Corn is summer's chameleon. It can take on a sweet and delicate personality when eaten raw or lightly steamed, or it can hit the grill and get a little smoky char to become the bold hero of the table. And once it has been charred and blistered a bit, corn can hold up to the heat of fresh chilies and other big flavours.
One of my favourite ways to make corn salad is to blister the kernels on the grill, then toss them with onions, heirloom tomatoes and jalapenos. The result is a classic summer platter of tomatoes and onions mixed with spicy chilies and char-grilled corn tossed with a tangy red wine vinaigrette.
Sometimes cutting the kernels off the cob can be awkward and I have tried all of the gadgets for doing this without much success. The easiest and safest way I have found is to first cut the corn cob into two pieces. Cut the cob straight across the middle, then stand each half cut side down on your cutting board. Make sure your cutting board is anchored with a wet paper towel or skid-proof sheet. The flat-cut surface will be much sturdier than the top or bottom of the cob.
Now imagine that the cob is a square instead of round, and slice from the top down on four sides. You should use a knife with a sharp non-serrated blade that is long enough to get a good "slice." I prefer a 6- or 8-inch santuko knife for this purpose, but use whatever knife you are comfortable with. You can go back and slice off the remaining strip of kernels once you have cut four "square" sides... Or enjoy them yourself as the cook's bounty.
BLISTERED CORN SALAD
Grilling fresh corn until the kernels are blistered and the natural sugars are caramelized makes this salad burst with flavour. This little bit of effort makes all the difference in this colorful summer recipe.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
Kosher salt and ground pepper
8 ears of corn
1/2 cup diced Spanish onion
1/2 cup finely chopped scallions (about 1 bunch)
1/2 cup minced jalapeno peppers
1 cup chopped heirloom tomatoes or quartered cherry tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons mixed minced fresh herbs, such as chives, basil, cilantro and parsley
Heat the grill to medium-high.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and mustard. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the 2/3 cup of oil until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Husk the ears of corn, then brush them all over with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Set the ears directly over the heat on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until all sides are blistered and lightly charred, 15 to 20 minutes. Set the corn aside until cool enough to be easily handled.
Cut the kernels from the ears of corn. To do this, one at a time cut each ear in half across the centre. Stand each piece on its wide, cut end and use a very sharp knife to cut down the length of the cob, cutting just deep enough to remove the kernels. Rotate and continue cutting until all of the kernels have been removed.
In a large bowl, toss the warm corn kernels with the vinaigrette. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, then set aside to cool to room temperature. Before serving, taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 210 calories from fat (70 per cent of total calories); 24 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 170 mg sodium; 22 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 5 g protein.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."