Free Range on Food: The corn issue

Grilled Corn Four Ways.
Jul 15, 2015

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your burning culinary questions. Past Free Range on Food chats

Greetings, all, and welcome to today's chat! 

Hope you enjoyed all our corny coverage this week, including Jim Shahin's treatise on grilling corn, Tim Carman's tortilla-making lesson with Pati Jinich, Tamar Haspel's defense of corn as an agricultural crop, Roberto Ferdman's take on how corn made its way into almost everything we eat, Patterson Clark's graphic on corn sex (!), my easy pasta sauce, Bonnie's corn chowder, Kara's quiz, and more!

Pati is here to help us answer any and all corn questions (or anything about Mexican food, naturally), and Tamar and Jim will join, too. 

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite chatters, too: Brooke Dojny's "Chowderland," source of Bonnie's DinMin recipe; and "Pati's Mexican Table" -- SIGNED by Pati herself.

Let's go!

Hola, Pati, When I lived in Mexico, I learned that there is a right side and a wrong side (or good side and bad side) for putting the filling on a tortilla. I'm having trouble remembering exactly how to tell which is which, but it was second-nature to me back then. I think it had to do with which side puffed up more on the comal. Please remind me! I'm sure Tim Carman wants to know, too! :) Mil gracias!


It is the less "toasted and freckled" side of the tortilla. However, in the end, you can fill them on either side and they wont complain ; )

ARTICLE: How to make the single most important element of a taco, at home

I'm finding your focus on corn this week, coupled with advertising from the Corn Farmer's Coalition plastered all over the website a little troubling. What assurances can you give that this isn't just bought & paid advertising in the guise of editorial content?

We were just as surprised to see that as you! Just a coincidence, I can assure you. The line between news and advertising here is VERY well drawn. 

A word I never thought I'd see in the Washington Post Food section, which made me smile all the more! As a former chilanga or Mexico City resident, I just love that there are these Mexico-related articles in today's Food section! Especially with all the venom that's been hurled towards that wonderful country recently. Thank you! ¡Que viva México!

I am with you, I was thrilled with this week's section! Looks like nixtamalized, nixtamal, and let's nixtamalear is going to become common lingo... 

Tried DGS and their pastrami isnt that great. Subway's is as good. Mail ordered pastrami and rye from Katz and it was tasteless and worse of all they forgot the rye bread. Schwartz's in Montreal I don't believe does mail order on their smoked meats. So any ideas where I can get good pastrami sliced thin from and some good rye bread????

David Hagedorn did a pastrami roundup for  us a couple years ago, so check that out. I'm kinda partial to Stachowski's, although I can't vouch for the rye he uses. (I love a really good seeded rye, and have had success acquiring it from Attman's in Potomac.) I'm sure you chatters can point me to others. Ready, set . . . . 

I would also mention that Singer's Significant Meats makes a mean pastrami. It's a local company, and they mail order.

It was a wonderful surprise to see Patterson Clark's botanical art in the food section today! We really miss his Urban Jungle series. On another topic, the current issue of Aramco World Magazine (online at has an article on the flatbreads of Uzbekistan with enticing photos. Is there anywhere in DMV to get some (authentic or near-authentic?)

GRAPHIC: Today's botany lesson -- corn sex

Wearing my $20 Diner gimme cap, I've found a couple of Uzbek restaurants in the DMV. Uzbek immigrants are just starting to create their own restaurants in the area, but it's something of a problem: They can't always get the ingredients they use back home.


With that said, Silk Road Choyhana in Gaithersburg makes its own non, but it's not a flatbread in the same style as Indian naan. It's denser, thicker than a standard flatbread. But like naan, you have to eat it quickly. It goes downhill fast.


The other restaurant is Rus-Uz in Ballston. It, too, has Uzbek non. You get it at the start of service, and you can even buy it for takeout. It's $3 a loaf.

Not a Q, just a comment to Jim Shahin: Only twice did I read the word steam or steaming. So many recipes call for boiling corn fully submerged in water. We use less than an inch of water and pile the husked and cleaned ears in and steam for about ten minutes. Add butter and salt. Can't follow the folks who use pepper. Saves energy. Best, Ed Snyder, Bethesda.

     The story was about grilling and smoking corn, but, hey, who can argue with the good old-fashioned boil/steam? And in the husks no less. Sounds good.

