For all of my New York life, I haven’t had a dishwasher. I’m used to hand washing everything, which definitely impacts my cooking choices–especially on weeknights, I’m way less likely to make something complicated that’s going to take half of forever to clean up. My sweetheart, on the other hand, considers a dishwasher an absolute necessity. Cooking at his apartment (and! in our brand new dishwasher having shared home! excitement!) has caused me to switch up my habits a bit, and be a little more devil may care in my dish use.
One night this summer, having pinned a couple of recipes that I thought would go well together–shrimp tacos with mango salsa from the Kitchn and Mexican street corn salad from Love & Lemons–I looked at the pile of dishes I was accumulating and decided to go all in. Even tho it was just the two of us for a weeknight dinner, I plated the heck out of everything and gave every component it’s own little bowl. And I loved it, mess and all.
Tho I did revel in using as many pots and pans and plates as possible for this dinner, the standout was a recipe that with some tinkering now only requires one bowl–delicious summery corn salad. The whole menu was perfect for playing around with alterations, which was great practice for a compulsive recipe follower like me. Recreating this dinner with friends on a truly wonderful trip to the Poconos (who knew Quaker-founded lake communities are where it’s at?!), I saw how easily the bones of each recipe lent itself to summer simplifying. I suggested the mango and avocado salsa, and a lovely friend whipped up her own version. Rather than roasting shrimp in the oven, as the original recipe calls for, another friend expertly tossed them on the grill. And I decided to pare down the corn salad, skipping the step of cooking the kernels and just guesstimating amounts. The results were just as tasty as the original slightly more complicated recipes. And while I haven’t made the shrimp or salsa again, I made the corn salad over and over this summer.
This salad is based on a treat that I’ve loved since I first had it at Cafe Habana in my early college days–Mexican style corn. As anyone who has every had it knows, this corn is delicious, smothered in mayo, cotija cheese and spice. It’s also ridiculously messy to eat. Nothing like being in a too cool for school little Soho restaurant, surrounded by a waitstaff who all look like models, with mayonnaise all over your face. It’s a good look. This salad, on the other hand, has all of the taste and none of the mess. It starts with uncooked corn, cut off the cob. I hadn’t really eaten much fresh uncooked corn before, and was surprised that it was so good (actually, I overheard two of my students talking about this just yesterday, telling each other, “why do we EVER cook corn?!” Warmed my heart). The kernels are mixed with all of the things that make the original dish so tasty, resulting in something that’s at the same time cool and spicy–refreshing, but with a kick.
The original recipe, from the awesome Love & Lemons, calls for toasting the corn kernels with garlic and olive oil, and for charring the jalapeno. Both steps definitely made for a tasty salad, but I honestly haven’t missed them when I’ve taken a simpler oven-free route. Instead, when I’ve made this salad since the first time, I’ve cut the kernels into a bowl and just tossed all of the other ingredients in. A one bowl antitheses of my original dish crazy taco feast, maybe, but perfectly summertime simple. And so satisfying that I’ll probably break some seasonal rules and keep on making it into the fall.
simplified corn salad, adapted from love & lemons
(for two, with leftovers…which one of you may just eat out of the serving bowl.)
3 ears of corn, kernels sliced off
2 (3 if you really like things onion-y) scallions, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons mayo
small handful of crumbled cotija cheese (feta is a great substitute), with more for topping
juice of half a lime
big squeeze of sriracha
a couple good shakes of smoked paprika
big handful of torn cilantro
pinch of salt
Toss all ingredients together, taste, and add more of anything you want more of. The amounts above are, I think, a good starting place. But you certainly might want more mayo, lime, or jalapeno, depending on the flavors that are most popular in your house. When you’ve hit your sweet spot, top with more cheese crumbles, a final squeeze of lime, and a decorative shake of smoked paprika.
I’ve altered this recipe every which way–subbing other hot sauce when I didn’t have sriracha, using basil when there was no cilantro in the house (I left out the lime that time), using feta, skipping the jalapeno…sky’s the limit.