Saturday, July 14, 2012

Asian Flavors Enhance Home Grown Corn

By Phyllis Louise Harris
July/August 2012

Minnesota corn is now coming to local markets and it is absolutely delicious. It is a New World vegetable that made its way around the world with the sixteenth century Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English spice traders. Here was a delicious vegetable found in the land that Columbus ran into on his voyage to India and that was initially settled by pioneers from Holland, England, Spain and Portugal. Corn became popular wherever it landed and today many countries around the world consider corn an important crop.
But this is where it all started. Native Americans showed the Pilgrims how to grow corn that helped them survive those difficult early years in this new land. It may have even saved them from starvation. Corn can be boiled, roasted, grilled, dried, popped, ground and preserved for use in the winter. But, this time of year, either simply simmer fresh corn in a milk/water bath for a sweet, corn flavor, grill it for a smoky flavor or stir-fry it for a tasty dish.

Boiled Corn
The secret here is milk and sugar, and just-picked corn on the cob. Vendors at farmers markets often pick their corn early in the morning and bring it straight to the market. If you can’t go into the fields to pick your own (and you can on some farms) ask the vendor when the corn was picked. Take it home and immediately refrigerate it, husk and all. Later in the day half-fill a large pot half-filled with water and bring it to a boil. Just before adding the corn, add 1/2-cup milk and 1/2 teaspoon sugar….no salt. Add the corn-on-the-cob that has been cleaned of its husks and silk, bring it back to a low boil, cover and simmer for 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes or up to an hour. Remove the corn and serve warm with butter, salt and pepper. Leftover corn can be wrapped and frozen on the cobs, then reheated in the microwave or remove the kernels, add a little of the milk broth and freeze in containers. The corn will retain its flavor for several months.

India’s Grilled Corn Street Vendors
When we think of the food of India we tend to think in terms of curries, tandoor chicken and bread. But that is only part of India’s amazing array of dishes especially when it comes to vegetables. One of the most popular street foods in India is grilled corn. Here the silk and husk are removed and the corn-on-the-cob is grilled over hot coals until it has areas of browned kernels among the bursting yellow kernels. It is then rubbed with a fresh lime wedge and rolled in sea salt for an absolutely delicious snack-on-the-run! Healthful, too. But, that is just the beginning. The corn can also be rubbed with the lime wedge, then rolled in a variety of flavorings such as coarsely chopped mint leaves, ground coriander, freshly ground white pepper, or minced cilantro. Pick you favorite combination.

Leftover Corn Chinese Style
The Chinese have been particularly adept at finding ways of using corn and combine it with salted peanuts and chilies for an interesting stir-fry. Start with a cup of Spanish peanuts without the skins, gently stir-fry in 2 tablespoons oil for about 3 minutes, remove and set aside. To the oil still in the pan add one small chili, seeded and chopped, stir-fry for about 1 minute and add 2 cups cooked corn kernels. Season to taste, stir-fry for a minute to heat the corn and add the peanuts. Stir-fry for another minute and serve. It is hot and crunchy with plenty of corn flavor. And it is a very colorful dish. Not your ordinary Minnesota corn.

The freshest corn is in farmers’ markets, but do ask when it was picked. You can also pick your own corn at farms around the state or stop by their roadside stands where the pick-of-the-day is often available at low cost. For a free guide to every one of them go online at or call 651-201-6050 for the free 2012 Minnesota Grown directory. It is published by the Minnesota Department of Agricultural and continues to grow each year with more and more resources from vineyards with wine tasting, to pick-your-own vegetables and fruit, to farm visits for the whole family. Don’t’ miss the best of Minnesota this summer. Enjoy homegrown everything!!