Everyday Food (June 2010)
Look, we're gonna skip right to the headline here: This salad is like summer in a bite. It's incredible. With some fresh zucchini and just-picked corn, this dish is the very essence of summer.
But this isn't really a story about corn salad.
It's a story about cilantro -- and about our friend Jeff.
See, we knew we wanted to make this salad when we saw it in the June issue of Everyday Food. It looked simple and gorgeous. But when we received the June issue, in mid-May, corn and zucchini weren't yet in season where we live. And if you're gonna serve veggies raw, they ought to be at their peak, right? So we tucked the recipe away and waited for high summer to arrive.
This week, with the farmers market overflowing with bushels of corn, and zucchini and squash streaming in from our CSA every week, we knew this salad's time had arrived. So we decided to have a couple people over for dinner -- including our friend Jeff.
As we were prepping for dinner, something dinged in Clay's head: Jeff hates cilantro. A quick text back from Jeff confirmed that, yes, he's one of those people who vehemently dislikes the herb.
In the culinary world, there are few things as divisive as cilantro. It's really one of those things you either love or hate. Either you think it adds an inexplicably verdant note of zingy freshness -- or you think it tastes like soap. It's got nothing to do with the sophistication of your palate: Julia Child hated the stuff. She told Larry King in 2002 that she "would pick it out if I saw it [in a dish] and throw it on the floor.”
So anyway: Jeff hates cilantro.
No problem, we thought. We grabbed some basil from our windowbox and chopped it up.
But before we threw the basil into the salad, we decided to do a little experiment. We took half of the corn salad and mixed in the basil. The other half got cilantro.
We put each bowl on the table and told our guests about the experiment (although we didn't tell them which salad was which).
He proclaimed his favorite: the salad with the cilantro!
Had we cured Jeff of his cilantrophobia? Perhaps. If anything could do it, it would be this salad. The sweet corn and the fresh zucchini get an eye-opening jolt of citrus from the lime juice, and the cilantro adds an extra flavor of freshness and spice. (Jeff said he particularly liked how the lime and cilantro flavors meshed. We'd have to agree.)
By the way, the basil version was delicious as well. The basil added its herbal, almost anise-like sweetness, which really played nicely with the other flavors.
But we all preferred the cilantro. It just amped all of the flavors up and made this simple salad a real knockout.
(Side note: We typically don't try to just completely recreate the photos we see in food magazines. We usually just do our own thing. But we loved the photo from Everyday Food [below] so much, with the salad resting in a spoon, that we decided to shamelessly and blatantly shoot our own version of it. We hope Martha doesn't mind!)
Anyway, if you want a dish that highlights the flavor of summer vegetables at the peak of the season, you've got to try this Raw Corn and Zucchini Salad.
Invite your favorite cilantrophobe over and see what he thinks -- just don't reveal the secret until after his plate is cleaned!
• 3 ears corn, husks and silks removed
• 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
• Coarse salt and ground pepper
1. Cut off tips of ears of corn; stand corn in a wide, shallow bowl. With a sharp knife, slice downward to release kernels (you should have about 2 cups); discard cobs. Transfer kernels to a medium bowl. Add zucchini, lime juice, olive oil, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and toss well to combine.