You can turn one you like into another one you like, and on and on. . . .
DURING OUR LAST COMMUNIQUE from the salad lab, I very clearly stated that our special paid readers were getting a corn and tomato salad. Before I go any further: You’re still getting one, and it’s truly delicious. But there was no straight line to the wonderful, super-summery dish I have for you today. I thought you might like to know that even though I brag that salads just come to me, unbidden, that’s not always the case. (It rarely is, honestly.)
Yes, I do have a supernatural relationship to salad that gives me the ability to overhear from miles away a conversation about an interesting salad I’d never thought of. And if I’m in an antique store I’m always pulled as if by a giant magnet to the one vintage cookbook in the store that addresses salad in a serious and operational way.
But the salad I have for you today eluded me repeatedly. It started out as an idea: a raw corn and tomato salad with lime and jalapeño, which sprang from the all-time great corn-and tomato-salad, Amagansett Corn Salad, from Food52. That salad has been around since the earliest days of that site, despite the recipe’s recorded date; I’ve been making it for 10 years. It’s especially gratifying to serve to friends who are not yet hip to the joys of raw sweet corn—its natural sweetness is a tonic, plus it has a beautiful crisp crunch just sends me.
But what I came up with didn’t wow me. It was good, but I’m not entering it in the salad category at the big State Fair; I will keep at it, and maybe you’ll get that later in the summer.
I almost forgot raw corn completely after a distracting conversation with my friend Elizabeth, who is in my exercise group. As we were making our way around our trail, she recalled that back in the year 2000, she had an avocado salad while visiting the British Museum with her husband. It was so good after an exhausting day of sightseeing that she could still recall after 20 years what a perfect, comforting snack it was: bite-size cubes of avocado, tomato, and feta with red onion and a balsamic vinaigrette That is the power of a good salad: you never forget it. The museum served it as a stuffed avocado, but when Elizabeth makes it these days she just skips the whole stuffing part, which, I learned, is a trick best left to chefs at museums.
I made it, and it was absolutely delicious: I tossed quite firm avocado cubes with lime juice. Then, right before serving, I tossed them again gently with cubed tomato, minced red onion, and just a bit of crumbled feta. Rather than a balsamic vinaigrette, I dressed it with my new basil-lime vinaigrette, which I’ve been entranced by lately. As much as I love this dressing, this particular stuffed avocado/salad is one instance in which you simply do not need to make a vinaigrette. Next time I’ll just do what Elizabeth does and use a tiny bit of olive oil with a good splash of balsamic. In fact, with the fat from the feta cheese and avocado you could leave out oil altogether if you wanted.
No recipe necessary! I just gave it to you. My only advice is keep the tomato and avocado cubes of uniform size, the onion tiny, and the feta cheese sparing, and use more tomato than avocado— almost 2-to-1—otherwise it can be too rich. The salt and pepper are up to you but taste it first.
In terms of food styling: As hard as I tried to keep the feta from turning it into a bit of a visual mess before stuffing it back into the avocado shell, I failed. But it didn’t matter. It’s still the kind of dish I’ll make over and over, ignoring my instinct to stuff and obeying Elizabeth’s method, which is to keep it simple and eat it as a straight up salad. I think my Little Chopped Salad, which is my standby desk lunch, might have met its match.
Anyway, the point of all this is that my hankering for the alluring sweet crunch of raw corn continued to haunt me in the very best way. And that’s when I realized that the raw corn and tomato salad of my dreams might just be a selective recombination of ingredients from my two recent obsessions: the stuffed avocado (or its innards) married to the iconic Amagansett salad. I was right.
This combination really sang when I adorned it with various torn herbs and drizzled it with my new favorite dressing, that basil-lime vinaigrette I mentioned earlier. And building it as a composed salad allowed me to keep my avocado slices pristine. (I squeezed lime over them after slicing them, to keep them bright.)
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