For a long time, heirloom tomatoes were my absolute favorite thing about summer. Lately, though they have fallen ever so slightly in their ranking to make it closer to a tie with something else.
That probably seems a lot less exciting, but I think it’s because the older I’ve gotten, and the less I’ve had corn from our own garden growing up, the more I appreciate a really good ear.
I can still remember going to friend’s houses in the summer and my hosts joyfully proclaiming that we were having sweet corn for dinner. One bite into those chewy, tough kernels and it was all I could do not to set the ear down and leave it be for the rest of the meal.
That was not sweet corn. If you’ve ever had an ear at its peak ripeness, you know the difference. Good corn is crisp with kernels that literally explode with flavor in your mouth. There is nothing quite like it.
Fortunately, I haven’t had a difficult time finding good corn here. There is a farm nearby that grows corn in the summer and pumpkins in the fall and winter. I usually try to buy from them, but even the ears I pick up at the grocery store from time to time tend to be really great.
It’s nearing the end of the season and our neighbors were nice enough to share some of a huge lot of corn they recently purchased through the vegetable version of a clearance sale.
We’ll throw some on the grill later this week, but I tend to always use the rest in skillet corn salads. I love corn sauteed with onion and various summer vegetables.
This time around I wanted to make it a whole meal and not just a side dish. My first idea was to do a tex-mex version with black beans, but when I went searching, I had no dried or canned black beans in the house. But I did have some canned white beans. So instead of spicy, fiesta flavors, I decided to dial back and go for classic simplicity by adding arugula and a drizzle of high-quality olive oil.
The corn is cooked with onion and garlic, and then the beans are added to warm them up. I added some smoked sea salt at this point. Feel free to experiment here. I have some smoked serrano pepper sea salt that was perfect.
Let the corn cool just a bit, and then toss it with the arugula so that the greens wilt just slightly. Feta made a nice salty condiment for the top. Then I drizzled it with arbequina olive oil. Any quality brand will do. This is one of my favorite varieties of oil olives because they have a peppery flavor that I love.
I eat it as a meal, but it makes a great side dish, too. You could even take this to the grill by grilling the onions and corn. Then chop up the onions and cut the kernels off after the corn is cooked before tossing all the ingredients together.
Corn White Bean Arugula Salad
Makes 3 to 4 servings
What you’ll need:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
Kernels from 2 ears of sweet corn
1 (15 – 16 oz.) can white beans, drained and rinsed
Pinch of smoked sea salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
3-to-4 cups arugula
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Arbequina or other finishing olive oil for garnish
How to make it:
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the corn and cook for 2 more minutes, until the corn begins to soften and cook through. Add the beans and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes. Stir in the pinches of smoked sea salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
Add 1 cup of arugula to 3 or 4 serving bowls. Divide the corn and beans between the bowls. Toss to mix. Divide the feta to top each bowl and drizzle with a finishing olive oil before serving.