Fresh Corn Salad

July 14, 2009


Local Eating, TASTE Archives

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Though it factors prominently into Michael Pollan' s account of “The Omnivore' s Dilemma,”corn is fast becoming one of my absolute favorite summertime staples—that is, when I avoid it as a super-manipulated, non-perishable additive to my cottage cheese or crackers. I' m reading Pollan' s exquisitely wrought (and terrifying) account of America' s love affair with corn, and it' s scaring me to realize how insidiously the stuff is sneaked into us via the unlikeliest of comestibles.

So it seems strange today to extol the virtues of corn, but really, I think it deserves a break. At least all of us maize-eaters who want to just enjoy the taste of it in its purest form—straight from the kernel and into our meals. Other than gnawing it raw from the cob (which oh do I love!) sweet, in-season corn is well accompanied by some butter, some herbs, some salt and a dash of lemon.

I stumbled into this process last summer, after my dear friend Emily, a most graceful cook, gifted me her only copy of her favorite book: “Vegetable Harvest”by Patricia Wells. Can you imagine that? Her only copy! Naturally I felt compelled to put it to good use, which was all too easy, especially for such a ravenous vegetable-lover. This book embodies the best of French cooking: the thrill of simple, fresh ingredients treated with dignity and respect—and not too many accompaniments.

Even though we all know great food is best approached simply, it can still be nice to refer to an expert from time to time. Ms. Wells does not disappoint. Her recipes are worth investigating, basic though they may seem. She uses herbs flawlessly and suggests pairings so clean and sweet on the tongue, you wonder how you didn' t think of them yourself. Read: lemon zest with corn. Really, it is a golden combination.


This is a great salad for parties, because it can LITERALLY be thrown together (with some heat) at the very last minute. Once you' ve done your mise en place, it takes less than five minutes to prepare. I' ve also made it a bit in advance and kept it warm in the oven before serving. Cold corn salad leftovers are spectacular, and un-adorned kernels are well suited for pancakes. Few things embody summer so perfectly as a sweet ear of corn. I wish they would stay this way forever, naked and honest… so unlike the cobs that get hydrogenated or turned into some mysterious ingredient ending in ‘-ose.’


Fresh Corn Salad

(adapted from P.Wells)

Serves 4.

4 ears of fresh corn

3 tbsp local, unsalted butter

1 bunch parsley (or cilantro)

1 large organic lemon

1 tbsp sea salt


Slice corn kernels into a large bowl.

Finely chop herbs and set aside.

Zest 2 tbsp worth of lemon rind and add to sea salt. Set aside.

Melt butter into large sauce pan on medium heat. When corn is warm and butter has been melted and spread throughout, sprinkle with salt, stirring to mix thoroughly. Transfer to serving plate and stir in herbs. Serve immediately.

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