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What’s in Season: Grilled Corn Tabouleh

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Sweet Corn Recipes for Summer

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Corn is one of the premier vegetables of summer all across the United States. Long hot Southern summers produce delicious corn, but some of the best I ever had in entire my life was from New Jersey! The farmer had a stand on the side of the road in front of his cornfield. He would ask how many ears you wanted, and march back into the green, rustling stalks to pick your order. Freshness is important, since the moment it’s picked, the sugars begin converting into starch.

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How to Pick Corn

My grandfather always preferred to plant his corn in the fruitful black soil at the river’s edge. He taught me that when it is ripe and ready to be picked, the silk at the top of the ear should be dark brown, almost black. It is not unusual to see people peeling back the husks in search of ears with perfect rows of kernels. The truth is, perfect rows of kernels don’t really matter all that much. Just take a peek to make sure the ear is plump, full, and free of worms, but keep the husk on to keep the ear moist and sweet.

The silks play a role in corn biology. Did you know that each strand of silk on an ear of corn represents a kernel of corn — but only if pollen falls on the silk! Otherwise, a kernel does not develop. A corn plant produces silk surrounding each ear about two months after the plant emerges from the ground. Tassels, the male part of the plant, emerge at its top and shed pollen for a week or two, fertilizing the individual silk strands below. Pollination occurs when the falling or wind-borne pollen grains are caught by these new moist silk strands. A captured pollen grain takes about 24 hours to move down the silk to the ovule, where fertilization occurs. The fertilized ovule then develops into a kernel.

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How to Cut off the Cob

When corn is just coming into season it doesn’t have as much flavor as it does at peak season. During peak season it’s enough to simply boil it and eat it plain — even butter is optional! However, I do like to mix things up a bit and char it on the grill (or grill pan) and serve with compound butters or char it and use it in a salad or salsa.
To cut the kernels off of the cob, many cooks suggest to place the ear vertical to the cutting board and using a knife to remove the kernels.  I find that holding the ear straight up causes the kernels to scatter all over the place. Instead, place the ear horizontal on the cutting board. Use a chef’s knife and slice the kernels from the cob. They fall a shorter distance to the cutting board and are less likely to scatter.
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Summer Sides

As summer has heated up, I’ve found myself cooking more and more Mediterranean and Middle Eastern recipes. They are both perfect cuisines for hotter months. One thing led to another with a half-dozen ears of early corn and I came up with this recipe Grilled Corn Tabouleh. Tabouleh is a Middle Eastern grain salad that most often uses cracked wheat or bulgur. We really like this version made with fresh grilled corn and hope you do, too. Let me know what you think!

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Virginia Willis

 Corn Tabouleh on

Grilled Corn Tabouleh

Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time20 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Mediterranean, Southern
Servings: 6


  • 6 ears corn shucked and silks removed
  • 1/4 jalapeno very finely chopped, or to taste
  • 1 clove garlic grated on a microplane or very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup freshly picked flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon
  • Fleur de sel or best quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat a grill pan to very high heat. Add the corn and cook until tender and lightly charred on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the corn from the cob and transfer to a bowl. Add the jalapeno, garlic, parsley, mint, pepper, coriander, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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