by Linda Viertel
September is harvest season, the most vibrant time at our farmers’ markets, when corn is at its freshest, tomatoes are bursting with flavor, cucumbers and radishes are crunchy and delicious, and leafy greens are in abundance. It’s when simple cooking reveals clear and robust tastes because the ingredients have just been harvested at their peak. Dinner can easily be made from fresh corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes (though a grilled steak, hamburger, chicken, or fish fillet might provide the added protein for heartier eaters).
When shopping, be picky; look for smaller kerneled corn on the cob, cherry or heirloom tomatoes with the small green stems attached – it means they have been freshly harvested – and smaller radishes and cucumbers, which are less woody and watery. Little prep time or cooking is needed at this time of year to enjoy the last joyful tastes of summer.
Easy Grilled Corn on the Cob
No need to remove the silk from fresh corn on the cob or soak the corn with husks on in water. Just trim off some of the outer greenery, slice off the very tip (that will get rid of most of the silk anyhow), place the corn (inner husks still on) directly on the grill, and keep turning or rolling around the ears as the husks start to become dry. They will eventually burn and turn quite dark, but don’t let them burn off entirely. If there are a few spots where they burn away and the kernels are exposed to the direct heat, that only enhances the sweet, smoky taste; some of the kernels may turn golden brown. Watch carefully – they will be done in approximately 15 minutes. There may some silk along the ears when you peel away the burnt husks, but it will pull off easily.
Cooking Tip for Making Easy Gazpacho
If you have any leftover fresh sliced tomatoes in vinaigrette (during the current height of tomato season), which never taste as robust once refrigerated, just place them in a blender with the vinaigrette, a chopped red pepper and a chopped cucumber (or half depending upon size) and puree. Instant gazpacho!
You can now refrigerate the mixture and serve topped with chopped fresh tomatoes (halved cherry tomatoes are perfect), diced cucumber and red pepper, and even corn kernels – if you have any left over from sautéing or grilling corn.
Sauteed Corn and Red Pepper
- 4-5 ears of corn
- 1 large sweet red pepper
- Fresh oregano leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Slice off corn kernels on all cobs. (Try placing the whole cob in the center tube of an angel food tube cake pan and when you cut off the kernels, instead of flying all around the counter, they will fall into the interior of the pan!) Dice red pepper into ¼ inch pieces. Melt butter in large skillet (cast iron is best) and sauté the red pepper for about five minutes. Then add the corn kernels and continue sautéing on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes (depending upon the amount of corn). When still crunchy and fresh tasting but slightly cooked, throw fresh oregano leaves, salt and pepper to taste on top and stir in. Serve immediately.
David Tanis’ Fresh Corn, Avocado and Cucumber Salad
- ½ cup finely diced
- 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- Salt and pepper
- 4 Tbsp extra-virgin
- ½ Tsp cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely
- 2 cups tender, small corn kernels
- 2 large firm-ripe avocados
- 2 cups sliced cucumbers
- 12 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- Small bunch purslane or watercress
- Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 ounces queso fresco or mild feta,
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
In a medium bowl, combine diced onion, lime juice and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Let macerate for five minutes, then whisk in olive oil and toasted cumin. Add corn kernels and a pinch of salt, and toss to coat.
Cut avocados in thick slices and divide among four plates, arranging them in a random pattern. Top with the cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Surround with sprigs of purslane or watercress.
To serve, spoon a quarter of the corn and juices over each salad. Garnish with mint, queso fresco and red pepper.