Don’t bug me about corn

It was well over 100 degrees here in Raleigh on Saturday. But it was also corn season. Nothing stands in the

fresh corn and black bean salad

way of corn season. My neighbor Tom and I dragged about 25 ears to the patio for shucking prior to freezing. It wasn’t yet hot enough to turn the sweet corn into popcorn, but it was getting there. However, you don’t want to do this in the house, unless you enjoy picking corn silks and shreds of green shucks out of everything in a 30-foot radius.

It’s near the beginning of corn time here, and the corn will likely be a little less expensive when we hit the high season. But the biggest advantage of early corn – besides that it’s here now and irresistible – is that it’s mostly worm free. No dealing with the green crawlies and the mess they make as they chew through what rightly is mine. I don’t like to share with bugs.

Another reason for confining shucking to the yard is that stripping kernels from the cobs will make enough of a mess. I’ve found splatted kernels on light fixtures and the coffeepot before, when the carnage was over. Tom freezes corn both on the cob and off. I prefer it off the cob, because that’s more versatile. When it’s 40 degrees and raining – as it will be in not that many months – the summer corn can bring sun into chowders, corn puddings and muffins.

If you plan to freeze corn, you should blanch it first. This means plunging the whole ears into boiling water for no more than a minute or so. Then drop the ears into a large bowl of iced water, to stop the cooking as quickly as possible. Then use a sharp knife (I don’t bother with corn-shucking gadgets and neither does Tom) to strip off the kernels. I packed them into one-pint freezer bags, because I find that’s a good amount for recipes for The Hub and me. Need more? Just thaw out more bags. Be sure to squeeze out all the air you can when packing the bags.

I ended up with a short bag – not really enough to freeze. That I turned into a salad for lunch. With the corn already shucked, I threw together the salad in 30 minutes, then chilled it for about an hour. This would be good rolled in a tortilla with some feta, too.

Corn and Black Bean Salad

2 cups fresh corn kernels

2 cups canned black beans, rinsed off and well drained

1 small onion, chopped

1 sweet banana pepper, chopped

1 small tomato, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Salt and black pepper to taste

About 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

In a large bowl, toss together the corn, black beans, onion, banana pepper and tomato. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, chili powder, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat them all. Stir in the cilantro. Refrigerate for at least an hour to let the flavors come together.

As corny as NC in spring

The stack of corn in my freezer is smaller, but still there. Little bags of white-gold reproach, they are. To go with our Memorial Day burgers, I used some to make a corn and black bean salad.

The corn had a lot of liquid in it, so I heated it in a non-stick skillet, stirring, until the liquid was gone but the kernels were still moist. I mixed about a cup of the corn with a can of black beans, which I had rinsed and drained to remove some of the salt. I always do that with canned beans. Some chopped Vidalia onion and green bell pepper went in, too. Cilantro would have been nice, but I didn’t have any.

I concentrated on getting a lot of flavor into the dressing. I mixed olive oil, oregano, thyme, salt, black pepper, garlic, red wine vinegar, a squirt of lime juice and my secret weapon, homemade hot pepper vinegar. I threw in a few dashes of chili powder and smoked paprika, too. I poured the dressing over the vegetables and refrigerated it all for about five house, giving it a shake occasionally. The sweet corn and the other flavors worked out just as I’d hoped.

If you’ve never made hot pepper vinegar, it’s so stupidly easy. Get a scrupulously clean jar and enough fresh hot peppers to fill it up. Pour in white wine vinegar. Add a couple cloves of garlic, if you want. Sit the jar, covered, in a cupboard for a week or two, or until it’s hot enough for you. Leave it as is, or decant into another, more attractive bottle and toss in some of the peppers. Done.