Table Talk: Corn-on-the-cob season in high gear

Chris Dorst
Kick butter up a notch by mixing in herbs, spices and other flavors before spreading it on hot ears of corn. From left, ears are dressed in lime chili, fresh herbs, Ceasar, brown sugar, and Parmesan parsley
NOTE: Following the recipes, some tips on how to cook corn-on-the-cob  CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Devoted corn-on-the-cob lovers begin their search as soon the first local corn hits the market. They're looking for roadside stands where farmers hawk their just-picked ears of corn. There's nothing sweeter than properly prepared corn that was still on the stalk mere hours before.That farm fresh corn called to my father each season. He'd drive the byways around Parkersburg in search of farmers with a trailer full of fresh corn. First came the much-anticipated corn from the riverside town of Reedsville, Ohio, where the farmers always seemed to harvest the first corn in the area.Later in the season, he'd widen the net in search of his favorite Silver Queen corn, an all-white variety he considered unrivaled in sweetness and taste. He'd be sad to note that particular variety has been dethroned today. Most growers have switched to newer strains of sweet white corn.The memory of summer lunches of hot corn on the cob slathered in butter and salt and pepper, slices of still warm tomatoes from my parents' garden alongside cottage cheese and creamy cool cucumber salad makes my mouth water.Local corn is in season now. Find it at farmers markets or roadside stands. It seems everybody has a favorite way to cook corn on the cob -- boiling, grilling, roasting, baking, steaming.Purists mostly insist that butter, salt and pepper are the only toppings appropriate for fresh corn on the cob. Chili Lime and Herbed Butter looked like pretty tame additions to me, but I'm not sure of some of the other topping suggestions I found. Guacamole, pesto and Parmesan, and hummus and peppers all sounded delicious, but I can't quite imagine the mess it would leave on my face.Maybe it would work better if we cut the corn off the cob and mixed the other ingredients in. That's what we did with some leftover corn-on-the-cob during last week's dog days of no electricity. We mixed it with black and white beans, lime juice, peppers, tomatoes, cumin, onion and garlic for what would have been a healthy salad. Unfortunately, we scooped it up with corn chips.The recipes below for gussied up corn-on-the-cob spreads make enough to reasonably dress six to eight ears of corn.@tag:Reach Julie Robinson at or 304-348-1230. Chili Lime Butter4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature1 teaspoon lime zest1 teaspoon chili powder1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 teaspoon finely cracked black pepperCOMBINE butter, zest, chili powder, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.SERVE with warm, cooked corn on the cob.Source: adapted from a recipe on Herb Butter
Use any fresh herbs that appeal. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened4 teaspoons chopped parsley4 teaspoons chopped basil4 teaspoons chopped oregano1/4 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon lemon zestPLACE butter, herbs, salt and lemon zest in a bowl and mix together. Transfer to a piece of waxed or parchment paper and roll into a log or place in a small bowl and refrigerate until firm.SLICE and serve with warm, cooked corn on the cob.Butter maybe refrigerated for up to two days or frozen for a two weeks.Source: Parmesan Parsley Butter1 tablespoon olive oil1/4 cup butter1 garlic clove, finely minced1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves1/2 teaspoon saltHEAT the oil in a heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until tender and fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove skillet from heat and add butter to pan to melt. Set aside 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese and stir the rest into the garlic/butter mixture, along with the parsley and salt.BRUSH the cheese mixture over the hot corn. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of cheese on top of the Butter1/4 cup butter, softened2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley2 tablespoons Caesar salad dressingMIX butter, Parmesan cheese, parsley and Caesar dressing.SERVE with warm, cooked corn on the cob.
Kettle Corn1/4 cup butter, softened2 tablespoons brown sugar1/2 teaspoon salt1 pinch cayenne pepperSTIR butter, brown sugar, salt and cayenne pepper together until well combined.SERVE with warm, cooked corn on the cob.Other flavor suggestionsCurry Powder & Nuts @recipedir:STIR curry powder and softened butter. Spread on corn. Sprinkle ears with chopped pistachios.@recipehed:Pesto & ParmesanMIX pesto sauce with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and softened butter. Spread mixture on hot, cooked ears of corn.Hummus & Peppers MIX hummus, chopped roasted red pepper and olive tapenade. Spread mixture on hot, cooked ears of corn.GuacamoleMASH 1 ripe avocado and combine with 1 chopped Serrano chili, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and 1/2 tablespoon lime juice. Spread mixture on hot, cooked ears of corn.Sunny CitrusMIX grated lime, lemon and orange rind into softened butter. Add a squeeze of citrus juice and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Spread mixture on hot, cooked ears of corn.Corn and Black Bean Salad2 tablespoons red wine vinegar1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil1 tablespoon lime juice1/4 teaspoon sea salt1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper1 teaspoon cumin1 tablespoon chili powder1 clove garlic, minced2 cups fresh (cooked) or frozen (thawed) corn kernels1/2 cup finely chopped red onion1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained1 (15-ounce) can white beans, rinsed and drained1 red or green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, de-veined and finely chopped1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered1/3 cup cilantro leaves, finely choppedWHISK together vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and garlic in a large bowl to make a dressing. Add corn, onion, black beans, peppers and tomatoes and toss until just incorporated.COVER and chill for about 2 hours.ADD cilantro and toss again before serving.Some ways to cook cornBoiling: Clean and shuck corn and then place ears in a large pot. Cover with cold water. Top with a lid and bring to a boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, turn off the heat and sit for 1 or 2 minutes.OR, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add cleaned corn. Top with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes.Grilling: With husks or without? Here are two grilling methods recommended on* In husk: Remove silk and all but a few layers of the husk. Leave stalk in place for a handle. Heat grill to medium high. Place ears on the grill and turn every two minutes 10 ten minutes. Remove from grill.* Out of husk: Baste cleaned ears of corn with butter. Place on grill on medium high heat, turning every two minutes until kernels turn dark yellow. Remove immediately.Oven roasting: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pull husks back and remove silk. Pull husks back over ears. Place husks directly on the oven rack and roast for 30 minutes or until the kernels are soft. Peel down the husks and use as a handle when eating.Steaming: HUSK and wash well under running water. Place the cobs in the steamer basket after water has been brought to a boil, cover with lid. Let steam for about 10 minutes until done.Microwave: Husk and remove all the silk. Wash well with cool water. Do not dry ears. Place each ear on a piece of waxed paper. Rub with butter and sprinkle with salt. Roll up in the paper and twist closed each end. Microwave on high 2 minutes per cob.Another microwave method suggested by a co-worker is to place the ear, husk, silk and all, in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes. He suggested adding 15 seconds cooking time per each additional ear. Warning: remove the hot ears with an oven mitt and cool slightly before cleaning to avoid burns. 
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