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Corn is a sure sign of mid-summer. Although best eaten right off the cob, those sweet kernels can also be cut off and used any number of ways. This week, we look at how to maximize that summery flavor.
Corn | Family: Poaceae
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From the Farmer: Corn has the unusual distinction of being a vegetable, a grain, and a fruit. But no matter how you classify it, the key to great sweet corn lies in the harvest. “Corn holds for almost no time,” says Wyatt Barnes, owner of Niwot’s Red Wagon Organic Farm. “You’ll show up one day and it will be a little under, and Friday if it’s hot out it will be ready and delicious—and on Monday it will be gummy.”
Good for You: There are many varieties of corn, each of which offers its own complex web of vitamins and nutrients. Yellow corn is a good source of antioxidants like beta-carotene and manganese, as well as vitamins like B1, B5, and folic acid. It’s also high in dietary fiber, and some research indicates that corn helps with cardiovascular health.
At the Market: Look for rounded heads with plump kernels and husks that are fresh and green. Corn doesn’t store well, so only buy what you’re going to eat that day. If you have to buy ahead, store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator and do not shuck until you’re ready to cook.
Around Town: Colorado’s prized Olathe corn just showed up in Denver so prepare for a bonanza of dishes. At Osaka Ramen in RiNo, chef-owner Jeff Osaka serves a miso ramen bowl with pork and buttered corn (FYI: Osaka’s Cherry Creek outpost opened at 2817 E. Third Avenue today). In Ballpark, chef Alex Figura of Lower48 Kitchen tosses the kernels with Colorado peaches, braised rabbit, and house-made pappardelle. Downtown, ChoLon chef and co-owner Lon Symensma hot brines cobs in salt and palm sugar before cutting them into discs and grilling them with sriracha, lime, kewpie mayo, sour cream, and chile powder. The corn is then skewered and garnished with scallions, cilantro, toasted coconut flakes coated in sriracha flakes, and citrus jam.
In Your Kitchen: Boiling or grilling cobs and slathering them with butter and salt is a no-brainer. But take it to the next step by adding ground cumin, salt, and lime zest to the butter. Or tap the street food trend with Richard Sandoval’s Mexico City-style corn on the cob (recipe on page 92 in 5280: The Cookbook) and brush cobs with chipotle aïoli and sprinkle with Parmesan and chile powder. Alex Siedel of Fruition Restaurant and Mercantile Dining & Provision also has a recipe in the book (page 54) for grilled bone-in pork loin chops with corn purée and corn and goat cheese fritters. Make the entire recipe, or simply make the fabulous corn purée. For other recipes, cut the kernels off the cob and make salsa, corn salad, or corn cakes. You can really go for it and make the New York Times‘ sweet corn ice cream with blackberry-verbena sauce.
FYI: National Farmers’ Market Week runs August 2 to 8. Be one of the first shoppers to stop by the Old South Pearl Street, Highland, and Broomfield markets, and receive a $5 voucher from Chipotle to use at any local produce vendor at the market, plus chips and salsa samples, and a buy-one-entrée-get-one free card to cash in at Chipotle.