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Cob salads

By Chicago Tribune

Indulge your appetite for sweet corn by shopping farmers markets, roadside stands and local grocers for freshly picked ears then crunching your way around cob after cob after cob.

And when you decide you've had enough, let these recipes seduce you into indulging one, two or three more times with salads that embrace summer's best produce and the season's easygoing attitude.

Sure, a pair of cool corn soups got our attention when we opened Melissa Hamilton's and Christopher Hirsheimer's book "Canal House Cooks Every Day" (Andrews McMeel, $45), but it was their take on a classic corn-and-bean succotash that won us over. It begins with leftover corn, and "you needn't worry if you have a little more of one ingredient or a little less of another," the authors write. "This salad isn't finicky." Indeed, the salad is easily doctored. If you like, toss in some olives and salty cheese, like they do.

That's summertime perfect. So is a salad from Martha Stewart's team that pairs grilled corn with avocados.

"Heather Christo's Generous Table: Sharing the Love of Good Food With Friends and Family" (Kyle Books, $29.95) celebrates the freshest of corn by mixing raw kernels with mango, then tucking the combo into heirloom tomatoes for serving -- or into small Mason jars for a more casual feel.

How do you choose terrific fresh corn? Well, don't pull back the husks to see if it's an ear you want because you'll just dry out the kernels, writes Deborah Madison's in her "Vegetable Literacy" (Ten Speed Press, $40). "Instead, feel the ear with your fingers to detect whether the kernels are filled out or not."

Madison, who might serve freshly cooked corn with an herbed salt or salsa verde, suggests opting for organic corn whenever possible. "And don't let a worm scare you if you find it on the tip of an ear. It's just a little creature, easily knocked off its perch."

Corn, String Bean and Potato Succotash Salad

Adapted from "Canal House Cooks Every Day" by Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

COOK: Put 4 thin-skinned waxy potatoes in a pot of salted cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. While potatoes cook, add 4 shucked ears of corn to the pot; cook 3 to 5 minutes. Remove corn from water; cool. Add 1/2 pound trimmed string beans to pot; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Scoop beans out of pot with a slotted spoon; cool quickly in a bowl of ice water. Drain potatoes when tender; about 20 minutes depending on size.

ASSEMBLE: Cut corn off cob into a large bowl. Cut potatoes into slices or chunks. Add to bowl. Drain green beans, add to bowl. Add 1 finely chopped shallot; a handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped; 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss gently. Adjust seasonings, adding more oil if needed.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Fresh Corn, Mango Salad

Adapted from "Heather Christo's Generous Table." Makes 6 servings.

CHOP: Cut tops off 6 large heirloom tomatoes. Gently cut around inside edge of each tomato; use a spoon or your hands to scoop out most of the insides (reserve for another use) creating a cup. Sprinkle insides with salt and pepper. Cut off kernels from 4 ears corn and place in a large bowl. Add 1/2 mango, peeled and diced; 1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced; 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes; 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro; 1/2 jalapeño, finely minced; 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice.

ASSEMBLE: Gently mix to combine; season with salt. Spoon salad into tomato cups. Transfer to a platter. Garnish with fresh chive blossoms or another edible blossom (such as nasturtiums). Serve at room temperature.

Grilled Corn, Avocado and Cilantro

Adapted from "Meatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes," from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living (Clarkson Potter, $25). Makes 4 servings.

HEAT grill to medium high. Grill 4 ears of shucked corn, rotating often until lightly charred, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Cut kernels from cob. Toss corn and 1 sliced avocado gently with 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus 1 tablespoon each fresh lime juice and olive oil. Season with coarse salt.

More corn recipes

There are lots of good recipes for preparing fresh corn. One of the best is grilling corn on the cob in its husk. Simply throw the ears on the grill in one layer and cover. The corn steams in its husk and picks up a mild smokiness from the grill.

Grilled Corn with Chili-Cilantro Butter

From "The Farm" by Ian Knauer. Makes 12 servings.

     12   ears corn, with husks

     1     stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

     4     teaspoons chili powder

     2     garlic cloves, finely chopped

     1     tablespoon honey

     1/2  cup finely chopped cilantro

     1/2     teaspoon kosher salt

     1/2     teaspoon black pepper

HEAT grill. Place corn ears in their husks over low-burning coals (or over low heat on a gas grill) and cover the grill. Cook corn, turning occasionally, until it is tender, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer corn (still in husks) to a serving platter.

