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Monday, August 11, 2014

Make The Most Of Summer Corn Before It's Gone

Ingredients for Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst's Grilled Corn Feta Tomato Mint Salad. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Ingredients for Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst’s Grilled Corn Feta Tomato Mint Salad. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst joins host Robin Young to talk about corn — corn fritters for breakfast anyone?

It’s summer and corn is readily available. Kathy looks at how to use corn in many, many cuisines. She also shares the best methods to buying corn. Don’t rip it apart at the store!

Kathy Gunst shops for farm-fresh sweet corn. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Kathy Gunst shops for farm-fresh sweet corn. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Kathy shares recipes for six of her favorite corn dishes, as well as a recipe for corn stock and tips for cutting corn off the cob:

See more cooking segments and recipes from Kathy Gunst here.

Breakfast Corn Fritters

(View/print a PDF of all of the corn recipes and tips)

Kathy’s Note: If the idea of eating corn for breakfast strikes you as strange, you haven’t tried these fritters. A simple batter packed full of sweet, fresh corn, eggs, and milk is formed into small pancakes or fritters, and drizzled with maple syrup.

Makes about ten small fritters; serves 3 to 4.

1/2 cup flour
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup milk
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar*
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut off 2 large cobs
Vegetable or olive oil for the pan
Maple syrup

*If your corn is very fresh and sweet you won’t need to add any sugar, but if the corn is frozen or not-just-picked you may want to sweeten it with the addition of some sugar.


In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the milk and sugar if using and whisk until smooth. Beat in the egg and gently mix in the corn.

In a large skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons oil over moderately high heat. Drop 2 to 3 tablespoons batter into the hot oil and carefully flatten the mixture with the back of a spatula to form a pancake. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Serve hot accompanied by the maple syrup.

Herb Corn Fritters

Kathy’s Note: This is the savory version of the breakfast corn fritters, made with fresh herbs and served with a lemon-herb butter.

Makes about ten to twelve 2 ½ to 3-inch fritters; serves 4.

2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (about 1 ½ cups corn kernels)
1 large egg, whisked
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup half and half
Pinch of salt, or to taste
A few grindings of black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon melted butter, plus more for frying
Vegetable or olive oil for frying


Place the corn kernels in a large bowl. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the flour, baking powder, half and half, salt, pepper, parsley, basil, and chives. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and beat well. The batter will be chunky, but should be evenly mixed.

Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add the remaining melted butter and ½ tablespoon of the oil and allow it to get hot, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add heaping tablespoons of the corn batter to the pan and cook the fritters for 2 minutes. Using a spatula, gently flip the fritters and cook another 2 to 3 minutes on the other side, or until golden brown. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter and oil to the pan as needed. Serve hot with the herb butter.

Lemon-Herb Butter

Ingredients/Instructions: Melt 1/2 stick lightly salted butter with 1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives. Simmer over low heat for 3 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice and 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper. Simmer 1 minute and drizzle the hot butter over the corn fritters.

Corn and Sweet Potato Chowder with Saffron Cream

Kathy’s Note: This chowder is a sensory explosion. First there’s the color: the broth is a gorgeous rich sunflower yellow, thanks to the saffron, sweet potatoes, and golden yellow corn and peppers. Then there’s the scent: the earthy aroma of corn and saffron. And, of course, the taste: rich, creamy, summery, and satisfying. Serve with biscuits, rolls, or crusty bread.

Serves 6.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut in 1/2-inch squares
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch squares (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon flour
4 cups low-sodium canned chicken or vegetable broth, or homemade chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 large ears fresh corn, or 3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup heavy cream
About 1 teaspoon crumbled saffron
3 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add half of the red pepper, and all of the yellow pepper and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the sweet potato and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Raise the heat to high, stir in the broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.

