Herby Corn Salad

Herby Corn Salad

The transition from August to September means different things to different people. For some, it’s the sad goodbye to summer sun; to others it’s the triumphant return of pumpkins. To me, it’s the final sprint for favorite summer market finds—of which corn is king.

I have big opinions on corn. I grew up on a farm in Maine where hearty stalks grow tall every summer. There's only a short period of time annually when the corn is sweet, flavorful, and plentiful, and the rest of the year, it's measly and not worth the effort. That's what makes corn so special—it’s fleeting. You've gotta get your fill while you can. September marks corn's slow fade, and I like to savor every last second.

Half-Grilled, Herb-Laden Corn Salad

The key is this: Let the corn shine. Too many corn salads focus on mayo, spice, and cheese, which are all delicious, but cover up the inherent sweetness and delicate nature of corn that I love oh-so-much. With this recipe, we let the corn be the star with subtle herbs, mild cheese, and a touch of crunch. Ideally, half of the corn is grilled and half is raw, but I don’t have a grill, so we make due with a broiler and a touch of imagination. This salad is the perfect side dish to any meat or fish; it shines as part of a vegetarian feast; and I even used the leftovers to make a kick-ass chowder the next day. It really is the perfect corn salad.

Time: 20 minutes
Active Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6 people as a side dish
Drink: White Burgundy or Wilamette Valley Chardonnay

  • 6 ears of corn, husks removed and cleaned
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 big shallot
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 1 small bunch mint
  • 6 scallions
  • 6 ounces of queso fresco, or similar cheese
  • 6 Tortillas, or a cup of crushed tortilla chips
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1. Thinly slice and quick-pickle shallots
    Place the sliced shallot in a small bowl and juice the lime over the top. Set aside for later.

    2. Broil or grill four ears of corn; set aside two
    Since I don’t have a grill, I use my broiler. Rub corn with olive oil and broil for eight-ish minutes, rotating every so often, until corn starts to brown. Remove and let cool.

    3. Chop yer herbs
    Finely chop cilantro, mint, and scallions (both green and white parts). Stems included for texture!

    4. Whisk dressing
    Mix honey, vinegar, and olive oil together vigorously.

    5. Assemble the salad
    Cut the corn kernels off all six ears of corn and place in a large bowl. Drain the shallots and add them to the corn, then add the herbs and mix everything together.

    Add the dressing little by little, mixing with your hands, until it’s well-dressed but not over-dressed.

    Crumble queso fresco into the mixture and combine. Once the cheese is added, add salt and pepper the dish to taste.

    8. Top with crushed chips and serve!
    Use either homemade chips made from corn tortillas (directions below) or store-bought.


    Um, excuse me?

    I want to make this but the corn didn't look so hot at the store today. Can I use frozen or canned corn?
    Definitely. I won’t lie to you, it wont be as good. But it will still be damn good. 

    What should I serve this with?
    What's great about this dish is its adaptability. Grill a steak, make tacos, roast a chicken with harissa, skewer some kebabs—everything tastes good with this corn.

    Can I make this in advance? How long will it keep?
    It’ll keep for a week in the fridge. You can make it well in advance—just take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you're ready to serve. It's best at room temperature. 

    I'm lactose intolerant.
    Skip that cheese, friend.

    Where is the line between "well-dressed" and "over-dressed"?
    You want your salad to still taste like corn. Add enough dressing to flavor the salad, but don’t drown your main ingredients.

    How do I make my own tortilla chips for tortillas?
    I don't keep chips in the house because I have no self control, but every so often I will bake tortillas in the oven to make my own chips, and so can you! Heat the oven to 350 F, cut your tortillas into wedges, and bake them for 10-15 minutes.

    Frying your own chips is easy, too, though a bit messier. Heat a heavy-bottom pot with about an inch of oil in it (canola, olive, or plain vegetable oil all work) until it’s shimmering. Drop a layer of tortilla triangles in the oil, fry for a few seconds, flip, and let fry for another minute or so, until light brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the triangles.

    Did you really make chowder with the leftover corn?
    Sure did! I (roughly) followed this recipe and added the corn in at the same time as the clams. 

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