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Easy dinner recipes: 3 great corn dishes (and how to choose the best ears)

By Noelle Carter

11:00 AM EDT, June 12, 2013

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Love corn? Sometimes, there's no better way to celebrate summer than with fresh corn. Its peak season is from May to September, and its plump, sweet kernels can be used in so many ways, whether you toss them fresh into salads, steam them or puree corn to add to soups and bisques.

Here are some tips on choosing fresh corn: Try to buy corn as soon as possible after it is picked; the moment corn is picked, its natural sugars begin to convert to starch, lessening its sweetness. Look for kernels that are plump and moist with tightly spaced rows that extend all the way to the tip of the ear. Try to use the corn the same day you buy it for maximum sweetness, though corn can be refrigerated up to a day or two.

Thinking about steamed corn? How about steaming it with clams and bacon in one of our featured dishes: Just a handful of ingredients -- including corn, clams and bacon -- come together in a dish that's pure magic. Fresh corn is steamed with clams in a bacon-rich wine broth for a quick-fix dinner. The recipe takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

RECIPES: 15 easy dinners - pasta, enchiladas, shrimp skewers, more

Or combine corn with parsnips in a simple soup that marries sweet corn with delicately sweet parsnips, fresh garlic and herbs for a wonderfully easy soup that has a creamy texture and rich flavor, despite being fairly low in calories. Serve it simply, with a dollop of buttery mascarpone and fresh chopped parsley.

If you're looking for a comforting dish that makes use of the summer produce in the markets, a corn pudding is perfect. Fresh corn kernels are baked up with diced zucchini in a savory pudding. Serve it simply, alongside a crisp salad.

For more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

STEAMED CORN WITH CLAMS AND BACON

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: Adapted from "Seamus Mullen's Hero Food." Aleppo pepper can generally be found at gourmet and cooking supply stores, and is available online.

1/2 cup diced slab bacon

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

24 littleneck clams

2 ears corn, shucked and cut into 2-inch lengths

3/4 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons pimentón

Aleppo pepper

Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

Healthy drizzle of olive oil

1. In a large, heavy-bottom pot, sweat the bacon over medium heat. Once it begins to render, about 2 minutes, add the garlic and sweat until translucent. Add the clams, corn and white wine, and stir in the pimentón. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for about 30 seconds, until the alcohol has evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and steam until all the clams have opened and the corn is tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that don't open.

2. Serve in a large bowl with a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, torn basil and a generous drizzle of fruity olive oil.

Each serving: 207 calories; 18 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 8 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 48 mg cholesterol; 4 grams sugar; 814 mg sodium.

SWEET CORN AND PARSNIP SOUP

Total time: 1 hour and 10 minutes

Servings: 6 to 8

Note: Adapted from the the Organic Panificio Cafe in Marina del Rey (now closed).

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

1 cup diced onion

1 stalk celery, chopped

5 cloves garlic, smashed

3 sprigs parsley, plus chopped parsley for garnish, divided

4 sprigs thyme

1/2 bay leaf

3 cups (1 pound) fresh, sweet yellow corn kernels (from 5 to 6 ears)

1/3 pound peeled and trimmed parsnips, coarsely chopped

2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon cracked white pepper, plus more to taste

6 to 7 cups milk, more as desired

Raw sugar, to taste if desired

Mascarpone, for garnish

1. In a 4-quart, heavy-bottom soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onions, celery and garlic along with the parsley sprigs, thyme and bay leaf until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Stir in the corn, parsnips, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and continue to saute until the parsnips are tender, 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Stir in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.

4. Purée the soup using an immersion blender, or in stages using a standing blender, then strain.

5. Adjust the seasoning to taste and sweeten if desired with raw sugar. This makes about 7 cups soup.

6. Serve warm, with a small dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Each of 8 servings: 226 calories; 9 grams protein; 26 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 11 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 29 mg. cholesterol; 822 mg. sodium.

BUDIN DE ELOTE (CORN PUDDING WITH ZUCCHINI)

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes, plus 10 to 15 minutes for settling

Servings: 8 to 10

Note: From "Doña Tomás" by Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky

Butter for pan

3 cups fresh corn kernels (3 to 4 ears)

1 1/2 cups zucchini cut into 1/4-inch dice (3 to 4 slender zucchini)

1/3 cup flour

3 eggs

3 egg yolks

3 cups heavy cream

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees with a rack positioned in the center. Butter a 9-inch casserole.

2. Place the corn and zucchini in a bowl and toss with the flour to evenly cover. Spread into the casserole.

3. Wipe the bowl clean and combine the eggs and yolks and whisk briefly. Add the cream and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Pour over the vegetables.

4. Bake about 1 hour, until lightly browned on top; it should feel like a firm pillow. Allow to cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Each of 10 servings: 342 calories; 6 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 30 grams fat; 18 grams saturated fat; 223 mg. cholesterol; 283 mg. sodium.  

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