Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Corn and Bean Salad

Nothing quite says summer like bags, boxes, bins, truck beds and trailers full of sweet corn. We get ours through our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which, if nothing else, saves me the agony of deciding how much to buy, since what is in the box is what we get. I always get a thrill out of seeing those dark green leaves tightly gift-wrapped around their (always) sweet packages of cream and yellow with their corn-silk ribbons waiting at the bottom of the box. “Oh, for me? You shouldn’t have.”

But I play just coy with my corn. I have no intention of being bashful when it comes to ripping open those packages, boiling (or even grilling) them just until the kernels are plump (about 5 minutes), then slathering them with butter and sprinkling on just a bit of salt. The rest of the scene is a bit primal with the traditional munching and tearing of the kernels directly from the cob. There’s always someone at the table who has a bit of kernel just there on his cheek, but you don’t want to be the one to tell him, partly because you enjoy a good joke, partly because you admire, maybe even envy, his exuberance.

And then, there’s the question of whether you should ever cut corn from a cob and eat it in any other than its attached state. (Of course, if your front teeth aren’t up to the challenge, there’s really no question at all.) I suppose I’d always vote for the cob when I can get really fresh corn in season. After all, if you want detached corn, it’s pretty cheap and easy to get it canned or frozen. But if there’s plenty of fresh corn, and there’s also some great Sun Gold cherry tomatoes from the CSA, and I can get bell peppers in colors of half the rainbow, maybe it’s okay to cut some corn off the cob, toast it a bit in a pan and make a salad.

I first made this corn and black bean salad with peppers and cherry tomatoes a little while back when I was entertaining relatives with a grilled fajita dinner. At the time I used red grape tomatoes and yellow and orange bell peppers, and it was a really pretty salad. Of course I neglected to photograph it. That gave me an excuse to make it again, but I used green pepper, and somehow only ended up with the lackluster photo below. Oh well, it was still good.

I even made this with frozen corn, and it was just fine. In fact, the frozen corn was a bit easier to brown in a pan, but fresh corn is so nice and sweet, the salad really had a different flavor. I recommend tasting the final product before serving and adding additional salt and vinegar if your corn is really sweet. Whether you’re starting with cobs or kernels, this salad is easy, visually appealing, and tastes like summer in a bowl.

Corn and Black Bean Salad with Peppers and Cherry Tomatoes
In a dish like this, the exact measurement of the ingredients isn’t so important. Use what you have and enjoy summer!
1 ½ cups corn kernels (cut from 3 to 4 cobs, or thawed if frozen)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon honey
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and well rinsed
½ cup finely-chopped bell pepper
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes
½ cup chopped green onions (scallions)
1 small chile pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cook corn in a skillet over medium heat until most of its liquid has evaporated and some kernels begin to brown, about 8-10 minutes. Stir frequently. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, chili power, coriander, cumin and honey. On a cutting board, sprinkle the salt on the minced garlic. Chop together, then press the salt into the garlic repeatedly with the side of a large knife to form a paste. (Alternatively, crush the garlic and salt together in a mortar and pestle.) Add the pasted garlic to the vinegar mixture.

3. Add the olive oil to the vinegar mixture and whisk well to combine completely. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss well to coat with the dressing. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Taste before serving and add vinegar or salt if desired (especially if the corn is especially sweet).

Makes about 6 side-dish servings.

No comments:

Post a Comment