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Sweet corn: From the cob to the kernels

Sep 1st, 2011 | Category: Cooking

by Becca Schwarz Cole

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “Pray what more can a reasonable man desire, in peaceful times, in ordinary noons, than a sufficient number of ears of green sweet-corn boiled, with the addition of salt?” Garrison Keillor once said, “Sex is good, but not as good as sweet fresh corn.”

The sweet kernel cornbread is baked in a preheated cast-iron skillet, and includes one cup of corn kernels for an old-fashioned texture. PHOTO BY BECCA SCHWARZ COLE

There is no question that late summer brings a culinary love affair with sweet corn. It is a staple of the season that is gobbled up by many. Fresh sweet corn is most delicious in a simple state – roasted on the barbecue or boiled until ready, then topped with some butter and salt, maybe some herbs or garlic mixed in for added flavor. Everyone has their personal favorite.

In our family, a fresh baked bread or loaf of some kind comes out of the oven every few days. With our near daily consumption of corn this time of year, cornbread naturally becomes a favorite baked good, especially since this recipe requires corn kernels cut straight from the cob, and the use of a cast iron skillet.When I was younger, I loved “baking” corn muffin mix that was packaged (I didn’t know any better), but as I got older, and baked with real, fresh ingredients, in an old-fashioned cast iron skillet, those packaged, processed ingredients were long gone. You simply cannot beat the taste and quality. Over time, I adjusted the cornbread’s base recipe (handed down a while back) to include whole wheat flour, less salt, and no sugar. We use honey instead of sugar.

Baking with whole kernels is simple. Boil your corn until ready, then hold up the cob over the bowl, cutting the kernels straight down with a knife. I find a knife works just fine, however there are fancy kitchen gadgets with rounded edges that take off fuller kernels.

Before adding the batter to the skillet, place the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes to generate a nice heat. As you add the batter, it sizzles in the skillet, and the edges start to curl from the heat. The sound and smell is wonderful.

When done baking, eat it hot, eat it cold, eat it by itself, or top with fresh butter or jam. A simple and delicious topping for this cornbread is fresh blackberries mashed up and spread on top.

The corn salad and corn salsa are both great additions to a lunch, dinner, or appetizer, and include other delicious seasonal ingredients: tomatoes, peppers, onions, herbs. In addition, the salmon-corn cakes are delicious, and a great way to use leftovers.

Becca is the editor/co-publisher of Grow Northwest magazine.

Sweet Kernel Cornbread

1 cup corn kernels (about two ears of corn)
1 cup milk (or replacer)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted (or replacer)
2 eggs (or replacer)
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with vegetable oil (or lard), and place in a 400° oven for 10 minutes or until hot.
In a large bowl, mix the corn and milk until smooth. Add honey, butter, and eggs, mixing well.
Combine flours and remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix together, stirring until just combined. Pour batter into preheated skillet, and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean.

Salmon-Corn Cakes

1 pound cooked salmon
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup shallots, diced
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 lemons
oil for frying

Combine all ingredients except for the bread crumbs. Add 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and save the rest for later. Mix the batter together, and form into patties. Be sure to press the patties, and use more bread crumbs if needed to hold a nice patty. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cover patties with additional bread crumbs and add to the pan, cooking each side until it golden brown (about 3-4 minutes each side). Top with squeezed lemon.

Hot corn salsa

2 cups kernels (about 4 ears of corn)
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup tomatoes
3 Jalapeno peppers
2 Serano peppers
2 Tablespoons red onion, minced
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut the kernels off raw ears of corn using a sharp knife. Seed and dice the tomatoes and peppers. Add the corn, butter, tomatoes, peppers, onion, cilantro, vinegar and salt and pepper to a saucepan over high heat. Stir the ingredients, allowing them to come to a boil. The mixture should resemble a light sauce. Serve hot or cold, as a dish topping or as a dip for chips, veggies, or appetizer.

Simple Corn Salad

3 cups kernels (about 6 ears of corn)
3 large tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Cook corn in boiling water for 10 minutes, or until desired tenderness. When cooled, cut the kernels off the cobs using a sharp knife. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Chill for at least a few hours before serving to allow flavors to blend together.

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