For a conscious cook, summer is a heavenly bounty of goodness. First the tender lettuces arrive,  along with great heads of kale and bok choy,  swiftly followed by overflowing baskets of zucchini and summer squash, crisp cucumbers, and juicy tomatoes. But perhaps the greatest prize of all is sweet corn, the pined-for pinnacle of summer produce. All winter long, cooks wait eagerly for the return of hot humid days, when eating  sweet corn on the cob is a summer rite of passage.

Fresh sweet corn is so tender, so full of milky sweetness and succulence, it can be eaten raw, straight off the cob. Bursting with natural sugars , fresh corn is an amazing ingredient that transforms any summer meal into an extraordinary experience.

The versatile little nuggets will add tempting texture and sensational sweetness to so many preparations.  Fresh corn salads can be constructed by adding finely diced Vidalia onion and red peppers to fresh corn and dressing with olive oil, lime juice, chopped cilantro and plenty of black pepper, or jalapeno pepper, if you prefer even more of a kick. Or add diced, grilled chicken cubes to that same bowl, but swap out fresh basil and parsley for the cilantro and whisk in a bit of pesto  or pesto mayonnaise for a creamier, heartier salad.

Summer corn chowder is an exhilarating epicurean experience, especially when made with just harvested baby potatoes, a bit of smoky bacon, plenty of Italian parsley and a good grinding of black pepper. Try adding fresh corn kernels to your Sunday morning pancake or waffle batter, or incorporate into your favorite cornbread or corn muffin recipe for a marvelous burst of flavor.  For a  unique summer hors d’oeuvre, try a corn dip, blended with cream cheese and spices.  Serve it with crunchy chips and veggies and you and your guests will be swooning.

Sweet corn offers superb health benefits as it is rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect vision and offer cell protection throughout the body. Sweet corn is full of dietary fiber which helps keep the body’s elimination system running smoothly. An ear of corn has a similar calorie count to an apple, and less than half the amount of sugar. Sweet corn contains a significant amount of vitamins C, B1, B5, folate, phosphorus and manganese.

Visit your local farmer’s market  for the golden bounty of fresh summer sweet corn. Bring it home, and eat it that very day, as you prepare your delicious life.

Golden Summer Corn Dip

1 8-ounce package light cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup light sour cream

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1/3 cup finely diced fresh red pepper

2 ears fresh sweet corn, husked and kernels stripped off

1/4 teaspoon finely minced jalapeno pepper

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion

2 finely minced garlic cloves

1 4-ounce can diced green chiles, drained well

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chile powder (chipotle chili powder would add nice smoky flavor)

Blend cream cheese, yogurt and sour cream together in a bowl until well mixed. Stir in remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more cumin, chile powder, jalapeno, etc. as desired. If a little salt is desired, add that as well. If you want a bit more decadence you can add shredded cheddar cheese to the mixture. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP,  “The Conscious Cook “, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conduct cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com