Summer Treasure

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There is a fabulous farm stand just a few miles from my home. On the weekends during the summer, locals and food-savvy visitors to the area often bring their collapsible beach chairs, mugs full of freshly ground coffee, and copies of the Sunday morning paper to sit in line just waiting for it to open.

Among the many wonders that await inside are fraises des bois (wild strawberries) in peak condition, French melons, fresh figs, myriad fresh herbs, oranges from the owner's backyard, a slew of unique heirloom tomatoes, fresh fava beans, several types of tiny summer squashes, lettuces, radicchio, mache, tiny carrots (white, red and orange), baby radishes, tender onions, and, this time of year, fresh-picked corn just off the stalk.

While there few things I can refuse there, of course, I never fail to come home with far more corn than I can possibly consume by myself. That's when it's time to haul out the corn recipes and invite the neighbors over.

Here are a few of my tips for preparing and serving this late-summer delicacy.

First and most important, get your corn as soon after it has been picked as possible. The natural sugars start converting into starches as soon as the corn is picked and it begins to lose its sweetness.

My personal favorite way to consume corn is raw. That's right, gnawing it right off the cob "naked," just as God made it. Just husk, silk, and then get to work on it like a beaver on a log. No salt. No butter. Nothing. Doesn't get any better than that.

If you prefer a little heat under your corn, you have a couple of options that will yield equally delicious results.

Grilling produces a lovely roasted flavor that complements the corn's natural sweetness. Just remove all but the innermost layer of the husk. The kernels should still be covered, but visible through that last layer of husk. Cut off the tassle at the tip of the ear, then grill over a medium hot fire until the outlines of the kernels show through the husk, about 8 minutes total, and turning every two minutes.

Steaming maintains the moisture of the corn and produces kernels just about to burst. Remove the husk and silk, then set the corn in a steamer basket above an inch of water. Cover and steam over high heat until tender, about 8 minutes.

Boiling is a traditional preparation but some people think that steaming the corn preserves more nutrients and yields better texture. I think it's personal choice. If you want to boil, just husk the corn and drop it carefully into boiling water and boil for about 5-7 minutes or until the corn is tender.

And for a quick and easy fix without having to heat the kitchen, you can microwave corn. Just rinse the unhusked, unsilked ears under water, then heat at 100 percent power for about 4-5 minutes for two ears of corn. Let cool for a few minutes before shucking and eating.

Grilled Corn Salad
Here's one of my favorite recipes for a light, simple, summer dish.

kernels from about 6 ears of grilled corn (about 3 cups)
1 green bell pepper, seeded, veined and diced
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded, stemmed, veined and minced
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tomato, diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive or canola oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, peeled
salt

1. Mix the corn, peppers, red onion, tomato, scallions and cilantro together in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice.

3. Using a garlic press, press the garlic into the oil and lemon juice. Pour over the corn salad and mix thoroughly, and then add salt to taste.