on falling apart: charred corn + jalapeño hummus

Did you know that I graduated from college with a degree in fashion?

Yes, fashion.  More specifically, I graduated with a degree that was to hopefully and eventually help land me a dream job as a buyer in the coveted woman’s departments of Barney’s, Saks, or perhaps even – if I was really, really lucky – Bergdorf’s.  Senior year, I managed to land myself an internship at the tony boutique department store Henri Bendel, and in February of 2005, at the ripe old age of twenty-two (and still with a few months left before graduation), I packed up my suitcases and headed to the Big Apple.

I arrived, wide-eyed and bushy tailed, still very much a little girl full of wonder and excitement.  And I interned – I fetched, I zipped, I folded, I steamed, I juggled steaming lattes and sixteen individual salad orders at Hale and Hearty, and I learned exactly how unglamorous anything below entry-level could actually be.  There were perks – a 40% discount on clothes that my bare-bones-intern-salary could never afford anyway (but hey…I was lucky even to be paid at all!), run-ins with celebrity shoppers and tickets to velvet-rope events, and, most of all, the experience of cutting my teeth in the industry with some of its top performers.  I had no illusions that any success of mine would take time – I was, after all, still the lowly intern whose name ranged from “hey….you in the navy sweater” to simply responding to finger snaps  - but I decided to take a chance and call the big city my permanent home, and I attempted to piece together my fledgling career.

famously glamourous woman once said “…sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together,” and after one miserable gig at a boutique fashion PR firm (I had a boss who actually emailed me to ask me to fetch her lunch – when I was sitting no more than an arms length away), I found myself working at another firm (which I really liked!), that was unfortunately closing its doors for good in just a few short months.  I assessed my situation, pondering the ups and downs and goods and bads of what I had seen and experienced over the first six months of my ‘professional’ career, and after a bit of investigation, I decided to go out on a limb.  A really long, spindly, and wacky limb, that is.

Over these first months, I had met people – mostly guy friends – in the city who worked for major financial firms, and thought that though they rose at ungodly hours and seemed to speak in tongues when recounting tales of that day’s ‘ripping market’ or ‘new IPO’, they always seemed to have money in their pockets for happy hour and were proud of what they were doing.  I wanted to take a stab at it, and sent my resume off to a few friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends who might just know somebody who was looking to hire a fashion girl at a financial firm.  Right.

(Insert canned laughter here.)

And out of all of this came one interview – a favor for a friend, surely – where I zipped up my smartest pencil skirt, slid on a freshly polished pair of black heels, and carefully buttoned up my crisp shirt before heading off to interview at an office located in the center of mid-town’s “Wall-Street” hub.  (I should note here that these days, hardly any firms are actually located [or have their largest office branches] on actual “Wall Street” in downtown Manhattan.)  I nervously clacked my way across the massive polished marble floor (which, incredibly and coincidentally enough, was the exact building that they had just filmed The Devil Wears Prada - could that be any more fitting??), and zipped up the elevator to the sixth floor.  I pushed through the heavy glass double doors to find myself standing smack in the middle of a giant trading floor, complete with a television platform for CNN interviews, rows of traders wearing headsets with their heads bowed and fingers furiously tapping, and the intermittent screamed out profanity that rose above the general hum of the place.

I was scared, intimidated…..and I desperately wanted to be a part of it.

In the interview I somehow managed to convince them I actually knew a little bit about the market (I didn’t), and that I had some experience and knowledge of the terms, processes, and procedures (again – a big, fat, no).  What I do hope came across however is that I was determined, hardworking, and not about to be let down easily, and with a firm handshake the deal was sealed – I was to start working on the sales desk the very next week.

The first few months were tough; I was the only girl assistant, and one of only three girls on the entire sales desk (and of about seven on the entire floor).  I was struggling to remember stock symbols, dashing about making and canceling appointments with company executives, and desperately trying to understand EBITDA.  I scribbled notes like a crazed person, tried so hard to understand just what the heck we were talking about in our 7:00AM meetings, and would stutter nervously when answering calls from clients screaming “WHY THE HELL IS MICROSOFT ACTING LIKE THIS???? WHERE IS YOUR %#@&ing  ANALYST -GET HIM ON THE %&$#ing PHONE!!!!  %$#@!!!!

However, naturally, and with time, the once foreign language of my new job started to sound more familiar, and somewhere over the course of those up and down first few years, that timid little fashion girl had turned into a confident stock trader.  Over time, I accepted an offer from another firm to learn to trade options, and then finally ended up at the firm where I would complete my most recent tenure.  As you might remember, if you have been around here for long, it was in the middle of last Summer that my then-Fiance and I made the decision to move from New York City out to Boulder, Colorado, and after six-and-a-half years of working in fashion and finance I found myself back at square one.

I probably don’t need to tell you that the financial scene here in Boulder is not exactly bumping, and I looked at our move as an amazing opportunity for me to stretch my creative wings a bit.  It was the perfect excuse to exercise and cultivate the passion that had long been developing in me and had clearly been trumping my interest and love for my career in finance over recent years: food.

Cooking food, writing about food, blogging about food…Suddenly I was lucky enough that all of those things that I had been scrambling to cram around and alongside my busy and demanding career could now take a bit more share of my center stage.  And thus, I have been trying to take full advantage, in that respect, and I have been cooking at a local restaurant, albeit in an intern-like capacity, for almost six-months – since January of this year.  I’ve just now recently advanced from unpaid mess-maker, plate-breaker, and sometime sauce-ruiner to an actual paid position cooking in said restaurant, and I finally, finally feel as though I’m getting the hang of being in a professional kitchen.  (Let’s just say it’s a lot different than at home!)  Why haven’t I told you till now?  Well, I wanted to be sure I didn’t burn the place down first…and in all seriousness, I didn’t really feel that my once-weekly voluntary commitment warranted much chatter.

