Moroccan corn salad and pearl couscous. Photo/Annabel Langbein Media
Driving through the countryside this time of year, you’re likely to come across a roadside stand or a truckload of freshly harvested sweet corn. Once you’ve tasted really fresh corn, it’s unlikely you’ll ever
wants to eat nothing else. From the moment it is harvested, sweet corn begins to lose sweetness. Enzymes within the kernels break down the sweet sugars in the corn into less sweet compounds, and in just three days it can lose almost half its sweetness. In the garden, I always stagger the corn plantings two or three weeks apart so that not all the corn is ripe at the same time. However, if it is, I like to cook it (three minutes in boiling salted water), cut the kernels off the cob, and freeze it before it loses all that sweetness.
Is there anything more delicious than a big pot of freshly picked corn, freshly cooked, served with butter, salt and pepper, ready to go on the cob? Breathing in all that sweet buttery cuteness, you know it’s summer.
Look for ears that feel plump in the hand and have slightly browned panicles (the darker the panicle, the riper the corn). Remove some of the husk and inspect the beans; they should be plump and tend to yellow. If the kernels are bright yellow and wrinkled, the corn is overripe and will be tough and flavorless.
Grilling or roasting the corn in its husks is a great way to cook it, but it’s worth soaking it first, as the steam generated will cook it much faster. Peel the shells without detaching them, remove all the silk threads inside, then replace the shells and put them in a bucket of cold water with salt or sea water for half an hour. Throw over the coals of a fire or cook on the barbecue grill, turning frequently. Check for doneness by pulling back on the shells. It’s ready when the beans have changed color, usually 10-15 minutes.
For a change of flavor, mix the butter with herbs or spices and spread it over the cleaned cobs before replacing the husks and soaking. Add a good sprinkle of taco spice mix to the butter for the Tex Mex corn on the cob, curry powder for an Indian twist, or chopped tarragon, cilantro, or basil for the fragrant herbed corn.
If you plan to cook cleaned, husked corn on the cob directly on the barbecue, rub with a little oil and sprinkle with salt before cooking. The oil will help the corn to caramelize faster. Cook over medium heat, turning frequently, until the beans have changed color and begin to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes. When sweet corn is not quite ripe and the kernels are still quite pale and small, you can cut them off the cob and serve them raw in a salad or soup.
Maroc Salad with Corn and Pearl Couscous
This salad can be made a few hours in advance and goes down well, making it perfect for a barbecue or potluck dinner. If you prefer, you can also use cooked barley or quinoa instead of the pearl couscous.
Ready in 20 minutes plus chill
Serves 8-10 as a side
2 cups pearl couscous
4 ears of sweet corn, without husks or silks
1 carrot, coarsely grated
A large handful of coriander leaves
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted or chopped tamari almonds
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons of neutral oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½-1 fresh red chili, seeded and very thinly sliced (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Cook pearl couscous according to package directions. Drain and let cool.
Place the ears of corn in a large pot of boiling salted water and boil for 3 minutes. Slice the grains and place in a serving bowl with the couscous, carrot, cilantro, and almonds.
In a small jar, whisk together lemon zest and juice, oil, cumin, chili if using, salt and pepper. Pour over salad, toss and serve. If making this salad before serving, cover and chill until needed. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Zucchini Noodles with Corn and Tomatoes
This makes a lovely light meal or is wonderful as a side dish with grilled fish, chicken or meat.
Ready in 15 minutes
for 4 people
2 ears of sweet corn, husked and husked, or 2 cups frozen corn kernels
About 20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 zucchini, spiralized
Flesh of 1 large avocado, cut into wedges
¼ cup basil leaves or holy basil leaves
3 tablespoons boutique extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup pesto or green sauce mixed with ¼ cup olive oil
If using corn on the cob, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop corn into water and boil until tender (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat and rinse with cold water.
Cut kernels off cob; if they come off in chunks, that’s fine. If using frozen corn, place it in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let thaw for about 1 minute, then drain.
To assemble the salad, combine the corn, tomatoes, zucchini, avocado, basil, and oil in a large bowl, mix well, and season to taste. Serve at room temperature, drizzled with pesto or salsa verde.
Prepared salad can be kept refrigerated for up to two hours. For longer storage, do not add avocado until ready to serve. Return salad to room temperature before serving.
Feta Corn and Mint Fritters
Small corn fritters are great for finger foods, or you can cook up larger fritters for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.
Ready in 30 minutes
Makes about 30 small or 12 large fritters
½ cup sparkling water or milk
1 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup self-rising flour
2½ cups corn kernels, or 2 cans whole kernel corn, drained
100g feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons minced mint leaves
Neutral oil, for frying
Beat eggs with soda water or milk, salt and pepper in a bowl until evenly mixed. Add the flour and beat to make a smooth dough.
Add the corn, feta cheese, and mint. The dough can be prepared before this stage, covered and chilled for several hours.
When ready to cook, heat a little oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, stirring to coat the bottom. Working in batches, cook heaping tablespoons of the mixture, turning to cook the other side as bubbles form (about two minutes per side).
Transfer to a warm oven while you cook the rest, adding a little more oil between batches. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Match these with…
by Yvonne Lorkin
(Maroc corn salad and pearl couscous)
Main Divide North Canterbury Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($20)
If you’re in the mood for sauvignon blanc saturated with ripe lemon, deep peach, playful flowers, feijoa, and a hint of kiwi, then this is your jam. It’s not really jam, although sauvignon blanc jam or jelly sounds pretty glorious. Regardless, this wine is smoothly tropical, edged with a fringe of fresh herbs, citrus, and a ton of tropical tones. It doesn’t have that lean, green, squinty acidity that dominates some southern sauvignons. It’s a superb sip.
maindivide.com, wine stores and supermarkets.
(Zucchini noodles with corn and tomato)
2020 Church Road Gwen Hawke’s Bay Rosé ($21)
All that gooey pesto and creamy avocado indulgence scream for this crunchy, crunchy, delightfully dry, cheek-slapping wine. Named after the wife of Tom McDonald, the founder of Church Road, this rosé crosses the deliciousness of these noodles in a dangerously drinkable way. With a mineral edge, red berries, and fangs of flavor, the Gwen rosé will give your taste buds a much-needed rush.
church-road.co.nz, wine shops and supermarkets.
(Corn fritters, feta cheese and mint)
Mills Reef Elspeth Hawke’s Bay Traditional Method NV ($39.95)
Corn fritters are my brunch of choice and do I always want a glorious corn-friendly fizz to go with them? Yes and all yeses! This new release from Mills Reef is golden in the glass and filled with heavenly seared brioche, toasted almonds and grilled citrus. It has all the hallmarks of thoroughbred champagne at a fraction (and I mean fraction) of the price. Generously proportioned, stacked with baked apple, rising dough notes, soothing caramel characters and enticing nutty textures, it’s impressive. More, please!