I’m about to press off and come back to the city. The fact that it’s raining only makes leaving the island a smidge easier. All the secret service men wandering around in Vineyard Vines trying to blend in help too.
We don’t really eat out very much on the vineyard, but there are a few places that I like to check off my list at some point in the summer. (I do need to get around to writing these up for you one day. ) One of the newest additions is Ken and Beck, a little restaurant in Oak Bluffs that’s managed to fly under the radar since it opened last summer – at least enough so that you can actually get a reservation between the hours of 7 and 9.
The menu is whimsical and mysterious. The most common side dishes read “from Ben’s imagination.” Luckily, a good seared piece of vineyard fish with sides from the chef’s imagination are usually pretty excellent. One of my favorite items on the menu is a dish that’s apparently been part of Ben’s imagination for a long time and stuck with him through stints at many of the island’s formerly delicious (now defunct) restaurants.
The Island Fresca is probably what I’d decide to put in a bowl if I went to bed hungry on Martha’s Vineyard and managed to access my stomach’s post-dream state subconscious in the morning. But I’m grateful that I’ve been spared the Jungian menu planning process and be able to access Ben’s food imagination instead.
This soup could not be simpler. It’s basically August in a bowl: corn stock, tomatoes, basil, corn kernels, and a little bit of Parmesan on top (though you don’t even need it). You simmer the stripped corncobs in water for over an hour, until the broth becomes cloudy and the whole house smells like creamed corn. A few minutes before you’re ready to eat, you stir in the corn and tomatoes. The key to a perfect fresca is simmering the veggies just long enough to take the acidic edge off the tomatoes, while leaving the corn kernels al dente enough so that you get a nice sweet crunch with every spoonful.
If you want to make this meal vegan, you can leave out the butter. But for those health nuts out there who can technically stand to have pat or two, I would highly encourage it. Butter and corn just have a certain mythical report – definitely the stuff of my stomachs fantasies.
Until next year, Martha. I’ll be dreaming of you.
Island Fresca Soup with Corn and Tomatoes
Remove the kernels from the corn cobs. Reserve in a mixing bowl.
Add the corn cobs to a large saucepan along with the onion and salt. Cover with 12 cups water. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and gently simmer for 90 minutes. Discard the cobs and onion solids.
Add the tomatoes, corn kernels, basil, and butter to the corn broth. Simmer until the tomatoes have softened and lost their acidity, but the corn is still al dente, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Add more salt as necessary.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a glug of olive oil and two tablespoons of parmesan, if using.