ARTICLE: This one simple trick can help you grill the perfect corn

Your article doesn't mention a favorite Latin American way of eating corn, which is squeezing a lemon or lime onto the cooked kernels. It really brightens the flavor for the first two or three bites. (After that, I find it distracting.) After adding the juice (and maybe even some pulp), also try the slightest smidgen of salt or fresh-ground black pepper or chili powder -- or butter -- for other amazing flavors. If you can get your hands on one, try these with a Mexican "limón," which is somewhere between a lemon and a lime in taste. Although, bottom line, I agree with Mr. Shahin, naked corn is a thing of beauty with nothing else necessary.

If I can add a comment in here: I absolutely DIE for esquites

Here's a way to get that esquites/elote joy going with corn on the cob!

PLATE LAB: Elote Corn With Charred-Corn Mayo

Is it possible to add flavors/ spices to the dough to create tortillas? Example, like harissa paste or sriracha?

Absolutely! When Tim came over for a visit last week, I showed him how I flavor mine with an ancho chile paste. The trick is, whatever flavor you add, make sure you add it in a wet paste form, so that it really infuses the masa. Also, make sure that the consistency of the masa is similar as if it didn't have the flavoring: very soft, malleable and not to wet. So adjust. Anything goes: spinach, cilantro, mixed herbs, tomato, chiles... 

Let me just add: The ancho chili tortillas? Amazing!

I've done it with ground ancho powder, and was disappointed that the flavor didn't come through, so I REALLY want to try it with paste!


I'm going to Boston in a couple of weeks to visit family. The birthday girl has asked for a coconut cream pie. Do you think I can fill the pie crust in the morning with the custard and fly up there then top with whipped cream to serve that night?

Hm, I'd be worried about a custard that sat out that long. And about dropping or otherwise ruining it in transit!

Security-wise, TSA says, "You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but they are subject to additional screening."

W/o benefit of this week's Post article on grilling corn, I did so this weekend for the first with shucks on and no other preparation - just corn in their shucks placed on the edge of a small grill until al dente. It was the tastiest, juciest corn I've ever eaten. Next time I grill corn I'd like to use it in Joe's corn and pasta recipe from Monday. Joe, will you elaborate on the what ratio you recommend for whole kernels versues the corn milk, extracted with a box cutter as you suggested? I might also want to prepare this sans the pasta. Tips on that as well? Thanks!

That sounds fun! So in the recipe, I call for half the corn cobs to be grated and half to be cut of their whole kernels. So it's a 1-to-1 ratio (of cobs that you start with). If you want to do it as a side dish, without the pasta, just follow all the same instructions -- including adding the cheese and basil at the end, but just leave out the pasta! The recipe leaves you with about 4 cups of sauce, so it would serve 6-8 as a side sans pasta, I'd think.


RECIPE: Fusilli With Corn Sauce

Any interesting or unique suggestions for a vegan dish using corn? I loved creamed corn before I stopped eating dairy.

You need to look at my Fusilli With Corn Sauce recipe, definitely. Just make it with or without the pasta (the latter would be like a side dish of creamed corn), and instead of the pecorino, try some nutritional yeast! I bet you'd love it. The "milk" in this case is from the corn itself, not dairy, so it's pretty close to vegan -- just need to nix that cheese!

We're planning to serve lobster rolls and french fries for some guests on Saturday. What other side(s) would you suggest I serve with it? Corn on the cob feels like too many carbs, but maybe that's not a bad thing? Thanks!

I'd go with something green, like sugar snaps sauteed with mint, or a salad of bitter greens. Or maybe this nectarine/fennel concoction, with a basil syrup (I make that last one every summer). 


Speaking of lobster rolls (sigh!), check out this one with shrimp. Makes the expensive ingred go farther, and, more importantly, it's a winner. 

Hi. I have two recipes that call for sherry vinegar. We have sherry. And we have seven different vinegars (white wine, red wine, apple cider, sweetened and unsweetened rice wine and two Balsamics). Is there a way to mix the sherry with one of the vinegars we already have, to approximate what the recipes want? One's for gazpacho and the other I can't even think of right now! We're busy packing to leave town tomorrow and these recipes are for the fresh veggies and fruits that won't last until we're back. We'd rather not run to the store on top of everything else. Plus, seven kinds of vinegar seems like it should be enough. Hope that's not heresy to foodies!

There's no need to sweat this -- just use the red or white wine vinegar! Either one might be a little sharper than the sherry, so start by adding a little less than called for, and then taste and add more if needed.

You might want to blend what you've got with a little aged balsamic, for sweetness. 

I don't have much of a sweet tooth but like the taste of a little sweetness in iced tea. Stevia is touted as the healthiest but I find it to be more bitter than sweet. I don't use artificial sweeteners so what would be good alternatives? Comparitively speaking, how safe is Sugar in the Raw?

