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Improving on a Perfect Ear of Corn

July 05, 1996|DONNA DEANE and MAYI BRADY

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.

CURRY BUTTER

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

Cayenne

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.

PASILLA CHILE BUTTER

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.

SUMMER VEGETABLE SALAD

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.

FRIED CORN

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

Salt

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.

CORN AND SHRIMP SOUP

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