During these past months, many have cleaned every closet, tidied the garage and pulled all the flowerbed weeds. I finish one book and pick up the next; cook one meal and start planning the next, and I wait. I waited for the asparagus, the strawberries and then I waited for corn. Corn arrived in its glory in our farmers market this past weekend; tomatoes and peppers are dribbling in. With these golden ears, we have reached high summer. The heat bears heavy, the humidity thick; fireflies flit in the darkness and cicadas climb to a deafening pitch. Cooking slows down; meals lighten up but everyone still gets hungry.
There’s nothing like that first taste of summer’s corn lifted from a boiling caldron, brushed with butter, lightly salted and nibbled straight from the cob. “Roasting Ears” my Grandpa Lapp called them as he hauled a big gunny sack full up to the house. Was there ever a better summer supper than a platter of steaming corn, freshly churned salted butter and sliced red tomatoes? Those flavors will never leave my memory and each summer again I wait.
Once I’ve had my fill of corn from the cob, I’m ready for those sweet kernels to make their way into other dishes. There’s something so special about fresh corn that frozen or canned corn can never duplicate. And by fresh I mean fresh from the farm, not something sitting in a grocery store cooler for days before it’s sold. Get thee to your nearest Farmers Market as soon as you can while the summer sun is high.
Since we’re in a siege of hot weather and I’m trying to keep heat from the kitchen at a minimum, corn salad seemed like a good idea. I looked in the fridge and pulled out some farmers market items to combine. I had a small fennel bulb, some celery, a sweet torpedo shaped red onion, Serrano chili along with some fresh garlic, basil and nasturtium flowers from my own patch. All of these savories were calling for the sweet pop of fresh corn kernels, and a light vinaigrette dressing. The only thing needing cooking was the corn, and that’s a 2-minute boil.
Basically this salad is more of a suggestion than a precise recipe. You can use what you have. If you don’t have red onion, use green onions or some sweet onion; if you don’t have fennel, just stick with celery. If you don’t like the idea of green chili and pickled ginger, leave them out, or add some chopped preserved lemon or Indian lime pickle. If you have a pepper, green or red, put it in. Two tools that make quick work for something like this salad are a Japanese mandolin and a small sharp paring knife.
Fresh Corn Salad
3 large, full ears of sweet corn
1 medium torpedo red onion or 3 green onions
1 small fennel bulb
2 branches celery
1 teaspoon finely chopped Serrano chili (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped pickled ginger (optional)
1 teaspoon finely chopped and mashed garlic
handful shredded basil, parsley, cilantro or mint
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Pull husks from the corn and rub off the silk. Half fill a pot big enough to hold the corn with water. (I break the ears in half). Bring the water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt. Add the corn, cover and boil steadily for 2 minutes. Immediately lift the ears from the water and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile wash and thinly slice the fennel, celery, onion. Finely chop chili, ginger and garlic. Gently mix all these in a salad bowl. In a glass measuring cup combine lime juice, vinegar, mustard and salt. Whisk in olive oil. Set aside.
When the corn is cool enough to handle, stand each ear upright and cut down on the cob using a very sharp, small knife. Try not to cut all the way to the cob. Once you have cut all the cobs, go back with the knife and scrape off the corn cream still left on the cobs. The combined cut corn and scraped cream should come to 2 cups.
Mix the cut corn into the shredded vegetables in the salad bowl, pour over the reserved dressing, fold all together and taste adding more salt, lemon juice or pepper as necessary. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 4 cups of salad; enough for 5-6 servings.
This would be a great salad to serve alongside some sliced tomatoes and chilled roast chicken or poached salmon. Or simply enjoy with toasted sourdough bread and a wedge of Cambozola cheese. This salad will keep for three days in the fridge, and the flavors will improve after it has chilled a few hours.