HEAT, in the meanwhile, 2 tablespoons butter in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until it is melted. Stir in chili powder and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden and chili powder is fragrant, less than 1 minute. Transfer chili powder mixture to a food processor, then add honey, cilantro, remaining 6 tablespoons butter, salt and pepper, and pulse to combine. Transfer chili-cilantro butter to a bowl and serve with corn.

Corn Relish

From "Vegetables Please" by Carolyn Humphries. Makes 2 large jars.

     4    ears corn

     2    bell peppers, green or red, seeded and diced

     2     celery stalks, finely sliced

     1    red chili pepper, seeded and sliced

     1     onion, peeled and sliced

     2    cups white wine vinegar

     1    cup granulated sugar

     2     teaspoons sea salt

     2     teaspoons mustard powder

     1/2     teaspoon ground turmeric

STRIP kernels from corn cobs using a sharp knife. Blanch them in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain well. Put corn and other ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and stir.

SIMMER gently, stirring, for 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasoning, then spoon into warmed, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. The relish should be a spoonable consistency and wetter than a chutney.

COVER, seal with nonmetallic or vinegar-proof lids, and heat-process for 5 minutes, then label. Once opened, store jars in refrigerator.

Spicy Summer Corn Pudding

This is a classic recipe for corn pudding, but adding buttermilk instead of milk makes a sort of cheesy curd that clings to the corn kernels in the finished dish. The smoky, slightly sweet flavor of ancho chile powder is perfect with corn. From "The Animal Farm Buttermilk Cookbook" by Diane St. Clair. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

     10   ears corn

     4    eggs

     1 1/2     cups buttermilk

     1/2  cup unbleached all-purpose flour

     4     tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

     2     teaspoons ancho chile powder

     1 1/2     teaspoons salt

HEAT oven to 350°. Butter a 2-quart casserole dish.

CUT kernels off corn and place in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine well. Pour into prepared dish and bake 40 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Serve hot.

Grilled Corn, Poblano and Black Bean Salad

From "Cooking Light Pick Fresh Cookbook." Makes 6 servings.

     2    ears shucked corn

     2     tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

     4     green onions

     1     avocado, peeled, halved and pitted

     1     large red bell pepper

     1     large poblano chile

     Cooking spray

     1/2  cup chopped fresh cilantro

     3     tablespoons fresh lime juice

     1     teaspoon ground cumin

     1/4     teaspoon salt

     1/4     teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

     1    15-ounce unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained

HEAT grill to high heat. Brush corn with 2 teaspoons oil. Place green onions, avocado, bell pepper, poblano and corn on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill onions 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Grill avocado 2 minutes on each side or until well marked. Grill bell pepper 6 minutes on each side or until blackened; peel. Grill corn 12 minutes or until beginning to brown on all sides, turning occasionally.

CUT kernels from ears of corn; place in large bowl. Chop onions, bell pepper and poblano; add to bowl. Add 4 teaspoons oil, cilantro and next 5 ingredients; toss well. Cut avocado into thin slices; place on top of salad.

Corn off the cob: Controlling the kernels

We've put men on the moon but have yet to come up with a perfect corn de-kerneler -- one that cleans a freshly shucked cob neatly while not shooting kernels all over the kitchen.

Sure, there are at least a dozen clever implements (variously called strippers, kernelers, zippers, cutters and peelers) designed to do the job. None seem to work as well as a sharp knife and steady hand. Even that has its own problems: Holding that cob upright and steady while cutting off the kernels can be a challenge. Containing the kernels that shoot off the cob as you cut still another.

To solve the slippery cob-on-counter issue, "Heather Christo's Generous Table: Sharing the Love of Good Food With Friends and Family" (Kyle Books, $29.95) suggests: "Cut corn on a clean dishcloth. It keeps the kernels from bouncing around after they have been sliced from the cob. I also like to use a serrated knife -- it makes cutting kernels off the cob easier."

And while other cooks like using a shallow bowl, our favorite cob de-kerneling tip comes from Lisa Schumacher of the Chicago Tribune's test kitchen (see accompanying photo): Using a Bundt pan -- that tube cake pan with fluted sides -- she positions a shucked ear of corn, stem down, into the tube's opening. With a sharp knife, she cuts straight down the cob's length to remove the kernels, which drop into the pan. OK, 98 percent did when we tried it. But what's a few kernels when you have to deal with several ears full?


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