Sugar in the Raw is very similar to ordinary granulated sugar - it's just been a little less refined and thus has some of what would ordinarily removed to make molasses. It is perfectly safe, as are its more refined cousins. But if you don't like the idea of refined sugar, go with honey.  I'd make sure it's US honey, since some of what comes in from overseas is adulterated.

I really like the recipe for Georgian Garlic Chicken (I make it with just thighs), and was wondering if you have any tips for adapting the recipe for cooking on the grill? We'd lose the yummy sauce, but wouldn't have to heat the kitchen.


RECIPE Georgian Garlic Chicken (Chkmeruli)

Hmm....seems like you could grill the chicken till it's 10-15 minutes from being completely cooked through, then transfer to a pan and pour the sauce over; finish the last few minutes in that 400-degree oven. 

  Bonnie's idea sounds like a perfect solution to me! 

Thank you, Jim Shahin, for your research! I love corn. And for some wonderful reason, the "silk" doesn't get stuck in my teeth anymore -- It was a real annoyance when I was a kid and an embarrassment as a young adult. Did some kind of genetic engineering make the silk slide off the cob before it reaches my mouth? Or am I just a more careful eater than I used to be?

ARTICLE: This one simple trick can help you grill the perfect corn

 I am unaware of any silk engineering, but who knows? There has been quite a bit of corn experimentation over the years. Me, though, I think you're just more careful - or lucky. 


I was intrigued to see your article on corn today, I have a fridge full of unshucked ears of corn from the market that need to be dispatched. My question is on grilling corn in the husk. My SO doesn't take out the silk, he says it will "melt" away during the cooking process. I grew up removing the silk and leaving the husk on as described in your article. Does the silk actually need to be removed prior to grilling?

     I remove before grilling because then I am assured that there will be none when it's time to eat. I've cooked it with the silk and sometimes it does melt off and sometimes it doesn't. Depends on the fire and the time the corn spends over it. I find that the melt doesn't really help the flavor - I like the essence of husk - so, to me, it's best just to remove the silk first.

I made a great chicken meatloaf the other night but after two dinners with it, we're looking for an alternative way to use it. What do you think about chopping it over pasta? Or any other ideas?

I love meatloaf sandwiches. A hearty bread, toasted, with a smear of mustard and chipotle in adobo sauce, a thick slice of cold meatloaf, some lettuce and slices of avocado. YUM. 

Tucked in a pita, delicious as well. 

Also over pasta sounds delicious, but I would consider it making it a cold pasta salad... 


I happily join nixtamalized and Pati, being positively thrilled with today's clever, creative and gorgeous Food section, dedicated as it is to corn, the New World's own grain!

Thank you!!

My new favorite thing this summer is to make corn stock for chowder. After cutting all the kernels off the cob, I throw 4 or 5 kernless cobs in a pot with one quartered onion and add water. I'll cook it for 45 mins., then strain. I'm always amazed how much better soups taste when you make your own stock.

I'll go you one better: Throw in the husks and silks, too. I swear -- it ups the corn flavor considerably!

RECIPE: Corn Broth

Loved the corn articles - grilled corn and scraped corn are my go to recipes when eating fresh corn and I will try soaking in the future. My question though is about tamale "dough". Do you have a good recipe for the masa mixture that doesn't use lard? I love the flavor but not the fat. I've tried using vegetable shortening but the flavor wasn't that great. I tried some at a farmer's market that were great and the vendor says she doesn't use either but she also would share her recipe. Thoughts?

Hi! you can make your dough using oil, or "seasoned oil". What I do is I heat any kind of mild tasting vegetable oil (safflower or canola) and cook a slice of an onion and a couple unpeeled garlic cloves until they are completely charred. Remove the charred ingredients and use the flavored oil instead of lard. Also instead of using water for making the masa, try using chicken broth or vegetable broth. 

Here is my basic recipe for my favorite tamal


I take my knives and a bamboo cutting board, because invariably the houses have those terrible glass cutting boards. I also take a nonstick skillet for eggs because the pans are usually cheap ones (I don’t blame them, who wants to spend a lot on pans or knives for renters that may or may not know how to take proper care of them?). My cast iron griddle/grill, because sometimes it rains, sometimes the outdoor grill at the house is more disgusting than the ones you see in parks. A box of spices and herbs (though I will buy fresh herbs down there) that I know I use a lot of, and are common in seafood/fish recipes. I don’t bring salt and pepper, because I don’t mind buying that at the vacation spot and leaving them for the next renters – in fact, I wait until I get to the house to see what’s been left before I make that first run to the store. We do more cooking than eating out when we are there, because we enjoy cooking and I want to take advantage of the local, fresh seafood. I have a favorite local market that is literally boat-to-counter, and going in each day to see what was caught is always fun. We go out to Hatteras (all the way down the island, away from the strip malls and stuff), and the only thing lacking is a good farm stand. I have yet to find one, and end up buying my veggies at the grocery store.

