Corn has sweet pleasures all its own. With just a shucking and a few minutes' immersion in boiling water, an ear of corn surrenders fresh, juicy flavor.
But for all that corn on the cob adds to a meal, we treat it as an afterthought. Usually the adornment is nothing more than a sprinkling of salt and a pat of butter.
That needn't be the only way. Why not cut the cooked ear into three or four pieces, then present the corn to guests with a choice of flavored butters, spicy sauces and combinations of herbs and spices? The sauces, easily prepared in minutes, can be spooned over the corn "wheels," or guests can twirl the hors d'oeuvres-size pieces in the sauce of their choice.
A little dressing-up with cilantro-lime or ginger-garlic butter sauce enhances the sweet, natural flavor of the kernels without detracting from the taste. Once you get started, it's easy to come up with your own sauces.
The mini pieces of corn with dipping sauces can be a first course or an appetizer for an informal summer supper.
The sauces work equally well with the smaller, sweeter ears of white corn, the larger, more robust yellow ones, or the new scarlet sweet corn. And if you don't like the idea of cutting a cob into smaller pieces, the same sauces can be spooned over a whole ear.
One warning, though: This slightly messy dish calls for plenty of napkins. Whether your guests prefer to chomp their corn cobs across or round and round, they'll be reaching for napkins . . . and then for more corn.