Be­yond the cob, a plate of pure sum­mer

Blend­ing ker­nels gives you a sweet and smooth purée

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - MELISSA CLARK

At the be­gin­ning of corn sea­son, chomp­ing the ker­nels straight off the cob is re­ally the only ac­cept­able way to go.

Few sum­mer joys come close to nib­bling on those suc­cu­lent ker­nels, slicked with lots of but­ter and just a sprin­kle of salt, and feel­ing them pop in my mouth.

But even­tu­ally, in­evitably, af­ter sev­eral sacro­sanct weeks of corn on the cob, I start to crave some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

And that’s when I break out my blender.

Blend­ing corn ker­nels not only gives you a sweet and smooth purée to use in soups, frit­ters and corn­bread, but it also brings out the ker­nels’ starchier na­ture. And this can be a good thing, es­pe­cially when it comes to mak­ing a sweet, sum­mery sauce for pasta.

In this recipe, the starch in the blended corn be­comes the binder for a lus­cious, silky purée that coats the pasta as if it were made of thick­ened cream.

But in­stead of dairy, the flavour here is pure sum­mer corn, in­ten­si­fied by some whole corn ker­nels that have been sautéed in brown but­ter for tex­ture, along with scal­lions for depth and red chili flakes for a snap of heat. The dish is fin­ished with fresh, soft green herbs — basil or mint — and a squeeze of lemon juice for bright­ness. A hand­ful of grated Parme­san lends salt and funk.

The key is get­ting the tex­ture of the sauce just right. If it’s too thin, it won’t cling to the pasta. If it’s too thick, it winds up gloopy and sticky.

Usu­ally, it ends up too thick, a result of all that starch. That’s why sav­ing some of the pasta cook­ing wa­ter is es­sen­tial. Adding a ta­ble­spoon or two will thin down the sauce nicely.

And bear in mind that the corn sauce will con­tinue to thicken as it sits on the pasta. So if there’s any lag time be­tween the cook­ing and the serv­ing, keep some pasta wa­ter handy to splash in at the last minute.

You can use any short pasta shape, but I par­tic­u­larly like orec­chi­ette and far­falle, which have cu­p­like crevices that cap­ture the corn ker­nels and herbs.

And al­though you may not want to think about this right now in the mid­dle of corn sea­son, this recipe is also de­light­ful made with out-of­sea­son corn from the su­per­mar­ket.

Which means that even in Novem­ber, you can have a taste of sum­mer.

Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil MAKES 3 TO 4 SERV­INGS

Fine sea salt 12 ounces dry orec­chi­ette or far­falle 1 ta­ble­spoon olive oil, plus more for driz­zling 1 bunch scal­lions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (keep the whites and greens sep­a­rate) 2 large ears corn, shucked and ker­nels re­moved (2 cups ker­nels) ½ tea­spoon ground black pep­per, more for serv­ing 3 tbsp un­salted but­ter ½ cup grated Parme­san cheese, more to taste 1/3 cup torn basil or mint, more for gar­nish ¼ tsp red pep­per flakes, or to taste Fresh lemon juice, as needed

To­tal time: 30 min­utes Bring a large pot of well-salted wa­ter to a boil. Cook pasta un­til 1 minute shy of al dente, ac­cord­ing to the pack­age di­rec­tions. Drain, re­serv­ing ½ cup of pasta wa­ter.

Mean­while, heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat; add scal­lion whites and a pinch of salt and cook un­til soft, 3 min­utes. Add ¼ cup wa­ter and all but ¼ cup corn; sim­mer un­til corn is heated through and al­most ten­der, 3 to 5 min­utes. Add ¼ tea­spoon salt and ¼ tea­spoon pep­per, trans­fer to a blender, and purée mix­ture un­til smooth, adding a lit­tle extra wa­ter if needed to get a thick but pourable tex­ture.

Heat the same skil­let over high heat. Add but­ter and let melt. Add re­served ¼ cup corn and cook un­til ten­der, 1 to 2 min­utes. (It’s OK if the but­ter browns; that deep­ens the flavour.) Add the corn purée and cook for 30 sec­onds to heat and com­bine the flavours.

Re­duce heat to medium. Add pasta and half the re­served pasta cook­ing wa­ter, toss­ing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a lit­tle more of the pasta cook­ing wa­ter if the mix­ture seems too thick. Stir in ¼ cup of the scal­lion greens, the Parme­san, herbs, red pep­per flakes, ¼ tea­spoon salt and ¼ tea­spoon pep­per. Sprin­kle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Trans­fer to warm pasta bowls and gar­nish with more scal­lions, herbs, a driz­zle of olive oil and black pep­per.

PHO­TOS BY AN­DREW SCRIVANI, NYT

Blend­ing corn ker­nels gives you a sweet and smooth purée to use in soups, frit­ters, corn­bread or a sweet, creamy corn sauce for pasta.

Fresh off the cob corn ker­nels sautéed in a pan with chopped scal­lion whites be­fore they are puréed with a blender.

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