Thanks for sharing in such a helpful fashion. (What is it with those rental kitchen glass cutting boards? The worst!) For the rest of youse guys, this is in response to last week's #WeekendKitchen . . . 

ARTICLE 7 must-bring things if you're cooking on vacation


I always bring coffee-making equipment and my own beans. I can't go a full week with drinking stale, canned coffee. Life's too short!


So I bring: freshly roasted beans (enough for everyone!). A grinder, a pour-over device (Hario or Kalita), the appropriate filters, and a small scale to measure weights. If you're worried, you might bring a kettle, too. But many beach houses will have one there.


Here's a story I did last year on home coffee brewing.

I'm with Tim on the coffee equipment -- I have a travel-appropriate French press I use for just this purpose. But the other thing I often take is really good salt. Just can't be without it.

Had a big debate with my daughter about corn this am. I see from Tamar's article that it is very calorie efficient in terms of growing-which is what my daughter said. However, I have problems with the bigger picture of subsidies, its presence in all of our foods, and its contribution to the obesity issues. My daughter says I need to get more info than just my "foodie" movies. Are we really going to solve the worlds hunger issues with corn? Know any good sources for the corn growing side? Thanks-Diana, Kensington

Hey, can I get invited to your house?  Sounds like you have very substantive discussions about these things, so I figure we'd be friends.  Like you, I have problems with subsidies (I've written about that), and there's no question that the processed foods that corn goes into (which is just about all the processed foods in existence) have contributed to obesity.  That's the bathwater.  The baby is a very efficient, perfectly wholesome grain. In the best of all worlds, we'd have our corn, but we'd eat it as corn (and even give some to animals).  And, as for those foodie movies, I'd definitely branch out -- but you read my column, so it seems you already have.

COLUMN: In defense of corn, the world's most important food crop

I read somewhere that corn grows so fast, if you spend the night in a corn field and there is no wind, you can hear the stalks growing. Is this true?

I have no idea, but there's one way to find out ...

If you try it, let us know!

Is it possible to substitute yogurt instead of mayo in elote corn?

Yes you can! I would use a thick yogurt. Consider crumbling queso fresco or feta cheese on top of that yogurt... 

Granted, I don't follow this very closely, but I see it from time-to-time, including a mention in Tamar Haspel's great article today on corn. Why are people concerned about genetically modified corn? It's my understanding that the modification is to make it more resilient against pests. Can that somehow hurt people? I am skeptical about claims on food safety--from both sides. I've heard that food safety is often more about lack of bad evidence that would point to a problem and less about good evidence that assures safety. Basically assuming something is safe until it's proven that it's not vs. studying something to establish that it is safe. But maybe I'm wrong there too. There's so much conflicting information on this topic that it's hard to know what to believe.

Those are big questions! I'm surprised you didn't add "What's the meaning of life?"

There are a number of ways in which crops are genetically modified.  One does indeed make them more resilient against pests.  Another makes them immune to a particular herbicide, and another makes them resistant to a virus (we have this in papayas).  It just so happens that today, on Slate, a journalist named Will Saletan posted a very good piece on GMOs, which I highly recommend.  (And, ahem, there's also my column.)

Had the most delicious pie at a potluck recently, and trying to locate a reciipe for it. Tasted like a cross between a blueberry pie and a pecan pie- i think there was some sour cream in it, too. Is there such a thing? Hope you can help!

Anyone? Maybe you can circle back with the potluck host to see who brought the pie so you can get the recipe from them. That might be easier and better than us just trying to guess!

Dorie Greenspan could have been writing about me today regarding years of failures with pie crusts. My failure is always at the moment of rolling. Either the dough is too cold and it breaks into a thousand crumbs, or it is too warm and sticks everywhere, then tears. Any special advice?

ARTICLE The secret to a pie that will not weep

I've made Dorie's pie-crust recipe about 8 times in the past 2 weeks, for various reasons. And I can tell you that she's made it pretty stress-free, rolling the dough out right away. I fit the bottom crust right into a pie plate, and keep the top crust between sheets of wax paper; both go into the refrigerator for 30 mins, and you're set. Also, when you process the ingreds to form a dough mix, don't let it get to the ball stage, as she recommends. There's a point, between those long pulses, where you can see things starting to move less; they look like they're backing up into each other, but still kinda crumbly. That's when you dump out onto the floured surface, divide in half, and shape into disks. 

