With so many fruits and vegetables at their peak-of-season perfection right now—tomatoes! peppers! stone fruit! melons! eggplant!—it’s almost a shame to zero in on just one. But I feel like corn deserves some attention as a summer ingredient.
What I mean is, plenty of us enjoy an ear once or twice a week, but there are so many other ways to revel in corn, to celebrate it’s sunny, summery flavor and attitude. So I’m inspired to share some of my favorites.
But first, a quick primer on buying and storing corn—so it’ll taste that much better when you eat it.
Don’t peel back the husk to check the kernels. Even if you cover them back, that ear is now likelier to dry out, making it harder for the seller to sell and less flavorful for anyone who might buy it. Not good karma.
Do look for bright green husks that are tight to the ear and ears that are heavy for their size—signs that the corn is fresh and juicy.
Avoid tassels that are blackened or slimy (but brown is okay) and husks that are loose, yellowing, or that have tiny holes—these are signs that the corn is not fresh or, worse, buggy.
Ask your farmer. More than likely, every ear at the farmers market is a good one, but the farmer can also advise which type of corn is sweetest, for example, or which has more corny flavor.
Refrigerate your just-purchased corn, husks and all, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag. Eat it sooner rather than later, but don’t stress about. You were sure to buy really fresh, flavorful corn. :)
So now, ways to revel in that corn? Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Add corn to a green or veggie salad.
Why should tomatoes and cucumbers have all the fun? Cut raw kernels right off the cob (here’s a tip for how to do that) and add toss them with your favorite greens, dressings, and other add-ins. I’m particularly liking corn, tomatoes, and arugula with vinaigrette and a dash of chili powder. We made a something like it at my café a thousand years ago, so it makes me happy.
2. Add corn to a grain salad or grain bowl.
Corn, for example, would be a fantastic addition to this Summer Farro Salad or a burrito-inspired rice bowl.
3. Add corn to a potato salad or pasta.
Even though we associate it with summer picnics and potlucks, there’s hardly anything summery in a basic potato salad. Rectify that by adding corn. Or make my totally non-traditional but thoroughly summer-licious Potato Salad with Green Beans, Corn, Lemon, and Olive Oil.
A handful of corn kernels would also be great in your favorite pasta salad, or a warm pasta dish with heirloom tomatoes, pesto, or carbonara sauce.
4. Add corn to a sauce, salsa, or relish.
Chicken with Lemon-Lime, Corn, and Jalapeno Relish (above), for example.
The relish alone will instantly make almost anything summery-amazing. Keep it around for spooning onto all kinds of grilled and roasted meats, like chicken, steak, and salmon. Or onto burgers, tacos, or BLTs. It’s also great tossed with roasted potatoes or chunks of grilled zucchini. And if you stir in a little sour cream, it makes a great dip.
Cornmeal-Crusted Petrale with Tomato-Tarragon Relish is another good example of using corn in a sauce, salsa, or relish.
5. Use corn as a garnish.
A summer soup, like gazpacho, becomes more summery and bright with a few corn kernels scattered on top. The same goes for guacamole and other dips, lobster rolls, and shrimp cocktails.
And what about some corn on top of a caprese or tomato-burrata salad? Instantly attention-grabbing and sunny.
6. Add corn to a favorite recipe.
Go beyond crab cakes, for example, to make Corn and Crab Cakes. Add corn to—cornbread! Or add it to stir-fries, three-bean salad, quesadillas, even pizza.
7. Make a corn recipe that’s not corn on the cob.
By that I mean, yes, enjoy corn on the cob all summer long. But don’t forget there are other delicious corn preparations to enjoy as well. Like creamed corn, corn chowder, corn souffle, and corn fritters. Admittedly, all more work than basic corn on the cob. But all ways to get your fill, and then some, without resorting to the same old-same old.
Bottom line, buy a few ears to eat on the cob, but buy a few extra to use in other, more unexpected ways.
Why? Because reveling in corn, scattering its sweetness and crunch around your plate, is a way to revel in summer itself. To luxuriate in the the mood, the spirit of casual, unhurried days and warm, easy nights.
I don’t know about you, but that’s something I’ll never get enough of. So every little, corn kernel-sized opportunity for a little more is more than welcome.