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On reliables, rituals, and a warm corn salad

For the restless kitchen-dweller or market maven, a calendar is redundant: we tell time by flora and fauna. Each season has its reliables, its rituals: a bowl of rhubarb crumble for March, roasted asparagus for April, paunchy strawberries in May, baby lettuces in June, July’s fuzzy peaches and dusty plums, August’s homely heirloom tomatoes, October’s abundant pumpkin bread, squat sweet-potato biscuits for November, deep red Dungeness crabs in December. If left to my own devices, I’d chart the progress of the year by food alone: it’s not winter unless I’ve braised a head of cabbage; spring waits for the first English pea; and summer hasn’t really begun until I’ve felt the delicious annoyance of a corn kernel wedged between my teeth. For those of you keeping track, this last detail means that my calendar is running, oh, say, five weeks behind.

Summer snapped me to attention only last weekend—a mere forty fiery sunsets and many bare-armed afternoons after what most consider its official onset—when a tub full of just-gathered bicolor corn materialized at my favorite stand in the University District Farmers’ Market, Willie Green’s Organic Farm.

Fortunately, I’m of the school that prefers lateness to neverness. It didn’t hurt that I had a barbeque on the evening’s schedule, a handful of radishes burning a hole in my crisper drawer, a basket of flawless green beans at my elbow, and a bunch of thyme at the next stand over, but suddenly everything screamed summer—and warm corn salad with green beans, radishes, and fresh thyme.

We all have repast-related rituals to seal the season, whether it’s the first flame-grilled hamburger in the backyard; a free-form dinner of avocado, Asian pear, and Prosecco on a Manhattan rooftop; my father’s trademark potato salad in its usual red Tupperware; or my mother’s blueberry-raspberry pound cake. For me, it’s warm corn salad. I first tasted this recipe one summer at the home of a woman whose name I can no longer remember, but its flavors—simple, sweet, and earthy, laced with lime—are hard to forget, even deep into winter, when the only corn available makes a better ice-pack than meal. This is a recipe with a finite deadline, tailor-made for the time when corn is fresh and tender enough to need only the gentlest cooking, or none at all, and when green beans are slim but meaty, radishes small and mild. Delicious with almost anything, from grilled beef on down the line, it’s also substantial enough to stand alone, although surely no one would turn down a ripe tomato on the side, or a hunk of cheese and some bread.

If left to my own devices, I might stall the calendar at corn salad. The rituals of the rest of the year can wait—at least a month or two.

Warm Corn Salad with Green Beans, Radishes, and Fresh Thyme
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

6 ears corn (about 6 cups kernels)
½ lb green beans, trimmed
2 Tbs olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Juice of 2 fresh limes
1 bunch red radishes, thinly sliced

Using a large chef’s knife, cut the kernels from the corn into a medium bowl; set aside. Place a medium saucepan filled with 4 cups salted water over medium-high heat, and bring it to a boil. Place the green beans in the boiling water, and cook them until their color changes from light green to a deeper, darker green, about 2 minutes. Drain them, and rinse them under cold water until cool. Cut them into 2- to 3-inch lengths; set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion slices and cook, stirring, until they begin to caramelize slightly, about 5 minutes. [Do not overcook; you don’t want them to fall apart.] Add the garlic and thyme, and cook 1 minute more. Add the reserved corn, the salt, and the pepper. Cook, stirring, until the corn is hot, about 4-5 minutes. Add the reserved beans, and cook until just warm, about 2 minutes more.

Remove the skillet from the heat. Toss the corn salad with fresh lime juice, and garnish it with radish slices. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, if you like, and serve.

Yield: 4-6 servings


Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Molly - this looks so tempting, sweet and crunchy...! I like the idea of using limes for the dressing too. Beautiful pictures, as always.

12:41 AM, July 28, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

Yum this looks great! Pity the corn isn't so good here yet!

1:24 AM, July 28, 2005  
Blogger Misa said...

Oooh... that looks so good!

Yesdterday, at school somebody made corn ice cream. I'm not sure how he made sure there were no "kernel skins" in there, but it was very, very tasty. Naturally sweet. And, of course, that got me in the mood for corn.

This just made it worse. ;oP

Now I'll have to go buy some corn within the next few days to have for dinner!

5:22 AM, July 28, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

(Sorry about that...) I love corn salads, I love lime, and I'd never turn down a good green bean! I'll have to try this out very soon.

I respect your dedication to the seasons, Molly. I do want to follow them better but I often find that the lightness of many summer foods doesn't satisfy my raging appetite. I confess to guiltily buying tomatoes year-round and to slurping hot soup even in the summer. Have I ever told you that I HATE cold soups?