Meanwhile, if using fresh corn, shuck it and remove the silks. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cob by standing each cob on one end on a cutting board and working the knife straight down the cob; you should have about 3 cups of kernels. Remove the corn milk (see Milking The Cob on page 00) and mix in the kernels; set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the cream and saffron over low heat for about 5 minutes, until just simmering.

Add the saffron cream to the chowder and stir in the corn. Heat over low heat for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve piping hot, topped with the scallions and remaining red pepper.

Favorite Variation:
Sauté 3 slices thick cut bacon in the pan as the first step. Remove the bacon and keep 1 tablespoon bacon fat in the pan. Sauté the onions in the bacon fat instead of adding olive oil. Crumble the bacon into the soup just before serving.

Grilled Corn, Tomato, Feta and Mint Salad

Kathy’s Note: Refreshing, summery and full of bright flavors, serve this as a salad on a bed of greens or as a topping for tacos, grilled fish, or burgers and sausages.

Grilled Corn Feta Tomato Mint Salad is refreshing, summery and full of bright flavors. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Grilled Corn Feta Tomato Mint Salad is refreshing, summery and full of bright flavors. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Serves 6-8.

6 ears corn, shucked
About 1/3 cup plus, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil for grilling the corn
Salt and pepper
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into small cubes
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into small cubes or crumbled
2 tablespoon jalapeño or chile pepper, cored and chopped, with or without seeds depending on how spicy you like it
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Light a grill until hot, about 400 degrees. Rub the corn in the oil and salt and pepper and grill for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the kernels are just charred. Remove and let cool. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cob into a large bowl.

Mix in the tomatoes, feta, pepper, garlic, mint, olive oil, vinegar, and, salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir and taste for seasoning.

Virginia Willis’s Corn Spoon Bread

Kathy’s Note: Spoon bread is more like custard than bread, and less like a casserole than a soufflé.As the name suggests, it’s soft enough to eat with a spoon. Spoon bread is more common in Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. Berea, Kentucky, in the south central portion of the state, actually boasts a spoon bread festival.

The key to this recipe is using very fine cornmeal for a smooth, creamy texture.
If you are unable to find fine meal in the supermarket, try Mexican or South American groceries. Also, adding a bit of fresh corn when in season really makes this spoon bread delicious. Some recipes call for baking powder for lift, but in this recipe, with a nod to my French training, I use beaten egg whites.

Serves 4 to 6

The key to Virginia Willis’s Corn Spoon Bread is using very fine cornmeal for a smooth, creamy texture. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

The key to Virginia Willis’s Corn Spoon Bread is using very fine cornmeal for a smooth, creamy texture. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan
2 cups whole milk
1 cup very fine yellow cornmeal
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Scraped kernels from 2 ears fresh sweet corn (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter an ovenproof casserole or round 2-quart soufflé mold.

To prepare the batter, in a medium saucepan, combine the milk and cornmeal over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, whisking rapidly and constantly, until very, very thick, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the corn kernels, chives, and the 2 tablespoons melted butter. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring after each addition.

To beat the egg whites, in a separate bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the warm cornmeal mixture.

Transfer the lightened cornmeal mixture to the prepared pan; smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake until puffed and risen and the inside is firm, but moist, and the top is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve immediately while puffed and risen.

Virginia Willis is French-trained Southern chef and food writer.

Grilled Corn Relish

Grilled Corn Relish can be a topping or a salsa-like dip. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Grilled Corn Relish can be a topping or a dip. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Kathy’s Note: Serve this as a topping for burgers, sausages or as a salsa-like dip with chips and vegetables.

Makes about 2 cups

4 ears fresh corn
1 red pepper
1 jalapeño pepper
3 scallions
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider or white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat grill to 400 degrees. Husk the corn and brush lightly with olive oil.

Place the corn, red pepper, and jalapeño directly on the heat. Grill corn and jalapeño 4 minutes on each side, until charred. Remove and let cool slightly.

