Cooking with corn

Recipes include: Pesto Grilled Corn, Corn Fritters with Maple Syrup, Corn Chowder and Baked Cod with Corn and Zucchini Succotash

One of the best things about late summer is fresh corn. But, for me, it’s a love-hate relationship. To start, there was my attempt to plant corn—but that proved to be a disaster, given the number of raccoons who took it upon themselves to strip the stalks and dine on the finest ears; the invaders did leave the less-inviting-looking choices for me. Then, the birds decided to join the raccoons in their daily assault on my corn stalks. Lesson learned.

After losing that battle, I let my local farmers’ market supply me with sweet corn for pennies an ear—a far better way to enjoy the quintessential summer veggie than having to succumb to the blood-pressure raising antics of my wildlife neighbors.

Through the years, I have learned some valuable tricks about how to get the most out of an ear of corn. Above all, buy it locally from a farm stand on the day you plan to cook it; holding ears of corn in the refrigerator for any length of time results in starchy tasting corn.

I usually buy more ears than I will immediately use but cook them all that night. Then, I cut off the kernels and freeze them in small plastic bags to use in soups, stews and quiches, or for making corn fritters. The extra cobs are used to make a broth suitable as a base for vegetable-, chicken- or fish-based soups.

Cooking corn is an art in itself. There are so many methods, from the standard boiling for three minutes to the more gourmet-style grilled corn with toppings that range from pesto to salsa. For my taste, there are two tried-and-true methods: The first is to bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, add the corn, cover the pot and shut off the water. Allow the corn to sit in the water for about six minutes. Second, try steaming the corn. Use a steamer basket set into a large pot with just a few inches of water. Place the corn in the basket and bring the water to a boil, then lower it to simmer and cover the pot. Steam for 3–4 minutes, or just until a small paring knife is easily inserted into the kernels. Both methods keep the integrity of that just-picked, off-the-farm corn taste.

For me, a steaming platter of freshly cooked corn is a rite of summer, the finishing touch of this long-awaited season.

Corn Fritters with Maple Syrup   
Serves 4–6

If you keep fresh or frozen corn in your freezer,  you can make these delicious fritters any time of the year. 

2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 large eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup well-drained ricotta cheese
2/3 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons flour
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons minced mint
Vegetable oil for frying
Maple syrup

1. Combine the corn with the eggs, milk, cheese, cornmeal, flour, salt, ginger and mint. Stir to blend well. The batter should be thick.

2. Pour a thin layer of oil into a large, nonstick sauté pan. Heat the oil until it begins to shimmer. Use a ½-cup measure to scoop the batter into the pan to form fritters. When the edges begin to brown, flip the fritters over and continue cooking. Transfer the fritters to a paper-towel-lined tray. Then transfer them to a heated platter in the oven.

3. Serve hot, and pass the syrup. 

Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito (

Baked Cod with Corn and Zucchini Succotash    
Serves 4

What makes this such an interesting dish is the addition of “creamed corn,” which is very different from the canned variety.

In this recipe, part of the corn is blended with cream while the remainder becomes part of a succotash, a perfect complement to the cod.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium-size leeks, white part only, cleaned and cut into thin rounds
2 small zucchini, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Grinding black pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
1½ cups light cream or half-and-half, divided
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
2 tablespoons minced, fresh tarragon, plus 4 small sprigs for garnish
4 cod fillets, about 6 ounces each
4sprigs fresh tarragon, for garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof 12- to 14-inch sauté pan and add the leeks. Cook over medium heat until they begin to get creamy. Add the zucchini and continue cooking until the zucchini softens but is not mushy. It should hold its shape.

2. Stir in the garlic, and add 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Cook until the garlic begins to soften. Add 1 cup of the corn. Cook 1 minute longer. Slowly pour in ½ cup of the cream and cook over low heat for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. Keep covered.

3. In a small pot, heat the remaining cream until just under a boil. Stir in the mustard and minced tarragon, and mix until smooth. Add the remaining corn, reduce heat to low, and cook for 3–4 minutes or just until the corn is tender.

