Fresh, Local, Seasonal: Corn

Sometimes i feel bad for corn. With the preponderance of industrial/monoculture-raised/processed corn products, the golden ears have become synonymous with the face of food evil. It’s like having a punk sibling whose bad deeds tarnish the whole family.

But, as many people know, sweet corn (white or yellow) is a completely different animal from the tough stuff that ends up in soda and sweets. Bright, crunchy and relatively cheap, it’s an underutilized seasonal superstar that’s high in Vitamin B and dietary fiber. Yes, you can boil it and roll it in butter (a simple, sensational side dish that just screams South Jersey shore), but there are myriad other ways to incorporate those crisp kernels.

Corn is great on salads. Char it on a grill first if you can (or throw it under the broiler for a hot minute) to add another dimension of flavor. But, if you have the really fresh stuff, raw works just fine (especially if you have citrus in your dressing—which you should—as it will help break down the kernels). Try it as a sweet, textural element with arugula, parmesan and lemon vinaigrette. Or try a southwest spin with tomato, avocado, red onion, cilantro and black beans (a tomatillo-based dressing is excellent here; use store-bought or homemade salsa verde as your acid).

Corn is also best friends with bacon—the salty richness of the pork is a perfect foil. Try this summer pasta sauce: dice a couple of slices of good local bacon (Meadow Run and Country Time are excellent options), render them in a pan until crisp (at this point you can remove some of the excess fat, if you like), then toss in fresh corn and diced shallots. Once the shallots have softened, finish with a little bit of white wine and a handful of fresh herbs (basil or parsley). Toss with pasta and top with fresh parmesan. 

Corn and bacon also make excellent partners atop pizza. Add blue cheese and thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes to the mix, and you’re really getting somewhere.

Lastly, one of the best corn-cooking methods is also the simplest—throw it on the grill, husks and all. When it’s done, peel back the papery hull, rub with butter (spiked with chili and lime if you’re feeling adventurous) and eat with your hands. —Lee Stabert