Friday, July 30, 2010

Corn Off the Cob

As a kid, I wasn't big on vegetables, except for corn. (When I was about eight or so, I had a favorite dish: I cut a broiled steak into bite-size pieces, mixed it with some corn -- the Green Giant Niblets variety-- and  voila! Corn Beef! ) But it was corn on the cob that I loved best of all. My father's passion was gardening. Vegetables and fruit trees, mostly. Corn especially. Starting in mid-July, about every other day, we'd put a big pot of water on the stove and go out in the garden and pick that evening's corn. By the time the water was boiling, the ears were shucked and ready to cook. It didn't matter how often we had it; I never got
tired of it.

Today, I think corn on the cob is still my favorite summer vegetable. But now, I also like to find interesting ways to make it off the cob. Last fall, I was searching through some of Mark Bittman's old Minimalist columns in the online version of The New York Times. His recipe for Sauteed Corn and Tomato Salad caught my eye, but it was too late in the year for the best corn and tomatoes. So I filed it away for another year. Fortunately, I found it again recently, just in time to enjoy it with this season's crop.

There's a whole lot of  flavor going on in this delicious dish. The corn gets sauteed until its almost brown, so it has a nice, semi-caramelized taste. There's a little bit of bacon to give it a smoky depth, some lime juice, which combines with the bacon for a tangy vinaigrette, and avocado that adds a cooling texture. There are even some Thai bird chilies to provide a little heat.

Sauteed Corn and Tomato salad makes a great side for just about any meal. If you have any leftover, put it between some corn tortillas with a little cheese and you have yourself a mighty fine quesadilla.

Pan-Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad
Mark Bittman, The New York Times
August 19th, 2009
Time: 30 minutes

1/4 pound bacon, chopped (I used some of my brother-in-law's home-cured bacon, but any tasty slab bacon should do.)
1 small red onion, chopped
4 to 6 ears corn, stripped of their kernels (2 to 3 cups)
Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
2 cups cored and chopped tomatoes
1 medium ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
2 fresh small chilies, like Thai, seeded and minced
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, more or less.

1. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to render fat; add onion and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes, then add corn. Continue cooking, stirring or shaking pan occasionally, until corn begins to brown a bit, about 5 more minutes; remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Drain fat if you wish.
2. Put lime juice in a large bowl and add bacon-corn mixture; then toss with remaining ingredients. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings.

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