While in the states for a vacation this summer, I took advantage of the overload of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, fresh ears of corn, and generous bunches of basil at the farmers’ markets to make this salad over and over (and over and over) again. Romain agreed with me that we could eat this every day. And I think we did!
This salad doesn’t have a lot of ingredients – it simply showcases the best of the season. So it works best when everything is at their best, during the height of the season. Basil is great with the corn and tomatoes, and my friend Nick Malgieri supplied me with several bunches from his backyard garden which I kept in a small vase of water at room temperature, which is my favorite way to keep basil fresh.
In addition to my gifted basil, the tables at the greenmarkets in New York were loaded with beautiful tomatoes, all sorts of varieties, ripe for the picking. I added an avocado to the mix, which tends to add a little richness, and you can certainly vary the ingredients to your liking. Just before the recipe I’ve included some ideas in case you want to take the salad in other directions.
We took the salad to the beach, where it made great fare when picnicking on the sand. Once dressed, you can eat it right away, although it keeps well for a few hours afterward, too. For dinner, we’d have it by itself, sometimes with hard-cooked eggs and goat cheese crumbled over the top, and other times, alongside grilled chicken or fish. In fact, I can’t think of anything it doesn’t go with. It’s my favorite way of celebrating the best of summer – all in one bowl!
Fresh Corn, Tomato, Avocado and Basil Salad
You can add other things to what I’ve suggested here: Raw peppers (sweet or hot), roasted peppers, scallions or diced red onion, or swap out another herb for the basil, such as flat leaf parsley, tarragon, dill, chives, or oregano, to taste. Coarsely chopped pitted olives would work well, either green or black, as does crumbled feta cheese or cubes of fried halloumi.
If you want to make it a main course, bite-sized pieces of cooked chicken, crumbled bacon, shrimp, peeled hard-cooked eggs, or smoked tofu could be added. If you’ve got it, lobster or crab meat would be amazing.
Although it’s not often discussed, one of the secrets to a good salad, especially one that has just a few ingredients, it a good extra-virgin olive oil. The country of origin, and the price, aren’t always indicators of good-quality. In the U.S., California Olive Ranch produces reliably good oil, as does Fairway in New York. A well-respected friend in the food business swears by the Greek olive oil at Trader Joe’s, and Costco’s Kirkland olive oil gets high marks from fans, too. As always, though, buy what tastes best to you.
Update: A few people have inquired whether the corn is cooked or not, and it isn’t in this salad. Fresh, sweet corn is excellent raw. However if you do want to use cooked corn, I suggest grilling it, shucked and lightly oiled first, cooking it over a fire for 10-15 minutes, turning it infrequently to give it a bit of char so it has some texture, as well as additional flavor.
2-3 ears of fresh corn
2 cups (350g) cherry tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced)
1 ripe avocado
1/2 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 cup (75g) loosely packed chopped fresh basil (reserve any small leaves for garnish)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1-2 small shallots, peeled and minced (1-2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
6 tablespoons (90ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1. Shuck the corn and remove it from the cob. (Technique here.)
2. Remove any stems and slice the cherry tomatoes in half.
3. Peel the avocado, remove the pit, and dice the flesh. Cut the cucumber into similar sized cubes.
4. Put the corn kernels, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and basil into a serving bowl and season with freshly ground black pepper.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt, and olive oil. Pour the vinaigrette dressing over the salad and gently mix together. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Serving and storage: The dressed salad can be served right away or in a few hours. (It can be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature, but should be served room temperature.) It’s best the same day it’s made.
Note: Fresh corn can be tricky to find in Paris. It’s sometimes available at outdoor markets, especially those that carry local or organic produce, such as Batignolles and Raspail, or larger markets such as the one at the Bastille and Avenue President Wilson. Chinese produce markets, especially those in the 13th, often carry fresh corn in the summer too.
Fresh Corn Cakes
Roasted Tomato Soup with Corn Salsa
Fresh Corn Soup