August 2011 Issue

Navigating Maize — Sweet Corn Is the Cream of the Summer Crop
By Bryan Roof, RD, LDN
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 13 No. 8 P. 72

At the risk of upsetting nearly everyone, I would argue that the best produce of late summer is not, in fact, tomatoes but corn. Don’t get me wrong—I love tomatoes. But for me, freshly harvested corn offers up a toothsome crunch and sweet, juicy pop that stands up to nearly anything on my summertime grilling menu.

Corn is a fruit indigenous to the Americas, and Indian corn, as it was originally known, was a woodier, starchier version of what’s eaten today, which has been hybridized to be sweeter, more tender, and less starchy. Within a few days of being picked, corn’s sugars begin to convert to starch, which is a good reason to buy only local corn, if possible. And if you are fortunate enough to have local corn, buy it in the husk, which helps keep it moist after harvest.

Aside from the husk, fresh corn should have good weight to it in comparison to its size, which is an indicator that it has not dried out. Peeling back the husk, the kernels should be moist and plump with no signs of rot, and the silk emerging from the top of the husk should be tacky and a little wet. Fresh corn usually comes with the stem still attached, and this serves as an excellent handle when digging into a full ear, so you can trash those ridiculous corn forks that you received as a wedding gift.

On the streets of Mexico, they sell ears of grilled corn slathered with a mixture of sour cream, chile powder, and lime juice, and in the states we’ve wittingly dubbed this fare Mexican Street Corn. The rich sour cream cools the hot, grill-speckled corn, while the chile powder offers a mild spiciness and the lime juice cuts its natural sweetness. It’s at once a sweet-smoky affair that’s guaranteed to drip down your chin and stick to your teeth, as all great corn on the cob should. Just try to do that with your fancy tomatoes.

— Bryan Roof, RD, LDN, is a chef, dietitian, and food writer living in Boston.


Mexican Street Corn

Serves 4

1/2 cup sour cream
2 T minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp ancho chile powder
1 tsp kosher salt
4 large ears of corn, husks and silk removed, stalks left intact
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat. (Or for a charcoal grill, light a large chimney starter filled with 6 qt of charcoal and distribute lit coals in a single layer on grill bottom.) In small bowl, whisk together sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, chile powder, and 1/2 tsp salt; set aside.

Rub corn with olive oil, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper. Grill over direct heat, turning frequently, until well browned all over, 7 to 10 minutes. Working with about 1/2 of the sour cream mixture, baste the top side of the corn, flip, and quickly baste the bottom side. Remove corn from heat and serve, passing remaining sour cream mixture separately.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 220
Total fat: 10 g
Sat fat: 4.5 g
Trans fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 20 mg
Sodium: 510 mg
Total carbohydrate: 28 g
Dietary fiber: 3 g
Protein: 6 g