Making the Most of Summer Part Deux: Fresh Corn off the Cob

In our last trip to the farmer’s market, your editor focused his energies mostly on heirloom tomatoes – and what tomatoes they were. This weekend, however, we’re taking a closer look at some of the other bounty of summer: sweet corn.

Corn, in general, has a number of things going for it: it’s colorful, nutritious and simple to prepare in a number of ways ( I prefer roasted or grilled, husk on for straight ears). Of course, what that list lacks, at least for much of the year, is taste. This isn’t a surprise; after all, most of the year we’re talking about corn moving through the agribusiness infrastructure in ways that would make a Slow Food-ite barf up their locally sourced organics. But thankfully, for a few months of late summer, corn becomes a local delight, with multiple delicious varieties available everywhere, from farmer’s markets to Safeway.

I’ve seen a number of different varieties of sweet corn around town in the past two weeks; in fact, I bought some about two weeks ago. Unfortunately it was a mess – mealy, with shriveled kernels. I had to cook the hell out of it, and mix it with store bought corn to get a passable dish. I was surprised, frankly. This weekend’s trip to my local farmer’s market, however, would prove completely different. What a difference a few weeks make. This weekend, I bought beautiful bi-color corn at the U st. farmer’s market. I can’t remember the name of the stand, but in the future, there will be copious shout-outs, I promise.

As I mentioned above, I prefer my corn oven roasted (or grilled) in the husk. But this recipe calls for a slightly different presentation: the corn kernels are cut from the cob, then pan roasted in a cast iron skillet. With fresh corn, it’s truly delicious and a truly simple, yet versatile recipe.

Pan Roasted Corn with Black Beans

Recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 ears of corn
1 clove garlic, minced or put through a press
1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans (I used canned, but if you cook dried beans beforehand, you get a tastier dish and save money at the grocery store)
1 ripe tomato, cored and diced (heirlooms, like these green zebras, provide an interesting splash of color)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice

An unbelievably simple recipe – just heat the oil, and cook the corn with salt and pepper, without fussing with it too much (this was difficult for me, I’m sure it will go easier for you) until it begins to char, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper and cook for a minute or so more, stirring more often. Combine with the tomatoes, black beans and lime juice. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning.

As I said, this is an incredibly versatile recipe. It can be served hot or cold, and keeps well in the refrigerator. Also, the recipe itself is endlessly variable: this recipe came from Bittman, but your editor has seen recipes which call for ginger, sweet onion, Thai chilies and cilantro; also, we make a version here at Casa Epicure with roasted red peppers and zucchini.

This recipe, specifically, has a nice balance of flavors: the sweetness of the carmelized corn combines with the acidity of the tomatoes (the cultivar I used, luckily, had a truly deep tomato flavor) and the richness of the black beans.

As for the thrifty side of this equation, even with farmer’s market ingredients this dish fits any budget: the corn cost $2.00 for the four ears; the tomatoes were $3.00/lb (each tomato ran me about $1.50 each); top it all off with a 99¢ can of black beans (using dried beans would cost you about 50¢ for the same equivalent; I’m all about that sweet 49¢ savings) and a 75¢ jalapeno and you’ve got a meal. Not too bad, and take a look at how beautiful it presents:

Corn, Black Bean and Green Tomato Salad
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3 responses to “Making the Most of Summer Part Deux: Fresh Corn off the Cob

  1. In the Midwest we’re in love with bi-color corn to the exclusion of other varieties. As a result, we miss out on some not so flashy but really sweet tasting corn. See if you can find Silver Queen at one of your markets. It is really special.

  2. With the current uncertainties with food prices there is a greater need for us to conserve and be increasingly economical about food consumption at home. We have become wasteful as consumers of food and have never really had a need to feel otherwise before this crisis started. Blaming the rampant consumerism of the supermarkets has now irrelevant in this discussion. The situation now is that if we don’t change our food habits this situation could easily escalate completely out of control. The responsibility is now on us all to change our food buying and food consuming habits.

    Simple food saving tips are things we need to get used to and practice more regularly. Most of these are common sense and can be quite creative. You can find a list of free food saving tips at sites such as http://www.foodcrisis.co.uk amongst other similar sites as well.

    We all need to contribute to a fairer and more food wise program for ourselves.

  3. This looks lovely! I simply love black beans and corn together and will certainly give this a try. Fortunately, I live in an area of California that grows the most wonderful sweet corn, so we gorge on it during this time of year.

    This is my first visit here, but will certainly return as I do love your bent on food, and the economical information you provide is sure appreciated.

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