It’s oh so hot and I do not feel like cooking dinner. So I’m pawning the job off on the tykes. If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. The plan is simple: mix together corn, black beans, plus lemon juice and zest, then heat, adding butter, salt and pepper for flavor. A hot salad sounds like an oxymoron, but the corn and lemon taste will like summer… like eating a sun warmed tomato.
The kids don’t know exactly what to expect. For starters, where is the corn?” We’re shucking corn,” I say and they look at me with blank stares. So I encourage them to start pulling leaves.
Mingus wonders… What is this stringy stuff? Is it edible? Why isn’t the corn yellow? The corn is so fresh and ripe, it’s delicious raw and he gnaws on it. Beluga’s interest operates on a different level. He assesses the four cobs, raises one over his head and cries out, “Big!”
Mingus has pulled back the leaves on each of the cobs and I task him with removing the stems entirely from the husk. Uh Oh. It’s actually too difficult, and I lend a hand.
We toss the shucked corn into a big pot. Beluga’s job is to fill it halfway with water. A funny thing about cooking with kids is that instead of skipping through the easy parts, we linger on them. Beluga turns on and off the faucet a few times. As I swing the faucet over the pot, he swings it back and grabs hold of a watering can sitting on the counter. He first fills the can, and then sprinkles the water into the pot. A 10 second activity keeps him happy for 17 minutes.
I transfer the pot and put it over high heat. For the kids, the next step begins a series of cutting techniques. I can hear my mother’s voice in my head as I deliver a mini lecture to Mingus on can opener safety. “The rotary blade here is very very very very sharp – do not touch it. Hold the handle here with one hand. Hold the knob with the other hand. Don’t touch the lid as it opens or reach your hand into the can – both edges can be extremely sharp.”
Beluga curiously watches Mingus, I cautiously stand guard over both of them. Mingus takes hold of the can of black beans, I secure the can opener onto its lid and as he turns the knob, his care gives me confidence. True to his age, Mingus narrates his activity: “All hands away from the blade… the blade is moving… the blade stopped moving… now the blade is going again. Oop – it might be sharp on the side.” With Mingus engaged, I retrieve a lemon from the fridge and set up Beluga with the reamer, squeezing the juice into a bowl with him.
Mingus claims the lemon and, with a Microplane in hand, grates the rind, then drops the zest into Andy’s lemon juice.
Together the brothers rip apart several stalks of parsley.
Beluga delicately plucks beans out of a nearby bowl and gobbles them. Mingus sees what his brother is doing and lifts the entire bowl to his lips. When he finally lowers it back down, he says with a big smile, “I drank some of the juice. The juice is very good! The juice is like a 10!”
Beluga has departed the kitchen to play with his trucks. And I know Mingus’ patience will run out unless we begin the next step. So I fetch the corn out of the pot with tongs, cool it under a steady stream of water and place the cobs in front of him. He lifts one and yipes, “Oh, too hot!” I cool them again. With a big plastic knife, Mingus attacks the job with gusto.
Beluga hears the commotion and brings his toys, but Mingus hardly notices as Beluga drives two cars across his work space. It’s just life with a little brother.
To complete the dish, I heat a pan, pour in a couple tablespoons of olive oil into it and add a little butter. I add the cut corn, brown it, then add the beans and lemon so that it all heats up nicely:) And yes, they did is all of it.