On Saturday we returned home from an afternoon out and about and found a huge bag of corn waiting by our front door. Although there was no name attached, we knew the corn had come from our neighbors diagonal to us. We've also, in the past, been the lucky recipients of vine-ripened tomatoes, knobbly homegrown cucumbers, and the odd green pepper or two. Spontaneous neighborly gestures like that always touch me. We're lucky to live in a neighborhood where people truly put down roots. They buy homes so they can grow old in them; grown children return to this neighborhood and buy their own homes, hoping for the kind of neighborhood experience they had when they were growing up. And as I sat out on the porch with T., shucking corn like crazy, the silky ears falling around our ankles, I really felt pretty lucky. When it was all said and done, though, we ended up with ten ears of corn. We're pretty modest corn eaters. Only two and a half of us really eat the stuff; L. won't touch it, and T. can't quite manage an entire ear of corn to herself. But Scott and I love the stuff, and lately I've become a fan of fresh corn cut off the cob. I like the way it comes off in chunks that hold the butter and salt particularly well. Still, I wanted something different for this mountain of fresh corn. I remembered in a recent issue of Gourmet magazine, I had come across this recipe. I love improbable pairings when it comes to food, and I never would have thought to combine corn with feta, of all things. But it was dreamy--the salty creaminess of the feta blended perfectly in your mouth with the crisp and juicy burst of corn. ********** This was the weekend of neighborly bounty, that's for certain. Our neighbors across from us have a gorgeous fig tree. On the way home from the pool on Saturday she offered us fresh figs. Apparently they don't eat (how can this be?) figs. Seconds later I was loading up on soft, plump figs. As it turned out T. loves figs, and I had to cut her off after the eighth one. After Scott and I had consumed more than our fair share, we were still left with dozens. You can do all sorts of things with fresh figs: they are divine with goat cheese slathered on top. You can mash them with a fork and mix in honey, then spread on toast for a perfect morning treat. You can also, as I found out with some experimenting, make some pretty heavenly and healthy muffins. Fig and Walnut Muffins 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1 1 /2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon flax seed (optional, but I tend to add this to most baked goods) 2 eggs, beaten 1 cup vanilla soy milk (or whole milk) 1/2 cup orange juice 2/3 cups brown sugar 1/2 cup melted butter or butter substitute 1 cup chopped fresh figs 1 cup chopped walnuts Preheat oven to 375 and line muffin tin with paper liners (this is by far T.'s favorite thing to do--get your child to count as they place the liners) In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and flax seed, if using. In another bowl stir together the eggs, soy milk, sugar, orange juice, and melted butter. Gently pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined. If the batter seems too thick, you can add a little more milk or OJ, but be careful it doesn't get too wet. Gently fold in the figs and the nuts. Fill muffin cups, and bake for about 20 until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, and the muffins are lightly browned. They are scrumptious eaten warm, and topped with honey.