Summer Salad

I think of this recipe as the perfect backyard cooking for a crowd summertime salad because it features three of the shining stars of summer—corn, tomatoes, and basil—and because all the parts can be prepared ahead of time and tossed together at the last minute. When I’m in the country and find a roadside stand selling just picked corn, I cut it off the cob raw, straight into the bowl, and don’t even bother with the quick boiling step. Raw fresh corn is perfect as is, wonderfully sweet and crunchy. Try it and see to yourself.

If you have a little extra time, do make the tortilla strips and sprinkle them on top of the salad like little southwestern croutons. I love crunchy food in my salads. It adds a contrast in texture.

6 ears corn, husks removed
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 to 4 medium tomatoes
Kosher salt to taste
1 large firm ripe Hass avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Lettuce for garnish
1 cup cooked or drained, rinsed, and dried canned black beans
1/2 cup Once-a-Week Vinaigrette, recipe follows
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Corn chips or Homemade Tortilla Strips, recipe follows, optionalServes 6

Cook the corn in a large pot in 3 inches of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain, cool, and cut the kernels off the cob. You should have about 4 cups. Soak the onion in ice water for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally and remove and discard the seeds. Finely chop the tomato, transfer to a large strainer, sprinkle with salt, and let drain for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the avocado into 1/2-inch dice and toss with the lemon juice in a small bowl.

Just before serving, line a serving platter with lettuce leaves and drain the avocado. Combine the corn, tomatoes, avocado, and beans in a large bowl. Add the vinaigrette and basil, stir gently to blend, and season with salt and pepper. Turn onto the serving platter, garnish with corn chips or homemade tortilla strips if desired, and serve at room temperature.

Once-a-Week Vinaigrette: Combine 1/4 cup white wine, red wine, or sherry vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 1-cup glass measuring cup and whisk with a fork until the salt is dissolved. Slowly add 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in a stream, whisking. The vinaigrette keeps, covered, at room temperature for 1 week or in the fridge for a month.

Homemade Tortilla Strips: Cut three 6-inch corn tortillas into quarters, then cut each quarter into 1-inch by 1/4-inch wide strips. Mix 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl. Heat 1 inch vegetable oil in a deep saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the tortilla strips a few at a time and fry until browned and crisp, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels, Sprinkle with the cumin salt while hot.

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