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Fresh corn at Evanston Farmers’ Market. (Submitted photo)

This week’s column is corny… in the best way possible, because it’s corn season, y’all. This is not a drill. Truly my favorite time of the produce year because I am OBSESSED with sweet corn. Happily, the corn bins at the market are starting to fill up with piles of tender corn, and my menus tend to take a turn about now. One amazing thing about corn is that it is super versatile and welcomed in just about every global cuisine. It can lean into sweet or savory dishes with equal aplomb, is at home with coconut milk, curry and cilantro as it is with basil and tomatoes. Of course, boiling or grilling the ears and slathering them with salted butter is a choice I can get behind, too. Here are some thoughts on how to use all that corn that you are headed to buy at the market RIGHT NOW.

Add them to your favorite cornbread recipe.

Everyone has a preferred cornbread recipe, right? Husk two ears of corn and remove all the silks. Slice the corn off the kernels and add to your cornbread batter right before pouring into a hot skillet to bake. If you’re feeling extra fancy, throw in a ½ cup of shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese while you’re at it. Bake and serve with soft honey butter.

Try your hand at Mexican street corn.

It was love at first bite for me with this insanely delicious taste combo. Grill corn in the husks. To prepare, pull back the husks but don’t detach; carefully remove the corn silk from the kernels. Dip the ear in melted butter or brush with oil, then sprinkle with kosher salt, paprika, and black pepper. Pull the husks back up around the corn, then carefully lay on the prepared grill but not over direct flame. After about 10 minutes, turn the corn. Repeat until husks look browned and dry. Remove from grill. Make a mixture of ¼ cup each sour cream and mayonnaise; stir in ½ cup of grated pecorino cheese, a good pinch of chile powder and garlic powder, then place on a flat plate. Pull back the corn husks and discard; roll in the sour cream mixture and serve with a squeeze of lime.

Make a spicy Asian corn soup.

Sauté a bunch of chopped garlic, ginger and shallots until soft. Toss in a chopped jalapeño and season with salt and pepper. Scrape about 4 cups of fresh corn kernels off the cob, along with any liquid you can coax off them. Add corn to pot and sauté for a few minutes. Add a cup of chopped potatoes, 24 ounces of vegetable stock, a can of unsweetened coconut milk, and the scraped corn cobs (adds flavor!) and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer until all veggies are tender. Remove corn cobs and discard. Purée the soup as you like it (Chunky? Smooth? Your choice.) Season to taste with lime juice, salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Slap together a great summer pasta salad.

Cook off a pound of pasta (any shape) in boiling salted water and drain. Toss with a little olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Halve a pint of cherry tomatoes, chop three scallions (whites and greens), scrape the kernels off three ears of corn and toss all the veggies in the pasta bowl. Make a quick vinaigrette with 1/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, a clove or two of minced garlic, a tablespoon or two of pesto if you have it and season with salt and pepper. Add to pasta bowl, throw in some torn fresh basil, a handful of grated Parmesan and if you want a little protein, some chopped cooked shrimp or smoked chicken. Toss all together and serve. Refrigerate whatever is left over and eat later, straight out of the fridge.

Try one of these tried-and-true recipes.

The internet is an infinite recipe resource, but how do you know which to trust? Not all recipes are created equal. Here are some I return to over and over that will make the most of that delectable summer corn.

Smitten Kitchen’s Corn Salad with Chile and Lime

Melissa Clark’s Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil

Food 52’s Corn Ice Cream

Tanya Holland’s Buttermilk Cornbread

 

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