Thursday, August 27, 2009

Grilled Corn Dressing (and Dip)

Salad dressing isn't usually one of those things that cries out for innovation. While my salad vegetables vary a bit with the seasons (and shopping trips), the dressing remains pretty much the same. Oil, vinegar, shallot, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar. That's it. This formula allows room for variation: olive oil and red wine vinegar for an Italian meal, or walnut oil and sherry vinegar if you're feeling fancy. Sometimes there's a pinch of tarragon for excitement, or a few curls of orange or lemon zest when I've got citrus. Now and then garlic steps in for the shallot, or maple syrup for the sugar. But the standard dressing formula holds strong.

Except when it doesn't. Every once in a while, especially when there have been a lot of salads on the menu, the standard vinaigrette can feel a little tired, and I want to branch out. Our resident lactard rules out the buttermilk-based creamy dressings that call out to me. So instead, I turn to corn.

It sounds a bit strange at first, and I've even faced doubters in my own kitchen ("We're having salad topped with chowder?"). But this recipe wins hearts and minds. It's creamy without the cream, and has a smoky sweetness from the grill (and if you don't have the time or inclination to grill, you can fake it with smoked paprika and a pinch of sugar). It also makes a great dip for vegetables, and is absolutely heavenly poured over sliced avocados.

And for those of you wondering about the Wild America shots of prepared dishes in their natural backyard habitats? I don't really have a good answer. Our kitchen doesn't have much natural light, and is often pretty messy to boot. I figure I'll take advantage of the pretty before the rains set in.

Grilled Corn Dressing (and Dip)
inspired by my friend Sarah

makes about 1 1/2 cups dressing

2 ears corn
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
pinch each smoked paprika and sugar (optional, see instructions)
1/2 - 3/4 cups olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Grill or boil the corn until done. Shuck any remaining husk, and cut the kernels off of the ears. This will yield ~1 cup kernels.

Place the corn kernels in a blender, along with the rice wine vinegar and shallot. If you boiled the corn, add a pinch each of the smoked paprika and the sugar (grilled corn will have enough smoky sweetness on its own). Add about half the oil and puree until somewhat smooth. Continue to add more oil, stopping when you have a pourable consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste.


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