There are a series of experiences that define summer for me in Rhode Island: The first sighting of lightening bugs, the first sip of a Del's Lemonade, the first singing of tree frogs, the first night you can sleep with the window open, the first afternoon stuck in beach traffic. Without these markers, summer just wouldn't feel quite like summer.
The first fresh corn on the cob of the season is among these. I don't include each seasonal vegetable in this list. No, corn is unique. The thing about fresh corn is that there is such a process involved. From purchasing to preparing to eating, there are a series of steps to be followed. The shucking and boiling, then the rolling of hot corn in butter and shaking on the salt, and then the typewriter style eating—it is all very methodical.
All five senses are actively involved. Seeing the first husks on the farm stand brings a smile to my face. Then there is the distinct feel of the husk and the sticky-softness of the silk, that unmistakable tearing sound as you shuck the corn, and the natural, crisp smell that shucking exudes. Of course, there is the sweet-salty taste of the cooked corn, slathered with butter and salt. And who can forget that feeling of corn stuck in your teeth?
Let's get cooking…
To be quite honest, I rarely see a need for doing much else with fresh corn besides eating it off the cob. Corn, butter, salt—why mess with perfection? (I also eat the leftovers cold, right out of the fridge, for a great afternoon snack.) On occasion, however, it can be nice to try something new, so here are some ideas.
Pair corn with other in-season vegetables. For example, try topping salad greens with corn, boiled beets, and goat cheese with a honey vinaigrette. Corn is a nice compliment to the strong flavor of beets, and you don't need to cook it—simply cut the kernels off the husk and sprinkle on the salad. Corn is also a great addition to salsa.
Soups. This may seem blasphemous in the Ocean State, but corn chowder is a great alternative to clam chowder for those among us (gasp!) who don't like clams. I am not one of these people, but my boyfriend is, so I know that they exist. I have also had great success with Sheila Lukin's Cha-Cha Corn Gazpacho —it is great for summer because it is served chilled, and is a perfect choice for a potluck cookout because it is unique (and tasty). And if I still haven't convinced you to try it, consider this: It is really pretty good for you.
Spice up traditional corn on the cob. Until at least my mid-20's I had only had corn on the cob prepared in one way—boiled. (Which, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, is pretty darn good.) However, here are two easy ways to change up your corn routine to keep things exciting:
- Grilling: Most people soak the corn in the husk for 30 minutes or more, and when you grill the corn it essentially steams inside the husk. You can take this approach a step further, however, by adding butter, herbs, and spices inside the husk before grilling. Emeril's recipe will give you an idea of how it is done.
- Herbed Butter: Basil butter, for example, adds a new flavor to corn on the cob. Simply mix chopped, fresh basil into room-temperature butter with a wooden spoon and then spread onto hot corn. Any herb will work, so be creative!
Summer apples are about to hit the scene. Apple pie anyone?