grilled corn with basil-garlic butter-oil

grill it, baby, and lend me your ear(s) ::::


For the first time in our 12 years of marriage, Eat and I actually know (and like) our neighbors. I love that Peach and #8 play together frequently, riding bikes, going to the park, and digging around in the common grassy areas around our homes. I like that I know the names of people and know what they do for a living, can hear next door’s kids hooting and playing, and can expect to say hello to at least one familiar face daily. I am amazed that there are people who do not steal laundry, shoes, or children’s toys from one’s property, and this may be one of the last places on earth with the respect to not do so. It is refreshing.


It was I, in this state of refreshment and awe, who decided that we must have a barbecue. Must! I handed out invitations last month, with full expectation to hear from almost everyone in the sixteen unit complex. Definitely shy of quorum with only two nays and five ayes from the sixteen units, we still assembled a nice group of people this past weekend watching Peach and #8 squeal in the water sprinklers, and feasting on grilled sausages, fresh fruits and vegetables (some from our own gardens), tarragon soda, chocolate-chip cookies, and rainbow sprinkle-laden cupcakes. It was a success, not just with the food, but with the fact that our summer congregation now knows more than just faces, but names and the ability to recall more than just whose forgotten laundry might be the stagnant mass in the laundry room by studying each others’ shirts and socks.

Blanketed ears of corn awaiting their destiny

Intoxicated by our trumpet flowers’ scent once again wafting through the summer afternoon, I am struck by my visions of summer before the barbecue. Across the garden, I have tomatoes, a paltry, green load, but summery nonetheless. Peeping over the neighbors’ fence are long rigid stalks, cowlicks on top. And I am led to my other summer vision: corn. Corn, lots of corn, I was surrounded by it as a child, growing up in central Illinois. I spent summers walking the fields, pulling tassles and cutting weeds as a teenager, early morning dew turning the husky leaves into razors, cutting my thighs. I couldn’t pass up this summer without corn but I couldn’t bring myself to eating it boiled, drowning it in a vat of water. The community barbecue had the answer. Grill supplied by friendly Neighbor #8’s dad. My corn from the market. No question: the corn had to end up on the grill.

It’s not that I don’t like butter on my corn but a twist with basil and garlic seemed appropriate seeing as we are in garlic country (Gilroy is 30 minutes away) and I sequestered some fresh basil away from the greedy snails in our garden. I also used the olive oil to keep the butter-oil mixture liquid so painting it on cooled corn wouldn’t appear waxy or clumpy.

Thank you, neighbors, for gathering us into this generous community for the past year. Now, if we could get the rent to go down….


grilled corn with basil-garlic butter-oil
Recipe type: vegetable
  • 12 ears of corn, with husks
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons robust olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt (and extra for sprinkling)
  • a twist of freshly ground pepper
  • 4 large basil leaves, fresh
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  1. First, prepare the flavored oil: Place butter and olive oil into small saucepan and turn heat to medium-low.
  2. As butter and oil melt, chiffonade your basil. Add basil, garlic, pepper, and salt to the butter-oil mixture and cook until mixture is just starting to bubble. (This will happen quickly so watch carefully.)
  3. Allow mixture to cool and allow the flavors to meld before using. This oil can be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated before use. Reheat gently before use.
  4. Second, grill your corn: Peel off only the first couple of layers of corn husk, leaving a layer or two. (Do not remove all the layers.) Peel back the remaining layers and remove the silk. Replace the husk layers.
  5. Soak the whole cobs immersed in a pot of cold water for 15 to 20 minutes. (This soaking provides steam to cook the corn kernels inside the husks.)
  6. While the corn is soaking, preheat your grill to a medium temperature (around 350 degrees F).
  7. After soaking, remove the corn from the water and shake off any excess water.
  8. Place the prepared ears of corn on the grill and close the cover. Occasionally rotate the corn to avoid over-charring.
  9. Grill the corn for approximately 15-25 minutes. (This will depend on how hot your grill runs, so check frequently.)
  10. The husk will darken and pull away from the kernels when the corn is ready to come off the grill, and some of the kernels may also be blackened. (Don’t overcook -- corn will become mushy. The corn cob should not bend but remain firm if flexed.)
  11. Remove the corn from the grill and peel husks down. Paint with basil butter-oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. Serves 12.

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