The Culture of Food and Drink

Home / Cooking  / Summer-Perfect Corn

Summer-Perfect Corn

You can keep it simple by grilling corn on the cob, or boiling it and slathering it with butter seasoned with sea salt and pepper. You can cut it off the cob and saute with garlic and mushrooms as a side dish, add it to soup for a chowder, mix it into clam fritters, toss it in a salad or bake into zucchini bread. It’s peak corn season and  there are innumerable ways to take advantage of this versatile vegetable’s sweetness.

Given summer’s bounty, now is an excellent time to experiment with corn in ways you never dreamed of.

With so much good quality corn available, I find myself adding corn wherever I can. Corn’s sweetness brightens up a tomato-parsley salad, adds a surprising crunch to miso clam soup with vermicelli and goes beautifully with braised short-ribs and shiitake mushrooms.

When there’s a plentiful amount of corn, I find that I leave no recipe untouched, even adding grilled corn and bacon to egg salad. The same combination also enhances the clean flavors of a lobster roll, although I know its heresy in some quarters to suggest an alteration of such a tradition-bound favorite.

roasted corn

Corn and roasted garlic hook up

Recently my wife and I were lucky enough to spend a week in Sonoma County, Calif., exploring restaurants, inns and wineries.

It’s been a long time since she or I have taken a road trip, and it was great to be out of the house, driving wherever we wanted, turning off the main roads and exploring new territory.

Besides enjoying good, affordable food and great wines, we also came away from the trip with new ideas for our own kitchen.

A case in point is the way Chef Josh Silvers serves his grilled corn on the cob with a roasted garlic and butter puree at Jackson’s Bar and Oven, in Santa Rosa.  The roasted garlic added a depth of flavor and sweetness to the beautifully charred corn. The corn pared well with a glass of Simple Math Cellars Chardonnay (Sonoma County 2008).

It occurred to me that the combination would make a great pasta, easy-to-make, affordable, and delicious.

Pasta with Corn and GarlicPasta with Corn and Garlic

For the pasta I like gnocchi or any other style that catches the corn kernels and sauce.

Makes four servings.


2 ears corn, husks and silks removed, washed
5 garlic cloves, skins on
½ cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, for the pasta water
1 box or pound pasta
1 cup pasta water
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


  1. Preheat the grill to high or the oven to 350 F. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the ears of corn and garlic cloves to coat. Season with sea salt and pepper.  Grill or oven roast until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool, then remove the kernels and discard the cobs. Cut off the garlic skins, discard and set aside the softened garlic.
  2. Add the kosher salt to a large pot of boiling water. Pour in the pasta and stir well to prevent sticking.  Stir every five minutes until al dente, about 10 minutes total. Drain but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the still hot pot. Drizzle with olive oil, add 1 tablespoon sweet butter, season with sea salt and black pepper, stir well, and lightly cover with a sheet of aluminum foil.
  3. In a chef’s or large pan, melt together the remaining tablespoon of sweet butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Finely chop the softened garlic and add to the butter-olive oil mixture. Heat over a medium flame. Add ½ cup pasta water. Stir well to combine. Simmer 5 minutes.
  4. Add the corn kernels and cooked pasta to the sauce. Toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper. Add the remaining pasta water if more sauce is needed. Heat. Sprinkle with Italian parsley. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and a green salad or cooked vegetable like steamed spinach or broccoli.

Variations: all sautéed with the softened garlic and butter-olive oil mixture

  • Add a pinch of cayenne or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes for heat.
  • Add two pieces, finely chopped crisp bacon.
  • Add ½ cup shiitake mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced.
  • Add 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered.
  • Add 2 cups fresh spinach, leaves only, washed, roughly chopped.
  • Add 1 cup grilled shrimp out of the shell, whole or chopped.
  • Add 1 cup grilled or steamed lobster meat, roughly chopped
  • Add 1 cup steamed butter clams, shells discarded, ½ cup clam broth, 1 tablespoon sweet butter.


Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. His new book, “10 Delicious Holiday Recipes” is available from Amazon. In addition to writing about food for his own site, Men Who Like to Cook, he has contributed to Mark Bittman’s New York Times food blogBittenOne for the Table and Traveling Mom. He continues to develop for television but recently has taken his passion for food on the road and is now a contributor to Peter Greenberg’s travel site and the New York Daily News online.

Photos, from top:
Fresh corn in the farmers market.
Roasted corn.
Pasta with Corn and Garlic.
Credit: David Latt

Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. Putting his television experience to good use, he created Secrets of Restaurant Chefs, a YouTube Channel, with lively videos by well-known chefs sharing their favorite recipes. In addition to writing about food for Zester Daily and his own sites, Men Who Like to Cook and Men Who Like to Travelhe has contributed to Mark Bittman's New York Times food blog, BittenOne for the Table and Traveling Mom.  His helpful guide to holiday entertaining, "10 Delicious Holiday Recipes,"  is available on Amazon eCookbooks. He still develops for television but finds time to take his passion for food on the road as a contributor to Peter Greenberg's travel siteNew York Daily NewsHuffington Post/Travel and Luxury Travel Magazine.