Grilled Corn and Red Pepper Salad
This is a wonderful dish that appears in our house every summer, and it comes with some history. Sometime in the eighties a friend clipped a recipe from the Boston Globe Magazine for me. It was a piece by the magazine's food writer, Sheryl Julian, that focused on grilled lamb, but also described a grilled corn salad as an accompaniment.
Ignoring the lamb, I went straight for the grilled corn salad, and it became a signature dish in my kitchen, to the point where when my daughter Jennifer asked me to do the food for her rehearsal dinner she specifically asked for "...that grilled corn salad you make..."
About five or six years after grilled corn salad entered my life, I was at a party in Newton, a near suburb of Boston, and the host told me that since the two best cooks he knew were at the party he wanted to introduce me to the other one...who turned out to be Sheryl Julian. I shook her hand and started babbling something about "that grilled corn salad you wrote about a while back..." She gave me a look I understand now that I'm married to a novelist: the Potentially Strange Maybe Dangerous Fan look. A slight backing away accompanies this look. (I've learned that while most Fans are okay, You Never Know. You really never know. This is why it's so hard to find home addresses of your favorite writers.) She offered a non-committal pleasantry (along the lines of "Yes, that is good, isn't it?") and edged away.
Time went by, life upheaval happened, and my cookbooks, grill and kitchen tools were in storage for a couple of years while I righted things. Cooking took a back seat. Way back.
When I started cooking again, set up the grill, etc., I couldn't find that yellowed clipping with the salad recipe. So I did what cooks do every day: improvised as best I could from memory. Then a couple of years later I came across Sheryl Julian's wonderful book, The Way We Cook, written with her writing partner at the Globe, Julie Riven. In their book I found a recipe for Corn and Pasta Salad, which I recognized as a close relative of my lost beloved grilled corn salad.
Corn and Pasta Salad
From The Way We Cook, by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven
Reprinted with permission.
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
2 cups tiny pasta shells
8 ears fresh corn, kernels removed from the cobs
1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup canola oil
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 scallions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Remove corn kernels from the cob: shuck the corn and lay an ear on a cutting board. Hold it firmly in place with one hand. Using a small, sharp knife, cut off several rows of kernels, pulling the knife from the pointed end of the corn to the stalk end. Keep turning the cob until all the kernels have been cut from it. Use the cut kernels within several hours.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, and add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Add the pasta shells, and when the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer for 6 minutes. Add the corn and cook for 2 minutes more, or until the pasta is tender but still has some bite.
Drain in a colander, shaking it to remove the excess moisture. Transfer the shells and corn to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream, until the dressing emulsifies. Pour the dressing over the warm pasta and stir gently to coat the shells.
Add the bell pepper, onion, scallions, parsley, and oregano. Add more salt and pepper and another splash of vinegar, if you like.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour for the flavors to mellow before serving.
I've made Sheryl and Julie's corn and pasta salad, and it was a big hit. I've also adapted it to more or less match my memory of the grilled version:
Grilled Corn and Pepper Salad
adapted from The Way We Cook by Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven
Note: make a day ahead.
See Grill Basics for equipment and procedures.
8 ears fresh corn, shucked
2 or 3 large red peppers, whole
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 C chopped red onion
3 scallions minced
fresh thyme, minced
1/4 C white vinegar
1/4 C olive oil
Salt, hot sauce, to taste
Coat the corn with olive oil. Grill over a medium hot fire until mostly brown with some kernels beginning to char.
Grill the peppers until almost entirely black and charred. Put them in an airtight container and allow to cool completely.
Cut the corn kernels from the ears as soon as they can be handled. Mix with the red onion, scallion, thyme, white vinegar, oil, salt and hot sauce. Refrigerate overnight.
When peppers are completely cool, use a paring knife to scrape off the black skins. Remove stems, seeds, etc., and cut in strips or medium dice. Catch and save the juice from the peppers. Don't rinse the peppers -- some random pieces of charred skin and occasional seeds are okay. Marinate the peppers in their juice and the balsamic vinegar overnight.
Just before serving, mix the peppers and their marinade with the corn mixture. Correct seasoning.
Serve at room temperature, garnished with minced fresh herbs. This is a very successful accompaniment to almost anything else from the grill: barbeque, fish, etc.
Final note: When I was preparing this article, I contacted Sheryl Julian (she's now the food editor for the Globe) to ask her if I could have the original recipe with permission to publish it here (I omitted mention of our earlier meeting). Apparently feeling safe behind the insulation of email, she responded graciously that she'd be honored to be featured here but that due to copyright issues related to work published by the Globe she couldn't give me the original recipe. She did, however, give permission to publish the recipe from her book, presented above, and for that I am grateful.
I thank you, Sheryl, and a large number of guests at my tables over the last fifteen or twenty years thank you, for a wonderful recipe!