Corn, or maize, is a traditional ingredient of comfort foods in my native American South. Although less complete nutritionally than several other grains, corn makes up for this with its versatility. Dried and milled, it’s used for our beloved cornbread, spoon bread, and hoecakes. Processed through the 3,000-year-old technique of nixtamalization, it gives us hominy and grits. In its fresh form, it finds its way into many of our favorite soups, main courses, side dishes, and salads. And, of course, what movie would be complete without popcorn?
Fresh corn is harvested nine months of the year where I live in Florida and is often on the menu at our house. Yesterday I had a serious yen for corn fritters and developed this spiced up, savory recipe for them with an Indian flavor twist. These fritters include fresh corn kernels seasoned with green chilies, fresh ginger, green onions, sweet peppers, and cilantro. Served with raita — a lovely, light sauce of seasoned yogurt with grated cucumber and mint — these make a tasty vegetarian appetizer, snack, or side dish.
For the raita:
1/2 “English” cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the fritters:
3 ears fresh sweet corn
1 green onion and half its greens, minced
3 tablespoons chopped bell pepper
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (coriander greens, dhania, etc.)
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, peeled and finely minced (about 1/4 teaspoon)
1 small jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1/8 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Prepare the raita: Peel and coarsely grate the cucumber, mix with 1/2 teaspoon salt, wrap in a clean tea towel, and firmly wring out to express as much juice as possible. In a small serving bowl, mix the cucumber with all other raita ingredients, cover, and set aside for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Makes about one cup of raita.
- Cut the kernels from the cobs into a large mixing bowl. Then, holding the cobs over the bowl, scrape them with the edge of a knife blade along their lengths to express remaining corn pulp and juices.
- To the corn in the mixing bowl, stir in the green onions, bell pepper, cilantro, ginger, garlic, jalapeño pepper, crushed red pepper, sugar, and egg yolk.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into the corn mixture in the mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whip the egg white until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the corn mixture in the mixing bowl. The batter should be stiff but hold the ingredients together. Add a teaspoon or two of water to the mix if it seems too dry, which might be the case if your corn is a bit past its prime.
- Preheat the oil in a large non-stick (or well seasoned cast iron) skillet over a burner set to medium heat. When the oil is very hot, drop heaping tablespoons of the batter into the skillet, taking care not to crowd the fritters. Cook until browned on one side, flip over, and brown the other. Drain the fritters well on paper towels and serve warm. Serves four as a snack, appetizer, or side dish.