For the summer only, Brooke Williamson, chef and co-owner of the Tripel in Playa del Rey, has brought back the corn salad. "It's something we've now added to the menu for the third summer in a row, because people have specifically requested it. Since the corn plays such a huge role in the salad, we take it off the menu once the summer is over," Williamson says.
It's so popular that she and husband Nick Roberts, also co-owner of the neighborhood pub, have heard a familiar refrain each time they've pulled the dish off the menu. "They'll tell us, 'That's my favorite salad. How can you possible take it off the menu?' They don't realize that it'll no longer be their favorite salad."
The former Top Chef runner-up prefers to use white over yellow corn to get a sweeter flavor. It's a recipe the couple came upon one day while shopping at the farmers market. "We try to stay fresh and current with the seasons, and one of my favorite ingredients for the summer is corn, which I like using raw. I think corn in its raw form can be beautiful when it's in season," Williamson says.
"The focal point of the salad is a play on corn, which we garnished with popcorn, a sort of a playful and familiar way to use corn."
According to Wililamson, it's a light enough salad that it will pair well with a glass of either crisp white or sparkling wine. With other foods, it's adaptable enough to be turned into an entree salad or be eaten as a side. "I think it goes really well with barbecue. If you want to take it into a main course salad, you can add a protein like tofu or tempeh. Since it's got corn, which is pretty starchy."
It's a straightforward recipe to make at home with room for adjustments. There's flexibility, for one thing, with dressing the salad as there are not as much greens, save pea tendrils, which the chef says are heartier than delicate lettuce. If the aim is to bring the salad to a picnic, you can consider dressing the corn first and adding in pea tendrils when you're ready to serve the dish. Williamson recommends, "If you don't love raw corn, you can always grill it first. I know some people might have an aversion. I'm not one of those people who'll insist on one way only."
She does have one tip that you might want to stick with. "Keep the popcorn off the salad until the last minute, because you can't toss that in and expect it to stay crunchy. Pop that the day of. It does get stale overnight."
Summer Corn Salad
From: Brooke Williamson
Serving: 2-4 people, depending on size of salad
1 tablespoon roughly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon roughly chopped basil
1 teaspoon roughly chopped tarragon
1 shallot, sliced
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh white corn kernels from one cob
2 cups mixed color heirloom cherry tomatoes
3 cups cleaned pea tendrils
1 avocado, cut into half-inch cubes
1 cup fresh popcorn seasoned with ½ teaspoon celery salt
1. Place parsley, cilantro, basil, tarragon, shallot, whole-grain mustard, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, honey, salt and black pepper in a blender and pulse a few times. Add oil rapidly so as to not blend herbs too fine. A rough chopped look for the herbs is what is desired. Drizzle in olive oil slowly with blender on low. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice, if desired.
2. Toss corn, tomatoes, avocado and pea tendrils with vinaigrette and place in a serving bowl. Garnish with popcorn and serve.
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