You'll have the chance to ask Dorie this herself: She's chatting tomorrow at noon -- submit your q here!

Any thoughts on the best way to cook just basic unadorned corn on the cob? Add to cold or already boiling water? Cook in boiling water or add to boiling water then turn off the heat? Use salted water? Use a water/milk blend? Curious what you think works best and why. Thanks.

How about grilling! Jim Shahin's recipe mentioned above should do it.

RECIPE: Grilled Corn Four Ways

I microwave almost exclusively, though. Keep in the husks -- I find 6 minutes is just about perfect for 2 ears.

BLOG POST: Microwaving corn in the husk: Smooth as silk?

I just wanted to say that I am a fan of yours and enjoy your segments on the "Splendid Table" and "Kojo" WAMU show. You always sound like you are having a great time and really enjoy speaking about your experiences. How do you keep that enthusiasm? Are there any easy recipes you would recommend that my 2 year old might enjoy?

Thank you so much for your lovely message! I guess I am a very enthusiastic person... I am very curious and I get fascinated with just about everything, specially things that are new to me or that I am introducing to others. Enthusiasm has its pros and cons. Just as I get easily enthusiastic, I get easily saddened... so trying to keep it balanced!

My boys adore Chicken Tinga 

You can top tostadas, make tacos or fill quesadillas with it. Even paninins or sandwiches. 

In one of those brain wrinkles that imbeds "buy olive oil next time at the store" too deeply, I accidentally ended up with 3 different bottles of olive oil. It will take me a while to work my way through that much oil, so what is the best method of longer-term storage (deep freezer or cabinet)? Thanks!

That's a complicated question with a complicated answer.


Bottom line: It's best to use your olive oil within a couple of months. It will be fresher and will not suffer from the effects of oxygen and time. You should keep your oil in a tinted container, stored in a cool place away from sunlight and heat sources. You can even put oil into smaller containers, tightly sealed to reduce its exposure to oxygen.


Now, you CAN store olive oil in the refrigerator, but it will turn cloudy and viscous. It will return to its normal state once it reaches room temperature. But experts will tell you the refrigerator alters the oil's natural flavors. So it's a trade off.


I recently went to the Tillamook cheese factory and bought a small wax covered wheel of extra sharp cheddar. How long will this last unopened? And can I freeze it? I have other cheeses I bought that are wedges that must be used first, might be a while until I get to the cheddar.

Check out all the FAQs on the Tillamook page.

Do you have any ideas where you can purchase different types of corn? At the farmers market and super market I generally see the same thing. I'm a big fan of Peruvian Choclo (The white one with large kernels) and I'd love to try some other types.

I think it is a matter of time that we start seeing some more corn varieties in the farmer's markets and grocery stores. We can all help by asking at the markets and stores for them: help create a demand!

I don't love corn, but that recipe for esquites looks amazing, as does the Shrimp Roll!

Any recommendations for what to do with sweet plums that ISN'T dessert? I bought a bunch (of gorgeous and very ripe) plums to do a torte with, but realized that we already have plenty of dessert (since my husband went on a ice cream making kick this weekend and we have FOUR choices in the freezer). Doing a dinner for some family friends tonight (grilled pork tenderloin, and yes, sweet CORN are on the menu already). I've got about an hour from getting home to game time.

Oh I have a great one for you. A fish that I make with a plum, pasilla chiles and tequila chunky sauce. You can skip the alcohol if you want to, but its just a drizzle. 

Hey, PostPoints members, I almost forgot! Here is the code you can use to redeem points for joining our chat today:


Go to the PostPoints site and look under Claim My Points -- and do this before midnight to get them!

They engineer it to resist herbicide, which they then spray with abandon--which to me is not acceptable because workers are exposed to it, and it also kills milkweed, which monarchs rely on. So, I don't care about the DNA tinkering, but I DO care about unintended consequences.

Everyone cares about the consequences, and there's certainly widespread agreement that herbicide tolerant crops have contributed to herbicide-resistant weeds.  But the safety of the herbicide in question is also quite well-established (farmworkers are, of course, at highest risk and I share your concern about exposure to chemicals in general on the farm).  The thing is, you have to consider the alternative, too.  There's been a drop in use of many herbicides more toxic than glyphosate, and it's important to factor that into the equation.  (And, for the record, I think every farmer on earth would object to your characterization of spraying "with abandon.")

I can hardly wait to try these flavors. re a different type of corn - I have weaned myself from salt on air-popped popcorn, and have been experimenting with seasoning popcorn with dried spices for flavoring, having found dried dill or dried oregano enjoyable. Any other flavorings recommended?

Za'atar. Amazing! 

