Mid-summer means fresh, local vegetables, and although usually considered a grain, fresh corn falls into the category of delicious summer produce.
Corn can actually be considered either a grain or a vegetable, based on when it is harvested. Depending on the maturity level of the corn at the time it is picked will determine both its nutritional level and how to prepare it.
To choose the best corn as a vegetable, pull down the very top of the ear and press a kernel with your thumbnail. Look for milky juices for the best corn. If the juices are too clear, the corn may be too young; if there isnít much juice at all, the corn is too old and dry.
As with a lot of other produce, it is important to buy corn that has been locally grown. Whereas some fruits ripen and become sweeter once picked, corn begins turning its sugar into starch. Because it quickly loses its sweetness, buy local corn that has been just picked and cook or preserve it right away.
Corn is one of the most versatile gifts given to the world by the Native Americans. Some Native American tribes believed corn was a gift from the Great Spirit for devoted fasting and obedience. This gift allowed the tribes to no longer rely strictly on hunting and gathering. It also saved the lives of a few starving settlers new to the Americas.
The skyís the limit when it comes to the culinary potential of corn. We can dry it out, make grits and cornmeal, soak it in alkali to make hominy, pop it for a great snack, or just eat it straight off the cob.

Grilled Corn Salad with Black Beans and Queso Fresco

Ingredients:
5-6 ears of corn, shucked
Canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon chili powder, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup Queso Fresco, crumbled
1/4 cup lime juice, plus more to taste
1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red or yellow bell pepper: ribs and seeds discarded; diced

Preheat an outdoor grill to high heat.
Rub the corn with oil.
Place the corn on the grill. Cook until brown on all sides, about 5-6 minutes on each side. Alternatively, char the corn over a gas flame or under a broiler.
Remove from the grill and allow to cool.
While the corn is cooling, combine the salt, pepper, chili powder and garlic powder, mayonnaise, sour cream, queso fresco, and lime juice in a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
Once the corn is cool enough to touch, cut the corn off the cob.
Add the corn, black beans, and bell pepper to the mayonnaise mixture.
Season to taste with additional kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, chili powder, or lime juice as needed.

Corn and Crab Fritters with Creole Remoulade

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/2 red bell pepper: seeds and ribs removed; diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 pound lump or claw crab meat, drained and picked through for shells
Canola oil
Creole Remoulade (recipe follows)

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the corn, bell pepper, and onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper. Make a well in the center.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, ricotta cheese, buttermilk, and lime juice. Pour into the cornmeal mixture and stir just until blended.
Stir in the corn mixture until just combined. Fold in the crab meat. Using a medium portion scoop, shape the mixture into 1/4 cup patties and place rack over a baking sheet.
Pour about 1/4-inch of canola oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Once shimmering, cook the fritters in batches until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the oil and drain on papers towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve hot with the remoulade and lemon wedges.

Remoulade Sauce

Ingredients:
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Creole mustard
1/4 cup sweet pickles, chopped
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon paprika

In a medium mixing bowl combine all ingredients and stir well. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to one hour before serving.

Spartanburg (S.C.) Herald-Journal correspondent Season Stepp can be reached at Season28@aol.com