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The arrival of sweet corn season conjures memories of childhood summers -- icy Popsicles, backyard barbecues and bedtimes deferred. So it's no wonder we grow impatient each year waiting for the arrival of fresh local corn, when each succulent bite has the ability to transport us to a more carefree past.

As soon as corn is picked, the sugars in it begin to turn to starch, so the less time the corn spends sitting around, the sweeter it is and the better it tastes.

As for the best way to eat corn, it depends on the expert. Growers like it raw, right out of the field.

For those of us who buy it and take it home, there's a tendency to want to fuss with it.

Or, you can go the simple route: grill it and serve it Mexican street-food style with lime-spiked mayonnaise, cotija cheese and chile powder.

Perhaps the best way, though, is to boil it on the cob (no more than a minute), slather it with butter and pretend you're a kid again, letting the sweet juices and creamy butter run down your chin as you nibble an ear.

> Cheesy Corn Fritters

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup coarse cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon saffron threads soaked in 2 tablespoons water

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn

Vegetable oil for deep frying

Optional garnish: Truffle salt

Stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Combine the eggs, buttermilk and saffron. Fold in dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter, cheese and finally the corn.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil until very hot. Drop fritter mixture into the hot oil by tablespoons, being careful about spatter. Deep fry about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 30-36.

-- Chef Joey Altman

> Creamed Corn

8 ears sweet corn

6 cups chicken broth

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup half and half, warmed

Salt, freshly ground white pepper to taste

Shuck corn and cut kernels off the cobs. Reserve cobs and set aside.

Pour broth into a large pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, add cobs, cover and simmer for 20 minutes to flavor the broth. Remove cobs and discard.

Add corn kernels and sugar to the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer until corn is very tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove one cup of corn from broth with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Puree the remaining corn and broth in a blender or food processor until nearly smooth. Transfer the puree to a serving bowl, add whole reserved kernels and the half and half. Season with salt and white pepper. Serve piping hot. Serves 6-8.

-- Sheila Lukins, "U.S.A. Cookbook" (Workman Publishing, 1997)

> Mexican Corn Salad

4ears of corn, boiled for 1 minute and cooled

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

2 small green onions, chopped (both white and green parts)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon or more chili powder

1/4 cup crumbled cotija or Parmesan cheese

Cut kernels from cobs and place in a bowl with diced red pepper and green onions. Add mayonnaise, lime juice and chili powder and toss with vegetables. Stir in cheese and serve at room temperature, or chill for 2 to 4 hours before serving. Serves 4-6.

Note: This is an adaptation of elotes, the popular Mexican street food that features grilled corn on the cob, brushed with lime-spiked mayonnaise and garnished with chili powder and cotija cheese. When the kernels are off the cob, the mixture is called esquites.

> Grilled Corn with Tequila-Lime Butter

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature

3/4 teaspoon minced, seeded jalapeno

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest (about 4 Mexican limes)

1 teaspoon lime juice (about 1 Mexican lime)

1 teaspoon tequila

1 tablespoon minced cilantro

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 unshucked ears corn

Make the tequila-lime butter by beating the butter, jalapeno and lime zest in a bowl until creamy. Beat in the lime juice and tequila. The mixture should be very soft, but there should be no liquid showing; if you want, add a little more tequila. Beat in the cilantro and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The flavor should be very strong (it will be much milder when spread over the corn), but it should be evenly balanced between lime, butter and salt. Add more salt, lime or tequila as needed.

Spoon the butter onto a sheet of plastic wrap, form it into a log and roll it into a cylinder. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap in opposite directions to firm the cylinder and roll it gently on the counter to eliminate any air pockets in the center. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Recipe can be prepared to this point a couple of days in advance).

Soak the ears of corn in enough water to cover for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

Grill the corn over a medium-hot fire until the kernels inside are golden and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the husks and most of the silk will come with them. Slice the butter into discs and pass alongside the corn. Serves 8.

-- Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times