I have three sisters-in-law. They are each massively impressive in their own way. Their most important trait, of course, is the immense love they have all shown me and mine. A most treasured additional characteristic they share is the ability to make me laugh out loud. And really, that is all I ask of anyone.
What they may not realize, however, is how much they have helped me professionally.
They would not have realized this because none of them are writers. Or cooks.
What they are is this: smart, on-the-ball, professional women with children. Two of them work really amazingly full-time at rather beyond-demanding jobs, the third is career-shifting while raising three kids which hurts my head to even think about. Ow. They have all, over the years, sat and watched me cook. They have all, on various occasions, complimented the results. They want to feed themselves and their families in pleasurable and healthful ways.
And so when I write up a recipe I always image Heidi and Michelle and Mary cooking it. They are, collectively, my recipe barometer. On good days they are merry companions and we swing along through soups and salads with great fun. On bad days they are the witches from MacBeth, thwarting me at every turn with bad news and extra work because they do not already know how to grill a turkey or can’t agree on what, exactly, “blanching” is. How quickly will they, in all honesty, be able to mince those shallots? Do they keep (or want to keep) whole wheat pastry flour in the house? Will Heidi be able to find Asian eggplant easily in Minneapolis, or will it require an extra errand? Am I sure Michelle’s market in Los Angeles carries harissa, or must a substitution be stated? Will Mary, in her Greenwich Village apartment, need an alternative to grilling proper? I must admit that I do not answer their (imaginary) concerns as often as I might, but at least I do think of them, and that is thanks to my sisters-in-law.
One of them (Heidi) made a grilled corn salad this summer that got me thinking. It got me thinking about how to make an even more delicious grilled corn salad. I then made that even more delicious salad last weekend and another of them (Michelle) was quite taken by the results. Dare I hope that the third (Mary) finds a grill and cooks this up? (Hint: char the corn under a broiler instead of on a grill!)
Spicy grilled corn salad
This is yummers, plain and simple. Good all on its own, I’ve enjoyed it served with a lovely grilled tri-tip, a grilled chicken, and some grilled bratwurst (less of a perfect marriage, but tasty nonetheless). The green chile dressing could, of course, be used in plenty of other ways if one were so inclined.
Shuck 6 or 8 ears of fresh sweet corn. Brush them lightly with oil and set, along with 2 jalapeño or serrano chiles, on a hot grill. Cook, turning as you think of it, until the corn is lightly charred all over and the chiles are nicely blackened. Take everything off the grill as it’s done and let sit until it’s cool enough to handle.
Remove the blackened skin, stem, and seeds from the chiles. Chop them up – if they sort of fall apart as you do this, all the better. Put them in a large salad-type bowl and add 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, some generous grindings of black pepper, and enough salt to make the taste pop. Finely chop a small red onion or a few shallots. (You can put the chopped results in a sieve or strainer, rinse with cold water, and turn out onto paper towels to pat dry if you want to tame the pungency of the raw onion.) Add the onion to the bowl and toss with the dressing. Cut the grilled corn kernels from the cobs and toss them with dressing and onion. Chop up as much cilantro as you have (about 1 cup of leaves works nicely, but more or less is fine) and add that to the mix. Serve it up. Note that a handful or two of crumbled cotija cheese (feta is a fine enough substitute) would not be out of order.