Grill pepper for 5 minutes on each side, until charred. Remove and let cool slightly.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob and place in a bowl. Core the jalapeño and remove seeds or keep for a spicier relish and chop. Core the pepper and chop and add to corn. Add the scallions, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Corn Stock

Ingredients/Instructions: Just as you can save the carcass of your turkey or chicken to make a broth, you can save those cobs of corn. When your cobs (also add the husks and the silk) are bare, cover them with water, salt well, a few peppercorns, an onion chopped and let simmer until he stock tastes like corn. It will be subtle but can be reduced (cooked down) to create a stronger broth. Season to taste and use corn stock in chowders, risottos, polenta and any dish you add fresh corn to.

Cutting Corn Off The Cob

Corn is great both on and off the cob. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Corn is great both on and off the cob. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Eating corn straight from the cob is one of the wonders of summer. But we also like to cut the kernels off the cob and use them to make muffins, bread, salads, sautés, soups and stews.

The basic method for removing corn kernels from the cob is simple: shuck the corn, removing the silky strands that line the inside of the husk. Hold the cob upright on a flat working surface. Use a large, sharp knife to cut down the side of the cob, in a kind of sawing motion, to remove the kernels from one side of the cob. Turn the cob and repeat until all the kernels are removed, being careful not to cut into the cob. Use the corn kernels as soon as possible.

An average ear of corn will yield about 1/2 to 3/4 cup corn kernels.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • M Wms

    Great recipes. Thanks for providing them.

    Not sure who told your guest that husking corn in the store is rude. The stores and farm stand in my town provide bins for this purpose and they are almost always full, as most shoppers husk. Not because we can’t tell if the corn is good otherwise but because we would rather dispose of the husks at the store than at home. Since rude is a social construct, if the sellers expect it and the buyers do it, i don’t think it can be called rude.

  • Walt disney

    Who sez it is impolite to pull back some of the shuck and examine the corn? A naive, anal-retentive fool? Sometimes the produce workers do it with several ears and put them on top of all the ears to show the kernels to customers. If I pull back a husk and expose ‘bad kernels’ and subsequently decine to purchase, then I have done the next shopper a favor. If someone feels exposing the kernels of an ear is tantamount to breaking the seal on a carton of milk to smell it, then they need to simply pass by the entire produce section because most of what is there is eaten WHOLE, IN ITS ENTIRETY, and should be washed.

    Finally, here’s a shocker for the naive, if I am picking apples or fruit that I suspect of being mealy or otherwise bad, I TAKE A BITE OUT OF AN APPLE – RIGHT THERE AT THE DISPLAY. If that apple is bad, I put it back on the top with the bite facing outward to warn off subsequent shoppers that the apples are not good. It saves me, and others, from picking, PURCHASING, and getting all the way home before discovering we/they have purchased inferior apples. Food is too expensive to waste and how many of us have ever taken bad produce back to the store and demanded an exchange or refund??? No, 99% of the time the consumer just ‘sucks it up’ and discards the bad fruit and ‘loses’ their money. It doesn’t have to be like that.

  • Dan


  • Ben Barrington

    Years ago I made a wholesale switch from butter on grilled corn to soy sauce… It’s amazing. Also, Sarah Sliwa makes a mean corn and clam chowder. Too good.

  • mouse

    I have discovered that if you grill corn in the husk, it isn’t necessary to de-silk it first – the silk will come easily off the cooked corn along with the husk. I do presoak (maybe that helps), and may cook longer then Ms. Gunst would like (until the husk on all sides is turning brown) – but then, as I say, the silk just slides right off. So much less hassle than trying to de-silk the raw corn!
    And Ben – try lime juice on your grilled corn also – amazingly tasty!

  • Illegal Knowledge .com

    Hello, I’d like to know how to go about finding natural, organic corn which is non-GMO and was not grown by Monsanto, etc. I’ve been hearing that in the US, it is practically impossible to grow corn without buying Monsanto seed, and that farmers who try to grow non-GMO corn and save and reuse their seed are routinely threatened and sued into bankruptcy by big agriculture. How much non-GMO corn does the US import from Mexico?

