When friends ask about my favorite foods, my answer changes with the season. In August, the answer is corn, and I enjoy it as often as possible in any form.
One of summer’s greatest pleasures is grilled corn. As it turns out, there are two ways to grill corn: in and out of the husk.
To cook corn in the husk, first do your best to extract the silk from whole ears, taking care to keep the husk intact. After a soak in cool water, the ears can be roasted over a gas or charcoal grill, turning often until the husks are beautifully charred, about 30 minutes. The interior will taste of smoke and sweetness. Be sure to roast at least two per guest — nobody will eat just one.
Grilling shucked ears adds char directly to the kernels and takes a mere 15 minutes on the grill. This is my preferred method when sprinkling the kernels over salads or adding them to sautes and stir-fries.
But the joys of corn don’t have to be limited to late summer. You can make frozen corn (grilled or raw) to enjoy after the season ends by freezing corn kernels in a shallow layer on a baking sheet until the corn is solid. Then spoon it into freezer bags or containers and freeze for up to four months. An average-size ear of corn yields about 1 cup of corn kernels, so plan your freezing accordingly.
If you’re new to enjoying fresh ears of corn off the cob, it’s important to know how to cut the kernels off the cob safely. First, stand the cob up in a large bowl holding it at the top with one hand. Starting at the top, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the cob, working your way down. Turn the cob and repeat the cutting until the cob is clean.
What to do with all that corn? You can cook it in a skillet — corn and bacon pair as perfectly as peanut butter and jelly. Add ripe tomatoes and lots of basil for a skillet full of goodness that pleases just about everyone. Serve it over lettuce leaves as a side dish to grilled fish, chicken or skewered shrimp. You can also stir in sauteed chunks of tofu or feta to turn this into a main dish.
In another classic combo, I love corn and lima beans in a summery succotash. Here, the corn gets grilled along with sweet onion and tender napa cabbage. Shelled edamame makes a more contemporary version of the old-time dish, but we don’t pass up lima beans when we can find baby limas in the freezer case. Crumbled fresh cheese or a drizzle of heavy cream enriches the dish.
Sweet corn ice cream always brings back memories of a family vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We ordered it sprinkled with hot chile and lime. The surprising combination is as addicting as the sweet and salty duo of cheese popcorn and caramel corn, making this one of the things every foodie should have on their summer bucket list.
BACON, BASIL AND TOMATO SKILLET CORN
Prep 20 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Makes 4 cups (about 6 servings)
4 thick slices (8 ounces total) smoky bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
2 shallots or 1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 large poblano chile, seeded, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, finely minced
3 cups fresh or grilled corn kernels
1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes, halved or 2 to 3 cups large chunks ripe tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup loosely packed thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, about 11/4 ounces
Step 1: In a large, well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook 8 ounces sliced bacon, stirring often, until bacon is crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a plate. Tip off (and save for another use) all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat from the pan.
Step 2: Add 2 chopped shallots and 1 seeded, chopped poblano to the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until soft, about 4 minutes.
Step 3: Stir in 2 cloves minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 3 cups corn kernels. Cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes, then stir in 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes. Cook until everything is very hot, about 2 minutes.
Step 4: Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Remove from heat and stir in crisp bacon. Fold in 1 cup sliced basil. Serve right away.
WARM GRILLED CORN AND EDAMAME SUCCOTASH SALAD
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Makes 6 cups, serving 6
2 ears corn on the cob, shucked, rinsed
1 large sweet onion, peeled, sliced crosswise into 3 sections
2 thick wedges Napa or green cabbage, about 6 ounces total
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame or lima beans
2 small limes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese or 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives or green onion tops
Step 1: Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill until medium hot.
Step 2: Put 2 ears of corn, onion sections and cabbage wedges on a baking sheet. Drizzle all sides with some oil and sprinkle with salt. Place vegetables directly on the grill over the heat. Grill, occasionally turning until nicely golden on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Let cool.
Step 3: Meanwhile, cook 11/2 cups edamame in a small pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Drain.
Step 4: Grate rind from 2 limes into a large bowl. Then squeeze juice from limes into the bowl. Stir in ⅓ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add warm edamame to dressing in a bowl.
Step 5: Use a sharp knife to remove corn kernels from cobs and add to the dressing. Chop grilled onion and cabbage and add to the dressing. Mix well. Add 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or 1/4 cup heavy cream. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with 1/4 cup chives.
SWEET CORN AND MAPLE ICE CREAM
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 10 minutes
Chill Several hours
Makes 1½ quarts
This rich, sweet ice cream tastes like the best cornbread topped with maple syrup. For a fun salt and salty twist, sprinkle on a little chile lime seasoning.
Note: The trick to great ice cream texture is to thoroughly chill the base before putting it into the ice cream machine. Don’t skip the straining of the base through the sieve; it’ll remove the corn kernel skins.
3 cups fresh raw corn kernels
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh black raspberries or blackberries for serving
Chile lime seasoning or Tajin Classic Chile Lime seasoning, optional for serving
Step 1: Puree 1 1/2 cups corn kernels with 1/2 cup whole milk in a blender until very smooth. Transfer to a deep, heavy saucepan. Repeat with remaining 11/2 cups corn and 1/2 cup milk.
Step 2: Stir 2 cups heavy whipping cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon salt into the corn mixture. Heat over medium heat until simmering.
Step 3: Meanwhile, set a large bowl over a larger bowl of ice. Place a mesh sieve in the large bowl.
Step 4: Whisk 4 egg yolks in a small bowl.
Step 5: Slowly ladle 1 cup of the heated corn mixture into the egg yolks to heat them gently. Then, whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the simmering corn mixture and cook on very low heat just until thickened, 2 or 3 minutes. Do not boil.
Step 6: Immediately pour the mixture through the sieve into the bowl set over the ice. Whisk to cool the mixture and stop the cooking. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Refrigerate the corn mixture until very cold or up to 2 days.
Step 7: Pour the cold corn mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Scoop into a container. Cover and freeze solid for at least 1 hour.
Step 8: Serve small scoops of the ice cream topped with berries. If desired, shake a little chili-lime seasoning over the ice cream.