When I think of corn, I remember rows and rows of it in our Shop Garden. When I remember the rows in the Shop Garden, I recall picking the corn, and hearing the satisfying crack as the cob snapped off the stem. I remember emerging from the patch with corn tassels in my hair and arms itchy from the hairy, bristly leaves. Then came the next family project, shucking bushels and bushels of the stuff, with Dad helping us and telling us stories while Mom expertly cut the kernels off the cobs. As our hands grew and steadied, we were allowed to help cut it off. It was like a rite of passage; once you were able to cut off corn to Mom’s specifications, you were an adult. There was a knack to it, you see. It had to be cut close enough to the cob that you weren’t wasting any of that precious commodity, but not so close that you were shearing off the hard gristle from the centre of the cob. And finally, it was quickly blanched, cooled and bagged for the freezer, to be hauled out and served later in the season.
I’m lucky, though, I just tell Steve how many dozen cobs I want Martin’s to set aside for me, and presto, we have beautiful sweet corn appearing at our back door with no itchy arms or corn tassels in our hair. We had a family Corn Day recently and I, as the matriarch of the clan, was telling the cutters not to cut it too close to the cob, but still close enough. Since it was a cloudy, drizzly day we did it inside, but the stories flowed freely as the cobs were denuded of their kernels.
In the evening, the sun came out and we had a campfire, roasting the corn on the grill while the salmon fillets cooked over the fire. We ate the corn with a Mexican Street Corn sauce which made it taste delicious. Since the Mexican cotija cheese is hard to find here, I substituted feta. The texture is similar and it still tasted great. I made sure to grill extra corn because I wanted some for this Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Salad, which is also amazing. To grill it, I simply remove a few of the outermost husks, then place the corn on the BBQ and grill it covered for about 20 minutes, turning it a few times to cook each side evenly. If you don’t have time to grill it, or can’t for some other reason, you can achieve a similar flavour by thawing and draining frozen corn, then sautéing it in a dry skillet until it begins to brown.
I have served this salad times without number and it is always received with gusto. It is especially good served with foccacia, naan or some other flatbread. Grill some fresh peach or apple halves or pineapple wedges for dessert, drizzle with a fancy balsamic, honey or maple syrup, add some cinnamon and some ice cream, and you have a delightful summertime meal.
We used to grow acres of sweet corn here at Martin’s and I learned from that time that quickly cooling down the cobs after picking is critical to maintaining flavour and crispness, especially if you aren’t able to use it all immediately. We had a big vat of cold water that the bins of freshly picked corn would be dunked into before hastening them into the coolers. This way, the corn can easily stay fresh for days without losing flavour or crispness. I am wary of wagons of sweet corn for sale beside the road that have been sitting in full sun for hours.
Chicken, Corn and Black Bean Salad
- 1/3 cup olive oil (you can use whatever oil you like best)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh
cilantro(parsley for me, thank you), finely chopped
- 1-3 teaspoons honey (it’s your call on the sweetness level here)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or chili pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups grilled chopped chicken (cooked is okay too, just not as flavourful)
- 19 oz. (540 ml) tin black beans, rinsed and drained (I use half of this amount)
- 1 cup of cooked (or grilled) corn kernels
- 1/2 cup of thinly sliced red or green onions
- 1 medium bell pepper, sliced or diced
- Bed of torn lettuce (I like a mixture of leaf and romaine)
- Chopped tomatoes or grape tomatoes
- Shredded cheese