I love corn on the cob, off the cob, any way I can get it. Slathered with melted butter that runs down my hands, I could eat a dozen ears myself with no trouble. I crave fresh corn all winter long and cannot wait until summer arrives. The happiest day of the year for me is when the first ears arrive at the farmer’s market.
The second happiest day is when heirloom tomatoes show up, so you can imagine that some of my favorite summer meals revolve around corn and tomatoes. Today’s recipe came out of a recent refrigerator diving expedition. I had a surplus of corn, tomatoes, shallots, and limes and they all came together in this wonderful salad.
Have you seen the new way to shuck corn? There is a video about it that has gone viral on YouTube. The technique is sweeping the nation with some of the hottest chefs using it. I had to try it, and it works! You leave the corn in its husks, microwave it, cut off the stem end, hold the top with the silks and the cooked cob slides out. I had a little trouble getting the cob to slide out, but if I squeezed it from the top it came out with only a few silks still attached – so much easier than the traditional method I have used all my life!
Make sure you have a thick towel or pot holder ready to use with the hot from the microwave corn. And you need a really sharp knife to cut through the thick end of the cob. This was the perfect opportunity to use my new favorite kitchen workhorse, my Wusthof 8-inch deli knife. This is one heck of a knife, made with all the strength of traditional German knives, but with an edge that takes forever to dull and that cuts through just about anything. A couple of swipes on a steel is all it needs to stay razor sharp. If you are looking for a gift for a cook in your life (or yourself) buy this one!
Don’t be surprised if your kitchen smells a bit like cooking popcorn. The corn will give off this aroma as it cooks and may even pop a little in the pan. Make sure you leave it alone long enough to caramelize, but stir occasionally to keep the vegetables from burning. When The Artist walked in the door, with his nose sniffing the air, he couldn’t figure out what I had made for dinner – I love surprises like this!
As with most of my recipes, this one is extremely flexible. You can use the base combination and change the dressing to any of your other favorites. You can serve this cold, at room temperature, or hot. You don’t have to sauté the corn kernels, just double the cooking time in the microwave before shucking or boil them 3 minutes if you like that method better. Leave out the thyme and use cilantro, parsley, tarragon, oregano, etc. instead. Add some bell pepper, cream and more hot sauce and you’ve got a corn maque choux, one of Louisiana’s favorite dishes. Throw in fresh shrimp for a main course … there just is no end to the variations you can make with these amazing vegetables.
As the days begin to shorten and we head toward Fall, make sure you take advantage of the amazing produce still coming in fresh from the farms. It won’t last long and then we’ll be left to our dreams of the hot summer nights and meals like this one.
Have a wonderful weekend – Happy Festive Friday!
Corn, Tomato and Shallot Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
© 2012 Jane Evans Bonacci, The Heritage Cook. All rights reserved.
Yield: about 6 servings
4 to 5 ears of fresh corn, shucked and rinsed
2 ripe medium heirloom tomatoes, cored, cut in half horizontally, and seeds squeezed out
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, peeled, rinsed, and thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (striped from stems)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice or rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 5 drops Sriracha hot sauce, optional
Pinch xanthan gum, optional
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Prepare Corn: Place whole cobs with husks intact into the microwave (cook in batches if needed). Cook for 2 minutes per ear. Using a hot pad and holding the narrow end of the cob, slice off the opposite end, above the stem, cutting through all off the husks. Lift up the cob holding onto the husk and silks, and slip the cob out of the husks. If it won’t release right away, squeeze the top, still holding onto the silks and work your way down the cob until is pops out.
Prepare Salad Ingredients: Break the ears of corn in half. With the flat side on a cutting board, use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the cobs. Transfer to a bowl and place next to the stove.
On a clean work surface, chop the seeded tomatoes into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces. They should not be much larger than corn kernels. Reserve a small handful of chopped tomatoes to use as garnish. Prep the shallots and celery.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. When the oil is shimmering add the celery. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the corn kernels. Cook, stirring often until the kernels start to brown lightly. Add most of the shallots (reserve a few rings for garnish), all tomatoes except those reserved, the cumin, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are wilted and most of the kernels have brown spots on them. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the fresh thyme leaves. Toss to combine and set aside while you make the dressing.
Note: You can cook the dish to this point up to several hours in advance. Once cooled, refrigerate in an airtight container. When ready to serve, set out on counter for 30 minutes to return to room temperature. You can then reheat them if you want to serve this dish warm.
Make the Dressing: In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the dressing ingredients. Tighten the lid and shake until well blended and emulsified. (Note: the xanthan gum will help keep the ingredients from separating.) Taste and adjust with more oil for a less tangy dressing, more lime juice for more kick, or more Sriracha if you like spicy heat.
Assemble the Salad: Pour half the dressing over the corn and tomatoes; toss gently until all the ingredients are evenly coated. Taste and add more dressing if desired. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with reserved shallots and chopped tomatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: To serve this as a main course you can add cooked and drained black beans or quinoa for a vegetarian meal. Or use the salad as a bed for grilled chicken, salmon, steak, or shrimp. Season the meats with some freshly squeezed lime juice to enhance the flavors of the salad.
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