For one year in the 1960s we lived in Randallstown, and our next-door neighbor grew corn. He invited us to reach over the fence and take fresh ears for dinner. I will never forget the taste of that “sugar” corn. We even ate some raw! Fortunately, there are many ways to create unforgettable summer flavors with produce that tastes as if you grew it yourself. Corn and tomatoes are the stars of the season. New varieties of corn are plentiful and so easy to prepare.
Fresh corn can be kept for a few days in the refrigerator. If you have always added sugar or salt to water when cooking corn, listen up: It is no longer necessary. The corn grown today has built-in extra sugar, so there is no need to add sugar or salt while cooking. The old-fashioned method of steaming corn in simmering water is fine, but be fast: no more than three minutes. Do not let corn sit in the hot water. It should be steamed, not boiled. There are many options to grill corn, and restaurant chefs have creative ways they share online. Toss husked corn on the barbeque or a grill pan to get those roasted grill marks. My sister always microwaves hers. She puts cobs in a Pyrex plate with a few tablespoons of water and cooks on high for four to eight minutes, depending on number of ears. Enhance corn flavor by adding a myriad of spreads, such as garlic butter or chili-lime salt. (See accompanying recipes.)
Unless you grow your own tomatoes — or have a generous friend with a green thumb — your local farmers’ market is the best place to get homegrown and heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms are prized for their many colors and flavors; simply slice or gently chop for salads. Fresh, sweet, juicy tomatoes and corn always complement each other. They are a real “summer romance”: The July 4th fireworks are over, but the best food of summer is just getting started. Enjoy!
HENNE & ILENE’S HENNE & ILENE’S TOMATO PIE
1 frozen pie crust (I use Oronoque Orchards)
1 small package crumbled goat’s cheese
3 cut-up Vidalia onions
3-4 large Maryland, Jersey or heirloom tomatoes (try to get assorted colored ones)
Vegetable oil and butter or margarine
2 scallions, sliced thin, white and green parts
Parmesan cheese for garnish
Directions: Place frozen crust in a quiche pan or a glass pie pan. Let the crust defrost but only cover the bottom of your pan, not up the sides. Prick the bottom of the crust. Bake according to package directions, just until lightly brown and dry. In a large fry pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon butter or margarine. Add onions and caramelize. Layer goat’s cheese and scallions on bottom of cooled crust. Place onions on top. Slice tomatoes and place on top of onions, layering and sprinkling each layer with some Crazy Jane Salt. Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top, if desired (good idea!). Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before slicing with a pizza wheel. Can refrigerate and slice later, heating each slice in microwave if desired. Serves 8.
BEST OF SUMMER SIDE DISH
6 ears fresh summer corn
2 cups halved assorted grape tomatoes
½ cup thinly sliced small red onion
1 large avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
⅓ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions: In a large pot of boiling water, cook corn until warmed through, 3 minutes. Rinse with cold water until cool. Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, onion, avocado and basil in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients to make the vinaigrette, whisking until blended. Cut corn kernels off cobs and add to salad, then pour in vinaigrette and toss gently to combine. 4-6 servings.
Tips & Tricks
- Place ears of corn in a clean empty dish rack as you remove them from the pot.
- Foolproof corn cooking: Place husked ears in a pot. Pour boiling water to cover corn by 1 inch. Cover and leave for 10 to 30 minutes. Perfect sweet corn! Use the same method to cook 24 husked ears in a large cooler. Close lid for 45 minutes. Remove most of the water except a small layer on the bottom. (Most coolers have a drain.)
- Place tomatoes with stem on top. Core with a sharp paring knife or a serrated tomato tool. Place cored side down and slice with a serrated knife for even lovely slices.
- Go ahead and store ripe tomatoes, whole or cut, in the refrigerator. Cut ones won’t last as long, but wrap those tightly in plastic.
Some Corn Flavor ‘Dress-Ups’
- Smear some mayonnaise on cooked ears. Roll them in a mixture of Old Bay and Panko crumbs.
- Garlic butter: Combine butter or margarine, garlic and chives in food processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to use.
- Spicy chili-lime salt: 2 tablespoons kosher salt; 3-4 teaspoons chili powder; 3/4 teaspoons grated lime zest. Combine everything in a small bowl to rub on cooked corn.
- Basil lemon butter: 6 tablespoons unsalted and softened butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons fresh minced basil, 1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley, 1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon zest with salt and pepper to taste. Combine all ingredients and roll charred corn in mixture. Serve with extra lemon slices.
Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.