Gather All Your Summer Produce; Put It In This Corn Salad

August 17, 2017

Last week, as a side dish for dinner, I made Mark Bittman’s raw corn salad with tomatoes, feta, and mint. My husband took one bite and said, “It’s good.” As he put down his spoon, he added: “But too much corn.”

Too much corn in the corn salad?! Oh for Pete’s sake. If he weren’t always (nearly) spot on, I might have protested, or taken offense, or responded as my mother might have, with an “mmm hmm.” Instead, I began adding more tomatoes, feta, and herbs to the heap of corn until reds, greens, and whites punctuated the yellow ball pit. I squeezed in some fresh lime juice, too, for some extra acidity and after taking one bite, I thought: He was right.

Corn and its coterie of seasonal pals. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

The local sweet corn (here in upstate New York at least) at the moment needs barely more than a pinch of salt. But even so, raw corn doesn’t mind rubbing elbows with all of its seasonal pals. Here, it’s tomatoes and herbs, but the simple formula could be riffed on endlessly: diced bell peppers, cilantro, scallions, cubes of raw zucchini or roasted eggplant, diced mozzarella, Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese would all work well here.

Getting cozy. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

This is a perfect summery side dish—I first served it aside skewers of grilled garlic-basil chicken and warm naan—but it can easily be transformed into more of a stand-alone dish with the addition of beans or grains. Chickpeas are particularly good, and their inclusion makes the salad incredibly substantial. With a hunk of bread and a few salted cucumber spears, dinner can be done. As Bittman notes, “In midsummer, with a couple of thick tomato slices, there is nothing better.”

Meet your side dish. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

A Few Tips

Use Samin Nosrat’s trick to easily strip corn kernels from cobs, and this salad will materialize in no time: Line a large, wide shallow bowl or plate with a tea towel. Use one hand to hold an ear of corn in place upright, pinching the ear at the top. Use your other hand and a chef's knife to cut off two to three rows of kernels at a time by sliding the knife down the cob. Get as close to the cob as you can, and resist the temptation to cut off more rows at once—that'll leave behind lots of precious corn.

Cut the corn the smart way, and don't add tomatoes if you are making this ahead. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Bulk it up: Bittman suggests cooked rice or beans for a more filling salad. I’ve had success with chickpeas and imagine black beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, quinoa or any grain (bulgur, farro, barley) would all work here. Be sure to adjust the dressing with more olive oil and lime juice, because the beans and grains will soak it up.

Buffed up salad = a meal. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

To make it ahead: This salad is definitely best eaten right away—the tomatoes deteriorate quickly and the herbs loose their vibrant green color. If you want to get a headstart on dinner preparations, make the salad leaving out the tomatoes and herbs, then toss them in just before serving.

How are you planning on using your summer produce? Let us know in the comments!

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I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.