Here in Ohio, we are awash in corn. Awash, I say. It’s one of the glories of an Ohio summer: sweet, juicy corn, still in its husk, stacked waist high at the market and sold for a song. Combine with some fresh-picked tomatoes, it’s basically distilled summer.
But after you’ve been eating corn for a few months, you start to feel almost blasé about it. “Oh, corn with dinner,” you say almost sarcastically. “How droll.” It seemed unthinkable in the dead of winter, and equally so in the early summer when the first ears came to market, but corn on the cob starts to feel boring. A drudge, even.
Which is when I break out this recipe. Take the corn, strip it off the cob. Put it in a hot, hot pan and let it go. It becomes a whole different thing, savory and nutty and almost a little smoky. (If you’re a fan of grilled corn, you’ll find this somewhat similar.)
Once you have the corn at that deeply browned state, you can go different ways, but making a quinoa bowl is one of my favorites. Quinoa is a go-to grain for me, because of its relatively high protein content, which means I can combine it with sweet summer vegetables and still get a balanced meal.
In fact, I find this to be an excellent breakfast. There’s something immensely satisfying and energizing about a bowl of warm grains topped with sweet-savory corn and dressed with creamy yogurt and fresh chopped tomatoes. I’m not saying it’ll replace bacon and eggs in my heart of hearts, but it’s a nice switch-up.
Charred corn quinoa bowl
I happen to really like this as a breakfast dish, but it’a good any time of day: soft, pillowy quinoa; sweet-savory charred corn; a dollop of cool yogurt and some chopped tomatoes. If you’re suffering from corn fatigue, this should get you out of your rut.
2 c quinoa
4 c stock or water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
Kernels from 6 ears sweet corn (about 5 cups)
1 small red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 jalapeño or serrano pepper, minced (seeded if you like a little less heat)
1 Tbsp lime juice (or to taste)
Salt to taste
Plain yogurt and tomato, to serve
You can cook the quinoa in a rice cooker or on the stovetop. For the rice cooker, combine the quinoa and the stock or water, put on the lid, and start the cycle. On the stovetop, bring the stock or water to a boil over high heat, then pour in the quinoa. Let return to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to very low, and let cook for 20 minutes. For both methods, let stand off heat 10 minutes once cooking is done, then fluff with a fork.
For the corn, warm the vegetable oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add the corn, toss briefly, then spread it up the sides of the wok a bit, making an even layer of corn. Then walk away and don’t touch it for about five minutes. Once the five minutes are up, toss the corn and spread it back for another five-minute cooking cycle.
Once you see the kernels begin taking on some browning (usually after the second toss), add the onion, garlic, and chile pepper and continue with the tossing. You’ll continue this toss-wait-toss-wait cycle until the corn is deeply browned to your liking, somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes total, depending on your stove and your wok. Don’t be alarmed by small popping noises, nor by a toasty smell. You might need to reduce the heat and/or quicken the cycle toward the end if you have a really mega stove, but it’ll probably be fine.
Once you like the look of the corn mixture, remove from heat and toss with the lime juice and a hefty pinch of salt. Taste and adjust if it needs it.
To serve, spoon up a big bowl of quinoa, covered with a hefty scoop of corn. I like some yogurt and chopped tomatoes with it, just to round out the summery flavors.
No wok? You can use a wide skillet. The main advantage of the wok is that it helps me not throw corn all over the kitchen, but maybe you’re a better tosser than I am.
You can throw almost any other vegetable in here, too. Just consider how long it will take to cook: Should it go in with the corn (green beans, diced hard vegetables)? With the chile and garlic (other peppers, sliced summer squash)? Toward the end (diced tomatoes and hardy greens)? Off heat (herbs and soft greens)?
Need another salsa for your Party of 1000 Dips? (That… actually sounds like a great party.) Throw in a can of black beans once it’s done. Tada, corn and black bean salsa!
Of course this can go over rice. Of course. I usually do stock-cooked rice at about 3 cups stock to 1 cup rice, but use your preferred method and it’ll be just fine.