Also, a barbecue dry rub. Here's a simple but good one: salt, a little cayenne, some onion powder, garlic powder, a little black pepper.

Try olive oil instead of butter and either of the two seasonings above. Then, binge till your heart's content on whatever TV show has you making popcorn in the first place. 

And try my Herbed Popcorn!

There are still questions about whether the GMO is an issue for bees. But it could be that it's better for bees because there's less use of roundup, which also might or might not be a problem for bees. It's very complicated. I think many people feel (including me) that we've introduced so many new things into our diet in the past fifty years of so that it's difficult to know what effect these things have and sometimes in the huge quantities we ingest them.

You're absolutely correct -- the bee issue is complicated.  And the link to GMOs isn't the crops themselves, but the chemicals used with them.  Some people are very concerned about a particular class of pesticides (neonicotinoids), but others are very concerned about what farmers will use if that class is banned. It's not an easy question. And your observation about how much our diet has changed is dead on.  It's very hard to draw any meaningful correlations between ag and food and human health, given the jumble of variables.


It's a start!

Can you tell how far your free range posters are chatting from? It seems like you have such a wide audience all across the country.

We can't easily tell unless we ask or they volunteer, but yes, our web site generally draws people from all over the country and world. I suppose we COULD do some Internet sleuthing with the IP addresses we see coming in on the chat -- to tell, say, that somebody is chatting from Plano, Texas, or the like -- but that would be a little too time-consuming!

I love your Cheesy Popcorn Bread and make it often. But grinding the popcorn creates a huge mess; the powder and tiny chunks of popcorn stick to the sides food processor or blender because of static and when I try to remove the stuff it flies in all directions. Any thoughts on how I can make grinding the popcorn a tidier proposition?


Try coating the inside of the food processor bowl with cooking oil spray; at least the stuff will fly, then stick! Or you can grind the popcorn in a clean, dedicated spice grinder (I use an old coffee grinder). 

Hi, There is a chocolate shop that makes it's own caramel apples. They take their apples right out of an apple crate without washing them, only removing the stickers. I've always rinsed fresh fruit before eating. Is it safe to eat apples that haven't been washed, after being crated? Thank you.

Hmm. I'm with you, I would want those washed. And if they're not organic, that'd be even worse, given that apples are numero uno on the Environmental Working Group's "dirty dozen" list of produce that carries a lot of pesticide residues.

Many thanks to Pati for all the tortilla making tips. One problem I have is my electric stove. Every flat bread burns in the center where the electric coils (under glass) are the tightest. I now have an electric griddle and want to try again using her tips on that with it's more evenly spaced heat, but do you have any suggestion at what temperature should I set it to?

Of course!

No matter what is going on in your stove, you need to have a pre heated comal or skillet. Heat it over medium/medium low heat, for at least 8 to 10 minutes and it will heat evenly. Not to worry. I have made corn tortillas with my comal on top of heating sources that are beyond uneven!

Here is a video we cut from my PBS series on how to make corn tortillas




In the food section of the website this morning, I swear I saw a link to Southern-style creamed corn recipe. Now I can't find it. Can you help?

There's Jim Shahin's Grilled Creamed Corn (heaven), and there's Thomas Keller's Creamed Summer Corn, made lovely with lime zest.



The reference you saw was the blurb to my column, which reads, "Take inspiration from Southern creamed corn, and pull out a grater." 

i had similar reaction to today's corn issue of Food as the original poster did . I read entire Ferdman article in hope of finding responsible discussion of GMOs used in U.S., but not in Europe, and decided that his Ode to Corn was a mix of Wkipedia with blatant infomercial and gave up. I don't mean to sound harsh. If you think it is, it just came out that way.

Harsh!  If you're looking for responsible discussion on GMOs, I'd modestly suggest my column.  We talk about that issue in these pages all the time.

That said, there's a goodly set of consumer surveys that demonstrate that most people don't care very much about GMOs.  But just about everyone cares about dinner.  So, sometimes, a discussion of corn is just a discussion of corn.

Just want to add my two cents on corn. One of the best and most-asked for recipes I make is Pati's blissful corn torte. Delicious!

Oh you are making my day here... 

I will tell you a story about that torte: It was included in my last cookbook, Pati's Mexican Table and when my editor saw the name of it, she questioned the word "blissful". You have no idea how much I had to insist (big time) that we call it "blissful" because I TRULY believe it is "blissful"... Not just a name...  So: I am very happy you love it as much!

Hi Joe: I love the idea of mixing scraped corn with whole kernels. Do you have any other recipe ideas for scraped corn? We used it for succotash when I was growing up - just add baby limas - but I'd like some more ideas.

