Imagine this … lying in bed in the early morning, the sky just beginning to lighten. You can hear the birds calling to one another as you snuggle down under the covers for five more minutes of sleep, happy that you woke on your own without needing an alarm clock.
When you open the door and step outside, the fresh smell of a summer morning greets you, filling you with a deep sense of peace. There is a touch of dew on the roses and you stop to breathe deeply, stretching away the nighttime stiffness. The air is still cool but with the beginning of the arriving warmth. The entire day awaits you, full of promise.
You wait all year for that first time you smell summer in the air. Knowing that the earth is ready for the returning warmth, the blooming of trees and flowers, vegetables springing from the soil, and no more school! Summer mornings are special, a gift.
When we were young, we took summers for granted. Now I love every minute, even when the temperature spikes over 100 degrees. The seasons are truly miraculous. When we take a moment to step back from the rush of everyday living, the wonder is incredibly obvious. It is a shame we don’t take the time to savor it more often.
During summertime the farmers markets are full to the brim with freshly picked, delectable fruits and vegetables. In our area, the tomatoes and corn are at their peak and I couldn’t be happier. I wait all year for this wonderful season and its bounty. With Hoosier parents, I ate a ton of corn in my life, and it is still my favorite vegetable. Whenever possible, always buy white corn with the smallest kernels you can find. It is much sweeter and more tender than yellow corn. But now that heirloom tomatoes are making a strong comeback, thanks to the efforts of conscientious farmers, they are giving corn some serious competition.
A few years ago I finally understood what my parents had been talking about when they used to talk of the tomatoes they grew up with. Huge, juicy and full of flavor, I couldn’t even imagine it. I had only had hothouse tomatoes before and never cared for them. Then I had my first bite of an heirloom tomato. It was unlike anything I had ever eaten and I was in love. Last year The Artist and I planted heirloom tomato plants and had our first harvest. This year’s plants have hundreds of baby fruits just waiting for long, hot days to ripen into beautiful, red and purple tomatoes. I just found our first of the season and it was marvelous.
Today’s salad is a celebration of everything summer has to offer. Full of the freshest vegetables you can find, it is the perfect side dish to any grilled meats, poultry, or seafood. My favorite additions to the corn and tomatoes are onions, bell peppers, and zucchini, but you can add anything you like. I also like Poblano or Anaheim peppers which add tremendous flavor and a hint of heat. Go to the market and buy the best and freshest vegetables you can find and toss them into this salad. Eating seasonal produce is getting the best at its best.
While this salad is most delicious during the summer, you can make it all year long by using frozen corn. Frozen vegetables are harvested at their peak and flash frozen, sealing in their flavor and freshness. They are the next best thing to eating freshly picked vegetables.
If you want this to be a vegetarian or vegan main course, you can add cooked beans, lentils, or tofu, all which are great sources of protein. Serve it with thick slices of freshly baked bread for a filling and healthy meal.
This salad is perfect for picnics, potlucks, family dinners, barbecues and holiday celebrations. For an extra kick of flavor, you can grill the corn instead of boiling it, adding a nice smoky essence. Enjoy this bright taste of summer all year long.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Most people overcook corn on the cob. It only needs a few minutes to barely take the rawness out of it. When you cook corn too long it becomes tough and starchy. The kernels should still pop in your mouth with each bite. Use salted water to enhance the flavor of the corn and only cook it for about 3 minutes. When serving for a meal, this should be the last thing you cook just before everyone sits down at the table.
Kitchen Skill: How to Safely Cut Kernels off Corn on the Cob
There are two ways to easily and safely cut the kernels off corn on the cob, but both depend on using a very sharp knife so you don’t have to exert a lot of pressure. The first, and the way I cut my corn, is to break each cooked ear of corn in half. This way you have a stable flat surface to set on the cutting board. Corn is surprisingly easy to break in half, especially once cooked. If the corn is bouncing around your kitchen, you can always cut the corn on a clean kitchen towel which will capture most of the kernels.
The second method is to utilize either an angel food cake pan or bundt pan. Set the cob on the center post of the pan, slender end up. Very carefully slice the kernels off the cob, letting them fall into the cake pan.
- 6 ears fresh corn, shucked
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, peeled and finely minced
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely minced
- 1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 2 small zucchini, washed and finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 lb tomatoes, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped scallion greens
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves, thyme or basil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring a very large stockpot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook ears of corn for about 3 minutes, spinning to make sure all sides are submerged equally. Using tongs, remove the corn from the water and set aside to cool slightly. Cut corn kernels from ears, discarding cobs. See Kitchen Skill above for suggested ways to cut the kernels off the cobs.
- Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Add shallot, onion bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the corn kernels and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring often. Add the vinegar and cook until it is mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, gently stirring, 1 minute. Remove pan from heat.
- Stir in scallions and cilantro, tossing well. Transfer vegetables to a large plate to cool and season with salt and pepper. Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Yield: 10 servings as a side dish