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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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
- 4 ears corns, shucked
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 ounces feta, crumbled (I prefer in-brine varieties)
- 1 cup finely chopped basil
- 1/4 cup finely chopped mint
- 16 ounces cooked beans, such as chickpeas, black beans, or white beans, optional, see notes above
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- 4 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lime, halved
How are you planning on using your summer produce? Let us know in the comments!