It’s interesting, when I stop to think about it….from fashion, to finance, to food – at least I’m keeping everything in the same “”F” family?!  Seven years after I found myself interning in NYC I was back doing almost the same in Boulder, albeit in a very, very different capacity.  The burns on my hands are now the badges of honor (versus ticket stubs to events or the extensive wardrobe of skirts, sky-high heels, and blouses that hang largely unworn in my closet), and I do think that sometimes good – really good – things fall apart so even better things can fall together.  I am still so proud of my old life and career and will continue to reference and draw upon it for as long as I’m still standing on this planet – and hey, who knows – maybe I’ll even find myself someday back on a trading floor, or at a fashion firm.

But ’till then, I’ve got this blog, and my restaurant gig, and a drive to keep pushing myself and learning about something that I’ve become very passionate about.  Everything old is new again, in a sense.  And that, finally (and hopefully not tortuously), brings me to this hummus.  This new, fun, fresh twist on something that can be so bland, so one dimensional, and just, so painfully……tan.

I stirred a bit of charred fresh sweet corn and jalapeño into a creamy hummus, that is made with the traditional chickpeas, garlic, and tahini, but jolted up a bit with the addition of extra lemon zest and a handful of cilantro.  It is all at once familiar, yet new, and is the perfect antidote to yet another package of that sad, grainy, grocery-store hummus.  This hummus is spicy, it’s fresh, and it’s so simple to make, and is (dare I say?) an improvement ten-fold to any of the normal ‘plain’ flavored varieties out there.

I think it’s very important to approach your life with an ‘Everything happens for a reason‘ attitude – even if that one first thing is not heading in the direction you think it should be or could be, it could very well be just the ticket that ends up leading you there, if you keep your head high and your priorities straight.  I still have no idea exactly where I am heading ultimately with all of this, but all I can do is be the best I can with the opportunities at hand, and see where it all takes me.  Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.

Isn’t that true?

Charred Corn + Jalapeño Hummus
Makes ~2 cups

This would be excellent with fresh chickpeas….if you have the foresight to soak them a day ahead of time and then cook them the day of. A bit extra work, but so worth it if you have the time. I don’t usually thing of these things till the day of, and had to rely on the canned variety, which still make a really great dish.

If you don’t have a gas stove, you can easily char these on a grill, and if you don’t have a grill, I think they could be blackened on a a dry grill pan or heavy skillet over high heat. Give it a shot!

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 ear corn
1 jalapeño
2 Tbsp tahini
juice + zest of 1 lemon
1 handful cilantro (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil + more as needed
1 tsp kosher salt + more as needed

Over a gas burner set on high (or on a grill, see above), set the ear of corn and the jalapeño over the open flame. Char both on all sides, turning occasionally as the flame scorches the vegetables and turns them dark in spots. This process will take 8-10 minutes, and keep an eye on your veggies so they don’t become too charred and burn (or, catch on fire – but you’d have to be really negligent for that to happen I think). Set aside to let them cool.

While the charred veggies cool, in the bowl of a food processor whiz together the tahini, the garlic, the lemon juice and zest, 2 Tbsp of olive oil, and 1 tsp of salt, until the mixture is very smooth. Add in the chickpeas, and process until the texture is smooth and creamy, adding additional olive oil as needed to keep the mix smooth (usually another tablespoon or two), about 1 minute. Add in the cilantro, and pulse until the cilantro is chopped very finely and mixed in well with the chickpeas, 6-7 times. Be sure there are no large chunks of cilantro remaining.

When the corn and jalapeño are cooled, gently cut the kernels off of the ear of corn, and carefully stem and seed the jalepeño. Dice the jalapeño very finely, and then gently stir the diced pepper and the charred corn kernels into the hummus. Taste, and adjust for seasoning – I added a good pinch of salt here.

Serve immediately, or chill in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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12 responses to “on falling apart: charred corn + jalapeño hummus

  1. Rachel Hannon

    This is awesome, Cory. Love the post and your path!

  2. I logged into FB and saw your new post almost immediately (reading your post was a much needed break from work). I have to say this is my favorite post that you have written so far. Love your journey, and can’t wait to read more about it.

  3. Cory, I have said this before, I LOVE your writing. Thanks for sharing your story, and the humus looks good too, ;-)
    Hope to see you soon.

  4. This is just the sort of dish I needed to add to the weekly menu I’m making up for the hubby and I. And, I loved reading about how brave you’ve been in doing what your heart tells you to.

  5. Amazing story/journey. I always look forward to your posts!

  6. Cory…you are amazing…and you have yet another career ahead…journalism!!!!! I just LOVE your stories…Food…sorry to say I can live without but it does inspire me (to a certain degree)!!! Keep the blog and stories going…love them!

  7. Congratulations Cory! You should feel very proud of yourself with akl of yor accomplishments which you did completely on yor own hard work and merit. Wish Jamie and I could visit you at your restaurant! Lots of luck to you.

  8. Wow. What an adventure you’ve had! That’s great- so many different experiences..and I’m sure so much more to come!

  9. Love this post! I absolutely agree that sometimes things fall apart so that better things can fall together.

  10. Jennifer Tarpley

    I’m a little behind on reading this post. Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this Cory! I’m so inspired reading about your journey and can’t wait to make this hummus!

  11. ” Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” so true… i beleive that too. i think it’s awesome you went from fashion/finance to cooking and food!! you followed your dreams :) i’m doing that with mine too!

  12. Pingback: pickle magic: pickled red onions (garlic, black peppercorn, star anise, and california bay leaf) | eat and relish

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