Improving on a Perfect Ear of Corn

The best way to eat corn is fresh out of the pot or hot off the grill, smoothed with butter and salt. And if you've got perfect corn, you don't even need the butter.

Still, because you might be looking for ways to dress up an ear of corn for company, we developed two flavored butters--curry butter and pasilla chile butter--in The Times Test Kitchen. They work well not just for corn but as dips for an array of fresh vegetables set out on a platter. Use them throughout the summer for outdoor entertaining.

We can't resist cooking with corn either. Corn softens the acidic edge of tomatoes, peppers and other summer produce and adds cool crunch. We developed the summer vegetable salad and corn-and-shrimp soup as dishes you'll want to make all summer long; they're simple and fairly quick to make, and they show off the best fresh flavors of seasonal eating.

We came up with the muffin recipe in response to a craving of Food staff writer Margaret Sheridan, who recently moved to Los Angeles from Hong Kong and was missing the moist-centered, crisp-crusted muffins she used to eat years ago in the Midwest. The fried corn, a recipe from a neighbor of Mayi Brady, is not diet food by any means, but it is completely delicious.

Deane is director and Brady is a cook in The Times' Test Kitchen.


2 cloves garlic, pressed

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Saute garlic in 1 teaspoon butter. Set aside. Combine curry powder, coriander, cardamom and ginger in small skillet and toast over low heat just until aromatic, being careful not to scorch. Put warmed spices in bowl of electric mixer and add fried garlic, rest of butter, cayenne, lemon juice and salt. Beat on medium speed until smooth.

Makes 1/2 cup.

Each 1-teaspoon serving contains about:

35 calories; 64 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 0 carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.01 gram fiber.


2 dried pasilla chiles

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1/2 cup butter

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Toast chiles in dry skillet 2 minutes on each side, being careful not to scorch. Soak toasted chiles in boiling water until very soft, about 15 minutes. Remove stems and seeds, then puree chiles in blender or food processor. Strain and set aside.

Saute garlic in 1 teaspoon butter. Put pureed chiles, garlic, rest of butter, lime juice and salt in bowl of food processor and process until very smooth.

Makes 1/2 cup.

Each 1-teaspoon serving contains about:

36 calories; 64 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 0 carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.07 gram fiber.


2 tablespoons butter

2 cups rosemary bread cubes

2 ears corn

5 ripe tomatoes, diced (about 3 cups)

1/2 cup Nicoise olives

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup thinly sliced basil

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups torn arugula leaves

The great flavor in this simple salad depends on good, ripe, juicy tomatoes. The juices from the tomatoes along with the olive oil, garlic and basil combine to make the dressing. Spicy arugula adds balance. Use a good rustic rosemary bread to make the bread cubes.

Brush shallow baking pan with butter; add bread cubes in single layer. Lightly brush cubes with butter. Bake at 400 degrees until bread begins to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Shuck corn; remove silk. Blanch corn in boiling water 2 minutes. Plunge into cold water. Drain and cut kernels from cob.

Toss together cut corn, tomatoes, olives, garlic, olive oil, basil and salt. Stir in arugula and bread cubes just before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

303 calories; 1,471 mg sodium; 16 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 24 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.78 gram fiber.


Christopher Ginnaven hails from Little Rock, Ark. He remembers eating fried corn while growing up and contributed this, his father's recipe, which called for white "field" corn. We added bacon to the recipe, but it can be omitted and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil substituted for the bacon fat.

6 ears white corn

4 bacon strips

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 to 1/2 cup half and half


Freshly ground pepper

Cut corn off cob and "milk" cob by running flat of knife down cob. Reserve corn and milk together.

Cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and cook over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon and drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Add reserved corn and cook over low heat until corn begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook another 2 minutes. Add half and half slowly and cook until mixture begins to thicken, adding more half and half if corn appears too dry. Corn should be wet but not soupy and not as thick as creamed corn. Stir in bacon. Add dash of salt and liberal grinding of black pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

177 calories; 174 mg sodium; 14 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.63 gram fiber.


3 ears yellow corn

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons grated ginger root

1/2 cup minced red bell pepper

1 quart chicken stock

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt, pepper

2 tablespoons minced chives

Cut corn off cob and "milk" cob by running flat of knife down cob. Reserve together.

Melt butter in large pot and add onion and garlic. Cook 5 minutes. Add ginger root and 1/4 cup red bell pepper and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Add corn and cook until corn begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add stock and cook 10 minutes. Remove 2 cups soup and puree until smooth. Return to pot and bring soup to simmer, then add remaining red pepper and shrimp. Cook just until shrimp is pink and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with minced chives.

Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

241 calories; 1,037 mg sodium; 160 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 18 grams carbohydrates; 30 grams protein; 0.74 gram fiber.


1 (17-ounce) can cream-style corn

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup oil

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

2 cups cornmeal

Kernels from 2 ears yellow corn

1 tablespoon coarse cornmeal

1 tablespoon kosher salt

It's hard to make really moist corn muffins without using canned cream-style corn, and our objective was to come up with a muffin that was slightly crisp and chewy on the outside while being very moist and creamy on the inside. We used a can of cream-style corn but added plenty of fresh corn. The cornmeal and salt topping adds crunch.

Beat together creamed corn, baking soda, salt and sugar in large bowl. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in buttermilk, oil and cheese. Mix well but do not beat. Stir in cornmeal and fresh corn. Fill greased muffin tins about 3/4 full.

Combine coarse cornmeal and kosher salt in small bowl. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of mixture over each muffin, than bake at 425 degrees until golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes.

Makes 12 to 14 muffins.

Each of 12 muffins contains about:

231 calories; 896 mg sodium; 46 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 31 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.45 gram fiber.

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