Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

In Rome and Italy in general, I have access to incredible ingredients, like: guanciale, excellent Parmesan, ricotta, burrata and mozzarella di bufala, plus delicious pizza al taglio on every corner, exceptional coffee, and stores that sell freshly made ravioli, fettuccine, and tagliatelle. Indeed, Italy is a marvelous place to cook and eat. That being said, I did spend 22 years in the U.S before moving to Italy, and there are certain ingredients and foods that I miss having readily available. I may have my pick of cured meats and cheeses, but what about my bagels, my peanut butter m&ms, my graham crackers, and my pecans, not to mention my canned pumpkin, my cheddar cheese, and my buttermilk?! Over the years, I've become fairly resourceful and found solutions to my American culinary woes. I've learned things like: yogurt thinned with a little milk can almost seamlessly replace buttermilk in any recipe, McVities digestive biscuits make a great substitute for graham crackers in a cheesecake crust, and things like pumpkin and pecans can be found at the specialty food store here, Castroni (no sign of cheddar cheese yet, though -- I'm still working on that one). 

Corn on the cob is a staple of every summer I've ever spent in America, whether it be served hot off the grill, boiled and served with a little butter and salt, or sliced off the cob and sauteed as a simple side dish. It had always fallen decidedly into the "home, not Rome" category, however. Not to say you can't find mais (corn) in Rome -- it is occasionally mixed into cold pasta dishes and a staple ingredient in any mixed green salad you find in Italy. The corn I generally find in Italian supermarkets however comes from a can, not a cob, and while there is nothing wrong with canned corn, the canned version is a no substitute for the fresh, at least in my book. 

I had made peace with the fact that corn on the cob just wasn't a thing here, saving my corn cravings for my trips home in the summer and keeping myself busy with the tomatoes, basil, and other ingredients available...up until I overheard a conversation between two Italians at a neighborhood cafe', remarking on the incredible flavor and candy-like sweetness of pannocchie di mais (corn on the cob!) a vegetable so good that it could be eaten fresh, as is, almost no preparation needed. And oh, yes, it was sold right at the local Trionfale Market, right around the corner, or rather, corn on the cob had been right under my nose this whole time. 

And you can guess the rest from here, I suppose -- I dashed over to the market, found the stand selling corn on the cob, bought a few ears for just a few euros, and made this Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, one of the most delicious ways you'll eat corn, ever. Crunchy sweet corn, juicy cherry tomatoes, creamy mild avocado, bright parsley, sharp red onion, and salty feta, all wrapped up in a tangy, citrus-y sweet dressing makes for one of the most quick, refreshing, and delicious dishes you'll have all summer. The serving size is four, but my sister and I polished this off easily just the two of us. Consider yourself warned: you might want to up the quantities on this one.

A couple of notes: If you can grill the corn for the salad, go for it! I don't have a grill here so I have sauteed the corn and also boiled it -- which is still great! -- but grilling the corn would give it a nice smokey flavor. I squeezed a little extra lime juice over the avocado before adding it to the salad to keep the bright green color longer. I meant to add a little chopped red onion to this salad and totally forgot before photographing, so give that a try if you have a better memory than me. This would make a great accompaniment to steak, chicken, or fish. 


Ingredients for salad:
3 ears of corn, husks removed
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 large avocado, diced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
1-2 tablespoons chopped red onion (optional)

Ingredients for vinaigrette:
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Cook the corn cobs in a large pot of boiling water until bright yellow and tender, about 3-5 minutes; transfer the corn to a plate and let cool. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off of the cob. Place the corn kernels in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, mix together the corn kernels, tomatoes, avocado, parsley, and red onion and feta if using. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour onto the salad and toss well. Distribute into bowls and garnish with more parsley if desired. Serves 4 as a side dish.

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