Use it in your favorite corn chowder recipe!

Thanks for this chat! Because otherwise I don't know who I'd ask ... I was recently given a jar of cherry mostarda, which doesn't look like the pictures of whole fruits in mustard sauce that I see online, it's more of a mustard-y preserve. Any recommendations on how to use it? I'm thinking over soft cheese, or maybe as a glaze on a pork roast ... am I missing the perfect application?

You've mentioned the main two applications, but I think you can expand your perspective to include almost any meat. Mostarda is good with game meats and even dry-cured meats, like prosciutto and salami. It works really well with beef, too, like grilled skirt steak.

I always thought of them like tomatoes, and never put them in the refrigerator. Is that the proper way to store them if they won't be used for a few days?

In compiling this week's corn tips and quiz, our fabulous Food aide Kara Elder spoke with experts about this. One farmer tested this by tasting just-picked corn alongside ears that had been refrigerated for 4-5 days. And he says there was no difference in flavor. Today's corn hybrids hold their sugars longer, so the old "don't-refrigerate" edict is out the window.

I have a vacation house that rents out by the week in the summer, on weekends the rest of the year. That means I have many different people coming through. I have to assume everything will go in the dishwasher. (My own SIL, bless her heart, tried to put knives in there). So I have Faberware and Revere pots and pans, heavy but not AllClad level. The knives are the best I can do (KitchenAid), given they get nicked up. No cast iron or LeCreuset. Cutting boards are the heavy duty plastic. No wooden salad bowls (not dishwasher friendly). In spite of only having wood and silicon utensils someone used a dinner fork or knife with one of my nonstick skillets and put scratches all over it. (yes I replaced it). Since the beginning of January, 12-14 different families have rented the house. It's just a crap shoot for how well people treat the kitchen stuff.

Appreciate your input, and your efforts to make it nice! 

What is it used for? My MIL uses it (debittered, BlueBonnet brand), she says she sprinkles it on her food, she's a vegan. Is it really good for you?

It's also known as "nutritional yeast," and the reason a lot of vegans use it is that some brands are fortified with vitamin B-12, which is notoriously difficult to get from a vegan diet without supplements.

I have a summer recipe and a winter recipe. For both, I split the top of the ear's husk just a tad and run water down through. In summer, the whole thing goes on the grill. In winter, the whole thing goes in the microwave for a bit of time (each microwave is different). The water provides some steam, and the husk help retain heat until served. The leaves and silk come right off with virtually no problem.

Joe starred in a video, demonstrating how to husk your corn with a microwave. You can watch it here.

If you haven't yet opened them, try just bringing 1 or 2 of the bottles back to the store. Grocery stores are usually good about returns.

Good idea!

We were just at Peggy's Cove, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, where they serve them with cole slaw.

Every month they feature recipes from around the world along with very coloring pictures and historical information. Along with accessing online, a free 2 year subscription is also offered.

Do you think that would work with leftover rotisserie chicken breast, if it goes straight into the oven? Mum gets rotisserie chicken and only eats the dark meat, she then gives it to me because my husband only eats chicken breast (I'm a vegetarian). I'm always looking for ways to use this - my husband doesn't eat 'leftovers' so it has to be re purposed eg I use it in risotto. Any other suitable recipe suggestions?

I don't think so, really. Subjecting a chicken breast to two turns in the oven has "dry" written all over it. For repurposing, have you gone the routes of enchiladas/tacos, crepes (good in a saucy mix!); it's great for soup or a curry or this stir-fry

Tamar's article is really very good, so if you have not read, I highly suggest you start there. If you want more info, this month's issue of Eating Well magazine had a good article outlining the different health, environmental and economic considerations regarding GMO crops. The article interviewed a GMO researcher, who worked on GMO rice, and an organic farmer who - cue the drama music - are married! As the article points, interesting dinner conversation.

Thanks for the kind words, and the referral. The couple you mention, Pam Ronald (the researcher) and Raoul Adamchak, are very smart and interesting -- I'll look up the article. 

I bought some oregano from rancho gordo and I really like it. When we go to Mexico next time do you think I can buy it there and if so, could I get back with it? It's oregano indio and mexican oregano. We're going to Huatulco.

Hi! I love Rancho Gordo's Products. Yes, absolutely. You can get dried oregano in Mexico, but wherever you go, even if there are different varieties, they will locally just call it oregano. So you can't tell exactly if it is what you have been getting from Rancho. Nonetheless, you can rest assured that any Mexican oregano you get will be fabulous. Because of teh weather, terrain and rainfall, oregano in Mexico has  peculiar toasty fragrance and warm taste.  

