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As a serious and internet savvy home-cook, I know what you're thinking: Oh god, not another corn and tomato salad!
But here's one thing I can absolutely guarantee that nobody at a dinner table or backyard barbecue has ever said: Oh god, not another corn and tomato salad!
I've put together a lot of grilled corn and tomato salads in my day, and not once has it ever been met with anything but excitement.
When I'm writing recipes, I try hard to find the hook—the trick or technique that makes people look at it and go, "huh, I have to try that." In this particular case, nature's taken care of the hook for me. The real trick with a good corn and tomato salad is to show some restraint. Keep things simple enough that you don't distract from the stars, adding just enough of supporting cast to prop up their performance without stealing the scene.
The first step is to properly grill the corn. After much experimenting last summer, I've discovered that the simplest method is best: just shuck your corn and throw it straight onto a hot, hot grill. As it cooks, complex carbohydrates break down into simple sugars that then caramelize and eventually burn, adding sweetness and a good smoky char. Keeping the fire hot ensures that the kernels don't dry out before they finish cooking all the way through.
(And whatever you do, do not brine your corn! It only dries it out.)
For the tomatoes, I like to go for nice, heavy, heirloom varieties like Purple Cherokee or orange Amana tomatoes, along with a few smaller cherry or grape tomatoes. But really, the only key is that the tomatoes must be ripe, and that they must be as local as you can find. Tomatoes shipped long distances are almost invariably picked under-ripe in order to be able to withstand the rigors of travel. Local tomatoes are generally allowed to ripen more completely on the vine.
Got a farmer's market nearby? Great. Got a neighbor who likes to garden? Even better.
Along with the tomatoes, I add chunks of salty feta cheese—they're great for absorbing some of the excess juice the tomatoes give up as the salad sits. I also add handfuls of herbs, in this case parsley, mint, and basil, though any mix of good, leafy, fresh herbs will do.
For this salad, I went with the simplest dressing I could: just a squeeze of lemon juice and some really good olive oil whisked together just before serving.
Like most good things in life, your window of opportunity for a truly fantastic corn and tomato salad is limited. Great corn is hard to come by, and great tomatoes even more so, but the next few weeks are your best bet for finding both in abundance. Take advantage of your time.
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