There's a flood of summer produce at the farmers markets this week: peaches, heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini of every stripe and color! It’s the arrival of the corn and tomatoes though that signals the peak of summer for me; I grew up in corn country and summer dinners often involved corn on the cob served with a thick pat of butter and salted slabs of tomato from my grandma’s garden.
For all the market treasures they bring, these high summer days also breed a certain anxiety in me. So glorious and so fleeting, the month of August kicks my garden variety FOMO into high gear. What if I don't make bbq ribs? Or see an outdoor movie?! Or go on a picnic?!? I haven't taken a single swim all season and time is running out!!!
Of course, I realize that part of this is simply a reaction to the stress of being an adult with adult responsibilities. (Hello, mortgage!) And part of it is my own unique strain of anxiety. But a good part of this impulse to maximize summer fun comes from the child-like spirit buried (more or less deeply) within us all.
The rational part of me says I should spend my days in front of my camera/computer/phone/stove developing recipes, shooting for the blog and working on the logistics for my next culinary retreat. The 6-year-old version of me wants to go barefoot all day and eat ice cream cones that drip down my arm in the heat and spend hours splashing around at the pool.
As much as I sometimes want to ignore that 6-year-old version of me, I think it's important to be reminded that summer only comes once a year and that play is an essential part of creativity and yes, even productivity.
So this week I have a recipe that features my favorite summer produce and is so easy to make it will leave you plenty of time for summer frolicking.
Which is precisely what I intend to do over the next four weeks. This Saturday I’m hosting a pop-up dinner with my friend Kyle (which is essentially a glorified backyard barbeque). Beau and I just booked a spur-of-the-moment glamping weekend on a farm outside Seattle. The week after that, I’ll be camping with my momma on Orcas Island. In between, I plan on taking a dip in Lake Washington, eating ice-cold slices of watermelon, working on my nap game, finishing another novel and dreaming up a super-sexy popsicle flavor combination for hot days.
I've decided to work a little less and play a little more. Which is what the month of August, with all it's sweet produce and bright sunshine was made for.
I think the 6-year-old me would approve.
Green Bean, Tomato and Corn Salad with Serrano Vinaigrette
- 1 lb tender green beans, stemmed
- Kosher or sea salt, to taste
- 2 ears sweet corn, shucked
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup finely minced shallot
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 serrano chile (or to taste), very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped or sliced basil, cilantro or mint (or a mix)
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
*Notes: Having grown up in corn country, I am admittedly something of a corn snob. But please, please, please use the freshest, sweetest corn you can find for this recipe. It makes all the difference. Corn starts converting its sugars to starch as soon as it's picked, so freshness is key. I try to buy corn at the farmers market that was picked that morning (ask your farmer). I also don't hesitate to pull back the husk and silk to see how fresh the corn is. You want tight, shiny kernels with no mushy or brown spots. I sometimes even pop a kernel off the cob and taste it to see how sweet the corn is.
- The green beans and corn can be prepared a day in advance.
- The vinaigrette will keep, covered and refrigerated for a day or so. It will keep a few days longer if you don’t add the serranos until you dress the salad.
Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil. While the water is heating, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water.
When the water comes to the boil, add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender. (The precise time will vary depending on the size of your beans.) Remove the beans from the water with tongs or a slotted spoons and transfer to the ice bath. When beans are completely cooled, remove them from the ice bath and lay them out on a a kitchen towel to dry.
While the beans are cooking, cut the corn from the cobs and set aside. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.
To make the vinaigrette, combine the lime juice, vinegar, shallot, thyme and a generous pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add the serrano; taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
To assemble the salad, combine the green beans, corn, tomatoes and half the remaining herbs in a large bowl. Dress with the vinaigrette to taste. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the rest of the herbs and the feta (if using).
Makes 4-6 servings.
Vinaigrette recipe adapted from Hugh Acheson