Last weekend my wife and I visited her parents in Illinois. On Saturday morning we went to the farmers market in Davenport. It’s one of the bigger markets I’ve been to. 100 vendors? Maybe more? I don’t know. The point is, we drove home on Sunday afternoon with some Iowa sweet corn (did you know that Iowa is known for its corn? HA.) and 3 giant heirloom tomatoes: one red, one yellow, and one orange. The lighter colored tomatoes are apparently lower in acidity, so their flavor is milder than a bright red tomato. The more you know.
After a long day of traveling we wanted to keep dinner simple. An hour in the kitchen slaving over some extravagant was out of the question. We had corn, we had tomatoes, we had some fresh mozzarella in the fridge, and our basil plant was continuing to produce an abundance of leaves. Caprese salad and corn. A simple summer dinner.
In the summer I usually prefer grilling my corn, but lighting the grill (I use charcoal) was too much of a chore. Boiling some water? Easy.
Laziness comes in bunches. I only took one picture of the meal. And instead of searching for a record, I turned on the last thing I had been listening to in the car, the new album from The Walkmen, Heaven.
Great album. One of my favorites of 2012 so far. Catchy, well-written, and equally engrossing whether you’re listening with headphones or your windows down. I think The Walkmen are a grossly underrated band and I think this album is a big step forward for them. It’s a departure from their previous work, but for me, in a good way. It’s easily accessible and repeatable. Try it. Key track: Heaven.
As I listened to the album I opened the fridge to find a pretty thin stock of beer. There was a handful of New Belgium varieties from a mix pack I had purchased the previous week. I chose a bottle of Belgo Belgian Style IPA. Light, refreshing, a touch fruity, and well-hopped, it ended up being a fine complement to the sweetness of the corn and lightness of the caprese salad.
But enough. Let’s make the meal. It’s a simple ingredient list this time. To feed 2, here’s what you need:
- 2 or 3 ears of sweet corn, husked
- 2 medium heirloom tomatoes (try to find a couple of different colors)
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella (the tiny balls work great, or you can dice up a bigger block of it)
- handful of fresh basil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- unsalted butter
- extra virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Don’t add salt. Salt water sucks the moisture out of the corn, and it’ll taste awful. Some people like to add a few pinches of sugar, but when you have great sweet corn at the height of the season, why add extra sugar?
Meanwhile, core the tomatoes and chop into bite-size pieces, retaining the pulp and seeds. Toss the chopped tomatoes in a bowl with the mozzarella, basil, a pinch of salt, and some cracked black pepper (if desired). If you have small basil leaves you can keep them as is. Otherwise, stack your basil leaves on top of each other, roll them up like you’re rolling a… cigarette (uhh…) and then slice thinly. This is called chiffonading. Here’s a great look at how to do it.
Keep in mind, this is the classic style caprese salad. A lot of us Americans think adding balsamic vinegar is the final step. Don’t do it. If all you want to taste is balsamic vinegar, by all means, be my guest. But if you want to enjoy the taste of your fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozz, leave the balsamic out of it. It ruins the caprese salad. Do you want to know what I really think?
Oh, and here’s another tip: Get your fresh mozz out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you work with it. Bring it up to room temp. It’ll taste better.
While your caprese salad is resting, drop the corn into the boiling water. If the water stops boiling, bring it back to a boil as soon as possible. Once the water is rolling again, cover and boil for 4 minutes. That’s it. Get the corn out of the water, put it on your plate, and let the excess water dry off for a minute. Then get your butter, salt, pepper, and whatever else you like on your corn, coat it up, and spoon some caprese salad onto your plate. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the caprese salad if you’d like. Just don’t add it before you’re ready to eat because it’ll turn your tomatoes to mush. Boo, mush.
Get it while you can. Summer’s almost over.