4. With an immersion blender or standard blender, purée the cream and corn until smooth. Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl and pour the cream mixture into the strainer. Strain out the corn pulp and discard it. Add salt to taste. Keep the sauce warm and covered.

5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Salt and pepper the cod fillets and place them in a single layer on top of the leek and zucchini mixture. Pour half the sauce over the fish. Cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes or until the fish easily flakes when poked with a fork. Remove from the oven and uncover.

6. Place some of the leek and zucchini mixture in the center of each of 4 dinner plates. Place a cod fillet on top and pour some of the remaining cream over the top of each fillet. Garnish with a sprig of tarragon.

Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito (

Buttermilk Cornbread    
Serves 8

This super-fine textured cornbread is the result of grinding the cornmeal to a fine powder in a food processor. However, you can make the bread without this step; the texture will be a little coarser. Either way, it is delicious with the addition of fresh corn kernels.

½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for buttering the pan
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup corn kernels

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square pan with foil and
butter the foil. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat ½ cup of butter with the sugar until creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended.

3. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and baking soda. Set aside.

4. Place the cornmeal in a food processor and pulse to grind it until it is fine (remember,
omitting this step is okay). Add the flour and salt, and pulse a few times.

5. Add half the cornmeal mixture to the bowl with the butter mixture and beat in. Add half the buttermilk and blend in. Add the remaining cornmeal mixture and beat in. Add the remaining buttermilk and blend in. Stir in the corn kernels.

6. Pour into the pan, and bake for 35–40 minutes until set and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool. Serve warm cut into squares.

Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito (

Corn Chowder   
Serves 8–10

During the winter months, like magic, I can take a bag of summer out of my freezer in the form of corn—the very corn I bought at my summer farmers’ market. I patiently cut the kernels off the cob so I can taste fresh corn when the snow flies. On a cool, late summer night, this chowder also makes a delicious supper. And it’s packed with flavor from the stock made from the corn husks and a bevy of veggies, such as zucchini, bok choy and onions.

4 large ears of cooked corn on the cob
1 whole bay leaf
1 medium whole onion, peeled
10 whole cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup diced pancetta
1 onion, minced
2 cups chopped bok choy
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
3 tablespoons flour
Salt, to taste
Grinding black pepper, to taste
11/2 cups evaporated milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups reserved corn water if using freshly cooked corn (or 2 cups water if using frozen corn)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
Dash of paprika

1. Strip the corn kernels from the cob and set aside. Place the cobs in a pot with the bay leaf. Stud the whole onion with the cloves and add it to the pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for 10 minutes. Discard the cobs, bay leaf and studded onion. Reserve 2 cups of the corn stock. Save the rest for future use.

2. In a soup pot, add the olive oil and cook the pancetta until it begins to render its fat. Stir in the minced onion, bok choy and sweet potato. Stir well, cover the pot and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the zucchini. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour, and add salt and pepper. Stir in the evaporated milk, heavy cream and reserved corn water (or fresh water). Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat
to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper; stir in the parsley and thyme. Serve hot, sprinkled with paprika.

Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito (

Makes 2 cups

Pesto’s slightly peppery flavor marries well with many foods, including fresh cooked corn. So step out of corn’s traditional butter and salt flavoring, and give pesto a try.

Use half the prepared recipe below to dress a dozen ears of corn.

The leftover pesto can be refrigerated for future use.

1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1½ cups packed, fresh, stemmed basil leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra if needed
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese

1. Place the pine nuts, garlic and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 2–3 times. Add the basil leaves and pulse twice. With the motor running, pour the olive oil a little at a time through the feed tube and continue processing until a smooth, sauce consistency is obtained. You may not need all the oil. Blend in the cheese. Transfer the pesto to a jar.

2. For a dozen ears of corn, heat 1 cup of pesto sauce in a small saucepan. Brush cooked ears with pesto. Serve.

Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito (


Categories: Food & Recipes