Often, the best dishes are those that are so simple, but using the best ingredients at their peak flavor. Summer is especially good for this kind of cooking, because there are so many fresh, ripe, flavorful foods available. There's just something about excellent ingredients, prepared in a way that honors the flavors, that I really admire and strive for.
A case in point is my favorite corn salad. It's amazingly simple, yet everything blends so perfectly that it's the best tasting little salad you've ever had. Honestly. It positively reeks of summer. This recipe calls for fresh corn, and it's best if you make it with corn straight from the cob, but I've made it with frozen corn with good results as well. Just don't leave out the basil, because it really makes the dish.
I have to confess that I didn't make up this recipe. It comes from Ina Garten, who is masterful with bringing the full flavor out of a few simple ingredients. I love her, even though I find her voice and manner on Food Network really irritating. Maybe that's just the way they talk up in the Hamptons. I've never been there. If you don't own any of her cookbooks, I highly recommend them. I have the first one, "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook," but I've looked at many, and they are all fabulous.
Ina Garten's Fresh Corn Salad:
5 ears corn, shucked
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (about one small onion)
3 Tbsp good olive oil (extra virgin)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chiffonade fresh basil leaves (that's just a fancy way of saying "cut the basil leaves cross-wise into thin strips" - I stack the leaves on top of each other, then slice cross-ways)
In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes, until the starchiness is just gone (How will you know the starchiness is gone? I have no idea, I just do what Ina says, so boil those ears for 3 minutes). Drain and immerse cobs in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color (Congratulations! You've just blanched your corn! When you see that term in other recipes, that's what it means: cooking briefly in boiling water. "Shocking" is what you're doing when you immerse it in the ice water to stop the cooking process. It also helps veggies keep their color). When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.
Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onion, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for the seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.