Caramel(ized) corn

I love the foods of summer. Bye-bye squash and cauliflower, hello strawberries and tomatoes with actual flavor rather than vague redness, a panoply of peppers, Romano beans, white peaches, and… corn.

Ah, corn. When sweet corn first begins to appear—ears that haven’t travelled a thousand miles, with kernels as chewy as the husk—just giving it a quick boil is enough. Then the next day, sliced off and stuck in salads, or mixed with red peppers, black beans, and celery, with some oil and red vinegar.

But as the season goes on, simplicity palls. And that’s when sautéed seeds come into play.seeds

Stick a tablespoon or two of mustard seeds (either yellow or brown) into a fry pan, with a cover, and turn up the heat until they start to jump around. When they’re popping nicely, turn down the heat and, when the jumping slows, take the pan off the heat. Tip the lid and slip in and any other seeds you like—I like sesame, although you can use caraway or fennel if you want their strong flavors. (I love onion seeds, if you can find those.) Shake the pan a few times so the seeds cook evenly, then add a couple tablespoons of oil and the kernels sliced off four or five ears of corn. (This is white corn, very sweet to begin with.)corn

Put it back over the heat, stir a few times, and add a little water, maybe 1/3 cup. Put the lid back on and let the corn steam a few minutes, stirring once or twice.

Then take off the lid and cook the corn, stirring and scraping the bottom occasionally—you want it to brown, but you need to watch closely, since the natural sugars will burn (especially if you scrape the ears to get the inner sections left behind, as I do.) Leave for a few minutes, then stir, repeat a few times until the whole is beginning to brown but nothing has burned.yum

Then add a few tablespoons of water to help scrape the tasty caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and to break up the clumps that have formed on the spatula. When the water has evaporated but the corn hasn’t yet started to stick, enjoy. (Pardon me, but isn’t it time for lunch?)

You can, of course, do all kinds of things to this: stronger flavored seeds, two or three shakes of smoked paprika, a good dash of cayenne, diced red or hot peppers added in the last minutes of cooking, other vegetables or beans—you name it, pretty much anything goes. But try it first unadorned, and see if you don’t fall in love with the simple nutty sweetness of the corn itself.

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  1. KarenB on June 28, 2016 at 10:32 am

    That sounds delicious! One of my favorite things to do with fresh sweet corn is brown it in butter and stir in a large handful of thinly sliced fresh basil, sprinkle on a bit of salt and pepper, and that’s it. Now I’m getting hungry for corn and we have a few weeks to go before it’s here.

  2. janet on June 28, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    I just love corn. Period. Love the off-the-cob kind and the popping kind. I like to get a bunch, cook it quickly and not too much, then cut it off the cob and freeze it so we can enjoy that great flavor year-round.


  3. Diane Kazan on June 28, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    can’;t wait for fresh corn from a farmers market!

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