Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grilled Corn, Smoked Almond, Goat Cheese & Tomato Salad

A few weeks ago in Denver, I ordered this amazing salad at North, an Italian bistro in the Cherry Creek shopping district. I don't normally go there, but I've had good food when I've been before, and it was hot out and I didn't feel like walking anywhere else. So that's where we went, me and my sister and our friend Wynell. I'm also not generally a salad orderer unless the thing looks particularly inspired. But it was hot out, and once I thought about it I couldn't do a warm entree. Luckily, there was a salad on the menu with baby lettuce, corn, marcona almonds, goat cheese, avocado and tomatoes that had me wishing I could clean my plate — I'm not a lightweight, it was a really large salad. So, after picking out all of those delicious almonds, I called it quits.

Then I went home and, now, a few weeks later, got to thinking about that salad again. For me, the avocado added nothing to the salad, same texture as the goat cheese, and the flavor was completely lost against the tang of the cheese, sweetness of the corn and tomatoes, the crunch of the almonds. I edited it out and didn't miss it. Then I grilled the corn, which wouldn't be necessary except this early corn isn't as sweet as it will be later in the season, so grilling brings a bit of extra flavor out of it. I swapped salted, smoked almonds for the marcona, simply because that's what I had on hand. The smoked flavor added a nice touch.

Dashed with a mustard-y red wine vinaigrette, this salad is simple, delicious and quite filling. I should also mention that I do not like my salad greens drenched in dressing. Yes, it's caloric and so it may seem I'm on a dressing diet, but that's really not the point. I like my greens to stay firm and crisp, not soggy. I under-dress salads and factor in the oozy components like halved tomatoes adding moisture to the mix. If you like more dressing, feel free to double it.

Dressing issues aside, this recent batch of salad will be the third in the past seven days that I'm eating for dinner, accompanied only by the heel of a baguette.

Grilled Corn, Smoked Almond, Goat Cheese & Tomato Salad
Big salad dinner for one or a side salad for 2

half a head of red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite-side pieces
1 ear corn, husked and lightly grilled, then cut off the cob
handful salted almonds (smoked if you have 'em, marcona or plain)
handful sweet cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and halved
1-2 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
fresh ground pepper

1-1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 T red wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
tiny squeeze of honey or agave nectar
pinch of salt & pepper

Stack your salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. To make the dressing, pour ingredients into a jam jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously until combined. Pour over the salad and toss briefly. Let sit 5 minutes to let the flavors combine and the juice from the corn and tomatoes will help dress the salad. Add pepper to the top, if desired, toss again and, if you're me, eat it straight out of the bowl.

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