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Peak summer corn doesn’t need to be cooked – this bright salad with snap peas, zucchini proves it

UPDATED: Mon., July 13, 2020

When corn is in season, you can cook it gently – or not at all, as in this bright and colorful summer salad where it adds crunchy texture in addition to sweet flavor.  (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
When corn is in season, you can cook it gently – or not at all, as in this bright and colorful summer salad where it adds crunchy texture in addition to sweet flavor. (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
By Joe Yonan Washington Post

For many of us, summer just isn’t summer without sweet corn. And while I like to cook it all sorts of ways – steam, grill, pan-fry, even microwave (trust me!) – when it’s at its peak, mere hours out of the field, I can’t argue with the logic behind not cooking it at all. It’s so crunchy and juicy and, yes, sweet when you don’t apply even the slightest bit of heat.

Plus, it’s so considerate of corn to come along right when we’re trying to keep our kitchens cool.

In California cookbook author Gaby Dalkin’s hands, raw corn helps transform a summery salad into a stunner. With watermelon radishes, snap peas and zucchini in a bright lemon vinaigrette, it’s got that great balance of textures and flavors that all salads should have – plus Instagram-worthy colors and shapes.

Her latest book, “Eat What You Want” (Abrams, 2020), celebrates her rejection of food rules, particularly those around what constitutes “healthy.”

To wit: “I live for salad,” she writes, “but not because it’s ‘healthy’ or ‘good.’ I love it because it’s the ultimate dish for mixing and matching flavors, layering ingredients, and piling a whole bunch of deliciousness in a bowl and digging in with reckless abandon.”

That’s certainly what happened when I made this one, which was so good as originally written – and even better when I sprinkled on some mild feta and pumpkin seeds for a little more richness and crunch. After all, Dalkin told me to eat what I want, so that’s what I did.

Raw Corn, Zucchini and Snap Pea Salad

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small shallot, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn (2 ½ to 3 cups)

8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved lengthwise

2 medium zucchini (12 ounces total), thinly sliced

2 watermelon radishes or 4 red radishes (6 ounces total), thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

½ cup mild feta, crumbled

½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, shallot, ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

In a large bowl, combine the corn, peas, zucchini, radishes, mint, chives, the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and toss to combine. Add half the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Sprinkle with feta and pumpkins seeds, and serve with the remaining vinaigrette, if you’d like.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Storage notes: The lemon vinaigrette can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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