Corn off the cob
Once you've indulged in your fill of the ears, cut the kernels loose
Barbecue corn salad : At this point in the summer, we've enjoyed corn on the cob just about every which way. We offer recipes that work best with kernels cut from the cob. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune)
We love it all. We're planning on continuing the feasting as long as the farm stands have a supply. In between the ears, we're scheming to remove the sweet kernels from their fibrous posts and put them into other preparations.
We're thinking of tender corn fritters and sweet corn salad. Golden goodness — both of them — especially with our favorite variegated honey and cream hybrid.
All of these recipes taste best with kernels cut from the freshly cooked cob. Alternatively, cut the kernels from the raw cobs and cook briefly (1 or 2 minutes) in boiling salted water. For more crunch, simply use raw corn kernels; for maximum convenience, use thawed frozen kernels (no need to cook them).
The veggie and corn fritter-cakes that follow solve the dilemma of excess zucchini and corn. Not quite pancakes, nor a true fritter, these golden fritter-cakes are veggies loosely held together with egg and flour. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet produces an irresistible crust. These savory fritters taste great served with cornmeal-coated quick-fried fish fillets or grilled pork chops or pork tenderloin. I especially like leftovers warmed briefly in the microwave then topped with a slice of ripe tomato and a sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs.
Main dish salads rule in the dog days of summer, so plan ahead for them when grilling on the weekends. I slather a few ears of corn with barbecue sauce just before they come off the grill. Tuck them away in the fridge along with a couple of pieces of barbecued chicken. Then cut the kernels from the cobs and toss with diced sweet tomato, crunchy raw tomatillos and roasted red peppers. Croutons, made from bakery-bought cornbread, surprise everyone.
Sweet corn tips
• Seriously, if you change only one bad habit this summer do this: Don't shuck fresh corn until you are ready to cook. The husk naturally protects the kernels and keeps the sugars from getting starchy. Heat the water to the boil (or heat the grill), then shuck the corn, no sooner. (And never shuck it in the store — that's just bad manners.)
• To perfectly cook corn on the cob, heat a very large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and when it returns to a boil, add the shucked corn. Let boil 1 minute (set a timer). Then turn off the heat under the pot. Cover and let stand 10 minutes (or up to 30 minutes).
• To easily (and less messily) cut corn from the cob, stand the cob up in the middle of a large deep bowl. Use a serrated knife to cut the kernels from the cob, letting them drop into the bowl.
• Kernels cut from the cob will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Or lay them out on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Scoop the frozen kernels into freezer containers and store in the freezer for several months.
• Thaw frozen corn kernels in the refrigerator and use without cooking in salad, stews, chili, stir-fries and soups.
Veggie and corn fritter-cakes with green chile and tarragon
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes per batch
Makes: 18 to 22 small fritter-cakes
Note: You can use the food processor to shred the zucchini and onion, but I find it quickest to do this on the large-hole side of a four-sided grater.
2 medium zucchini, about 1 pound total