Off the Cob

A teenaged-accident opened new doors to preparing corn.

CornSign_DougYoung

I envy folks who can eat corn on the cob like a typewriter: base to tip, “ding” turn, base to tip again. My two front teeth got knocked out as a teenager and since then, to protect my replacements, I eat corn with a fork by sliding the tines along the cob under each kernel and twisting 90 degrees to release a juicy bite. I enjoy corn like this, but always look like the oddball. Maybe this is why I seek different ways to prepare corn.

When the corn is sugary good, I eat it raw. With a knife—very close to the cob to capture the milky juices—I shave the kernels. Corn is as sweet as candy during its peak; once picked, its sugars undergo enzymatic reactions that slowly convert into flavorless, mealy starch. That’s why I prefer to gobble it straight, throw it into salad or make into a salsa dressed with something acidic like citrusy lime or lemon, herb-infused vinegars, even a dash of good balsamic. The corn takes on tart and briny flavors beautifully, while keeping its golden wholesome shape and palatable snap.

Form and crunch is what I look for when preparing a salsa (a condiment or sauce), so in this case, raw is best. When combined with a slightly underripe avocado, colorful heirloom cherry tomatoes from Invincible Summer Farms, cilantro just plucked from my herb garden and a scant of jalapeño heat, you just may do the tango. Lately, lime is my go-to acid, I have even made lime-basil-infused vinegar (so easy to do: clip herbs; place in a Mason jar; pour white vinegar to the top; and close the lid. If citrus is not your thing, any vinegar will do. The hardest part of making this salsa is waiting for the flavors to mingle. If you cringe at the thought of raw (not sure why you would), roasting corn imparts a superb caramel flavor and can be done in a skillet until kernels are brown. Or create smoky-popcorn undertones by placing the corn directly on the flame of a grill. Both techniques are perfect for this salsa recipe, which goes great with chicken, steak or fish.

CornSalad_DougYoung

Here is something that I can eat without a fork—or teeth for that matter: corn-infused ricotta cheese. My first taste of this creamy concoction, created by chefs Erik Orlowski and John Urbinati of Fifth and South in Port Jefferson, was at Harvest East End in Cutchogue. This one-bite wonder is topped with roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes on a multigrain crostini with the ricotta and a little micro basil. How refreshing it was to see Long Island corn transformed into something unrecognizable, pulverized of any familiarity, yet still with the unmistakable flavor of summer. I gave this creative recipe a whirl because the corny dance happening in my mouth was about to take over my feet.

Most of us these days have a blender and/or food processor: This is your workhorse.

CornCob_DougYoung

Shave off kernels and puree in a blender. (I usually make extra and freeze it for corn chowders, puddings, pancakes and even fritters.) Strain and cook for five minutes in a saucepan, then cool completely in the refrigerator. The corn sugars and flavors are heightened and become gelatinous. My favorite part is folding the bright-yellow puree into the white creamy ricotta. It’s delicious as is, but when paired with roasted tomatoes, crostini and herbs, it’s an exquisite summer side.
However you eat your corn, give the person who eats their corn on the cob with a fork the benefit of the doubt. They may have a corny story to tell.

 

Raw Corn Salsa

By Laura Luciano

When the corn is at its sweetest I prefer to eat it raw. If you’re compelled, grill the ears directly on the flame for 5 minutes to get an even char, but I promise—raw is “sweet!” No matter how you cook it, allow the salsa to sit for 20 minutes before serving. I have spooned this salsa over grilled Browder’s Birds chicken rubbed with a favorite spice, cHarissa by Earl Fultz, and have topped the salsa with grilled striped bass my father caught in the Shinnecock Bay.

CornSalad_DougYoung

4 ears of corn
¼ red onion, diced
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 avocado, slightly underripe and chopped
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

Shuck the corn of its husk and silk. Stand corn on a cutting board with the flat, stem side down. Use a sharp chef’s knife and begin cutting from top to bottom, one lengthwise section at a time. Be sure to get as close to the cob as you can and cut the kernels without cutting into the cob.

Place corn in a large bowl with the onion, cherry tomatoes, jalapeño, avocado and cilantro.

Whisk together the lime and olive oil and pour over salsa. Add salt and pepper; mix gently.

Let sit 20 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed, adding more salt, pepper or lime juice for added flavor. Serves 6 as an accompaniment.

COOK Erik Orlowski and John Urbinati’s recipe for corn-infused ricotta cheese with roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes on a multigrain crostini with micro basil.

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Cook and artist Laura Luciano writes the blog outeastfoodie.com.