If there is one food that provokes nostalgia in me, it is without question corn on the cob. It conjures up memories of my childhood growing up in Amherst, of backyard barbecues, picnic tables, summers spent working on farms as a young girl and a simpler way of life.

Nearly 40 years ago, my twin brother and I worked in neighboring Hadley at Bemben Farm, which, I am happy to report, is still owned and operated by the same family to this day.

Each weekday morning during the summer of 1980, we would rise with the sun and get driven to the farm by our mom for a 6 a.m. start. Once we arrived, we would ride out to vast cornfields on an open tractor bed with the rest of the picking crew. I still recall the scent and the feel of the stalks, taller than me and covered in dew, and the chill in the early morning air, not yet warmed by the sun. We would walk in single-file rows along the slowly moving tractor, pulling the highest ear off each stalk we encountered, using it as a tool to knock the others free, tossing them onto the bed of the tractor as we went.

I must admit that I was not filled with gratitude for the experience as a teenager, but I am now. I am a true believer that working the land is good for the soul. Preserving and maintaining farmland is good for the earth. Eating fresh, locally grown, non-GMO corn is good for your body. Supporting family-owned farms is good for the local economy and for the quality of life of its citizens.

The next time you drive past one of the vast cornfields dotting our landscape, I would like for you to take a moment to recognize the beauty in it.

Farm-fresh sweet and glorious corn on the cob is available throughout September and October at numerous family-owned farms throughout the region.

 

RAW CORN SALAD LETTUCE WRAPS

Servings: 8-12

This recipe celebrates the versatility and simplicity of corn. In its natural state, it is crisp, sweet and juicy, not to mention healthy and convenient. This creative and vibrant appetizer is the essence of summer. I do not recommend preparing this with canned or frozen corn. It requires the freshest corn, straight from the cob. Serve immediately, or allow the flavors to develop and meld for an hour or two in the refrigerator.  

6 ears sweet corn (3-4 cups kernels)

1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped

1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Zest and juice of 2 limes

Juice of 1 tangerine

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup cilantro leaves

1-2 heads Boston or Bibb lettuce, leaves separated and core removed

Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Using a sharp knife, scrape kernels from the cob in a downward motion onto a clean kitchen towel spread out on a large cutting board.

Place the corn, tomatoes, peppers and onions in a medium bowl. Add the lime zest and juice, tangerine juice, honey, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Gently combine with a wooden spoon.

Chop the cilantro, and sprinkle over the top. Place the lettuce on a large, chilled serving platter. To serve, top individual lettuce leaves with approximately 2 tablespoons of corn salad. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

OVEN-ROASTED SPICY THAI STREET CORN

I realize this recipe may sound weird, but it is very good. We recently prepared it in my Nourishing the North Shore farm-to-table cooking class, and it was a major hit. It is creatively prepared by oven-roasting whole ears of corn in their own husks. Of course, charcoal or wood grilling would yield results just as amazing. I love the spiciness, the crunch and the Asian flavors.

Servings: 6

6 ears sweet corn, husks on

For the sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Sriracha sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Juice and zest of 1 lime

1 large clove garlic, minced

1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon honey

For serving/garnish:

1-2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, crushed (cashews may be substituted)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika (chile powder or adobo chile powder may be substituted)

1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 lime, cut into wedges

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place corncobs (husks intact) on a large baking sheet in a single layer.

In a small bowl, whisk together all sauce ingredients; set aside. Prepare all garnish ingredients; set aside.

Roast corn for 15 minutes, turn and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to sit for approximately 5 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Remove the husks and silks.

Drizzle or brush with the sauce on all sides. Transfer to a serving platter. Season each ear with salt. Rotating each cob, sprinkle with jalapeño, peanuts, sesame seeds, paprika and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and extra sauce on the side.

