Here in the south, the abundance of locally sourced fresh produce still amazes me. With a decade+ in Georgia clocked in on my odometer, I never tire driving by the many green farm lands and the diverse crops they offers. With so many vegetables, fruits and grains available, inspirations for inventive twists on culinary favorites are the norm now, not the exception. All one must do is take a drive down famed Buford Highway or dive into Atlanta to find out this is true. It’s a misnomer that all southern recipes are slow cooked, time honored affairs full of flavorful rendered fats and handheld edible mops to clean it up with. No longer is fried chicken, biscuits and gravy the heralded trinity as we’ve moved towards farm-to-table eating. So should it be at the firehouse.
I remember fondly the innocent ignorance as a displaced Californian settling into my new home in the south expecting what is often perceived the ‘southern’ culture when it comes to food. It was through this culinary baptism that my want to improve my skills in the kitchen was truly begun. The love affair with the land in the south is one to cultivate nationally as we strive to improve our sourcing for fresh, organic foods. So I implore you to seek out the local equivalent to ‘farm-to-table’ near your firehouse. It was through this yearning and my marriage of west and south that has fueled this want to bring my upbringing and current locale to the kitchen table. Thus the Charred Corn & Jalapeño Salad was born.
This is a speedy, composed side dish will carry you through the peak summer season of fresh corn and peppers highlighted with the zest of lime, earthiness of cumin and the herbaceous notes of basil. Served cold, room temp or hot off the fire, this is a multi-tool dish as adaptable as your trusty haligan. As a born and breed Orange Countian, I appreciate quick, fresh takes on food as we were always on the go. This still drives me today as time at the firehouse can come quick and without forgiveness as the clock moves forever onward so enjoy!
Corn on the Cob (3-4)
Jalapeños (2-3, diced)
Basil Leaves (15-20)
EVOO (2 ounces)
Lime Juice (1-2 ounces)
Honey (1-2 ounce)
Cumin (1/4 tsp)
Pepper and Salt to taste
A medium bowl
Place the corn and jalapeños on the stove top directly over high heat turning them with the prongs to achieve an equal char, 2-3 minutes (sometimes longer). Place them on the cutting board and loosely cover with aluminum foil for another 5 minutes. For the jalapeños, remove the charred flesh with a paper towel or under running tepid water then dice and reserve. For the corn, cut the tail end of the cob off to create a flat (and safe) surface and place in the center of a medium bowl. Remove all the kernels carefully with your blade. Note that the flavor of the corn really is at its core, so take the time and the dull end of your blade and run it down the cob to get ever last bit of flavor. Place the basil onto the cutting board and stack the leaves, rolling them tightly, and then slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll (AKA- Chiffonade). In the medium bowl of kernels, place the EVOO, lime juice, honey and cumin and mix to combine. Add the jalapeños, basil and pepper and salt to taste. Indulge.
Some after the fire critiques: Jalapeños are like snowflakes, no two are alike. Some are as benign as a green pepper while others give the habanero a run for its money. As the cook, it’s your responsibility to take the ‘temperature’ of this pepper before serving it. I take the Goldilocks approach: want it hot, leave it as is; flesh, veins, seeds and all. Want it cooler; remove all the capsaicin via the seeds and any white veins attached to the inner wall of the pepper. Want it just right, just remove the seeds. Also, consider substituting cinnamon for cumin to make the salad more thought provoking and give the guys a different twist as cinnamon pairs well with basil.