On the east coast of the US no other food says “summer” quite like fresh corn on the cob. Farm stands selling corn picked that morning are literally everywhere. And it is quite common (at least with our family and friends) to hear people arguing over what stand has the “best” corn. These arguments sound like wine aficionados comparing appellations and vintages- slightly ridiculous, but great, harmless fun. And while all the fresh corn here is good, there are differences between farms. We are lucky to have so many choices.
The other argument you might hear is where the best corn comes from. Not surprisingly we are fans of eastern Long Island corn. The weather and soil are perfect, the demand is high and the farmers compete to raise the best corn. A good combination. Now, we also enjoy corn from New Jersey and other mid-Atlantic states, but we know of no other area where the farms are just a few minutes away from most of the people. You can literally bring your water to a boil, drive, bike or walk to the farm stand in less than five minutes and then bring the corn back and put it in the pot. And then you are just three minutes from heaven. And we do mean 3 minutes…
Why 3 minutes? Well, if you have fresh corn, the best way to enjoy it is to eat it off the cob with minimal cooking. Simply boil the water, drop the corn in the water for three minutes. Once cooked, remove the corn from the water, slather with butter, liberally apply salt and pepper and serve. Perfection. The corn will be cooked but still very crisp and sweet. If you must cook the corn longer we suggest that 3 minutes=”rare”, 3.5 minutes= “medium rare”, 4 minutes= “Medium”, etc. But we suggest that anything past medium will rob the corn of its crisp texture. And the corn’s flavor and texture are some of the best nature has to offer.
But what if you have too much corn? It is pretty common to buy too much corn (it does look good, after all), but a simple seasonal corn salad will solve the problem and some (perhaps heretically ;-) ) even prefer it to corn on the cob. Our summer corn salad combines corn kernels with tomatoes and basil, two other great flavors that are in season along with the corn. Not surprisingly, some of the best simple dishes combine the stuff that is in your garden, or at the farm stand, at the same time. And they do play together well.
The corn salad combines just a few flavors, but they combine well and still highlight the sweetness of the corn. To start, cut the kernels from about 6 ears of corn (assume 1/2 cup of kernels per ear). Use a large bowl or plate, this is messy work. Otherwise, using medium-high heat, brown some bacon (omit for a vegetarian dish), then soften some sweet onion. Add the corn kernels and sauté until some slightly caramelize, it will take just a few minutes. Add some halved cherry tomatoes and cook until they start to “melt” another 2-3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Take the pan off the heat and then add the basil and the sherry vinegar. Stir and serve. Or set aside to cool. The salad is good warm, room temperature or even chilled.
So when you see a farm stand with beautiful fresh corn, go buy some, and grab some tomatoes and basil. You will have corn on the cob. And if you have extra corn, make the summer corn salad and bring it to the beach the next day for lunch. And if you are like us, you might do it again tomorrow…
Corn On The Cob:
What You Get: One of the best summer dishes in the world.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? 20 minutes. Mostly time for the water to boil. Anytime dish when corn is in season.
- Fresh corn, shucked
- Sweet butter
- Salt and pepper
- Shuck the corn.
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Place corn in the water.
- Cook for 3 minutes=”rare”, 3.5 minutes= “medium rare”, 4 minutes= “Medium”. We suggest 3 minutes.
- Remove from the heat. Serve with butter, salt and pepper.
Summer Corn Salad:
What You Get: A tasty use for your leftover corn on the cob.
What You Need: No special equipment required. Sherry vinegar is very good here, but red wine or cider vinegar also work.
How Long? 15 minutes. Anytime dish when corn is in season.
(serves 6 as a side salad)
- 3 cups cooked corn kernels (about 6 ears of corn)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 strips bacon, cut into lardons
- 1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
- 1 cup sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into then strips (chiffonade)
- Salt and pepper
- Cut the kernels off of the corn.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and the bacon. Cook the bacon until brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until soft, another 2-3 minutes. Add the corn kernels and cook until some (but not all) brown and caramelize, another 3-4 minutes. Finally add the tomatoes and cook until they start to melt into the corn, another 2-3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
- Add the vinegar and the basil to the corn mixture and stir. Taste one more time for seasoning and add salt, pepper or more vinegar, if you like. Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.