Go Crazy for Corn!

Corn is a plentiful harvest food, in season in most regions of the country from August to September.

And on "The Early Show" Tuesday, Food Network star Aarón Sánchez, of the competition show "Chefs vs. City", gave pointers on buying, storing and cooking kernels. It was part of the "Summer Harvest 101" series, which looks at vegetables that taste best in late summer.

HOW TO BUY
If you are headed to your grocery store or farm stand, Sánchez said, you will get the best flavors from large yellow kernels and smaller sweeter white kernels.

As soon as corn is picked, the sugar in it begins its conversion into starch, which reduces its natural sweetness. So it's important that you buy fresh-picked corn whenever you can. You will probably be in good shape if you buy from a green market, but if you have to buy corn at the grocery store, ask how fresh the corn on the ear is -- do they get it locally? Do they know when their purveyor picks the corn before delivery?

Look for corn with bright green, snugly fitting husks and golden brown silk. If the husks look wilted or dry, it probably means the corn has been picked awhile ago. And with corn, the fresher the better. The kernels should be plump and milky, well formed all the way to the tip; the rows should be closely spaced. Also you should look for a brown spot on the husk and there might even be a little tiny hole, which might mean there's a worm in it. You can also look at plumpness. Mature corn is plump and thick, so depending on your taste, you're looking for a plump ear of corn. If you have an ear that feels thinner, that's a younger corn and is probably tenderer. Younger corn is probably a little sweeter, more sugary. Once the sugar turns to starch then it loses some of its sweetness.

Fresh corn is best cooked and served the day it is purchased, but it can be refrigerated too for a few days, in the crisper, if you can. Strip off the husks and silk just before cooking.

HOW TO STORE FOR THE WINTER

For the short term, you can put the corn in a crisper for up to two or three days. If you are planning on using the corn later, you can steam or boil the corn until readiness. At this point, you can cut the corn off the cob and freeze it for later. Or try this: cut the corn off the cob, put the kernels in plastic bags with a pat of butter and boil those bags as individual portions when ready to eat.

You can also make a delicious corn relish, which will store nicely for the winter.

HOW TO COOK

If you grill it, I recommend soaking the ears in water and then put them on the grill, and extra moisture will steam the corn on the inside and help it cook thoroughly. If you just boil it, pull the husk off. You can also use a steamer and steam it. With a steamer, you can pull the husk off, but you don't have to.

RECIPES:

Charred Corn Salsa


Ingredients
10 large ears corn, husked
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 vine-ripened tomatoes, about 1 pound total
1 cup diced red onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste 1/4 cup julienne fresh basil leaves 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro

Directions
Brush the corn liberally with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Grill, turning every few minutes, until light gold all over and cooked, about 12 minutes. Let cool and cut off the kernels. Discard the cobs.

Core the tomatoes and cut a small X on the bottom of each. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on the grill, X side down, away from direct heat. Cover the grill and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften but are not cooked all the way through (or they will melt through the grate!), about 15 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and squeeze out the juice and the seeds through a sieve into a bowl. Reserve the juices and chop the flesh.

Put the onions in the non-reactive medium bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the vinegar. Let marinate until the color changes, about 10 minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, reserved tomato juice, onions, basil, and 1/3 cup olive oil to the corn. Toss well. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper, and remaining vinegar. The salsa is best eaten the same day but will keep, covered and refrigerated, a day or so.

Arepas

Ingredients
2 pounds frozen yellow corn kernels, thawed
1 1/2 cups extra-fine yellow cornmeal
9 ounces mozzarella, grated
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
Pinch salt

Directions
With a meat grinder, coarsely grind the corn kernels and place in a mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal, cheese, milk, sugar, and salt. Mix thoroughly with electric mixer. Using a 1 1/2 or 3 inch mold, shape the arepas. Stack them on a lightly greased baking sheet with parchment paper between the layers. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cook the arepas over a medium to low heat until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes.

For a Huitlacoche Tamale recipe, go to Page 2.

The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App