Recently, I've been smitten with sunflower seeds.
Admittedly, it's not an ingredient I normally think much of. In fact, sunflower seeds tend to remind me of really bad salad bars from the '80s. At least, they did until I recently enjoyed an entree made almost entirely of sunflower seeds served to me at the pretty amazing Relae restaurant in Copenhagen.
The folks behind this dish — Christian Puglisi and Kim Rossen — wowed me with a risotto made from sunflower seeds instead of rice. The seeds formed both the "rice," as well as the sauce (they were pureed). It was rich and creamy and savory in ways that left me craving more. It also inspired me to work on cracking the code for a home version of the dish.
In the meantime, I've been reaching more often for sunflower seeds. Try toasting them in a dry skillet, then adding a splash of soy sauce. They are great sprinkled onto a salad (Sorry, '80s...), or even better over a mound of ricotta cheese with a drizzle of honey and a side of rye crackers.
And when I recently was looking for ways to improve a basic summer corn chowder, I again reached for sunflower seeds. The result? A cream-free chowder that nonetheless is rich and creamy. Want to make it vegan? Substitute olive oil for the butter and vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
CORN CHOWDER WITH SUNFLOWER SEEDS AND ONIONS
No fresh corn handy? Shame on you. Get to the farmers market. But if you insist, a 16-ounce bag of frozen kernels can be substituted. You'll need to roast them for 25 to 30 minutes.
Start to finish: 35 minutes
5 to 6 ears of corn, husked
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with olive oil cooking spray.
One at a time, stand each ear of corn on its wide end and use a serrated knife to saw down the length of each side to remove the kernels. Reserve 1/2 cup of the kernels, then spread the remaining kernels on the prepared baking sheet. Mist the corn with additional olive oil cooking spray, then roast, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned in spots.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sunflower seeds, onion and thyme, then cook, stirring often, until the sunflowers seeds are lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer half of the onion and sunflower seed mixture to a blender. Add the roasted corn and the chicken broth. Puree until very smooth. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large saucepan and heat over medium until hot. Stir in the reserved sunflower seeds and onions. Ladle into serving bowls, then top with a sprinkle of the reserved raw corn kernels.
Nutrition information per serving: 280 calories; 160 calories from fat (57 per cent of total calories); 18 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 130 mg sodium; 26 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 11 g protein.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org