Welcome to “New Ways to Eat,” in which we will take beloved foods that are already great, just as they are, and then still have some fun gussying them up with other delicious things. It’s making a great thing even more great, because we can.
Today’s Subject: Sweet Summer Corn.
It’s rare to love a food that gets stuck in your teeth and causes you to break out the floss (the horror!) but sweet summer corn still manages to make our hearts thump. Available in the warmest of summer months in sheer abundance, corn is one of those foods that just makes you think “summer.” Unwrapping the thick exterior leaves is like Christmas in July, stripping the wrapping paper away to find the sweet corn goodness inside. And now that we’ve officially gone a little bit too far, let’s move on to….
Corn: The Briefest of Histories
Is it a grain? Is it a seed? The husk is like a protective cape, right?
Corn is a kind of seed, similar to wheat or rice, that originally came from a wild Mexican grass called teosinte. It was discovered roughly 7,000 years ago. Corn has lots of carbohydrates, minerals and fiber and is rich in vitamins B and C, but has less protein than wheat, barley, etc.
Is it a fruit, a vegetable, or a grain? Yes. Yes to all. Whole corn, meaning eaten on the cob, is considered a vegetable. The corn kernel itself (popcorn) is considered a whole grain. To complicate things, many grains (including popcorn) can be loosely considered a fruit, because they come from the seed or flower part of the plant. Vegetables generally come from the and stems of a plant, which is why some foods people consider vegetables are actually fruits, such as tomatoes.
So, yes. Corn is actually a vegetable, a whole grain, and a fruit. Better, and less confusing news, is that no matter what form it comes in or what category it falls into, corn is good for you and can be part of a healthy diet, so long as it is natural and not processed. Your most cost-effective and healthful option is always to buy and shuck your corn yourself – and it’s actually kind of fun!
Eating Summer Corn
In the spirit of simplicity, corn is delicious just grilled, steamed or even eaten raw, if you like it as sweet as can be. Add a bit of butter, or salt, or even take a cue from us and drizzle on the Abbruzze Spice.
Or, for when you get tired of the same ol’ thing, here are a few more festive and fun summer corn ideas. Strip them husks and get cooking!
Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread – with real corn!
1.5 cups cheddar, shredded (we suggest our aged New York White Cheddar, tried and true staple of pantries everywhere.)
1 cup fresh corn
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a large bowl. Stir until they are well combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vegetable oil.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir just until a lumpy batter forms and no more dry flour remains on the bottom of the bowl. Do not over stir.
Add 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and fresh corn to the batter and gently fold until they are incorporated. Prepare a 9″ pie plate with butter. Pour the batter into the dish. Arrange the sliced jalapeño, and sprinkle the remaining shredded cheddar over the top.
Bake the cornbread for 18-20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the center is puffed up and the cheese on top is deep golden brown. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then slice into 8 pieces and serve.
Pasta with Roasted Corn, Tomatoes, Bacon and Ricotta
- A simple summer dinner, in a flash! And only one sheet pan…
- Place fresh corn kernels, whole small tomatoes and strips of bacon together on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400 for 25 minutes.
Chop up the bacon and toss with the vegetables into cooked pasta.
Toss in chopped fresh herbs, parsley, chives, basil. Top with a dollop of ricotta (ours, of course) and a drizzle of olive oil.
Corn Chowder with Chorizo
The key to making this soup great (besides the salty hunks of Chorizo) is to make a stock from the corn cobs.
(Loosely adopted from Serious Eats.)
Hold a corn cob upright in a large bowl and cut off the kernels with a sharp knife. Repeat with your other cobs, reserving the kernels. Use the back of a knife to scrape the remaining stuff on the cobs cobs into a medium saucepan – you are basically collecting the milk left in the bases of the kernels.
Break corn cobs in half and add to saucepan, and then put in 1-2 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock, bay leaf, fennel and coriander seeds and black peppercorns. Stir to combine, bring to a boil and then reduce to just below a simmer, and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer after the steep to remove the excess kernel pieces.
Add your onions, garlic, and corn kernels to a separate pot with oil and simmer over medium heat until everything softens. Add three tablespoons of flour to thicken it all together.
Stirring constantly, gradually add your homemade corn stock and simmer it all together. Add some chopped russet potatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. If you prefer a creamier soup, also add some half and half.
Transfer 1/4 of soup to a blender and blend on high heat until smooth. Return the smooth soup to the pot and whisk. (You can also just use a hand blender to blend in the pot until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar if you’d like it, then add some sliced chives and your favorite cut of chorizo on top. N’duja would also be great here, if you’d like a different type of spicy salami. Just combine sweet (corn) and spicy (meat) and pretty much, you can do no wrong.
Mexican street corn is as easy to enjoy at home as it is at your favorite restaurant or as a street snack. Countless recipes exist on the internet, but the quick gist is basically covering your grilled or roasted corn in mayonaise or crema, and then sprinkling on your favorite spices – cojita cheese, lime juice or zest, cayenne, paprika, ancho or guajillochili powder, crushed cilantro…the choices are endless. Roll the corn in something creamy (crema, mayo) and then layer on spices and garnish. Your lips may sting a bit at the end, but it’s all so worth it.
What are your favorite corn recipes? Share ’em with us in the comments!