Corn: It’s more than just a standard of measurement of elephants’ height. It’s also a most venerable vegetable.
And it’s summer, which means it is time for corn.
And that is reason to celebrate.
I decided to make corn in five different ways. That’s five of my six favorite ways to eat corn, the sixth being on the cob. Actually, my very favorite way is plucked fresh from the stalk and immediately eaten raw, but I have only had the opportunity to do that once.
If you ever get the chance, try it. But if you aren’t growing it yourself, be sure to ask the farmer first. Not only do you need his permission, he can tell you if the corn he grows is meant for people or livestock.
That being said, I made corn five ways that do not involve conversations with farmers you don’t know.
They were all winners. No, they were better than that. They were all Stanley Cup winners. Each was better than the last. I’m talking about seriously incredible recipes here.
I began with Corn Salad à la Mary Anne, which brings together all of the best flavors of the summer in one well-mixed dish. Fresh corn and fresh tomatoes blended with a bit of sweet onion and topped with summery cilantro. It’s like a farmers market on a plate.
Tying the flavors together is the sparing use of a vinaigrette. You can use your favorite vinaigrette if you choose, but I heartily recommend a bistro vinaigrette, which is the best vinaigrette I’ve ever made and maybe the best I’ve ever had.
It’s the only dressing we use at home.
For my second variation on a corn theme, I made a Southern staple: corn pudding.
I lived in the South for nearly 30 years, and in that time I probably consumed a small ocean of corn pudding. Most of it was sweet but some was savory, and I always preferred the savory kind. So when I discovered a recipe for savory corn pudding from Southern Living magazine, I knew that was the one I had to make.
This is the real deal corn pudding. No canned corn. No creamed corn. Certainly no Jiffy Corn Muffin mix.
This is corn pudding made from kernels cut right off the ears, the way God and Robert E. Lee intended. It is made from wholesome ingredients, such as fresh eggs, heavy cream and butter.
I said it was wholesome, I didn’t say it was low cal. But it is also silky and satisfying and utterly magnificent.
My next effort was a corn salad based on a popular Indian street food. To be honest, it looked almost exactly like Corn Salad à la Mary Anne, but the flavors could not be more different.
With this Indian-inspired dish, the corn is first roasted and charred in a pan. The kernels are then tossed in a highly flavored dressing that mixes a blend of traditional spices (cumin, cardamom and garam masala) with heat from cayenne pepper and the cooling citrus bite of fresh-squeezed lime juice.
It’s kind of an astonishing array of tastes, but it works because they all share a flavorful kinship to the corn.
Fritters were next — or as they are officially called, Zucchini Corn Cakes. But really: fritters.
The secret to making these is to squeeze all the moisture you possibly can out of the shredded zucchini, and then squeeze out some more. And then maybe a little more. The as-dry-as-you-can-make-it zucchini is then mixed with corn kernels and scallions, bound with eggs and flour, and flavored with Parmesan, garlic, parsley and basil.
How could you beat fried patties of that mixture? One way, actually: by dipping them in a spicy sauce. The sauce is simple, just a lot of Greek yogurt mixed with a little sriracha, but it is a perfect accompaniment to the fritters.
One dish had to be last, and it happened to be Pappardelle With Corn. This one was so good, a taste tester asked how it managed to taste like it came from a restaurant.
“My spectacular cooking technique,” I said, but really it was the ingredients.
Pappardelle is a long, broad pasta; I went to an Italian market to find it, and I bought a particularly good quality noodle. So the pasta made an especially good base for a dish made from corn, cherry tomatoes, garlic, white wine, chicken broth, scallions and Parmesan, plus a lot of butter.
It’s a truly wonderful dish, just like all of the others. I can’t possibly pick a favorite.
You’ll just have to try them all.
