These days, Michigan peaches, heirloom tomatoes and fresh sweet corn are making return engagements to my summer kitchen, and I can't seem to get enough of them.
Drippingly sweet sliced peaches, topped with a drift of freshly cracked black pepper, is a pairing made in heaven, as are heirloom tomatoes sprinkled with olive oil, soft goat cheese and fresh mint. And while I have nothing against classic corn on the cob (who could?) I like to branch out a bit with corn as these recipes show.
The Sweet Corn Flans, originally found in an old Gourmet issue from the 90s, make a lovely first course for a summer dinner party. The tomato-corn relish also nails it as a topping for grilled salmon or swordfish. Kevin Lynch's Jalapeno Corn Fritters are an addictive nibble at any cook-out, and (my favorite) sautéed corn not only makes a great side dish, it's also an ideal bed for grilled shrimp. Yummy.
SWEET CORN FLANS WITH TOMATO-CORN RELISH (4 servings)
You will need four (4-to-6 oz.) ramekins.
3 ears fresh corn, shucked, divided
2/3 cup 1% milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 cup corn reserved from flans
6 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, cut into small
dice (3/4 cup)
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook corn in a pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and cool.
With a sharp knife, cut kernels from the cobs into a bowl. Use the dull side of the knife to scrape the ears. (Reserve 3/4 of a cup of the cooked corn kernels to use in relish). Puree remainder of the corn in a blender with the milk until smooth; then force the puree through a fine sieve into a bowl, discarding any solids.
Whisk together eggs, salt and cayenne until blended and whisk into the corn puree. Pour the flan mixture into lightly oiled ramekins and bake in a hot water bath just until set, about 40 minutes. Remove ramekins from water bath and cool on a rack. Chill until cold, about 2 hours.
For the relish, combine all ingredients, through the basil, in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil and red wine vinegar and pour over the vegetables. Toss lightly. Unmold flans onto indivual plates. Top each with some of the relish and a fresh basil leaf.
JALAPENO CORN FRITTERS (serves 4)
2 cups fresh corn kernels cut from the cob
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup light cream cheese, room temperature
2 medium-size jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 green onions, both green and white parts, sliced
1 handful cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lime, both zest and juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, more if needed
Mix all ingredients (except oil), in a bowl. Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium setting. Form the corn mixture into 1/4 cup patties and fry until golden-brown on both sides, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Alternatively, place the patties on a baking sheet sprayed generously with vegetable oil and bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes per side.
Serve hot, with a little ranch dressing for dipping.
SAUTEED CORN WITH MINT, BUTTER AND LEMON (4 servings)
4 medium-size ears of fresh corn
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
With a sharp knife, cut the raw corn kernels into a bowl. Run the flat side of the knife over the cobs to release any juices. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Sauté corn for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the ginger, cayenne and salt, cooking 1 to 2 minutes more. The corn should be cooked through yet still firm. Add lemon zest, juice and mint. Add a bit more salt, if necessary, and serve immediately.