Corn is one of the great gifts of summer produce. While you can source good quality frozen corn any time of year for things like soups, nothing beats the sweet, starchy goodness of fresh summer corn. I love it in so many things: A cold soup like this one, a quick sauté with shrimp, chiles, and herbs, and even in ice cream. Yes, I said ice cream. One of my favorite ice creams on the planet is Jeni’s Sweet Corn and Blackberry Ice Cream. if you haven’t gone down this road I highly recommend it.
But I digress. Last weekend my boyfriend and I threw a barbecue for friends visiting from Geneva. We knew that we needed to welcome these chaps with a proper North American barbecue filled with foods and flavors they were sure to enjoy but were likely unfamiliar with. Saucy, slow roasted and charred baby back ribs were a must, as were truffle mustard potato salad and simple and fresh bites like crostini with whipped feta, tomatoes, and basil. We would finish with a buttermilk vanilla bean pound cake with strawberry coulis. With the menu we had planned it would have been hard for an ordinary corn salad to stand out. Luckily, this is no ordinary corn salad.
Boiling the corn kernels on the cobs is my favorite way to cook them as the cobs hold an incredible amount of flavor. Tossing the corn with the milky, tangy kick of queso fresco is a great idea; the mild cheese pairs well without overpowering the delicate sweetness of the corn. The bright acid of fresh tomatoes, lime, and cilantro accompanied by creamy avocado take it to a place that is far greater than the sum of its parts. You will make this again and again and again.
Happy grilling, happy eating, and happy summer friends!
Summer Corn Salad with Avocado, Queso Fresco, and Lime
8 ears fresh corn, shucked and silks removed
2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1/3 cup queso fresco or cotija cheese
1 avocado, pitted, shelled and diced
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 5 minutes until just tender. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off, cutting as close to the cob as possible. I like to do this right into a large serving bowl to catch the kernels as they fall.
To the corn add tomatoes, queso fresco, cilantro, scallions, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently. Add the avocado and squeeze the limes directly on the avocado to both dress the salad and help the avocado keep its color. Toss one last time and finish with cilantro leaves. Serve, or hold this in the refrigerator for a couple of hours but bring to room temperature before serving.
**My Two Cents: You can find queso fresco in most grocery stores in the refrigerated section, but if you cannot, pecorino or even goat cheese can be substituted.
** This will keep for leftovers for a day or two, but the avocado will start to brown over time as it is exposed to air.