Every year, around this time, I think the same thing: “How can summer be drawing to a close?”
My mother always talked about “September’s golden light,” the slant of the sun as it sank in the sky during a late summer afternoon. She said September is so lovely because it has all the warmth of summer without the humidity.
And while that is not always true, one thing is certain: Summer lingers at the market stands where the abundance of the garden remains—shiny purple eggplants, red and ripe tomatoes at their very best and fat, red peppers that are perfect for roasting. I bring armfuls of sunflowers, zinnias and gladiolas home to hold on to the brilliance of waning summer days.
And then there is fresh sweet corn. I love it and usually buy more of it than I can use—yellow, white and the luscious milk-and-honey variety. In my house, I look for corn recipes to serve my family other than “corn on the cob” (referred to by one family member as “barnyard food”). So, I have made corn fritters and muffins, rich corn puddings, smoky grilled corn with citrus butters, corn chutney (really), corn succotash and vegetable sautés of all kinds with handfuls of fresh corn thrown in.
But one of my very favorite corn dishes is a corn salad that is much more than a salad. I serve it as a vegetable side dish, a relish spooned over grilled chicken, fish or steak, or with a little cream added as a “sauce” for pasta. You can even stuff whole tomatoes with the mixture, topped with some breadcrumbs and roasted.
The recipe couldn’t be simpler but does require very fresh summer ingredients: corn cut from the cob, very ripe cherry tomatoes and bright green, fresh basil. It is also fun to add some unexpected things like sliced fresh jalapeno or diced red bell peppers. I sometimes vary the taste by sautéing the cut corn in butter rather than grilling it. And, for a little more substance, you can add some cubed cheese like cheddar, Muenster or Havarti (that can be lunch!).
FRESH CORN SALAD
- 6 ears fresh corn (white, yellow or bi-color), husked and brushed clean of silk
- Olive oil for brushing on corn
- ½ small to medium red onion, cut into small dice
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, and cut into small dice (or ½ red bell pepper diced)
- 1 pint ripe red cherry tomatoes, halved
- A small bunch of fresh basil, leaves stripped from stems and julienned
- Extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste to finish the dish
- Remove the husks and silk from 6 ears of fresh corn. Scrub gently and then dry the ears.
- Rub or brush the ears with olive oil to cover all surfaces.
- Grill the ears on your gas or charcoal grill (medium heat is best) until the kernels are softened and the corn is slightly charred in spots. Watch very carefully to avoid burning the corn. Remove the ears when done and let cool thoroughly on a plate.
- Wash the cherry tomatoes, remove the stems, and cut them in half.
- Dice the peppers you are using and set aside.
- Wash the basil, remove the leaves from the stems, and stack the leaves together. Roll the stacked leaves into a little “cigar” and slice it into thin strands.
- When the corn is cool, cut the kernels from the cobs into a medium-sized bowl using a sharp knife.
- Add the peppers, onion, cherry tomatoes and basil to the corn in the bowl. Add enough olive oil to moisten and salt and pepper to taste. (Sometimes, I add a little white wine vinegar to give it a little “kick.”)
- That’s all there is to it. And nothing could be easier!
I made this corn salad recently to accompany grilled rib eye steaks, roasted small white potatoes with rosemary and a simply dressed baby arugula salad. It was a perfect summer meal.
My husband and I have a friend who often says, “Let’s not get carried away,” to a variety of situations. I thought of him when I found a recipe for corn ice cream, served with a cornmeal cake and fresh blueberries. I haven’t gone that far yet, but it could be a corn-lovers dream.
Author: Rosemary Ruggieri Baer