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Put time into dinner now, and you can make it last forever -- or at least the whole week. Welcome to Halfway to Dinner, where we show you how to stretch your staples -- or your seasonal produce -- every which way.
I eagerly await summer every year for a few things: watermelon, heirloom tomatoes, and, most importantly, corn. Beautiful, fresh summer corn. It's one of those things that just isn't any good, or even available, throughout the rest of the year. Sure, you can use canned or frozen corn if you're making something that just incorporates the vegetable, but if you're looking to utilize its full potential, fresh, August corn is the only way to go. You've got to use it while you have it!
I am happy eating corn raw most of the time, zipped off of the cob and tossed into a salad or with a dollop of crème fraîche, but if you want to do something a little more interesting, here are five summery recipes to get you through the month. I highly recommend freezing portions of each of these to enjoy after corn's peak season has ended (but let's try not to think about that).
I discovered this recipe for summer succotash in April Bloomfield’s cookbook, A Girl and Her Pig. It’s one of my absolute favorites, not only for its delicious, porky recipes, but also for its vegetable-driven ones. You might not think you’d find a vegetable-heavy recipe in one of her books, but here it is. This dish is hearty and filling, yet still fresh. The corn adds a burst of color and a nice bit of extra texture, and it holds up among the other vegetables. Each ingredient is cooked for the proper time, not just thrown all in together, so that each retains its lovely summer flavor.
More: Looking for a vegan version? This one uses coconut oil in place of butter.
Summer Corn Soup
This isn’t your average summer corn soup. Instead of throwing away ears of corn after I had shucked them, I decided to simmer them with some onions and spices to make a rich stock. If you’re a corn lover like me, you could probably just go ahead and eat the stock as soup on its own, but to give it more body and texture, I added more corn purée, corn kernels, scallions, and some garlic and red pepper flakes for flavor. I wouldn’t be mad if you added in some crispy bacon, pancetta, or maybe a poached egg. This soup will freeze well and makes excellent leftovers (even when eaten cold). Make this soup now, and thank me for introducing you to your new favorite soup later.
More: Here's how to use your whole cob of corn (silks, too!).
Ed Lee's Smoke and Pickles is right up my alley and I obsessed over it when I first got a copy. Lee has taken Southern cooking and added his own twist, with more pungent flavors, spicier sauces, and extra vinegars. What’s not to love? This remoulade is no different. I made a big batch of this creamy side dish -- composed mostly of corn, shallots, and good mayonnaise -- and served it alongside stir-fried lamb, but the possibilities are endless. The wow factor comes from the soft-boiled egg that you stir in with the rest of the ingredients. The egg yolk adds a richness that is unparalleled. I have served this alongside steaks and on hot dogs and burgers. It’s the perfect summer condiment to show off your sweet corn haul.
Raw Sweet Corn and Asparagus Salad
The month of August is corn time, but it can also be unbearably hot. When I’m sweating in my apartment, the last thing I want to do is stand over a stove or peer into an oven. I found red corn at the market and completely fell in love. The red kernels look like little jewels, and they really pop against the green asparagus. Touch no flame for this dish: Just peel, toss and serve. You can play with the acid and pepper levels in this salad, depending on your preference, and it keeps beautifully overnight, so you can enjoy it for lunch over greens, with a dollop of creamy ricotta, or simply on its own.
Corn and Basil Muffins with Tomato Jam and Ricotta
These savory muffins (or cupcakes, perhaps) are unexpected and absolutely delicious. I love cornbread, but when you up the sugar just a bit, leave in some fresh corn kernels for texture, and hollow out the inside to make a cavity for tangy tomato jam and ricotta cheese, you’ve got yourself something truly special. I’m definitely more of a savory than sweet girl, but these muffins have the best of both worlds. They make an excellent appetizer or dessert -- it’s totally up to you. The beautiful red of the tomatoes, the touch of basil, and the sweetness of summer corn may not have been begging to be made into a muffin, but once they were, I had to at least go back for seconds. Perhaps burrata would sub well for the ricotta, or maybe you’d rather have a roasted red pepper jam instead of tomato. Play with it. I’ll bet that savory muffins and savory cupcakes are the next big thing!
Makes 30 muffins
For the tomato jam:
2 pounds tomatoes
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced
One 1-inch piece of ginger, grated or finely minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the muffins:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup milk
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup stone-ground cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ears of corn, kernels only
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
2 cups ricotta cheese
Handful of basil, sliced thinly into ribbons
First photo by James Ransom; all others by Sydney Kramer