Nothing says summer like biting into a fresh, sweet cob of corn and letting the butter drizzle down your chin. Piping hot or tossed into a cold salad, corn is extremely versatile and appeals to just about everyone. The season, which is July through October for most varieties, is just beginning.
Farmer’s markets are also starting to get into the swing of things corn-wise. Gloria’s Fruits & Veggies, based in Oxnard and set up at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market on Wednesdays, showcases Aspen corn, a white variety with a high sugar content. That higher sugar content translates to stalks keeping longer, especially in the refrigerator, according to the National Gardening Association, which means you can buy corn fresh and use it throughout the week.
The Golden State produces 16% of the nation’s sweet crop, making it second only to Washington, according to the Keep California Farming website. With several months of fresh corn in front of us, many restaurants are taking advantage by adding it as a seasonal ingredient to their menus. Here are five options verging on irresistible and one maybe even inspirational enough to try cooking at home.
Find the recipe for Josie’s grilled corn with jalapeño butter at the bottom.
Napa Valley Grille
Using corn as a sauce of sorts for pasta makes Chef Taylor Boudreaux’s agnolotti sing. The sweet puree blankets the unusually light, handmade pockets of pasta, neatly filled with mascarpone. Combined with beurre fondue and parmesan, this dish could easily feel heavy but, through a sleight of hand, Chef Boudreaux manages to make a delicate summer dish, celebrating corn and still leaving room for his other magic tricks, like the summer fruit salad, a passel of exceedingly fresh stone fruit, balanced with arugula. 1100 Glendon Ave. #100, Westwood; 310-824-3322.
Sweet Rose Creamery
Two epic summer treats come together harmoniously in Sweet Rose Creamery’s summer corn ice cream. The naturally high sugar content in corn works surprisingly well in dessert, and as in creamed corn, pairs perfectly with dairy. For a further step toward the stratosphere, try the seasonal ice cream sandwich, a generous portion of the corn ice cream, bookended with two homemade vanilla wafer cookies. And yes, you are allowed to feel virtuous as you painlessly eat your vegetables. 7565 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-844-0944, 225 26th St. Ste. 51, Brentwood; 310-260-2663.
Pitfire Artisan Pizza
Sunny and welcoming, kind of like a good ear of corn, Pitfire Pizza caters to everyone, from couples on dates to work lunches. In a menu that focuses on seasonal ingredients, corn features prominently in the summer lineup. For starters, Pitfire roasts up a host of veggies, including corn, in their farmer's market roasted vegetable dish, for a healthy snack or even meal — it comes with flatbread, grilled and smothered in ricotta. Another produce-heavy option, the hand-chopped salad, practically screams vernal equinox with its mix of roasted corn, cherry tomatoes and bright green lettuces. If you’re in the market for something more filling, two pastas celebrate maize: the community grains rigatoni in a tomato-based sauce, augmented with pickled and roasted peppers, and the sweet corn pasta, featuring a creamy sauce. 108 W. 2nd St., Los Angeles;213-808-1200.
Not one, but two delicious corn-centric items can be yours at Chef Jimmy Shaw’s Loteria Grill. The calabacitas tacos come loaded with roasted corn succotash and zucchini (or Mexican white squash in season), generously garnished with salsa verde cruda, cilantro, onion and queso fresco, heaped on a corn tortilla — the flavors nearly jump out of the taco and bite you. Even more showstopping are the quesadillitas de plaza. These fresh corn masa turnovers come with a few different fillings, but make way for the huitlacoche corn truffle quesadilla. Farmers cultivate this fungus, also known as corn smut, purposefully on fresh ears of corn by scoring the kernels. According to Chef Shaw, huitlacoche was enjoyed thousands of years ago by the Aztecs. 6627 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles;323-465-2500.
A true ode to corn plays harmoniously at Chef Curtis Stone's Beverly Hills restaurant. The 11-course extravaganza begins and ends with this versatile veggie (though some consider it a grain). From a dish of cuttlefish and crab with pickled white corn kernels and covered in a corn espuma, to a cured wagyu beef with burnt corn salsa and huitlacoche, this all-corn meal will surely satisfy even the most obsessed corn lover's desire for everything maize-inspired. Diners even get to take home a housemade bag of corn flakes. 212 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-859-34-18.
Next Door by Josie
A great place to relax and have some small bites, Next Door by Josie sits adjacent to Josie’s in Santa Monica. The restaurant's corn on the cob, a seasonal treat, celebrates Mexican flavors. Mesquite-grilled and slathered in a jalapeno-cilantro butter, the ear is then topped with a crumbly ricotta salata cheese and served with a wedge of lime on the side. This twist on an American classic is just interesting enough to make you crave it, while staying true to the basics of why we jones for all things maize, especially on a warm summer day. 2420 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-581-4201.
Recipe from Next Door by Josie:
Grilled Corn with Jalapeño Butter??
For the jalapeño butter:
2 sticks unsalted butter, soft
1 large jalapeño pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped fine
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 ears corn
4 oz ricotta salata cheese, grated
For the butter:
In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, diced roasted jalapeño, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the corn:
Pull the outer husks down the ear to the base. Strip away the silk from each ear of corn by hand. Fold husks back into place, and place the ears of corn in a large bowl of cold water for at least 3 hours (or up to 24). ??Remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place the corn on the grill, close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, or until kernels are tender when pierced with a paring knife. If you like your corn simply steamed with just a little bit of smoke from the grill, go ahead and slather them with jalapeño butter and grated ricotta salata. However, you can also pull back the husks at this point and return the corn to the grill for another 5 minutes for a little more char.