Summer Corn Salad with Roasted Potatoes

Summer has officially begun and no other vegetable epitomizes summer like fresh corn. We love the taste of fresh corn from the cob and knew it would make a fine companion to potatoes, asparagus and roasted red peppers. Roasting red peppers over a flame until parts of it are good and charred gives them that camp fire smokiness that screams summer barbecue. This summer veggie melange becomes a beautiful summer dinner salad or side to grilled meats or fish. Just dress it with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper, then toss it all with spicy arugula and fresh chopped sweet herbs like dill, basil or tarragon.

Each of the “fresh” veggies in this salad spent some time with heat. The corn and asparagus pieces were blanched and then dropped into an ice bath before serving. The potatoes were boiled, halved and then browned on a stovetop griddle. The peppers were completely cooked, whole, skin on, on an open flame on our gas burning stove until it was black. We then wrapped them in paper towels to steam before we peeled them. Why blanch? It seals in vitamins, brightens color, sweetens and cleanses. It renders fresh veggies crisp/tender to the bite. It also readies them for storage – freezer or canning – and extends their fresh shelf life in the refrigerator. We ate this salad for a couple of days and it retained its great taste and texture.

We served the salad with rotisserie chicken and paired it with a simple Spanish rosé. Instead of salad, the veggies could be combined and warmed together with herbs and served with a fried egg and crunchy toast for a summery weekend brunch.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Summer Corn Salad with Roasted Potatoes

2 lbs or 1 small bag small potatoes such as yukon gold or red
1 bunch asparagus or green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 ears fresh corn, shucked from the cob
1 red pepper
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 bunch arugula
fresh dill
blue cheese crumbles

In a medium sized pot, fill half way with fresh cold water. Place the pan over medium – high heat until water is boiling. Add a large pinch of salt and place the potatoes in the pot. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or just until a knife pierces the potato. Remove the potatoes from the water and set aside uncovered to cool.

If you have a gas stove, place the red pepper over a burner and turn the gas on medium heat to roast the pepper. Turn the pepper with a set of tongs to keep the pepper from burning all the way through. Once it is charred on all sides, wrap in a couple paper towels and set aside to loosen the charred skin, 3 minutes or so. Rub the paper towel over the pepper to remove the skin. Remove stem and seeds from the pepper then slice into strips, and dice. Set aside.

Add the asparagus to the potato water and cook for 3-4 minutes, or less depending on the the size of the asparagus. Remove from the pot and place in an ice bath. Set aside until chilled.

Add the shucked corn to the heated water. Heat for 30 seconds then remove and place in an ice bath. Allow to cool.

In the bottom of a large bowl, add the juice from 1 lemon and at least 3 tablespoons good olive oil. Add a 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few good grinds of pepper. Whisk.

Dry the asparagus, add to the bowl with the dressing. Add the peppers and corn. Toss with the dressing and season to taste, adding more lemon juice or olive oil if needed. Set aside.

On the stovetop over medium-high heat, heat up a skillet or pan. Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice in half and add to a medium sized bowl. Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil to coat the potatoes. Add the potatoes, cut side down, to the hot skillet or pan. Roast until golden, 4-8 minutes. Once cooked, take off the heat and set aside.

Add the arugula to the corn and asparagus, toss. Plate the salad and top with warmed potatoes, fresh dill sprigs, and a crumble of blue cheese. Serve and enjoy.

Sweet Summer Corn

Summer’s here and so is our first taste of farm-fresh corn. Two ears arrived in our weekly delivery from Capay Valley, just enough for us to get a good taste of a garden treat we rarely eat. Why rarely? Well, we love corn, but considering the hell genetically modified (GM) corn is raising out there, it’s hard to know if you’re getting organic corn or something bio-engineered in a lab. Of course, knowing your farmer helps resolve the dilemma. But if you’re not lucky enough to buy your produce from a local farmer, you can still ask your grocer for information on the source of the food you’re buying to feed your family.

Last April, we visited Capay farms during their annual strawberry-picking event. While we didn’t get to talk with Thaddeus or any of the other farming Barnes brothers one-to-one, the guided tour and Thaddeus’ willingness to answer visitors’ questions put our minds at ease with respect to the question of “where” our vegetables come from and “how” they’re grown. There’s nothing like walking the rows of an asparagus or lettuce field to be reminded that food, all food, ultimately comes from sun and soil and water. Our farm tour brought all of this into focus and inspired us to work harder at understanding how our food comes to us.

Corn is best young and fresh and these ears needed to be eaten quickly. Neither of us is particularly fond of corn on the cob unless it’s picked and eaten at its most perfect sweet ripe tenderness. Corn disappoints once the ears mature past their first ripe moments on the stock. Sadly, classic varieties don’t store well for very long and must be eaten as soon as they’re picked. We needed to figure out how to put these ears to work with other summer veggies and this delicious Bittman-inspired corn and shrimp chowder seemed the perfect choice!

Shrimp and Corn Chowder

4 slices bacon
6 patty pan, or long necked summer squash,  (roughly diced)
1 large onion (diced)
4 gypsy or red peppers (chopped)
6 medium red potatoes (roughly diced)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 stalks minced celery
2 carrots, minced
2 ears of corn
2 cups whole milk
1 Tbs. Fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
Fresh basil
4 cups vegetable stock

Slowly cook the bacon over medium to low heat until all the fat is rendered and the bacon strips are crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes, in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Remove the bacon and set it aside for use later on.

Add onions, peppers, carrots and celery to sauté in the bacon fat. The moisture from the vegetables releases allowing you to scrape up the nice brown bacon fond from the bottom of the pot. The first round of vegetables should cook just until the onions are translucent and the celery, carrots and peppers have softened, approximately 5 minutes.
Into the pot go the potatoes, squash and mushrooms. These cook until slightly softened.

Now add the thyme.

Next comes the chicken stock and milk. Bring the pot back up to a simmer and cook the vegetables in the liquid for approximately 10 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.

Finally, toss in the shrimp, corn and crumbled bacon. Remember that both shrimp and corn cook quickly. Just a couple of minutes in that hot pot will do the trick. Add basil, ladle the soup into warm bowls and serve.

Our pepper grinder is a permanent fixture on our dining table and, when soup’s for dinner, the Tabasco joins it. This soup is particular good with a sprinkle of cracked black pepper and a dash of hot sauce. Enjoy!