Recipe: Corn Sautéed with Green Pepper, Sweet Onion, and Basil
Corn on the cob (or corn on the club, as a friend’s very young son used to call it), is great when it’s dripping with butter, but there’s really nowhere to go with it from there, unless you turn it into a corn dog or a marital aid. If those outcomes hold no appeal, then you need to move ahead, take the kernels off the club, and figure out what to do with them.
I don’t get much inspiration from Italy on this subject, since the corn there is either ground into polenta or hacked up and fed to animals. But I’m an animal, and I love corn, and I’m always looking for ways to serve it with Italian flair. If I’m on my own here, so be it.
Italian frying peppers from the Union Square Greenmarket.
I discovered a very interesting pairing recently while playing around with a counter full of corn kernels (at least, the ones that were left after my cat got finished with them—he loves corn, as I never knew until a few days ago). I sautéed them up with a little green pepper. The pepper’s acidic, almost gasoline flavor works really well to temper corn’s sugar, especially the sugar in some of the hyper-sweet new-fashioned varieties (I don’t like those types at all; I wish they’d go away). I didn’t use a green bell pepper but instead chose the milder, light green, Italian frying pepper of sausage-and-pepper fame. The Spanish Cubanelle is similar in looks and flavor. I pulled the two polar flavors together with sweet onion, a splash of dry white wine, and a scattering of basil. Corn and basil go well together (which reminds me that another good thing to do with corn is to sauté the kernels in a little olive oil until tender and then toss them with a lump of pesto—really nice).
I served this corn dish with merguez sausage, which is spicy; a mild Italian pork sausage would be great with it, too.
There’s plenty of corn out there now. I hope you’re working it.
Corn Sautéed with Green Pepper, Sweet Onion, and Basil
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 fresh summer onion, cut into small dice
1 Italian frying (or Cubanelle) pepper, seeded and cut into small dice
The kernels from 4 uncooked ears of corn
A pinch of ground nutmeg
A pinch of ground cumin
A pinch of ground cayenne
A splash of dry white wine
A handful of basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. Add the onion and the pepper, and sauté until everything is soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the corn, seasoning it with salt, black pepper, the nutmeg, the cumin, and the cayenne. Sauté to coat it well with all the flavors, and let the corn soften for about another 4 minutes. Add the splash of white wine, and let the corn simmer in it until it’s just tender, about a minute or so. Pour the corn into a serving bowl, give it a drizzle of fresh olive oil and add the basil, giving it a quick toss.