The two most common side dishes at a barbecue are coleslaw and potato salad. But as much as I love those, I firmly believe it’s time for corn salad to take its rightful place at the picnic table.
Corn is summer’s chameleon. It can take on a sweet and delicate personality when eaten raw or lightly steamed, or it can hit the grill and get a little smoky char to become the bold hero of the table. And once it has been charred and blistered a bit, corn can hold up to the heat of fresh chilies and other big flavors.
One of my favorite ways to make corn salad is to blister the kernels on the grill, then toss them with onions, heirloom tomatoes and jalapenos. The result is a classic summer platter of tomatoes and onions mixed with spicy chilies and char-grilled corn tossed with a tangy red wine vinaigrette.
Sometimes cutting the kernels off the cob can be awkward and I have tried all of the gadgets for doing this without much success. The easiest and safest way I have found is to first cut the corn cob into two pieces. Cut the cob straight across the middle, then stand each half cut side down on your cutting board. Make sure your cutting board is anchored with a wet paper towel or skid-proof sheet. The flat-cut surface will be much sturdier than the top or bottom of the cob.
Now imagine that the cob is a square instead of round, and slice from the top down on four sides. You should use a knife with a sharp non-serrated blade that is long enough to get a good “slice.” I prefer a 6- or 8-inch santuko knife for this purpose, but use whatever knife you are comfortable with.