I had a great small plate of corn cakes with shishito peppers and popcorn in Boston not too far back and I'd like to recreate it at home. Do you have a corn cake recipe for me?

Were they corn-bready, or more like a pancake?

You all are the best. That blueberry pie recipe looks like the one. Also looking forward to trying the Georgian Garlic chicken- sounds yum!

Crepes are a great new idea - thanks!

I'm excited to see the tomato recipe contest launched for this year! Yay. I see you've been very specific that the 13 ingredients include water, salt and pepper. Don't roll your eyes, but if water is used for cooking, does that make it an ingredient? For example, if you boiled pasta or vegetables but then drained them?

No eye rolling here. If it's water that goes into the dish itself, it counts. When it's water used just to cook something, it does not count! 

We've gotten some good recipes already, so I'm excited. In truth, I'm always up for this contest. 

The deets: Enter the ninth annual Top Tomato contest (a previous winner pictured below)

Just wanted to say kudos to an excellent themed-issue of Food today. I loved how you covered corn from lots of different angles and even enjoyed reading the little sidebar tidbits sprinkled throughout. I feel like I learned a lot and have lots of ideas for using my farmers market's AMAZING summer corn.


I've noticed that a lot of people shuck their corn at the grocery store, and that stores put out big garbage bins for this purpose, so they obviously expect this. Why do people do this? It seems so bizarre to me. I don't prep any of my fruits and vegetables in the grocery store. I do it at home in my kitchen.

Funny you should mention that -- I was just wondering about it, too.  I think it's because they want to make sure the corn is blemish- and insect-free.  Or maybe they want someone else to get rid of all those husks.

I don't shuck corn in the store, but sometimes I peek at the top. (I know, I know: This is frowned upon by many, but it's the most foolproof way to tell if your kernels are in good shape.)


You can also, of course, see if the silk is brown and a little sticky. The husk should be green, not brownish and fading. You can also check for wormholes. You don't want wormholes.

Could you cook it the second time wrapped in aluminum foil, to reduce the drying out?

Like I said, I'd stay away from double oven time. But if you're set on doing it that way (in foil), I'd add some moisture agent -- even if it's slices of lemon underneath. 

How do you get rid of corn silk, easily, without touching it? I break out in hives by touching raw corn silk and raw corn. Normally have the kids or husband do it but would love to be able to husk the corn without wearing gloves.

I don't know of a hands-free method unless you're able to stare it down and move those husks and silks with the power of your mind! The microwave technique in my Food Hacks video works well -- but you'd have to wear gloves.

When we tire of it (rare), I just freeze it and add it to whatever I'm cooking with ground meat.

Should only be used to make fine untaxed VA corn liquor. its okay for tortillas and as a veggie but its a 1000% better in a Mason jar.

Too funny.

I'm always somewhat confused for a second or two when lobster rolls are mentioned. Here, in my little corner of the Pacific coast, a lobster roll is a spring roll, either fresh or fried.

Sounds good! But different, yes.

I made this caramel sauce because I just had to try it but now it's languishing in the fridge because I don't know what to do with it. We don't have ice cream (the logical candidate) so I was wondering if the sauce might freeze? I'm thinking probably not but maybe you'll surprise me. I used some as a substitute for golden syrup in a flapjacks recipe. It wasn't bad but they didn't hold together properly. 

It looks like you can freeze it, but be sure to defrost overnight (gradually) in the refrigerator. 

Well, you've shucked us and de-silked us and cooked us in your favorite manner, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and many thanks to Pati, Jim and Tamar for helping us answer them.

Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who wrote in about making their own corn stock with cobs will get "Chowderland." The one who asked Pati about the good side and bad side of tortillas will get a SIGNED copy of her "Pati's Mexican Table."

Just send your mailing info to Kara.Elder@washpost, and we'll get you your books.

AND, before I forget, please come back tomorrow at noon to chat with the great Dorie Greenspan!

Until next week, happy cooking, eating and reading!

In This Chat
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food editor of The Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Bonnie Benwick
Bonnie S. Benwick has the job most envied among cocktail-party conversations. If they only knew. ... Cook with her each week at Dinner in Minutes.
Carrie Allan
M. Carrie Allan is the Food section's Spirits columnist.
Tim Carman
Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod and our Unearthed columnist, has been writing about food and health for the better part of two decades. She's the author of four books, including Dreaded Broccoli (Scribner, 1999), and currently writes about harvesting food first-hand at
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff writer and former Food section editorial aide.
Jim Shahin
Jim Shahin writes the monthly Smoke Signals column on barbecue.
Pati Jinich
Patricia Jinich is chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute and host of "Pati's Mexican Table" on public television.
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