Delicious Summer Corn with Executive Chef Jackie Lee

July’s Harvest of the Month is corn! We are thrilled to have Jackie Lee, the new Executive Chef of Watershed at the Owl, share her culinary expertise and down-home love for corn with us this month. 

Jackie was born and raised in Nevada County, where she found her passion for cooking at a young age and later studied at a culinary arts school in Seattle, Washington.  Just recently, she joined the team at Watershed at the Owl to bring a new fresh, seasonal menu featuring the delicious foods grown by local and regional farmers.  “We want to build and maintain strong ties with local farmers and vendors to help build the strong sense of community via the culture and art of fresh, local food.”

In addition to the focus on local, “We are choosing our produce and meat through prioritizing organic, sustainable and biodynamic practices, and extending this to our wines and beer as well.”  Jackie explains that another goal is to operate the restaurant as close to zero-waste as possible.  She recently partnered with Brianna Abundiz, Sierra Harvest school garden coordinator at Lyman Gilmore School, to pick up the restaurant’s food waste and take it just a mile away to the school campus where it will be composted grow more veggies in the school garden.   We are excited to be partnering with Jackie in this capacity, and we applaud her vision for making the Watershed at the Owl a place people can come enjoy a truly fresh, seasonal food experience.

Jackie, tell us why do you love July’s Harvest of the Month, corn?

“My mom has a Midwest background, and I love it because it’s the symbol of summer for me.  You have to wait really patiently for it come into season.  You can make it sweet, you can make it savory, you can make scones, fritters, elote, popcorn, stew – it’s so versatile!”

What is your favorite way to prepare corn?
“I love having elote, or Mexican street corn, and a good corn fritter – there is something about it that feels like home.”

How are you serving it at Watershed at the Owl this summer?
“We’re making a zucchini corn fritter, softer in quality and more tender than the traditional type, with corn salsa on the inside.” Jackie recently visited Fog Dog Farm to pick up some of their delicious organic corn for the restaurant.  “I also like to play with different varietals, and will be making different corn breads with Early Bird Farm blue corn meal, incorporating some hominy and roasted corn,  to bring a depth of flavor all across the board.” 

The Watershed at the Owl has just recently reopened its doors and is offering outdoor patio dining this summer, so it a great time to check out the new fresh menu! In addition to lunch and dinner, their morning café offers breakfasts like frittata, baked goods, and an espresso bar.  The Watershed is located in downtown Grass Valley on Mill Street, which is now a pedestrian walkway and offers more spacious, outdoor dining options for the community. To-go options are also available.  Check out their menu and operating hours and what Jackie is offering this season!

Can you share a recipe with us?

Yes! This recipe serves 4 (or maybe 2 after a day at the river):

Summer Grilled Corn and Orzo Salad

2 ears of sweet corn grilled and cut off the cob ( I prefer yellow sweet corn)
1 cup mixed cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup roughly chopped basil, reserving the tender tops for garnish
1/2 lb orzo pasta (cooked according to the package, al dente)
4 slices prosciutto, torn
1/2 feta cheese
2 tablespoons Irish butter, salted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 Serano pepper seeded and finely sliced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice (I am partial to Meyer lemon)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon dark honey

Cook orzo according to the package directions, make sure you salt the water!
When al dente, drain and return to the pot.

Grill the corn until golden and grill marked, cut off the cob and set aside.

In a large skillet, on medium heat crisp the prosciutto (1-2 minutes per side) when finished remove from the skillet and set aside.

With the skillet still on medium heat add butter and cook until it turns a deep golden color and smells toasted.

Add the olive oil, serano, shallot and thyme, cook just long enough for the shallots to become translucent. Remove from heat and add to the hot orzo.

In a small bowl mix lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, apple cider vinegar and basil.

Toss orzo, lemon dressing, tomatoes and corn all together. Season with fresh black pepper.

Top with prosciutto, whole basil leaves and maldon sea salt. Serve room temp.