 

‘BURSTING WITH BERRIES’ BUTTERMILK CORN MUFFINS

Servings: 12

These raspberry corn muffins are naturally sweet. The fresh berries and corn kernels impart great texture and moisture, as well. To fill the centers, I simply poked a hole in the top of each muffin with a wine bottle stopper after they had cooled for several minutes. I use this method instead of a pastry bag for filled cupcakes, too.

2 ears sweet corn (1 cup kernels)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup fine-grind yellow cornmeal or instant polenta

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

11/4 cups buttermilk or low-fat milk, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup fresh raspberries, blueberries or blackberries

1/2 cup naturally sweetened raspberry jam (or your favorite fruit preserves)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 12-cup muffin pan; set aside.

Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Using a sharp knife, scrape kernels from the cob in a downward motion onto a clean kitchen towel spread out on a large cutting board. Squeeze out excess moisture; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, butter, honey and vanilla until well-blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the corn kernels and berries until evenly dispersed throughout the batter.

Pour batter to the top of each muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on a large wooden cutting board.

Place the preserves in a squeeze bottle. Poke a hole in the center of each muffin, and fill with preserves.

JALAPEÑO CHEDDAR CORNBREAD

My favorite spicy cornbread recipe is tender, crumbly and dense, and it bursts with texture, smokiness and spicy heat. With butter and jam, it is a great breakfast treat. It does not last long in our house.

Servings: 9

2 ears sweet corn (1 cup kernels)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal or instant polenta

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg, whisked

11/4 cups buttermilk or low-fat milk

3 tablespoon honey

4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 large jalapeño pepper, finely minced

3 chipotle peppers in adobo, drained and finely chopped

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter and lightly flour an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish; set aside.

Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Using a sharp knife, scrape kernels from the cob in a downward motion onto a clean kitchen towel spread out on a large cutting board. Squeeze out excess moisture; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, buttermilk, honey and butter until well-blended.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and blend until just combined — do not overmix. Add the corn, cheddar and peppers; gently fold into batter.

Pour batter into prepared baking dish, and bake for 20-22 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean, and the top and sides should be golden brown. If not, bake for a little longer.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, and then cut into 2-inch squares.

MEXICAN CAESAR SALAD WITH CORN, AVOCADO, PEPITAS AND CORNBREAD CROUTONS

This dish is a tribute to the fact that Caesar salad originated in Mexico. I haven’t modified my traditional, egg-free lemon Caesar dressing other than to substitute Cotija cheese for Parmesan. But the salad is enlivened with Mexican flavors from the corn, pepitas, avocado and cilantro. If you don’t want to take the time to cube and toast the cornbread, it is just as delicious if you serve squares on the side.

Servings: 6-8

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon lemon zest

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

10 anchovy fillets, drained

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoons ground black pepper

4 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled (Parmigiano-Reggiano may be substituted)

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

2 cups jalapeño cheddar cornbread (see recipe above)

2 ears sweet corn

2 heads romaine lettuce, rinsed, torn and patted dry

1 large avocado, cut into large dice

Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime

1/4 cup toasted pepitas

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup Cotija cheese, crumbled (optional)

Add all dressing ingredients to a mini food processor, and blend until well-combined.

Cut the cornbread into 1/2-inch cubes, and toast in a toaster oven for 4-5 minutes, flipping once or twice, until golden and crisp on all sides.

Remove the husks and silks from the corn. Using a sharp knife, scrape kernels from the cob in a downward motion onto a clean kitchen towel spread out on a large cutting board. Squeeze out excess moisture.

Place the lettuce into a large bowl, and top with half the dressing. Toss to combine, and transfer to a serving platter. Scatter the corn kernels over the romaine. Sprinkle the avocado with lemon or lime juice, and scatter over salad. Top with the pepitas, cilantro, pepper and croutons. Top with the cheese. Serve with remaining dressing on the side. 

Allison Lehane lives in Newbury, where she is a home cook who is passionate about locally sourced ingredients. Her recipes have been inspired by her world travels through her former career as an international home fashion buyer for TJX Corp. Contact her at highroad198@icloud.com.

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