Plus Corn 101: the basics you need to know…
It’s not surprising that during the midst of summer our last few Green Monday “recipes” have been salads. Or that our posts have been centered around the amazing produce that these days have to offer. Today, I wanted to talk about a vegetable that is just about to reach its zenith in tastiness, corn. All right, it’s not the most exciting of veggies, but it is the first one I loved (and the only one I ate the first 10 years of my life).
While canned corn will do in a pinch and frozen corn is surprisingly tasty, there is nothing better than a midsummer, freshly picked ear of corn, hot off the grill. Also good? Using those fresh from the cob kernels in a corn based salad. We’ve had our fair share, and our all time favorite, originally from Real Simple magazine (circa 2004 and and sadly not online), is this super easy Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad (that’s our batch above). We shared this recipe for our post on throwing a Grey Gardens Viewing Party, but wanted to highlight this crowd pleasing and simple salad one more time.
Before we get to the recipe, a few kernels (heh) of corn knowledge, a little Corn 101, if you will, that I’ve gathered from farmers markets and roadside stands:
• Sticky, clumps of inner ear silk are good. That stickiness is a sign the corn is freshly picked. Avoid ears with dried out or soggy, wet ear silk. Also take a look at the exterior – the freshest corn is bright green with a fitted, snug husk.
• Look for even rows of firm and plump kernels – if the kernels are starting to look shriveled or flattened, put it back- the corn is old and will be tough. Ideally, you want kernels that produce a little squirt when pricked with your nail. That’s some fresh corn – take it home!
• Yellow or White? Generally, yellow corn has larger kernels and some say a “cornier” taste, while white corn has a sweeter taste and smaller kernels. (Combos or hybrids with both yellow and white kernels are popular and are often labeled “Butter” or “Sugar” corn.) My advice? Good corn is good corn – don’t worry about the color and just go with the freshest available.
• When boiling fresh corn on the cob, Do Not Add Salt to the Water – this can toughen the tender skin of the corn. If you feel you must add something to the water, a bit of sugar or some lemon juice are options.
• Corn on the cob needs only a few moments to boil and is easily (and often) overcooked. Boil for 2, maybe 3 minutes at most. Remove from water, let cool a bit and enjoy.
•• This Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad recipe calls for corn kernels fresh from the cob. Here chef Ming Tsai shares his easy and efficient method: How to dekernel corn on the cob – the cookie sheet is genius!
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, lets get to the good part; the food.
Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad
In a large bowl add:
- 2 cups of cooked corn (cut it from the cob, it’s so worth it)
- 1 diced avocado
- 1 pint halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
In a separate bowl whisk together:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh pepper
Pour whisked mixture into the first bowl and toss well.
That’s it – enjoy!
If you’re looking for some more corn salad ideas, a little internet sleuthing revealed:
* By far, the most raved about corn salad recipe online is Bobby Flay’s, Grilled Corn Salad with Lime, Red Chili and Cotija which adds some heat and cheese to the mix.
* If you believe a salad isn’t a salad unless there is mayonnaise involved, I give you Paula Deen’s Corn Salad, which calls for a rational (some may say measly) one cup.
* Need a recipe to impress? This recipe from Bon Appétit would make a statement of a starter course during a summer dinner party, Heirloom Tomato and Grilled Corn Salad with Basil Vinaigrette.
* Finally, something really different – Grilled Corn and Blueberry Salad! Very interesting…anyone ever try this combo?
Fellow Corn Lovers – share your recipes and tips in the comments. And if you are a grill master, share your secret to perfectly grilled corn!