Here in New York’s Finger Lakes, corn season arrives late and leaves early. If you're like me, when you spot the first ears at a farmers market or roadside stand, you go a little crazy. Even though I’m usually cooking for just my husband and myself, I tend to buy dozens of ears at a time. My favorite comes from Ed Fedorka (above, also known as "the corn dude"), of Rainbow Valley Ranch, because corn is all he sells. Ed is living proof in my experience that if you make just one thing, you’re going to strive for perfection (think Antonio Stradivari). When corn comes in, Ed’s table at Ithaca's farmer's market is strewn with his super sweet varieties ($5/dozen); later in the season, he adds corn for popping packaged in neat plastic bags shaped like hands.
This season’s first corn coincided with a string of brutally hot days, days so hot that to boil water to cook the corn in my usual way would have made our un-airconditioned kitchen uninhabitable. Instead, I soaked the ears, still in their husks, in the sink filled with water, and threw them on the covered grill for roughly 10 minutes. The corn took on the smoke from the hardwood charcoal and was delicious, no butter or salt required. Even so, we had five large ears left over from a meal that included grilled wild salmon (also in season), and a salad.
The next day, with the temperatures holding steady in the 90s, I decided use the corn for a cold soup, nothing fancy. I stripped the kernels into the blender, added the last of my garlic scapes along with salt and pepper and a fistful of fresh cilantro (stems and leaves). After liquefying the corn, I streamed in about a cup of water, enough to thin the contents to the consistency of a pancake batter, and strained everything through a mesh sieve. Once chilled, the resulting soup was the essence of corn, or as some might say, the flavor of Kansas in August.
Fresh corn always reminds me of this poem, by Elaine Equi:
I strip away
your pale kimono.
Your tousled hair too,
comes off in my hands
All ears and
tiny yellow teeth.
from Surface Tension (Coffee House Press, Sept 1989)