It's hard to believe that summer is almost over. You're probably in denial that all the sweet summer produce will soon disappear from your nearby farmers markets and your kitchen. Your refuse to face the fact that fall is almost here and winter is coming.
Tonight, let yourself indulge in one more summery dinner tonight. Enjoy some fresh corn, throw your favorite vegetables and herbs into an endlessly customizable pasta salad, and savor this fair-weather meal. And remember, some great fall produce is on its way.
1 pound pasta (some good options: fusilli, orechiette, radiatore)
4 ears corn, shucked
Four 6-ounce fillets of firm white fish, like striped bass, cod, tilapia, or halibut
Optional additions for the pasta salad like nuts, herbs, olives, cheeses, and vegetables
We're assuming you have a couple of lemons, sherry vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a shallot (or onion, or other allium), maple syrup or honey, and salt. If not, be sure to add those to your list, too.
1. Cook the pasta: Put on a large pot of water to boil and salt it well. Cook your pasta to al dente, then drain it, but don't rinse it -- the starch that lingers will help your dressing adhere and thicken. Gently break apart any stuck-together pieces of pasta with your fingers.
2. Prepare your favorite vinaigrette: We like to mix together 4 tablespoons lemon juice or sherry vinegar, 3/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a tablespoon or so of chopped shallot. You can also add in 1 teaspoon of maple syrup or honey for sweetness, if you’d like.
3. Dress the pasta while it's still warm. This way, the pasta will absorb more of the dressing before it cools and dries.
4. Cook the corn: Heat the oven to 350° F. Fill a pan that's wide enough to hold the corn with 1 inch of water and bring to a boil. Lay or stack the corn in the pan, place a lid on top, and let the corn steam for 3 minutes. Drain the pot, then cool the corn by running it under cold water. Cut the corn from the cobs, scraping the cobs to extract as much corn juice as possible. Put the corn kernels and corn juice into a pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season with salt and a large pinch of cayenne. Gently rewarm the corn over medium-low heat while you cook the fish.
6. Bake the fish: Arrange the fish in a baking dish without crowding the fillets, then drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil on top. Season with salt to taste, and roast in the oven until the fish is just cooked through (about 10 minutes per inch of thickness). About halfway through cooking the fish, baste it with the olive oil that pools in the baking dish. Halve a lemon, remove the fish from the oven, and squeeze the lemon all over the fish.
7. Personalize your pasta salad. This is where you get to express yourself and add whatever your heart desires: olives, pine nuts, chopped scallions, fresh herbs, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes -- the possibilities are endless. If you add something watery, like an ultra-fresh tomato, let it drain a bit before you add it in order to avoid drowning everything else. Toss the pasta salad gently, so as not to completely pulverize your more delicate toppings; you want crumbly cheese to retain its crumbles. Add a big handful of herbs (parsley does well) and toss one last time.
8. Plate the fish and corn: Spoon some corn on each plate, and top with a piece of fish.