We are entering the Dog Days of August, when the days are growing noticeably shorter, but certainly not yet cooler, back to school dominates conversations, and the corn is as high… well… as an elephant’s eye - and it looks like it’s climbing clear up to the sky!
Corn is at its height in popularity right now, the season is here, and we must enjoy its abundance. Growing up, I thought corn-on-the-cob was one of the best summertime treats. It was always boiled, and piled on a platter steaming hot. I would eagerly slather an ear with butter, cast it thoroughly with salt, then eat it ravenously like a typewriter carriage! (From the left to the right, ding! and return to the left, to the right, ding! and return…)
As I matured, so did my tastes. Now, I search for Silver Queen variety, or a derivative thereof, and sometimes don’t even cook it at all. No need for butter or salt, the tender sweetness is perfect without adulteration.
Did you know that corn, in all of its varieties, is the single largest crop produced on earth? Corn-on-the-cob is only a minute percentage of the vast yield this year of 1.03 billion metric tons! More that a third of that goes into Methanol production, another third into animal feed, and less than five percent is actually consumed directly by humans (and in many forms).
But let’s just focus on those wonderful ears of farm fresh corn you just gathered for yourself at the market, what does one do with them?
As a simple side dish, or an addition to a salad, I soak the still husked ears in cold water for about ten minutes, and microwave for perhaps one minute per ear, let them cool, shuck, and remove from the cob, which I hold upright in a much larger bowl and cut vertically of the cob with a good knife. (The bowl keeps the kernels from flying about the room!)
There are other ways to enjoy just shucked corn too!
Creamless Cream of Corn
Take six raw ears of corn, grating three on the side of a box grater with the largest holes. With the remaining three, cut off kernels into a bowl as described above. Run dull side of knife over cobs to release any remaining juices. Toss the grated and the cut pieces into a cast-iron skillet, add a bit of butter and saute over low heat. Salt and Pepper to taste.
Whipped Corn Dip
Shuck three ears of corn and remove kernels, saute in a bit of butter, until soft, transfer to bowl of food processor, pulse with 1 shallot, 1 garlic clove, 1 ½ tsp of lemon juice, and ½ cup of ricotta. Taste; season with salt and white pepper to your liking. Serve with crudite or pita chips.
Corn and Avocado Salad
Strip the kernels off of three to six ears of corn, if perfectly sweet - use raw, if not - saute a bit in a olive oil. Peel, chop, and seed if necessary ½ a red onion, 1 avocado, ½ red bell pepper, 1 small tomato, and 1 jalapeno. Mix together with the juice of 2 limes, 1 teaspoon of mild chile powder, ½ cup of cilantro leaves, and salt and pepper as desired.
Corn and Bacon Pancakes
Mix 1 cup cooked corn kernels and 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon into 2 cups pancake batter; cook by 1/4 cupfuls in a hot buttered skillet. Serve warm with real maple syrup.
Fresh Corn Ice Cream
Bring 2 cups each raw corn kernels and half-and-half to a simmer; season with salt and cook 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Puree with 1 cup sweetened condensed milk; chill. Churn in an ice cream maker, then freeze until firm.
Cold Corn Soup
Cut the kernels from 4 raw ears of corn; reserve the cobs. Saute 2 chopped leeks in olive oil in a pot, 5 minutes. Add the corn and cobs, 1 chopped peeled potato and 8 cups water; simmer 30 minutes. Discard the cobs. Puree, strain and season with salt and pepper; chill.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Saute 1 chopped red bell pepper, 2 minutes. Add 2 1/2 cups raw corn kernels, 1 cup thawed frozen lima beans, 1/4 cup water, 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover; simmer 5 minutes. Stir in 2 sliced scallions. Excellent with pork chops!
Southern Maque Choux
Saute ¼ lb spicy sausage, sliced or crumbled, until brown. Add ½ cup chopped each of sweet onion and green pepper, and two cloves of minced garlic and saute for five minutes longer. Add 3 cups of fresh corn kernels, 1 cup of sliced fresh okra, and 1 cup of peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes. Still until cooked through, about ten minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.