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It’s a cornucopia of corn

By Deirdre Parker Smith

deirdre.smith@salisburypost.com

Fresh corn is here now, and now is the time to cook it and enjoy it.

What you buy in the grocery will be at least a couple of days old. That corn can go into a recipe with other ingredients.

Try to get your corn from one of the area farmers’ markets, the one at 502 S. Main St. in Salisbury, the Salisbury-Rowan Farmer’s Market, or at the Market at the Mill in China Grove at the Roller Mill.

The Salisbury-Rowan market is open Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon. The China Grove Market is open Fridays, 4-6 p.m.

There is also a farmers’ market in Landis on Tuesdays, 4-7 p.m., on West Rice Street next to the Landis pool.

You can also find fresh corn at produce markets and roadside stands.

The best corn, experts say, is picked off the stalk and plunged into boiling water. Very few of us can do that. So get the freshest corn you can find and use it quickly. As it sits in the refrigerator, the sugars will turn to starch, and the flavor will dull and be bland.

There are as many theories on the right way to cook corn as there are kernels on a cob, so do what works for you.

Microwaving corn in the husk was popular a few years ago. Once microwaved, the husk and silks come right off. That fell out of favor. Grilling corn on the cob became the hot way to cook it. Then grilling in the husk came along, and now, there’s a combination of both microwaving and grilling.

As seen on America’s Test Kitchen, the method begins with cutting off the stem end of the corn, husk and all, then microwaving the corn, minus a few outer leaves, for about 2 minutes. The husk and silk should slip right off. Then place the corn, naked or brushed with a little butter or oil, on the grill and get a nice char on some of it. Leave it too long, and the corn becomes leathery.

Another alternative is to strip away the outer leaves, then place the corn on the grill. The husk will help steam the corn and cook it quickly. Naysayers prefer to just boil it in water or use a steamer.

And yet another method is to peel the husk back but leave it on the corn, then grill the whole thing. The crispy husk can then be used as a handle.

If you just want to husk your corn — we like to do that outside — and pop it in boiling water, here’s a good method: Put the corn in boiling water. Put on the lid, turn off the heat and wait about 5 minutes. The first ears will be crisp, but tender. The second serving will be a bit softer. Don’t leave corn sitting in the hot water for more than 10 minutes, or it will get tough.

The newest idea for cooking corn is in an Instant Pot, which can be used as a pressure cooker. Various recipes call for adding water, milk, cream, butter, salt, sugar and honey as cooking liquid. It takes between 4 and 6 minutes under pressure, and then you have to wait for the steam to release. It is a multi-step process that seems labor intensive compared to boiling, then slathering with butter.

This recipe makes use of fresh corn and abundant zucchini.

Corn on the Cob Kebabs

2 ears corn on the cob, husks and silks removed, halved

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. snipped fresh thyme

1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 medium zucchini, very thinly sliced lengthwise into long strips

Place corn in a large saucepan. Add enough water to saucepan to cover corn by over 1 inch; cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to medium. Cook, covered, 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Drain corn and submerge in ice water to cool completely.

In a small bowl combine honey, mustard, thyme, vinegar and pepper.

Using four 6- to 8-inch skewers, press a skewer through the core of the cob on each piece. Spread honey mixture over corn. Wrap two or three halved zucchini strips around each piece of corn, using a toothpick to secure, if necessary.

On a charcoal or gas grill, grill skewers on the rack of a covered grill directly over medium heat about 5 minutes or until corn is tender and heated through, turning frequently to brown all sides.

You can use a vegetable peeler to cut the thin strips of zucchini. If using wood skewers, soak in water to cover for 30 minutes; drain before using.

Creamed Corn with Red Peppers and Spinach

4 cups fresh corn kernels

2 medium red bell pepper, chopped (1  1/2 cups)

1 cup chopped onion (1 large)

1/4 cup unsalted chicken stock

2 Tbsp.unsalted butter, melted

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper

6 ounces cream cheese, cut into small chunks

4 cups fresh spinach, chopped if large

In a 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker, combine the corn, red peppers, onion, stock, butter, salt and crushed red pepper. Place cream cheese on top of the corn. Cover and cook on low 3 hours or 1 1/2 hours on high.

Stir to mix. Then stir in spinach and serve.

This will cook in about 20 minutes on the stove top over medium heat.

Eating Well

Basil Corn & Tomato Bake

2 tsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 large eggs

1 can (10 3/4 oz.) reduced fat, reduced sodium condensed cream of celery soup, undiluted

4 cups fresh corn

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped

3/4 cup soft whole wheat bread crumbs

1/3 cup minced fresh basil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion. Cook and stir until tender. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and soup until blended. Stir in vegetables, bread crumbs, basil, salt and onion. Transfer to an 11- by 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Bake, uncovered, 40-45 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with cheese and bake 5-10 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted. Serve with additional basil sprinkled on top.

Taste of Home

Fresh Corn Salad

1 1/2 cups corn (6 ears)

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided

2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1 cup fresh diced tomato

1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried basil

Cook corn in a large pot of salted boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water. Cut kernels from cobs. Place kernels in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, stir together olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Set aside.

Add remaining ingredients to the large bowl with the corn and gently toss. Drizzle with dressing to coat.

Let stand for 10 minutes before serving, or refrigerate, covered, until chilled.

She Wears Many Hats

Sweet Corn Pancakes

Makes about 9 to 10 4-inch pancakes

2 Tbsp. butter, plus additional for brushing pan

3/4 cup kernels cut from one large ear sweet fresh corn

1/8 tsp. salt plus additional for seasoning corn

1 large egg

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 Tbsp. sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornmeal, any kind

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet or griddle pan over medium heat. Add corn and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until it begins to brown ever-so-slightly. Sprinkle with salt and set aside to cool. Wipe out skillet.

Lightly beat egg in the bottom of a large bowl, then whisk in buttermilk, corn, vanilla and sugar. In a smaller bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and 1/8 tsp. salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet, mixing until just combined but still lumpy in appearance.

Reheat your skillet or saute pan to medium. Brush the pan with butter and ladle 1/4 cup batter at a time, 2 inches apart. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over and cook them until golden brown underneath.

If they seem to be cooking too quickly (dark on the outside, raw centers) turn your heat down to low for the next batch and inch it up as needed. Repeat with remaining batter, and serve immediately with a pat of salted butter and a healthy dose of maple syrup.

Smitten Kitchen

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