Tuesday, August 16, 2011

summer salad - corn, tomato, zucchini, goat cheese

oh, y'all, this is just the summeriest little salad that ever summered. raw corn, fresh tomatoes, zucchini that you cook just the tiniest bit, lime juice, chevre... it all comes together into a creamylicious Something Tasty that was particularly good with salmon burgers on brioche buns.

of course, pretty much anything is good with salmon burgers on brioche buns, so you may need a little more convincing. first, a goat digression:

goats are awfully clever. or stupid. it's a fine line sometimes.

i was pretty scared of goats when i was younger. there was just something about their rectangular pupils (!), their pushiness and tin can-eating, the fact that one once broke into my neighbor's house and not only smashed a mirror but also gored their son in the stomach.... (why yes, i did grow up in the country. how did you know?)

basically i wanted nothing to do with them or their chalky cheese. but as i grew older and more forgiving of others' foibles, i grew to appreciate and even love goats. i saw our neighbors walking some tiny ones on leashes the other day and just about drove off the road, they were so cute (the goats. the neighbors were, eh, average-looking).

in much the same way, i have done a 180 on the goat cheese issue and now love it in all its iterations. of course, i can rarely never afford the really fancy ones, like humboldt fog and its ilk. luckily, trader joe's and other places have some totally good simple goat cheeses for cheapish, so it's not impossible to indulge.

this salad is a great use for it, because some of it kind of melts into the dressing and makes things all creamy and some stays in larger bits so you get its full flavor.

anyway, long digression aside, corn!

i love eating raw corn in the summer. the crunch, the sweetness, the perfect balance of starch and juiciness.... it all makes for an ideal salad ingredient. i like to cut it off the cob into a bowl as above. i've tried and tried to do it on a cutting board and it always goes everywhere, so bowl it is. just hold it steady by the pointier end and use a sharp knife to cut downward.

much as with cutting up pineapple, you don't want to try to cut off too much at once. i find if i do it in approximately 1 inch swaths it works best. you can start further from the cob than you think might be good and work your way down - it's really something you get the hang of quickly once you try it. here someone has used a bundt cake pan instead of a bowl. that would work well, except that i don't have a bundt pan and don't care for bundt cake.

okay, anyway, just get the kernels off of three ears of corn. then add a small minced shallot, half or less of a jalapeño, three or four sliced scallions and the juice of a whole lime.

then, zucchini. squash in general and summer squashes in particular are another example of things i used to dislike and have now come around to. for some reason, i still really don't like them raw, though. there's something about the raw zucchini that makes my mouth feel weird. it's probably just me.

to get around that and still have zucchini in here, i like to dice it up as above and sauté it for a little minute in a tiny bit of olive oil. this method has the side benefit of allowing you to toast some spices in the oil, adding extra flavor to the zucchini and to the salad as a whole. i used a little less than a teaspoon of ground cumin and the same of smoked paprika and allowed them to heat in a couple of teaspoons of olive oil for perhaps 30 seconds over medium heat before adding the zucchini. this brings out the spices' flavor and makes you cough. sorry.

sauté the zucchini for two minutes or less - you aren't really trying to cook it through entirely, necessarily, just getting the rawness out. while you're doing this, if you aren't coughing too much, you can cut up some tomatoes. i used one medium-large regular one and three romas, because that's what i had. it was probably about 1 1/2 - 2 cups when chopped.

then you can add the zucchini to the rest (i let it sit for a couple of minutes in the pan, off the heat, because i chop tomatoes slowly). i actually also poured the rest of the salad into the pan that the zucchini cooled its heels in, so that everything would get covered in the cumin/smoked paprika mixture and so that i wouldn't have to wash a spatula after scraping the pan out. totally worked.

finally, add the soft chevre (you know, from one of those log things). i like to add it in pieces that are about 1/2 inch in diameter. it will melt into the dressing a little bit and you won't end up with pieces that are too big. but you can of course make your pieces as big as you like. also you'll want salt and pepper to taste and perhaps even a tiny touch (like 1/2 teaspoon) of sugar, depending on how much juice your lime had. a little cilantro would not be out of place here, either.

try to let it sit for a few minutes or hours before eating it so that the flavors meld nicely. it will be hard, but you can do it!

the combination of zucchini, lime, corn, tomato, spices, and goat cheese is really very good. i think this is a great way to accessorize any summer dinner, lunch, or wine-drinking event that needs a little splashing up. also, despite the length of this post, it takes like 10 minutes, tops, to put together.

3 ears fresh corn
3-4 scallions
1 small-medium shallot
1/3 - 1/2 jalapeño
juice from one lime
1 medium-large zucchini (or yellow summer squash)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoonish cumin
1 teaspoon (or less) smoked paprika
2 or 3 tomatoes
2-3 ounces chevre
salt, pepper, perhaps sugar to taste

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