  • kathygunst

    Any farmers/growers know the answer about finding natural organic corn which is non-GMO and not grown by Monsanto?

  • kathygunst

    As to the issue of whether or not it is “rude” to shuck corn at the store, perhaps “rude” is a bit of an overstatement. But my point is that there are other ways to tell if an ear of corn is fresh.

  • Bob Prue

    When I was a kid, my brother Chuck and I would get a tub of water boiling over an open fire right next to our sweet corn patch. Plant to pot in less than 10 seconds. the best corn ever.

  • scratchbaker

    I check the tips of corn in the market to see if the ears were harvested at maturity. Often ears are not mature and I pass on those. Also, the newer varieties of corn (for more than a decade!!) do not turn from sugar to starch in just hours and keep perfectly fine for several days. This has greatly increased the quality of corn in supermarkets for people who do not live near a farm stand or don’t want to pay their premium prices. Wish the folksy interview contained more facts.

  • http://wildlandforestry.com Brandon Price

    Green silks? No way. I grow and harvest my own sweet corn and would never pull an ear that had “green” silks exposed. My guess is that Kathy is referring to the silks under the husk.

  • CarenLynn

    I have lived all over the East Coast and also in the Midwest. I have found the best tasting corn in Western New Jersey. I now live in South West Florida and corn is not a crop here.
    How can I get great tasting fresh corn when I don’t live near where is grown.

    • Steve

      I was born and raised in Iowa. They have lots of corn there, but it is mostly for the hogs. For great tasting sweet corn I much prefer that which is grown (here) in Connecticut or in New Jersey.

  • TJ

    Can’t believe this method was not mentioned. Bring the corn home just as it is – husk and silks in place – put into the microwave 3-4 mins for each ear. Husk, de-silk easily, eat! Sooooo Sweet and Fantastic! Some use mayo, some use Tajin, some use chili powder, oh my, so many. I use Sriracha and because my sauce is red, my daughter wants catsup on hers. So much catsup you can hardly see a kernel of corn. To each her own. Also I can’t shop daily for fresh corn on the cob, so I wrap each ear in a damp paper towel. Of course a little in flavor is lost over the next few days, but cooked in the microwave with the benefit of the flavors in the silk and husks while cooking, each ear is still delicious. Thanks for the segment and thanks for the comments here.

  • CornCob

    Kathy,,, I enjoyed your segment today on sweet corn. As an Iowa farm boy, I feel compelled to make a correction on your terminology of the ear of corn. The tassel is actually the male part of the corn plant. It’s the very top of the growing corn. The ‘silk’ is at the end of the ear. The pollinated silk becomes the kernel of corn on the cob.
    And, at the store, I only pull back the ear tip (pulling back the silk about an inch or two) to see that the ear has kernels all the way to the end of the cob…

  • TR Conway

    I’ve never seen so much miss information in one place. 30 seconds?! —
    if you like your starch raw or have tiny tiny ears of corn: Combined
    with the picture of blackened kernels make any of this advice suspect.
    The stuff at the end of the ear is called silk… the tassel is at the
    top of the stalk. If you want know if it is fresh, look at the base of
    the ear. If it is dry = not fresh — if it is really dry and brown =
    old. To get really, really fresh taste, take your pot of boiling water
    to your corn patch and bend the ears over into the water…

  • LB

    Sorry, Kathy, you’ve got corn anatomy wrong. The tassel stays on the corn plant. “The silky part” you discuss is just that–the silk. Pollen falls from the tassel at the top of the plant to the sticky silk lower on the stalk. Then an ear forms and each of those strands of silk leads to a kernel.

    As for finding non-GMO corn, check out heirloom seed vendors. I won’t advertise for any here, but a quick web search will turn up several.

    (From a lifelong Iowan who’s got sweet corn in the garden right now.)

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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