By Elke Probkevitz
Whether you’re craving a salad, chowder, or even a good soup, corn is a delicious summer vegetable that accommodates your summer appetite for something crisp, fresh, and wonderful. You can spend summer eating corn typewriter-style or strip the kernels right off. But any way you slice it, the corn can be used a number of ways.
Choose your ears wisely. Peeling down part of the husk to check the quality of the kernels will cause the corn to become shriveled and starchy quicker. Instead, look for teeny brown holes in the husk, especially toward the top, and avoid those because they’ve been invaded by worms. Feel for plump and plentiful kernels through the husks. The husks themselves should be bright green and tightly wrapped to indicate freshness. Make sure the stringy tassels at the top are brown and sticky, not dry or black, which indicates an old ear of corn.
Prepping the corn. To shuck the corn easily, cut off the root end of an un-husked ear of corn, and pop it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. The husks and the silk will easily slip right off. If you have stray silk strands, use a new toothbrush to brush away the silk. Use a Bundt pan to help neatly remove the kernels from the ear of corn. Place the tip into the center of the Bundt pan to secure it and help catch all the kernels as you slice them off.
Cooking the corn. There are many ways you can cook corn. When it comes to boiling, seven minutes softens the corn but still retains the crunch. You can also boil water, toss corn in, return to a boil, then turn heat off. Leave for a few minutes or until ready to eat. Broiling is great for charring without grilling. Broil kernels on a sheet pan for 3–5 minutes. For classic grilling, preheat grill to medium heat. Rub with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill with lid closed until kernels begin to blister and char, with bright yellow kernels throughout, turning to cook both sides. Grill only about eight minutes.
Use the whole ear. The cobs, husks, and silks are not just valuable for keeping those kernels intact. The cobs can be used to infuse a broth or create a stock for cooking grains or making polenta. The husks are dried and used to wrap tamales. Silks can be steeped to make tea. ϖ
Summer Corn Cakes
2 cups corn kernels, about 3 ears
2 Tbsp. butter, plus more for cooking
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup red onion, finely diced
½ cup basil, sliced (chiffonade), plus more for garnish
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt and pepper
2 heirloom tomatoes, diced
½ cup corn kernels
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
Purée 1 cup corn kernels with butter and buttermilk in blender until almost smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in remaining cup of corn, onion, and basil. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and soda. Add wet ingredients to dry mixture, and mix until just combined.
In a skillet, melt some butter over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of batter for each pancake. Cook 2 minutes per side until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine tomatoes, corn, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Serve corn cakes topped with a spoonful of tomato–corn relish. Garnish with basil.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.