Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spicy Corn Salad

Spicy Corn Salad, take 1

I've been obsessed with creating the perfect corn salad for the past month, so it's somewhat bittersweet to finally succeed in creating one just as the corn season is ending. I have to confess that, just being able to have in-season corn available for longer than three weeks in August has been a bit of a new experience for me. I've been supremely lucky to have a green-thumbed father (whose passion for his garden sometimes borders on obsession) who has always - or at least as long as I can recall - had a corner of the garden set aside for corn.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, however, Red Lake is not exactly the Fertile Crescent. In fact, it's more of a Hostile Crescent, and the things that do grow in it are either things that will kill you, things that never die, and a few edible things that die almost instantly. Basically, Red Lake is good for blueberries (abundant for about two seconds in August) and deformed Christmas trees. Oh, and moss. There's a lot of that around too. And clover, which I ate once. When I was five. Kind of like the poor man's arugula.

So anyways, the point being that my family has fresh corn on the cob every year, but for only a few weeks. It also has the tendency to ripen all at once, so that, in order to prevent it from going to waste (my father has an especial fear of food going to waste, which has in the past resulted in many questionable versions of shepherd's pie that we were subjected to for dinner, additionally providing us with the fun of playing the guessing game, "How many previous dinners are in this?") my parents throw a party. Since moving away from home, this party has seemed to have become something of a tradition among my parents and their friends, which isn't so much a celebration of corn as their kids' return to school and the resulting freedom - i.e. the ability to get drunk and do whatever it is that drunk retired parents do without the haunting presence of their children there to censure them, or to repeat their actions to them when sober. I have only heard hints at what sort doings go on at these things, and I prefer to remain in ignorance, as I have no desire to know the details of this post-children bacchanalia.

And while I won't be hosting an drunken corn feasts myself, I do believe that we should all indulge in corn before it disappears completely from the stands, as there really isn't anything like fresh corn.

Spicy Corn Salad
This salad is fresh tasting and easy to make, but stands more as a guideline than anything else - feel free to adapt it to your own tastes. Add or sub in green onions, red onion, red, green or yellow peppers, and even celery for extra crunch.

2 cobs Corn
2 small or 1 large Tomato (I used roma)
1 cup Chopped Cucumber
1/2 of one Avocado
1 Red Hot Pepper or Jalapeno (optional)
1 cup Grain of your choice (Millet, Rice, Quinoa, Spelt Berries, to name a few)

These measurements are purely suggestive; I always tweak dressings when I make them, so use this as a starting point and adjust to your own taste.
1/4 cup Lime or Lemon Juice
2 tbsp Honey or Agave Nectar
1 - 2 tsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Coriander
Salt & Pepper

Serves 1 (or 2 as a side dish).

1. Cook your grain of choice according to preparation instructions. I used millet, which is a quick-cooking and healthy grain, with a mild, nutty taste. To cook, first rinse millet in a fine-mesh strainer to remove any dirt or debris. Then combine 2 parts water with 1 part uncooked millet and bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer, covered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit for about 5 - 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork. Set aside.

(You can save time and effort by cooking a big batch of millet and storing it in the fridge to use throughout the week. Stored in an airtight container, millet will last up to a week. 1/4 uncooked millet will yield approximately 1 cup cooked millet.)

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a pinch of sugar and a dash of milk. Remove corn husks, add the corn to the pot and boil for 5 minutes. Once cooked, drain the corn and set aside to cool.

a cycle of corn

3. Seed and chop the tomatoes and the hot pepper or jalapeno, if using, (when dealing with hot peppers, make sure to always wash your hands after handling them and to never touch your face, especially your eyes, until you have done so, otherwise serious burning and tears of pain will ensure). Chop the cucumber and avocado, then combine with tomatoes and pepper in a medium-sized bowl.

4. Using a sharp knife, remove the corn kernels from the cobs and add to the salad. Stir in grain of choice (you could also add in beans or legumes, like black beans or chickpeas).


5. Mix in dressing ingredients and adjust them to taste. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to two days.

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