Monday, August 2, 2010

Roasted Corn & Tomato Salad with Basil & Avocado

Fresh sweet corn is one of the joys of summer. It has already made several appearances on my blog and I'm sure it will appear here again before the summer is over. Of all the ways that I prepare it, the way I like it the best is roasted in the husk. At least once a week, for a quick lunch or a vegetable side for dinner, I serve some version of a roasted corn salad.

If you have never roasted corn in the husk, you are in for a revelation. It is fast, doesn't dirty any dishes and is easier to husk than raw corn—almost all of the silks pull neatly and easily away from the corn with the husks when it has been roasted. I think it tastes better too. Almost everything tastes better when cooked in its "whole" or intact state. Think of meat and fish cooked on the bone—they are almost always moister and definitely have more flavor this way. And like the meat and fish bones, cleaned corn cobs can be simmered in some water with a little onion, garlic and herbs to produce a flavorful broth. Some of that extra flavor must infuse the corn kernels during the roasting process.

To roast corn, preheat the oven to 375° to 400°. Put the corn, in the husk, directly on the oven rack and roast for 20 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, the husks will look a bit singed:

If you are nervous about whether or not it is done, give the tip of the ear a squeeze—the kernels will feel firm, but springy, through the husks. If you were to squeeze it before putting the ears in the oven, the kernels would feel very firm...almost hard. When the corn comes out of the oven, it should be husked as soon as you are able to comfortably handle it.  As long as it is in the hot husk, it will continue to cook. I try not to let it sit longer than five minutes, and if I'm not busy doing something else that requires my attention, I use a thick kitchen towel to hold it so I can husk it immediately. The corn is now ready to be eaten straight from the cob, or cooled and cut and put in a salad or other preparation.

The corn salads that I prepare are generally spur of the moment affairs—dependant entirely upon what I have in the house. Almost always they will include cherry or vine ripened tomatoes, some kind of onion (red onion, shallot, green onions) and lettuces (especially arugula) or herbs (basil, tarragon, dill, parsley, chives...) or both. Sometimes I don't even bother to mix up a vinaigrette—I just drizzle with olive oil and vinegar to taste.

Some recent variations include one with thinly sliced red onions and basil that I served with some cheese and bread for a quick lunch:

Or, a green salad with corn and yellow tomatoes to go with a cheese quesadilla for dinner:

Variations for a fast meal that practically shouts "Summer!" are without end.

Frequently, I will add avocado to this salad. A few years ago I prepared a special dinner for a friend and her family. One of the things that I served was a corn, tomato and avocado salad. Everyone loved it and some time later my friend's sister requested the recipe. Because I improvise variations on this theme so often, I passed along a rough outline of what I had done, thinking that the specifics of the salad I served that day were lost. Then this past week while going through some old dinner notes I discovered that I had written down the specific ingredients and quantities that I used that day.  So this post is especially for Kathy.

As we move through the height of corn and tomato season, give this salad a try, improvising according to what is available and fresh.  You will come up with endless variations. Serve it on individual serving plates—as an entrée, appetizer or side dish.  Or, do as I recently did and take it to a pot luck on a large platter.  It makes a happy and colorful presentation:

Roasted Corn & Tomato Salad with Basil & Avocado

4 ears of corn, still in the husk
1 large or 2 medium shallots, finely diced
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. sherry vinegar
6 T. extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
1 1/2 c. mixed cherry tomatoes
a handful basil leaves, cut in a 1/4-inch chiffonade
1 1/2 lbs. mixed tomatoes (different colors, different sizes)
2 avocados

Place the ears of corn in a 375° oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, pull of the husks and silks. Cut the kernels from the cob. You should have about 4 cups corn kernels.

While the corn roasts, place the shallots in a small bowl with some salt and cover with the vinegar; set aside to macerate for 10 to 15 minutes. Whisk in 6 Tablespoons of olive oil. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Halve the cherry tomatoes. Wash and core the vine ripe tomatoes. Slice some and cut others in wedges. Halve and pit the avocados. Cut each avocado half into 1/3-inch thick slices cross-wise.

In a large bowl, combine the corn, cherry tomatoes and basil. Season with salt & pepper and toss to combine.

Drizzle some of the vinaigrette over and toss until the corn and tomatoes are lightly coated. Taste and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and more vinegar, if necessary.

To plate the salad: Arrange half of the sliced/wedged tomatoes and half of the avocado slices on a large platter. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.

Spoon half of the corn salad over the tomatoes and avocados. Repeat these two layers and serve. Serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as an appetizer or side dish.

Note: Salad may be built on individual plates, or a large serving platter.

Click here for a printable copy of the recipe


Katrina said...

I'm definitely going to try roasting the corn in the husk in the oven. I always thought you could only really do that on a grill. (Never really thought about it enough.)
I just made up a corn/black bean/tomato/cilantro dish last night. (Shh, I even put some onion in it.)
You've taught me well, just use what you have!

Unknown said...

Oh, Paige ... thank you so much for this salad. I can still taste its deliciousness (if Alton Brown can use that word, the rest of us can, too!). It's a glorious New England summer day here, and I'd called up your blog intending to make your succotash for dinner (having bought corn, zucchini and beans at a Sunday farmer's market), when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but THE salad! You've made my summer. With gratitude, Kathy.

Daphne said...

I am making this dish as I write. The farmers' market had a wonderful selection of tomatoes and I snipped some basil from my garden. And, fresh roasted corn. Mmmm...mmmm....mmmmmmmmm as my grandson James would say when he was younger.

Kathy M said...

Paige, Do you subscribe to David L's blog? If so, he posted "your" salad today!! Kathy

Paige said...

I don't think it can be called "my" salad... but I'm pleased to see him making something similar. I do follow his blog...and I love the food he creates.