Friday, June 4, 2010

An Easy, Simple, and Elegant Salad with Corn and Golden Beets

Fresh, tasty, and beautiful - raw corn and beet salad

It's early June, and it's raining. Today's high is expected to be a mere 52° Farenheit, a far cry from the normal 68°. I've been hearing lots of record weather in the last few years... record snows two winters ago, record highs last summer, record mild winters, and now, the wettest stretch of rain in the "dry season", or so says the weatherman. All I know is, my outdoor lounge chairs, BBQ, tomatoes, and me, are all crying for some sunshine.

I know, fast forward two or three months and I'll probably be muttering about it being too hot. I can only hope that we don't have a 100° summer like we did last year, us pale and pasty PNWers (without A/C) can hardly take that kind of weather. But I would happily take a few days in the low 70s. In the spirit of looking forward to the warm weather, and the abundance of produce that comes with it, here's a beautiful and easy no-cook side dish.

My friend Susannah introduced me to fresh, raw corn last summer. I asked, a little dumbly, you can eat raw corn? Yes, and it's great! It has a crisp texture, and a lighter flavor than it's cooked counterpart. Served with oh-so-thinly sliced raw beets (yes, you can eat that raw, too!), it really makes a beautiful and tasty salad, and no hot stove for those dog days of summer!

This salad takes well to additions and changes. If your sherry vinegar is too tart, or you just aren't a vinegar fiend like me and want to tone it down a tad, add a pinch of sugar or a little honey. Ricotta salata works well here, but lots of other cheeses would work, too: chunks of feta, crumbled chevre would be divine, I bet a mild blue would be tasty, too, but I like the purity of the white cheese against the bright yellow vegetables. This dish would be fine without chive flowers, but I think they look so pretty, and thyme or basil flowers, or even nasturtiums or pansies would work really well. And I can see toasted walnuts or pecans being really nice in here, too.

Raw Beet and Corn Salad with Ricotta Salata
2 ears fresh corn, shucked, about 1 cup
1 small golden beet, quartered and thinly sliced with a mandoline or vegetable peeler
2 tsp sherry or apple cider vinegar
2 TB good quality olive oil
pinch sugar or honey (optional)
1 TB chives, minced
large-crystalled sea salt
2 oz ricotta salata, sliced into thin, 1" pieces
Chive flowers, or other edible herb flowers for garnish (optional)

Blend the sherry with the olive oil, and taste. Adjust with sugar or honey if desired. Toss with corn and beets with oil and vinegar mixture, sprinkle with sea salt and chives, and toss lightly again. On your serving plate, lay a few slices cheese. Top with a bit of the salad, lay more cheese, and top with more salad again. Garnish with flowers and serve. Serves 2 as side or 4 as a small appetizer.

Note: it's imperative you the freshest corn and beets you can find - corn with the husk still on, and beets with the tops still attached, and looking vibrant and green (and don't throw away those tops, they're tasty!). Otherwise, this might be a dull, bitter, and/or starchy salad.

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