All that complaining about April being the cruelest month? I was lying. If you’re a food writer, August is the worst.
It’s so wrong, the way these things work. The way corn and zucchini and tomatoes run screaming into the markets, just when those of us that pepper magazines and websites with delicious recipes are gearing up for winter.
This week, I’m putting the finishing touches on a Christmas menu. (Beef tenderloin. Quinoa with nuts and dried berries. Bitter green salad.) I’m editing a recipe for lemon cake. I’m writing an apple-focused fall dinner party ($4.39 for three Washington state apples, please), brainstorming ideas for Superbowl appetizers, and combing grocery stores for cranberries and Kabocha squash.
All delicious things? Yes. Delicious now? No. It’s supposed to hit 90 degrees today, and I’m trying to figure out how to fit a braise and a cake into the oven at the same time.
Honestly. Is this a joke?
In February, writing summer grilling recipes didn’t feel completely right, but it sure did taste like optimism. This week, with my garden positively jungling with peas and tomatoes and beets and (bolting) fennel, it annoys me that those of us who are trying to champion local, seasonal food can’t always cook it. It would be easier, for sure, if all food magazines wrote their stories a full year ahead, but, ahem, we can’t all write for those.
I know, I have no room to kvetch. I spend my days learning and writing about food, and cooking, and by golly, that’s a pretty nice way to live, especially when an old t-shirt feels like high fashion.
So between assignments, I’m cobbling. My lunches have been salads, mostly – big piles of crunchy things, married together in an attempt to put as much summer into my mouth as possible with each bite.
Oh, that it were different. That I could have recipes for corn everything due in, say, August. But I guess I can’t have my corn and eat it, too.
Grilled Corn and Cotija Salad (PDF)
Call it the little black dress of summer salads. Or the one essential tool you need for your shop. Or forget the analogies, and call it a summer salad that distills the most exciting bites of summer into each and every spoonful. It does go anywhere, though—I’ve made it twice this week, and I’ve served it to company, next to grilled bratwurst. I had some for breakfast, flashed in a skillet and dumped over two sunnyside-up eggs. I folded some into a green salad, and tonight, I’ll stir in a finely chopped chipotle pepper, along with some adobo sauce, and stuff it into chicken burritos.
You’ll find cotija – a firm, easy-to-crumble Mexican cow’s milk cheese – near the feta in most large grocery stores. You can easily substitute feta or crumbled goat cheese.
If doing anything to corn besides dumping it in a pot of hot water makes you nervous, never fear – it’s really easy to cut off the cob:
TIME: 15 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 4 servings
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 corn cobs, shucked
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 pound assorted ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1” chunks
2 canned roasted green chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 large lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 pound cotija cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat a grill over medium heat. Brush the zucchini and corn cobs with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil, and grill for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly charred and soft. Set aside to cool.
Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, tomatoes, chilies, herbs, lime juice, and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Chop the zucchini into 1/2” half moons, cut the corn kernels off the cobs, and add both to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper, stir to blend, and serve warm or at room temperature.