CORN SALAD À LA MARY ANNE
Yield: 4 servings
2 ears of corn
1/4 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, slice in half
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 to 3 tablespoons your favorite vinaigrette or use bistro vinaigrette, see recipe
Salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of hot water to a boil and cook corn until just cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove corn, allow to cool briefly and slice off kernels. Place kernels in a medium bowl with onion, tomatoes, cilantro and vinaigrette, and toss to mix. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving: 78 calories; 4 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 2 g protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 72 mg sodium; 13 mg calcium
Recipe by Mary Anne Pikrone
Yield: About 2/3 cup
1 tablespoon shallots, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed, sunflower or canola (not olive)
In a medium bowl, mix together shallots, salt and vinegar. Allow to rest for 10 minutes (this will take the edge off the shallots). Stir in 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Very slowly, add oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Season generously with black pepper. Store in a refrigerator.
Per serving (2 1/2 tablespoons): 147 calories; 16 g fat; 13 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 1 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 311 mg sodium; 3 mg calcium
Recipe from “Tasting Paris” by Clotilde Dusoulier
SAVORY CORN PUDDING
Yield: 12 servings
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons corn oil or canola oil
6 cups fresh corn kernels (from 8 ears)
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl until blended. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream and melted butter until blended.
2. Heat corn oil or canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn and onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in thyme. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir flour mixture and corn mixture into egg mixture. Spoon into a 13-by-9-inch (3 quart) baking dish, and bake until set and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
3. Can be made up up to 2 days in advance: Bake as directed, let cool and cover with foil before refrigerating. Reheat covered with foil.
Per serving: 339 calories; 28 g fat; 15 g saturated fat; 158 mg cholesterol; 7 g protein; 19 g carbohydrate; 8 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 507 mg sodium; 83 mg calcium
Recipe adapted from one by Karen Rankin in Southern Living
INDIAN STREET CORN SALAD
Yield: 4 servings
3 large ears corn
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon or less cayenne pepper
Big pinch ground cardamom
Big pinch chaat masala or garam masala
Salt and pepper
1 cup halved cherry or sugarplum tomatoes
1 or 2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves thinly sliced
Small handful fresh cilantro, leaves rustically ripped into bite-size pieces
1. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and heat until just beginning to smoke. Rub the corn with olive oil and carefully place in the pan. Cook until charred in patches all the way around and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.
2. For the dressing: Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice, cumin, cayenne, cardamom, chaat or garam masala, salt and pepper to taste. Slice the kernels off the cobs and place in a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, mint and cilantro. Toss with the dressing, taste for seasoning and serve.
Per serving: 116 calories; 20 g fat; 1g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 3 g protein; 18 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 21 mg sodium; 14 mg calcium
Recipe by Aarti Sequeira, via Food Network
ZUCCHINI CORN CAKES
Yield: 12 servings
1 ear of corn
1 pound zucchini (about 2 large)
2 scallions, sliced thin
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon basil, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon sriracha
1. Boil corn until just cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Cut kernels from cob. Set aside.
2. Grate zucchini, using the large holes of a box grater. Place in a colander or wrap in a towel and use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. In a large bowl, combine zucchini with corn kernels, scallions, eggs, garlic powder, parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper, then mix in Parmesan and flour.
3. Add oil to the depth of 1/4 to 1/3 inch in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot (bubbles will immediately start to form around a piece of corn dropped into it), cook fritters in batches: For each fritter, pour in 1/4 cup of batter, flatten to about 1/2 inch and cook until golden, 2 minutes per side. Add more oil between batches, as needed.
4. In a small bowl, mix Greek yogurt with sriracha. Serve fritters with sauce on the side.
Per serving: 96 calories; 4 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; 50 mg cholesterol; 5 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 301 mg sodium; 71 mg calcium
Adapted from a recipe by Rian Handler, via delish.com
PAPPARDELLE WITH CORN
Yield: 4 servings
2 ears corn
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 cups grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
12 ounces pappardelle pasta, see note
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for topping
Torn basil, for topping
Note: Pappardelle pasta is available in Italian and international markets.
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn and cook until slightly tender, about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs, reserving the boiling water. Let the corn cool slightly, then cut off the kernels.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until the tomatoes soften, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle in the corn water as the label directs. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the chicken broth and corn kernels to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the pasta to the skillet; add the scallions, Parmesan, the remaining 3 tablespoons of the butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine, adding the reserved cooking water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Top with more Parmesan and basil.
Per serving: 561 calories; 20 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 50 mg cholesterol; 28 g protein; 81 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 1,005 mg sodium; 129 mg calcium