Corn takes a lot of flack.
There’s all the confusion about its identity, whether it’s a grain or a vegetable. The fuss over whether it’s nutritionally beneficial. The fact that it’s not easy to digest. And don’t get me started on high-fructose corn syrup, one of the most maligned ingredients of our time.
But as we revel in the summer corn season, we’re sticking to one basic fact above the rest: Corn is delicious.
Bursting with sweetness, corn may be best completely on its own, naked and nibbled straight from the cob, corny remnants stuck in your teeth for days. It can also bring a gentle flavor and appealing texture to a number of dishes, from soups both hot and cold to pasta to salads.
As we head into summer, let this most summery of ingredients help carry your celebratory food plan. Here are some recipes to get you started.
Mexican Street Corn Tostadas
You can make the bean mixture and the sauce for the corn up to three days in advance.
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes with green chilies
1/4 teaspoon cumin (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups fresh corn kernels (from 4-5 large ears)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Zest of 1lime plus juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Pickled red onions, for serving (optional; see notes)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Arrange the tortillas in a single layer on the baking sheet and mist with vegetable oil cooking spray. Flip them over and mist the other side. Bake, flipping once halfway through, until tortillas are mostly crisp. Set aside. (Tortillas will crisp more as they cool.)
Combine the black beans, diced tomatoes with green chilies, and cumin (if using) in a blender and blend until almost smooth with a few chunks. Transfer to a small pot and cook over medium heat until hot and thickened, about 15 minutes. (Alternatively, you can puree the beans and tomatoes directly in the pot using an immersion blender.) Set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 2 cups of corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until it just begins to brown and char. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining 2 cups of corn.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, chili powder, and lime zest and juice. Pour over the corn and toss to coat.
To assemble, spread each tostada with some of the bean mixture and top with a big scoop of the corn. Sprinkle with feta, cilantro, and pickled onions (if using). Serves 4.
Notes: To make pickled red onions, toss 1/2 a thinly sliced red onion with 1/4 cup each cold water and red wine vinegar. Add a big pinch of salt and sugar and a few dashing of hot sauce (optional). Set aside for 30 minutes.
Charred Corn Salad with Feta
3 ears of corn, husked
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper
When it’s cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cobs into a large bowl.
Add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine, and serve warm. Serves 4.
Creamy Corn Pasta With Basil
It is tempting when following any recipe to think you can omit some ingredients without sacrificing major flavor. Don’t do that with this dish. Everything listed below adds something to the finished product, a rich and creamy pasta recipe that somehow does not have any cream in it. The trick? You prepare fresh corn two ways: Sizzle it in a skillet with some butter, and puree it with scallion whites to form the base of a creamy sauce. (Don’t forget to save the water used to cook the pasta; the starch in it helps create the sauce, too.) Basil adds a light, bright flavor, while scallions bring a nice bite and butter is the luscious binder that holds all of it together. You may need to restrain yourself from eating the entire pot.
12 ounces dry farfalle
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced, whites and greens separated
2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (2 cups kernels)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, more for serving
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to taste
1/3 cup torn basil, more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Lemon juice from 1 lemon
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat; add scallion whites and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and all but 1/4 cup corn; simmer until corn is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender and puree mixture until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.
Heat the same skillet over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved 1/4 cup corn and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add corn puree and cook for 30 seconds to heat and combine flavors.
Reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and half the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in 1/4 cup of the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the basil, the red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and garnish with more scallions, basil, a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper.
Cold Southwestern Corn Soup With Shrimp
This is a recipe that can get by with frozen corn, but consider buying a handful of fresh ears and cooking them. Then cut the kernels from the cob, let them cool and use as directed in the recipe. The fresh factor will up this already refreshing chilled soup.
4 packages (10 ounces each) frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (from 2 or 3 limes)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch cayenne, pepper
1 pound cooked frozen shrimp, thawed, roughly chopped, reserving 4 whole shrimp
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced
In a blender, working in two batches, puree corn, yogurt, milk, lime juice, coriander and cayenne. Alternatively, place everything into a pot and use an immersion blender to blend.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids. Stir in chopped shrimp and season with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with tomatoes, avocado and reserved whole shrimp. Serves 4.
Goat Cheese and Corn Omelet
Corn and eggs? I wouldn’t have thought they paired well together either. But corn delivers an understated sweetness to this omelet, balanced by the tang and savoriness of goat cheese and chives. Most of these recipes taste better with fresh corn, but you could go the frozen corn route here if you must. Just make sure to let the corn defrost, then pat it dry with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
3 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup corn kernels, fresh (from 1 ear)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
4 fresh chives, chopped
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt, pepper and corn.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the yolk mixture until no trace of white remains.
Melt the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the egg mixture and cook, without stirring, until the eggs begin to set but are still slightly runny in the center, about 1 minute.
Draw the eggs from the edge of the skillet to the center and cook until almost set.
Sprinkle half the eggs with 3/4 of the cheese and 3/4 of the chives. Using a spatula, fold the omelet over, forming a half-moon. Cook until set.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese and chives over half the folded omelet. Fold it again, forming a triangle; slide it onto a plate. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.