Fresh from the cob
Corn on the cob for Fourth of July probably didn’t sound like an unreasonable request.
But we reminded our guest from Southern California that the holiday was rushing Southern Oregon’s sweet corn season. My partner’s years of tending a community garden in Josephine County yielded sun-warmed ears right off the stalks. So, no, we couldn’t conscience purchasing sweet corn until local fields were ripe and golden.
Unfortunately, there’s less corn to go around since Seven Oaks Farm closed its Central Point store after last season, following a 25-year run. Selling between 4,500 and more than 10,000 pounds daily, Seven Oaks was practically synonymous locally with sweet corn. Longtime farmer Doreen Bradshaw and her family came to expect phone calls beginning in March asking if the corn was ready.
Even home gardeners relied on Seven Oaks sweet corn, rather than growing it themselves, said Bradshaw. The crop takes a lot of space and is best planted in successions. Because we don’t have resources to grow it ourselves, sweet corn is particularly cherished in my family’s CSA shares from Central Point’s Beebe Farms, which picked up some of Seven Oaks’ customers.
Several other local farms, including Fry Family in Medford and Whistling Duck in the Applegate have stepped in with sweet corn sales, the latter farm beginning a couple of weeks ago. The crop really hits its stride August through September and can last through mid-October.
We certainly haven’t had our fill, and I’ve found ways to stretch the few ears we receive each week from our CSA. A single ear — kernels cut from the cob — combined with summer squash produced one of my family’s favorite recipes of August: zucchini-corn cakes.
More accurately a fritter, these patties make a crisp-tender base for relishes and salsas with summer tomatoes and herbs or poached eggs for breakfast. I refined a recipe distributed two summers back by Tribune News Service based on my experience preparing zucchini fritters for an ACCESS cooking series. Of all the dishes using seasonally fresh produce that the class tried, this was the favorite.
The secret is finely dicing — not shredding — the zucchini into chunks the same size as the corn kernels, which ensures an overall toothsome texture. Read that again: If you shred the zucchini into strands, you will get a mushy fritter. Follow the recipe’s instructions on that point, but feel free to substitute herbs and spices to your liking.
It just goes to show that almost any recipe can be improved, including corn pudding that my mom likes with canned, creamed corn, which comes off too sweet for my liking. Food writer Daniel Neman calls his adaptation from Southern Living magazine “the real deal corn pudding.” Made with fresh eggs, heavy cream and butter, it isn’t low in calories, says Neman. “But it is also silky and satisfying and utterly magnificent.”
And while corn in pasta almost amounts to starch on starch, this pappardelle recipe fetes the summer trifecta of sweet corn, tomatoes and basil. For something simpler, combine pesto and butter for your corn on the cob.
However you choose to indulge, don’t overcook sweet corn. Barely blanching it on the cob for 30 seconds to a minute is sufficient to heat it. Any longer, and the kernels become tough, according to Bradshaw. Or eat sweet corn raw, sliced from the cob and sprinkled over salads or to garnish chilled soups.
Fresh sweet corn will keep, refrigerated, for four or five days. To store, strip off the husks, wrap the ears in moist paper towels, place them in a zip-close plastic bag and refrigerate. Freezing sweet corn only requires slicing it from the cob and packing into resealable plastic freezer bags.
1 ear sweet corn, shucked
1/2 pound zucchini (about 1 large), trimmed and finely diced
2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon thinly sliced basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Vegetable oil, as needed
Boil corn until just cooked, for 2 to 3 minutes. Cut kernels from cob. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine corn kernels with the zucchini, scallions, eggs, garlic powder, parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper, then mix in the flour and Parmesan.
Add oil to a depth of 1/4 to 1/3 inch in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot (bubbles will immediately start to form around a piece of corn dropped into it), cook fritters in batches: For each fritter, pour in 1/4 cup of batter, flatten to about 1/2 inch and cook until golden, 2 minutes per side. Add more oil between batches, as needed.
Drain fritters on paper towels. To serve, garnish fritters with a dollop of sour cream, diced tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for serving.
Makes 12 servings.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
6 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons corn oil or canola oil
6 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (from 8 ears)
1/2 cup sweet onion, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until blended. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream and melted butter until blended.
Heat the corn oil or canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn and onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is softened, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, for about 5 minutes.
Stir flour mixture and corn mixture into egg mixture. Spoon into a 9-by-13-inch (3 quart) baking dish, and bake in preheated oven until set and golden brown, for about 40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Pudding can be made up up to 2 days in advance: Bake as directed, let cool and cover with foil before refrigerating. Reheat covered with foil.
Makes 12 servings.
2 ears sweet corn
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 cups grape tomatoes
Salt and pepper, as needed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
12 ounces pappardelle pasta
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
Torn basil, for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn and cook until slightly tender, for about 3 minutes. Remove with tongs, reserving boiling water. Let corn cool slightly, then cut off kernels.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until tomatoes soften, for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle in corn water according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta. Add the chicken broth and corn kernels to skillet and bring to a simmer.
Add pasta to skillet; add the scallions, Parmesan, remaining 3 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine, adding reserved cooking water as needed. Season with salt and pepper. Top with more Parmesan and the basil.
Makes 4 servings.
2 cups packed basil leaves
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for optional garnish
1/4 cup olive oil, or more to taste
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt, as needed
6 ears freshly shucked sweet corn
4 tablespoons softened butter
To make pesto in a blender or food processor, combine the basil leaves, pine nuts, grated Parmesan, olive oil, lemon zest and juice and red pepper flakes; pulse until smooth but still a bit chunky, for about 1 minute. Add a little more olive oil if it seems too thick. Taste and add salt as needed.
If not using pesto right away, store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. You also can freeze pesto in ice cube trays or 4-ounce canning jars; add a drop of olive oil to top of each cube and cover tightly with plastic wrap.
When ready to cook the corn, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add corn and cook for 3 minutes.
While corn is cooking, mix the softened butter with 2 tablespoons pesto.
Remove corn from boiling water, drain on clean kitchen towels and, while still warm, brush (or slather) pesto butter on top. If desired, sprinkle buttered ears with more grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Makes 3 to 6 servings.
Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at email@example.com.