PRODUCE PICKS: SWEET WHITE CORN AND WATERMELON FOR 4TH OF JULY FEASTING

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By Greg Dunne

June 27, 2015 (Alpine)--What goes together better than America, 4th of July, Barbeque, Sweet White Corn, and Watermelon? With 4th of July just around the corner, the second most important holiday of the summer next to Fathers day!? It is Barbeque time and peak of the season for White Corn and Watermelon. Not as traditional as some dishes but my wife’s (Dianne) arugula white corn salad, is one of my favorites. Her recipe is at the bottom of this article.

Some wonderful White Corn (California grown) can be found at Barons Market in Alpine. When I’m choosing White corn for myself at the store, I’m looking for tender (young) looking kennels. Start with medium size ears, don’t pick the biggest ones and stay away from the smallest ones. When you peel them back to look at the corn, they do not have to be in perfect rows – although I’ll pick those over uneven rows.  I am looking for kernels that are not too mature. So, look for medium to slightly small size kernels and good white silk on the inside. The tops of the silk of the corn in the husk should be slightly sticky and moist, if not it could be a bit older.

Corn has been with man for thousands of years. For western civilization, it can be linked to Columbus bringing it back to Europe with him. Corn was the most important crop in the early Spanish missions and became well established in the coastal valleys. At present day, the US is ranked first in the world in corn production. California’s main areas of production are: Imperial and Riverside counties. San Diego, Orange, and Santa Barbara counties, San Joaquin, Merced, Fresno counties, and the San Benito, Santa Clara, Alameda counties.

Mini watermelons or the full size large watermelons? Well, both sizes have been excellent for this year’s watermelons. We just (my wife and I) had a mini watermelon last night bought at Barons Market. It was super sweet, deep red and juicy. How do I pick out a good watermelon? I consider myself one of the best watermelon pickers. I’m a thumper; I’m looking for a high tone when thumping. I want the shape to be round or oval, not an odd shape end on either side, can be soft on that end. I also look for ones that might be a slightly heavier for their size than the rest of the bunch. I am not concerned with a yellow patch on the melon as this is where it probably lay on the ground and does not affect the melon. Then buy it and chill it and eat it!

Happy Birthday America. Now’s a great time to be shopping in the produce department. Everything from Sweet White Corn, to Strawberries and Blueberries, Peaches, Nectarines, Cherries and Melons. It is easy to eat healthy when shopping in the produce department. Fruits, vegetables, and the great outdoors is a recipe for good health. Speaking of recipes, here are a few of Dianne’s recipes.  

SWEET CORN AND ARUGULA SALAD. This sweet and simple salad is delicious when summer corn is fresh - serve this salad warm or cold.

Ingredients

  • 6 ears freshly picked corn, shucked and silks removed
  • 1 large shallot, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup (packed) Organic Baby Arugula, cut into thin strips
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Sea salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the corn and cook 3 minutes. Once cooked remove the corn and set aside to cool.
  2. While the corn is cooking, place the sliced shallot and olive oil in a medium-sized bowl.   Stir in the arugula, salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. When the corn is cool enough to handle comfortably remove the kernels from the cob. With a sharp knife, scrape the kernels off each cob in a downward stroke, rotating the cob as you go, until all the kernels have been removed from each corncob. Add the corn to the bowl and mix well.

I make this salad any time of year by substituting a one-pound bag of organic frozen corn – no need to cook the corn or thaw it out unless you want to serve it warm.  I also buy fresh Corn on the Cob in bulk when it is at the peak of the season to clean and freeze for use throughout the year.  It is the one food that I believe freezes well – just clean and pack in airtight containers or bags.    

GRILLED CORN ON THE COB

Fresh corn on the cob can be cooked on your barbecue wrapped either in aluminum foil or in its own husks. In the husk makes for a more dramatic presentation, but it is slightly more trouble than using aluminum foil. Either way, the grilled corn will be delicious!

Many people claim that soaking allows the corn to soak up more moisture, making them extra juicy when cooked.  There is no need if you are working with fresh corn to begin with – the corn essentially steams in its own moisture while being infused with smoky flavor from the charring cornhusks.  If you choose to soak your corn, make sure the ears are completely submerged in water and do not soak for any longer than 15 minutes.

Method for grilling corn in aluminum foil:  Starting at the top, strip all the husks and silks away from the ears of corn and discard them.  Roll up the corncobs in squares of aluminum foil, twisting the ends to secure, like a candy wrapper.  I use a big enough piece of foil to be able to fold it in half for a double layer.  Joining the edges horizontally, fold the edges over approximately 1/2-inch and then fold back on itself twice again to adequately seal the corn – this will help keep the moisture from escaping while grilling.  Grill alongside your Barbecue meats for 15-20 minutes, turning often.

Grilled Corn is especially delicious when you add herbs and spices to the corn before grilling it. The herbs and spices liven up the flavors and add an interesting spin on basic roasted corn.  Fresh herbs, such as basil, chives or tarragon are great but my favorite is Garlic Lime Butter.

GARLIC LIME BUTTER

  • 1 stick Butter, softened
  • 1 finely minced Garlic clove or 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt or powder
  • Zest and fresh Lime Juice from 2 limes
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground Pepper – approximately 1/2 teaspoon of each

Clean your corn and prepare squares of foil for grilling. One stick of butter will coat 6-8 ears of Corn.  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and blend well.  The Lime Juice will not blend in but that’s OK.  Using a baggy or small piece of wax paper generously coat each ear of corn with the butter blend.  There will be Lime Juice left in the bowl once you have coated each ear.  Place each ear of corn on a square of foil and dribble the juice onto the coated ears of Corn, rolling up and sealing in foil for each as described above.  The Lime Juice will help to steam Corn while grilling and to keep it moist.  Grill the corn: Place each aluminum-wrapped ear of corn on the preheated grill and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes. Turn occasionally to prevent the corn from charring on one side.

HONEY-LIME FRUIT TOSS

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup Pineapple Juice
  • Grated Lime Peel from 1-2 Limes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 tablespoon Honey

Combine and blend dressing ingredients and toss with 6-8 cups of cut up fresh fruit. The softer melons do not generally work well in this fruit salad.  Pictured here is a combination of fresh Gold Nugget Tangerines, Blue Berries, Strawberries, Bananas, Kiwi and Green Grapes from Barons Market in Alpine and canned Pineapple Chunks.  This fruit salad is best when served the same day but leftovers will store in your refrigerator for a day or two, or blended for a fresh fruit smoothie. 

Greg Dunne has been a produce manager for over 30 years, all here in San Diego County. He's passionate about fruits and vegetables and enjoys his work in the produce department. He can be found taking care of  the local, organic and conventional produce at Barons Market in Alpine.