5:46 AM, July 28, 2005  
Blogger tara said...

In India, fire roasted (read: blackened) corn is frequently sprinkled with limes and Kashmiri chili powder before serving. I immediately thought of that when reading your vinaigrette. Absolutely gorgeous! I love the pairing of radishes with the sweet corn in this recipe — I'm sure their crisp sharpness would be a perfect match.

6:45 AM, July 28, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

this looks amazingly delicious - i'm going to go out to the farmer's market right now and get the ingredients!


8:19 AM, July 28, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

By the way, I apologized because I deleted a comment and thought that it said "comment removed by author" or whatever but that actually didn't show up.

1:16 PM, July 28, 2005  
Anonymous amy d said...

molly! i've been a lurker on your blog for some time now, ever since running into you on the bus a while back, and i'm sorry it's taken me so long to post a reply! but this corn salad recipe, it nudged me to comment because it sounds so delish --i just have to try it immediately! off to the farmer's market in the morning, i hope, and maybe i'll run into you at willie green's!


9:45 AM, July 29, 2005  
Blogger Dawna said...

Wow - awesome new graphic! Looks, great, Molly.

Last night I had corn on the cob for the first time this summer, so I guess I'm a little behind schedule, too. It really does make it feel more like summer, somehow.

10:23 AM, July 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my, Miss Molly. I was having a very crabby day indeed. I read this post and my heart was all a-flutter -- at the way you wrote about eating through the year, and at the possibility of brightening my day with fresh corn. I had to seek out a Thursday farmers market but in this city of abundance that was not so tough. And it was SO pleasant to prepare ... it took some time, but it was simple step after simple step, and even in my tiny hot kitchen I began to calm down. We ate it on the terrace with some spinach (lightly steamed, with a little red pepper-infused sesame oil) and hunks of hearty bread. Yum, yum, yum. Heavenly. Thanks.


1:46 PM, July 29, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, keiko, as always!

Clare Eats, hang in there. I'm sure summer will come to Australia one of these days, and with loads of corn...

Misa, what a pleasure to meet another fellow Seattlite--and a pastry-chef-in-the-making to boot! That corn ice cream sounds outstanding--I wonder if your friend just strained the skins out through a sieve before freezing the custard? That's one more thing to work on when I acquire an ice cream maker! In the meantime, maybe I'll see you at the farmers' market, preferably near a pile of corn...

Amy, I'm crazy about you, as always. Don't worry; I saw that you'd deleted a comment, so I deleted the record of your deleted comment. Does that make sense? That's why, when you came back, you saw no mention of it. At any rate, back to the food: you know, this salad might be a nice addition to next summer's (hint, hint) Leo backyard barbeque. Alongside a not-dog, I think you'd find it plenty satisfying. And for the record, I hear you on the cold soups: no, no, no.

Tara, I'll have to ask my friend Kate if she ate any corn this way while she was in India this spring. It sounds delicious...tangy, caramelized, fiery hot!

Molly, my dear name-sharer, I hope you enjoyed your trip to the farmers' market--and, of course, the salad.

Amy D, so good to see you here! I keep looking for you on the bus, but alas, no. I think you'd love this, as would Mr. D. I seem to recall eating corn on the cob with you two once, actually, in your then-new dining room...

And Dawna, thank you! So glad to hear that I'm not alone in my lateness.

And Lisa, my heart goes all a-flutter reading your sweet comment! I'm so glad to have played a part in improving your day. But seriously, next time, you'd better invite me to dinner. Grrrr...

1:59 PM, July 29, 2005  
Anonymous amy d said...

I did make this last night and, as predicted, it was divine! Molly, you were right -- Mr. D loved it too, as did sister D who is in town this week from the Big D (Dallas)! Lots of that letter floating around. We're sending her home w/ the recipe, telling her it came via the web from a cute red-headed girl from Nichol's Hills, OK!


10:43 AM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Amy D., I'm so happy to hear that you and the other Ds found the salad so delightfully divine (oof, nevermind; I won't add to the d-ness)! And speaking of Nichols Hills, I'm headed there at the end of the month...should I hand-deliver the recipe to Mr. D's grandparents?

11:10 PM, August 02, 2005  
Blogger liz said...

Awesome recipe, Molly, thank you!
I didn't have thyme so added fresh coriander at the end..also fried some chili with the onion, which gave it a Mexican kinda feel.
Thanks again!

1:09 PM, September 08, 2009  

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