite and shopped at Trader Joe’s) and found it warm, if not sunny. As luck would have it, today was sunny. This was our first trip in a while (although we have passed through a few times) and it was more or less a reconnaissance mission for future trips of longer (I hope) duration. Wish we could have stayed for Gourmet Fest today!

Terry B September 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Mimi! Sounds like you had a great visit to Chicago. And I think you caught the tail end of “summer” here—it’s turning windy, chilly and autumnal. Speaking of Trader Joe’s, I know their wine offerings vary by region [with California getting the biggest selection, natch], but in the Chicago stores they now carry a French Médoc for eight bucks that is quite nice.

Paz September 29, 2009 at 2:24 am

Delicious-looking and healthy! Love the corn.

Have a good vacation.


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