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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Corn-tastic! Fresh ways with Corn on the cob and Corn and black bean salsa

Corn-tastic? Very corny! Sorry about that.

Today I am writing about corn, and sharing some how-to's and some simple recipes. In summer, I try to cook seasonally, using locally grown fruits and vegetables. I also try to take the weather into consideration. Like many owners of older homes in this neck of the woods, central air does not exist. In order to get out of the heat, I have to escape to the air conditioned family room or one of the bedrooms. I try to keep the house as cool as possible, so in summer I try to use my stove as little as possible, my oven not at all, and try to be creative with the microwave or outside grill. Actually, I think its kind of neat cooking with the weather in mind. We are lucky here in the northeast to have seasons, and it does seem kind of strange to be able to roast a chicken or make a giant pot of tomato sauce (or gravy, whatever you prefer) in the middle of summer, which you can do in a house with central air. It doesn't seem right somehow.

The bounty from yesterday's treasure hunt at the farmer's market was spread all over my kitchen table and all over the counters. Of course, I overbought again. Did I really need 10 ears of corn? Probably not. But I have to live with my purchases, so in order to fit the newly bought veges in the fridge, I had to do some fridge cleaning...not a pretty job. And in the heat.

I am actually very proud of myself. I THREW OUT FOOD that was almost edible. Out went some questionable cheeses, little weird things wrapped in leaky foil, old and tired vegetables, and most satisfying, multiple half jars of salsa... I realized yesterday that I really don't like store bought salsa, unless it is combined with something gooey and fattening. So I buy it for guests, they eat some of it, and it just sits there. Then it goes to the back of the fridge, and I forget about it, and buy more. Since store bought salsa is tomato based, and somehow citrusy, it lasts nearly forever. I feel guilty about throwing those jars out. But yesterday, out they went. And after the purging, I actually had room for all my new vegetable friends. I vow to use them all this time!

So here are some ideas and some simple recipes for fresh corn:

Picking the perfect ear of corn is easy. Make sure you buy them with the husks on. Don't be tempted to husk them in the store, as so many do, or to buy the shrink wrapped variety...or God forbid, those mushy frozen kind!!!! Examine the silk and the husk. The silk can be brown at top but should be light green and fresh near the tip. If it is dry, avoid it! Husks should also be green and feel fresh and moist...alive, really. Peel down a bit of the husk to expose the corn. The kernels should be perfectly even and firm, and not dry near the tip. When inspecting a batch, I test one, which I intend to purchase, by popping a kernel with my fingernail. It sounds gross but it guarantees freshness if it pops and exudes juice. If it just splats with little or no juice, most of the sugar has turned to starch and it is old and will be tasteless and tough. Like I said, I keep that one.

Perfect Corn on the Cob:

Prepare corn by cutting off the stem end, peel off some of the husk, and cut off the silk down to the tip. For grilling, first pre-heat the grill. Wrap the corn encased in the husk in just enough foil to cover and twist each end. Place directly on the grill and turn every few minutes. It takes about 20 minutes to a half hour to cook it this way. The moisture from the husk will steam the corn to perfection. If you want, you can remove the husk and place the cobs directly on the grill to lightly brown them. I usually don't. But browning them lightly does bring out the flavor, caramelizing the naturally occurring sugars. Be careful, they can burn quite easily. Husking the corn is easy: under cool running water, which feels really good in a steamy kitchen, quickly peel the husk and rub your hand horizontally across the kernels to remove the silk, which will come off quite easily. If you try removing the silk before you cook them, it is almost impossible, so this is a very good way to desilk the corn. The corn will be so hot that the cool water will not affect the serving temperature. The interior seems to radiate out to the kernels so this is a very good method that does not burn your hands.

If you do not want to use a grill, I have experimented with my microwave. It comes out GREAT. I just prepare the corn as above, but do not wrap them in foil. I moisten the husks a bit with cool water and place two at a time on a microwave safe plate and let it go for two minutes per corn cob. Don't be afraid to experiment ...some may require more or less, depending on size and your microwave's power.

I eat them with no butter, no salt...not because of weight control but because when they are fresh, as I have said, I think they need no embellishment. Fresh and well cooked, the kernels burst in your mouth with delectable sweetness. However, if you insist, the butter and salt brings them to another level of deliciousness...and I do LOVE butter. And speaking of weight control, they are very low in calories, only about 60-100 per cob. Strange as it sounds, they are a great snack on their own.

You can eat them plain or use the cut kernels in recipes. Just place the corn on its flat end in the middle of a large bowl, and cut the kernels off the cob slicing downward with a sharp knife. Here is a recipe that I made up recently:

Corn and Black Bean Salsa (homemade, I like!)

This is actually more of a side dish, but its kind of like a salsa as you can pile it on a tortilla chip.

One can of black beans, rinsed
Kernels from two corn cobs
Medium red onion, diced
Medium tomato, diced (garden or farmer's market tomatoes...not those pale supermarket ones!)
1 medium clove of garlic, crushed
Extra virgin olive oil
1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro to taste, chopped fine.
lime juice, 1/2 to one lime's worth
Sprinkle of kosher salt
several drops of hot sauce: Cholula, Franks, Tabasco, whatever you prefer

Combine the beans, corn, onion, tomato and garlic. Add one or two tablespoonfuls of olive oil. Add cilantro, lime and rest of ingredients. Use as a side dish or with tortilla chips.

Try this and let me know how you like it.

Stay cool!


  1. I remember eating your salsa when I was there, and I absolutely loved it! Thank you for putting your recipe on here; I'm definitely going to try it.

  2. Readers, I think you have to sign up to this site in order to leave a comment. You can join google or yahoo, I think. Just follow the prompts.

  3. I love your blog...keep it coming.

  4. I just bought some corn from the local farm store. It was juicy and tasted so fresh. Its sweetness wasn't as good as I have had. Best corn I ever had was straight from Charlie's garden.

  5. Joanne, I have heard people say that they would love to have a pot of water going right in the cornfield to taste the freshest corn just as it is picked!