Conscious Cook: The flavors of September

“Up from the meadows rich with corn, Clear in the cool September morn.” —John Greenleaf Whittier

Do you feel the warm, slow, afternoons starting to slip away? Dusk comes a tiny bit sooner each day and the whisper of fall is in the air.

Yet the sweet succulence of summer lingers on. The sun still burns brightly, igniting the flesh of late season crops, most especially freshly picked, locally grown, farm-stand corn.

Connecticut grown corn has been particularly toothsome this year. From South Windsor to Seymour, I have sampled ears that have been luscious and suffused with sugar. When corn is that fresh and tasty, it hardly needs to be cooked at all!

Corn has many varied and delectable uses, and is embraced by many cultures. Coarsely ground cornmeal is used to prepare polenta, a delicious traditional Italian dish. Polenta can be baked, fried or grilled. Top grilled slabs with roughly chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil for an excellent late summer supper. Mexican recipes employ corn in a myriad of flavorful preparations, including tamales, cornhusks filled with rich, deeply flavored fillings.

Fresh corn kernels are perfect for chowder, soups, puddings, relishes, salsas, fritters, pancakes, waffles, breads, casseroles, chili and even ice cream!

A solid source of fiber, consuming corn may have some benefit lowering high cholesterol levels and reducing certain cancer risks. Corn provides thiamin (vitamin B1), which aids in brain function and memory retention, as well as vitamin B5, which stimulates energy production. Corn also supplies significant amounts of folate, manganese, phosphorous and vitamin C.

When choosing corn from your favorite farm stand, be sure the ears have been kept in the shade. Look for greenish, silky ends, avoiding ears with dried out silk. To test for freshness, peel back a bit of husk and look for tightly arranged rows. Press a fingernail into one of the kernels; milky white juice should spurt out if the corn is nicely moist and fresh.

I prefer not to husk corn until I am ready to cook. It loses flavor the minute the husk is removed, and the natural sugars will rapidly turn starchy. Keep ears refrigerated until ready to cook.

I cook my corn in rapidly boiling water for about five minutes to retain maximum crunch. Butter and salt are a personal choice — depending on the candy-like quality of the kernels, neither may be needed.

Preserve these petite pieces of perfection by freezing. Simply strip the raw kernels off the cob, using long strokes with a well-sharpened knife. Then run the opposite side of the knife back over the cob to release all the milky liquid. Scoop kernels and milk into a heavy-duty freezer bag and stash your treasure away for up to three months. If you are organized, freeze in one cup quantities so you can pull out pre-measured portions for your cool weather creations.

This corn salad is a zesty celebration of late summer. Enjoy as you prepare your delicious life!

Savoring September Corn Salad

Serves 8-10

10-12 ears of fresh corn, husked,

2 pints cherry tomatoes

1 diced red, yellow, or orange bell pepper

1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup finely chopped red or sweet onion

1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper

¾ cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Cook corn in large pot of boiling water until just tender, about five minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut kernels off cobs and put into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients; toss to blend. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

For more information on Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, The Conscious Cook, go to www.theconsciouscook.net.