Food & Drink

June 11, 2014

Five from the field: sweet corn

Traditional and a bit out of the box recipes for the sweet staple of summer

Sweet corn means summer is here.

I remember Grandma taking us out to the State Farmers Market and buying fresh sweet corn by the bushel. We’d get home and my sister, aunt and I would set up a husking operation outside (as to not get any corn silks inside Mama’s clean house).

We’d peel the husks back to the stalk, snap the stalk off and then rub off any of the stray silks.

After a good washing and cleaning, the corn would either be cut into smaller pieces and placed in airtight bags or cut off the cob and packed in Tupperware containers with water for freezing.

I looked forward to eating the fresh sweet corn off the cob with plenty of butter and, later in the year, added to other put-away vegetables in homemade soup.

The recipes that I have selected are a combination of traditional (fritters) and a bit out of the ordinary (gelato). All of them are easy and, with the exception of the gelato, can be done and on the table within an hour.

About that sweet corn gelato, I made it using the second finishing method (by hand) because I do not have an ice cream maker. It was really easy, just keep whisking every 30 minutes to an hour until it begins to firm up and set in the freezer. My taste testers (co-workers) had two reactions: Total love or ewww! Try it if you like the taste of corn. I found that folks liked it even better with Crunch ‘n Munch Caramel Corn sprinkled on top. Enjoy!

Charred Corn Tilapia with Cilantro Lime Rice

Serves 4

For rice

2 cups brown rice

4 cups water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

11/2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice kernels in butter. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Allow rice to steam for 30-45 minutes. Check rice, if done, turn off the heat and stir in lime juice and cilantro.

For fish

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons chili powder

4 whole tilapia fillets

11/2 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 3 ears)

Fresh lime wedges

Preheat the broiler.

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise and chili powder. Smear mix on both sides of the fish. Top with corn. Place fish on a broiler pan and broil for about 10 minutes. Serve hot with rice and garnish with lime wedges.

Sweet Corn Egg Drop Soup

Serves 2

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 cup sweet corn kernels

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

2 eggs, whisked

1/4 cup basil, chiffonade

Chopped chives for garnish

Sesame oil for garnish

Place sesame seeds in a dry small skillet and toast until lightly browned over low heat. Set aside.

Mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of the broth in a small bowl, set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add ginger and garlic and cook for one minute. Add broth and corn kernels, stir and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and add cornstarch mixture. Stir and cook 5 to 7 minutes. Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper and then pour in whisked eggs while slowly stirring the soup to form long strands.

Add basil and gently stir.

Ladle soup into bowls, top with toasted sesame seeds, chives and a drizzle of sesame oil.

Classic Corn Fritters

Makes 6

2 large ears fresh sweet corn

1 egg

Salt and fresh ground pepper

1 heaping tablespoon self-rising flour

1 egg white

2 tablespoons (or more) butter

Carefully remove the kernels from the corn cob with a sharp knife. Put them in a mixing bowl with the whole egg and flour, salt and pepper to taste. Beat egg white and fold into corn mix.

Melt butter in a nonstick frying pan. When butter sizzles, place large tablespoons of the batter in the pan and leave for a couple of minutes to brown lightly.

Flip with a small spatula and cook the other side. Lift out and drain on paper towel. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Nigel Slater, The Guardian newspaper

Mexican Corn Salad

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral cooking oil

4 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 6 ears)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small hot pepper (jalapeno or red chile), seeded and minced

3 tablespoons crumbled cojita cheese (or use feta), plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

11/2 teaspoons Mexican-style chili powder

Juice from two limes

Kosher salt to taste

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat oil on medium high until shimmering. Add corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is toasted and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Add garlic, stir and remove from heat. Allow mix to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine toasted corn with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste, serve at room temperature with additional cheese as garnish.

Sweet Corn Gelato

About 4 cups

3 ears sweet corn, husked

31/2 cups whole milk

11/2 cups sugar, divided

1 cup heavy cream

8 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

Cut kernels from corn cobs; reserve cobs. Break each cob into 2-3 pieces. Bring milk to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add corn kernels and cobs. Remove mixture from heat, cover and let steep for 45 minutes.

Remove cobs from milk, discard. Puree mixture in batches in a blender. Set a coarse strainer over a large bowl. Strain mixture, pressing on solids, discard solids. Add more milk if needed to measure 31/2 cups.

Bring corn mixture, 11/4 cups sugar and cream to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Set strainer over a medium bowl, set aside. Whisk remaining 1/4 cup sugar, egg yolks and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk mixture; return to saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until custard registers 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes.

Immediately pour custard through strainer. Place bowl with custard over a large bowl of ice water. Let stand until cold, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate custard for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Finish version 1: Process custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a container and freeze for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Finish version 2: Pour the custard mixture into a deep baking dish or bowl made of plastic, stainless steel or something durable and place in the freezer. After 45 minutes, check mix. As it begins to freeze, remove it from the freezer and stir vigorously with a spatula, whisk or hand-held mixer to break up any frozen sections. Return to freezer. Continue to check and stir every 30 minutes for 2 to 3 hours or until the ice cream is frozen. Transfer to a covered container until ready to serve.

Serving suggestions: Top with fresh berries or make a sundae with caramel topping and roasted peanuts.

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